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Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Struggle as a Preacher

I vividly remember the day I preached my first sermon. By then I was 19 years old. It was a day that my church set aside for the youth to lead the service of worship. After I had preached the sermon, titled, “The True Christian” many people came to me afterwards. They congratulated me and praised God for a wonderful message. Then I thought that that’s how it will be. This incident somehow made me believe that whenever I preach many will be pleased with my message. However, I was very wrong. As I continue to serve Him as a preacher, there are times when I receive a cold shoulder from listeners.

Sometimes you can clearly read on the faces of some responses like: “How dare you preach that message?” Why disturbing us in our comfort zone?” You know such type of responses. At first, I was very much disturbed by this kind of responses. But as I grow in ministry, I have developed a thick skin, so to speak. I hardly care the response of the audience. No, I am lying. The truth is that I always struggle with the desire to be accepted. I want people to accept my message.

However, “The voice of truth tells me a different story,” sung Casting Crowns. The voice of truth tells me that it will never happen as long as I strive to remain true to Scripture. This is one of the great challenges that every preacher faces or will face. There is no middle ground. You either preach God’s Word and displease some people (probably  many) or preach what people want to hear and please many (but not all people, of course). This is my struggle too.

Let me confess here. It’s no fun to have people dislike you because of what you believe and teach. You might be convinced and convicted that that is the truth you ought to preach but the thought of being despised or disdained is awful and makes you think twice. But thank God, for His grace that enables us to stand against the storm of the majority (who might not like to hear God’s Word as presented to us in the Bible). We should take comfort in the fact that Christ also experienced the same. Just read the Gospels, and you will see that many Pharisees and Sadducees did not like Christ’s message yet He is God and there is no falsehood in Him.

Apostle Paul was also not an exception. Read what he writes to Galatians’: “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (1:9, 10).

From the passage one basic truth stands out:  All preachers can be grouped into two: God-pleasers or man-pleasers.  As I have already said, there is no middle ground and they shall never be. This is the struggle of a preacher like me. But we thank Christ that His grace is sufficient to carry us through if we resolve to be God-pleasers.

“Now  to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24, 25).

In these words lies my comfort not only as a preacher but also as God’s child.

 

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in My Life as a Christian

 

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What About Good Works?

If salvation is solely by the grace of God and not good works, what then will happen to those who practice good works only?  Will God not consider their good works at all? Imagine with me, those non-Christians who risks their lives to save others. Those unbelievers who sacrifice everything they have to help the poor, the needy, orphans and widows. Will God not be merciful to them on judgement day?

This is the question I was asked last week and I would like to respond in this way. It is indeed true that salvation is by grace alone and not good works (Ephesians 2:8, 9). What we need to know is that when our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, all of us sinned (Romans 5:12) and the only way for salvation is by believing in Christ (John 14:6) and this happens by God’s grace.

Therefore, even if we can do good works, if we have not believed in Christ for salvation, our good works will not be counted at all because behind those good works lies an evil and sinful heart that is in rebellion against God.

You will agree with me that no matter, how beautiful a poisonous snake looks, inside it is venom which kills. Similarly, no matter how beautiful our good works might be, inside us lies an evil and sinful heart that does not love God at all.

Unless Christ comes in and changes our hearts from enemies to the friends of God, our good works remain filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6 )

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Is The Church Turning Into a Club?

“On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat . . . but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow.

Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn’t altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were black and “different” from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims . . . (“it’s too unpleasant, it’s a hindrance to our social life, it’s opening the door to folks who are not our kind“). As you’d expect, some still insisted upon saving lives, that this was their primary objective—that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club’s beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club . . . and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself . . . and if you visit that coast today you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care . . . so very few. Do you” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll).

This parable can also be applied to what is happening in our African churches today. There was a time when all Christians would agree that the Bible is God’s Word and all that it commands us should be obeyed without questioning. Back then, the love for God’s Word was so great. Churches were born to proclaim Christ and the love of God for all. Sin was rebuked and was called what it is, “sin.” But some became unhappy with the status quo. They wanted to change God’s purpose for His Church for the “better.”

And now, like that old lifesaving station, many churches have and are shifting away from their God-given vision.  Churches can now choose which passages of Scripture are God’s Word and should be obeyed unquestionably and which passages are not God’s Word hence should be discarded. My heart breeds in grief!

Today, you can go to a church and listen to a whole sermon without hearing the proclamation of Christ in it. Gone are the days when sermons were preached and people were convicted of sin and cried for help from the Savior. Today, when you go to church, members cheer the preacher and throw money at him (kusupa) to preach more what it pleasing to their ears.  It’s heartbreaking!

Gone are those days when church leaders would boldly stand and call a spade, a spade and not a big spoon. But today, some pastors and Christian leaders are afraid to call sin, “sin;” instead, you hear statements like: “No, it’s not sin, that’s how somebody was born, and God loves them the way they are and we can do nothing about it. Don’t judge.” Really?

Like that initial saving station which later turned into a club, we are also guilty of turning our churches into clubs where people can come to learn how to get rich and prosper and become most successful in life with little care about their spiritual lives.  We are guilty of converting the church into a club where people burdened with sin can come and live comfortably as if they are no slaves to sin at all. We have turned the church to a club that aims at entertaining its patrons and never dare disappoint them with the truth of Christ. Oh, Lord have mercy on us!

But we shouldn’t loose hope. In times like these, God has always shown us in Scripture that He always sets apart the remnants who rise and stand up for God’s truth not matter the cost. We should pray, earnestly, for these remnants. God says to the remnants:

 “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching…build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by sin” (2 Timothy 4:2;  Jude 20-23).

The remnants care. Do you?

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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My Reflections on the Defense of the Faith

One thing I know for sure is that God cannot be defended by you and me. He is capable of defending himself and he can do it better than any of us. However, at times God uses people like you and me. Believe you me, there are times when God calls us to “Contended for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This realization has led me to believe that there ought to be a thin line dividing these two truths. My prayer is that God will always open my eyes to discern the battles he is calling me to fight and those fights I ought to leave to Him alone. Believe you me, this will never be an easy task but I know His grace will always be sufficient.

I also pray that God will grant me the grace to march to the battle he has called me to fight even though my fellow soldiers in the Christian Army stand aloof and are hesitant to march on. Believe you me, not every Christian will be convinced and convicted to fight all the battles that God calls you to fight. There are various reasons for that. R.C. Sproul points out one.

“I’ve seen it again and again. Someone recognizes false teaching and arises to resist it. But instead of supporting the courageous person who wants to uphold Christ’s truth, other Christians call for that person to be silent. Fearing hostility from the culture or the wider body of professing Christians, many believers turn the guns inward and silence their fellow believer for the sake of peace. Yet peace that is won at the expense of the truth is no peace at all. Of course, so far as it depends upon us, we are to live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18). But when God’s truth is attacked we must draw a line in the sand. Like Daniel of old, we must be willing to face the lions if that’s what it takes to guard the truth (Dan. 6).”

So whatever  the reason that other Christians might have to avoid some battles, but if God has called me to fight that battle, I pray that His grace should always go with me. May I always be comforted in the fact that I am not alone rather He is with me as I fight.

Another thing I always pray for when I am on duty as a Christian soldier is to fight graciously out of love. I think that’s what differentiates the Christian army from any other army in the world.   The aim of our fight is love for God and love for fellow man and because of this goal we battle graciously.  I know sometimes when my fallen human nature rules, I end up fighting brutally; however, I always beseech the Lord that I should fight with grace. Of course, the other camp might hardly appreciate the grace in my strategy of the battle; however, if God approves that there is grace in my fight, then all is well with my soul.

Last but not least, I pray that God will give the courage to fight on when fellow Christian soldiers stand in my way. You know, it is one thing to have fellow Christian soldiers hesitating to join you in the fight and it is totally another thing to have fellow Christian soldiers standing in your way as you fight. Sometimes it even gets worse because the fellow soldier s turn their guns on you and fire. It’s really sad, very sad!

In such cases, I pray that I will not be bitter but I will appreciate the truth as William Cowper once observed that “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”  I pray that I should be able to say as Joseph said “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for God” (Genesis 50:20).  Believe you me, not all Christians will hear the trumpet when God calls you to fight. There will be some who will think you are crazy and they will even shoot at you. Please pray for a forgiving heart and remain faithful to the Master as you onward march to the battlefield.

So, may all Christian soldiers  join Sabine Baring-Gould ( 1834-1924) and shout out:

 

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

with the cross of Jesus going on before.

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

forward into battle see his banners go!

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;

brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.

We are not divided, all one body we,

one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

 

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,

but the church of Jesus constant will remain.

Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;

             We haveChrist’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

      

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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