Monday, 21 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John 3

Contd from Previous Post:

1: Social Status Doesn't Save From Sin.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (vs 1-2).
The Pharisees, in Jewish history, were the custodians of the Mosaic law. The served as members of the Sanhedrin; "...a kind of Jewish Supreme Court made up of 71 members whose responsibility was to interpret civil and religious laws" (Jewish virtual library). Typical of people with power and authority; they abuse it. "Power", Lord Acton says "corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely". That was the Pharisees; self-righteous, high minded and self-conceited:
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: [and] bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." (Matthew 23:1-4).
Hypocrites! Jesus called them. (see Matthew 23:13). Between true spirituality and hypocrisy is a very thin line. I pray none of us who names the name of the Lord would  be found guilty of hypocrisy. Introspection! The Spirit of God dwells in you. If you crossing that line, you must know. We will do great also with a level of accountability. Hard talking, no nonsense friends who can reprimand us when we err will also be good pals amongst our circle of friends. Iron sharpeneth iron!

The Pharisees were elites of Jewish society. Paul was a Pharisee. Josephus; a Jewish historian was a Pharisee. Nicodemus, clearly, stated, was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. That puts him in the class of the elites. He was not a riffraff. He had high standing in society. The Pharisees also had political authority. The example of Paul, when he was Saul, throws more light on the power Pharisees had in society:
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." (Acts 9:1-2). 
That was how much power Pharisees held in society. All the aforementioned were embodied in Nicodemus, a Pharisee. If such heights of social status was enough to save, he would have had no business seeking after Jesus at night to enquire about his soul and matters of the Kingdom of God. Have you enquired about the state of your soul and its final destination?  "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"(Mark 8:36).

To be continued.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John 3

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.(John 3:1-2)
Some of the profound truths of Scriptures were spoken by Jesus in His personal interactions with individuals.

In John 3, one of His numerous interactions with individuals, we see a cardinal truth of Christianity-Born Again - revealed.  As the book of John progresses, we see a continuous interaction with people from different walks of life.

From the high class in society - like Nicodemus, "...a man of the Pharisees...and ruler of the Jews"- to the down trodden, rejects and outcasts of society, Jesus was reachable. If we fast track and step into Chapter 4 of John, we meet the Saviour with a Samaritan-an adulterous- woman. The Master was truly a friend of sinners; an accurate description indeed from the Pharisees:
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (Matthew 9:10-11).
As usual, they got the right response from Jesus: "...They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matthew 9:12). Self-righteousness, typical of the Pharisees resists the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. If you believe you are fine, and have no need of a Saviour; great! You're on your own and fully responsible for the consequence of rejecting Salvation.

Regardless of  how refined you're morally, like Nicodemus, there is a need to seek for truth. You might know many things that are not so. And that's the greatest deception we can live with: knowing and believing things that are false. Nicodemus as a Pharisee occupied a high position among the Jews. He was "a ruler of the Jews". Yet he came seeking for truth. Jesus was right when he said:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Is what you know and believe the truth? Beliefs have dire eternal consequences: Be certain what you know and believe is the truth.
Seek for truth. Whatever it will take to know truth, seek for it.

Look at vs 2 again: "The same came to Jesus by night...". Here we see another marvellous truth. For fear of the Jews and stigma of been seen with Jesus, Nicodemus sneaked in at night to see Jesus. Though, a master of Israel(vs10), he went all out to seek for truth.  Also, Jesus' accessibility is clearly demonstrated in the words " night"  He is not aloof; even at night, Nicodemus had access to the Master. The doors are still open, 24/7, Jesus can be accessed. Would you come to Him in faith?  "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John6:31).

To be continued....

Friday, 11 July 2014

Battling Doubts and Fear: The Power of Words.

If faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), then, it follows logically that fear and unbelief, comes by hearing, and hearing words that are not from God. Can I safely say fear or unbelief comes by hearing, and hearing the words and lies of Satan? I think I can. Fear and unbelief are just words that are contrary to faith in God's word; they are "tares among wheat". Words generate faith or fear. In the most famous David and Goliath battle in Scripture, we see the power of words at display. Goliath, described as the champion of the Philistine, used words to instil fear into the hearts of military men.

"And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid....And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them... And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:10-11, 23-26).

Notice how Goliath used words to demoralise men -mighty men - of valour: “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” (vs11).

Now, bearing in mind Goliath's words, note that the same words that sent shivers down the spine of men, were the same words heard by David, a teenager. But his response was different. He took Goliath's words as an affront to God. “…for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”. He responded with faith in God:

"Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." (vs 45)

The next time the enemy uses words to generate fear and doubt in your mind, counteract those words with faith in the word of God. David dared Goliath based on his faith in God and his faithfulness: "David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine..."(vs37). In any situation, make a choice to choose faith over fear and doubt. Give the devil no chance. Don't allow him any space to sow words of fear and doubt in your life. Take God at His word: "...hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).‪

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

To God Be The Glory!

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelations 4:11).)
Image courtesy christophermattix.wordpress .com
The Bible begins by introducing us to the origin of all creation: God (Genesis 1). In his gospel, John further corroborated the creation story with more information. Writing about Jesus, he said: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:1-3). Then in Revelations, John again opens our eyes to the reality of creation and human life: All of creation exists to give God pleasure. Though, the origin of all creation is explicit in Scriptures; not all believe in God and His being the Creator of all things. The bible is not charitable with words at all in describing these people: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God..." (Psalms 53:1).

Hear Isaac Newton's assertion about creation:

The solar system itself could not have been produced by blind chance or fortuitous causes but only by a cause very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.
Simply put, The universe and all that is within it has a Master designer behind it. All things—including you and I ―are and were created by God for His pleasure; His glory. We are not an accident. We didn't just happen. God's words to Jeremiah are equally true of us: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5).

These words, though specific to Jeremiah, it gives us a precedent and an example that every single soul that walks on earth is here on a God given assignment. We are here on His errand. His glory. His joy. His purposes. His agenda. His plans. Everything in the end is to His glory. “Arise, shine; for...his glory shall be seen upon thee.“ (Isaiah 60:1-2). To God Be The Glory! That phrase should be the marching orders of our lives. The glory of God should be our major pursuit in life: Whatever we do; whatever we aim to achieve in this life and whatever we hope to become, the glory must go to our God.

This life is more than us. It is more than our dreams and visions. It’s more than the things we want to achieve for ourselves. There's a bigger agenda, and that agenda is the glory of God. Life is for “His name sake“: “...he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake“ (Psalms 23:3). Like John the Baptist, our confession must be “He must increase. I must decrease“ (John 3:30). And also, together with Paul, we proclaim His glory: 

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33-36).

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Lord Is Our Portion

The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.(Lamentations 3:24).

Assuming your faith is a mansion. On what foundation will that mansion be standing? Beliefs - trust, faith, hope - have consequences. They shape our worldview and determines how we respond to life and its intricacies. If your faith is not built on a solid foundation, the storms of life has the potency of crumbling and leaving you disillusioned. The words “The LORD is my portion...”, paints the picture of a life built on a firm foundation: it simply means "The LORD is sufficient for me". The writer of Lamentations-Jeremiah- seem to be saying, "despite my predicaments, God is enough. If I have God, I have everything". Hear David also: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." (Psalms 73:25). No wonder this guy got the tag a man after God's own heart. Is your desire towards the Lord that intense?

"The LORD is my portion forever" says Jeremiah and David. Can you also, especially in the face of adversity, confess The LORD is my portion forever? If you are a believer, you should. We can easily grasp the reality of God as our portion if we dig further to understand God's original intent for creation. In Genesis 1, where we find the creation story, one phrase appeared consistently: "and God saw that it was good" Further, down the Chapter (vs31) we see a climax of the joy God derived in His creation:"...God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good...". The meaning of "...behold, it was very good" can be explicitly explained by Revelation 4:11: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created". It was very good because it all turned out to be what He intended His creation to be; for His pleasure, His joy and glory. We are here purposely on one assignment, giving God pleasure(glory, joy, worship). We are on a God glorifying trip. It is in glorifying God that we also discover our self and our purpose. Saint Augustine, one of the Church fathers of the fourth century said, "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.

 One of the revealing words of Scripture, that sometime ago, in a period of personal crisis, became a bedrock for my life are the words “In him”. Let me share a few of those specific Scriptures with you: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him...” (Colossians 2:9-10). "For in him we live, and move, and have our being…"(Act 17:28). On countless occasions, I have returned to the words "In Him"-and I still do return to it - to find strength in moments of weakness and despair. Apart from Christ, we are nothing—absolutely nothing: "without me you can do nothing"(John 15:5).

The LORD is our portion. He is our inheritance. He is all we need. He is enough for us. He is incomparable to all the best of things of this world. He is the infinite being who satisfies the longings of finite hearts. In the search for fulfilment, many are trapped with insatiable pursuit and held captive by the trivia of this world: "lust of the flesh... lust of the eyes, and the pride of life..." (1 John 2:16). Until, we come to an understanding and appreciation of how sufficient God is for us, we will forever be satisfied with shallowness and crumbs of bread, instead of eating the choicest of meals from the King's table.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Church Reforms In Ghana: My Thoughts

5: The Church Must Pray.

E.M Bounds, in his book, Power Through Prayer wrote that “praying gives sense, brings wisdom, and broadens and strengthens the mind.” Prayer is a catalyst for change. In His sovereignty, God can and does act autonomous of our prayers; yet, He has at the same time ordained we represent Him on earth and has granted us His power of representation through prayer: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18-19). When we pray, things happen!

Examine these few instances in Scripture where human involvement through prayer brought God’s intervention on earth. In Exodus 3:7, Israel’s deliverance from bondage was set in motion when God heard their cry (prayers). Daniel 2:17 records the story of Daniel, who faced with the threat of death, entreated his colleagues for prayer (Daniel 2:17). In Acts 12, the timely intervention of the Church’s prayer stayed the hands of Herod from beheading Peter(vs 5 ). Acts 12 was just a fanfare killing. Herod derived pleasure from killing to please the Jews: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of : John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) (vs 1-3).

If we don’t pray, the devil enjoys a field day in harassing God’s people. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that “…we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices”. He comes to steal, kill and destroy.(John 10:10). In contemporary times, the revivals and reforms recorded in Church history were birthed in prayers. Equally, if today’s Church will experience any reforms; men and women must rise to the occasion and pray. Someone might quip: “are we not already praying enough?” Yes we are — In fact every day in this nation, there is a prayer meeting. But the fact however is that; most of our prayer meetings are egocentric and highly individualistic it can’t birth any reforms amongst us. “God give me…God bless me…God open doors for me….etc.” are words that can be heard echoing from our prayer meetings.

When those in the early centuries met to pray, they prayed down revival on their cities. The advent of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement in our country is equally on record to have been birthed by intense prayers for souls and the nation. We in these times have however become too fixated with our individual selves in our prayers. Our self-centred prayers won’t bring any reforms. There’s a place for personal prayers and personal revivals I must admit, but when we are revived as individuals, we have to seek the revival of the masses. “…The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Luke :10:2)

One classic example of the efficacy of prayer is recorded in 1 Kings 17:1: And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. After many generations, James captured this same event to encourage us to know the power available to us through prayer. He wrote: “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5:16-18). “Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are…” clearly illustrates Elijah was human just like us —with weaknesses and shortcomings—yet he used the power of prayer mightily).

“We are not praying effectively enough. The fervency of our prayer is not strong enough. Jesus said men ought to pray and not faint. Paul said we should pray without ceasing. We have had enough seminars [and talk] on prayer. Let us [now begin to] pray.” EastWood Anaba, Extra Oil