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Migrating to a New Website

Dear friends,

Thank you for following this blog and website for the past years. As I seek to grow and enhance my online ministry, I am moving this blog to a new website http://www.confexmakhalira.mw Please subscribe or follow the new blog site.

Every blessing in Christ,

Confex Makhalira

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It’s My Father’s World

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

One of the doctrines that comfort believers in their daily walk with Christ is the doctrine of God’s providence. The doctrine teaches that God is in control of all things both in heaven and on earth. Even when things are not going on well or they seem scary in our human eyes, God is working all things for the good of his children in Christ.

This is our comfort even now as the world is battling against COVID -19 which has hit our country very hard. We can remain calm and hopeful in these difficult times not because we are the proverbial ostrich that hides its head in the sand but because we know that our God is good and in control.

A story is told of a boy on board a ship. Violent storms raged against the ship but he remained calm. One of the passengers was amazed by his serenity and asked him if he was not scared of the storm. The boy replied, “My father is the captain.”

Dear Christian, our Father is the Captain of the whole world. He is not only the all-powerful captain but also good, most gracious, and most merciful Captain. Not a single hair from your head will fall to the ground apart from his will. If God pays attention to a tiny little hair which you hardly even notice when it falls to the ground what more with your life and that of your loved ones? The hymn writer put it well:

This is my Father’s World

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the Ruler yet.

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Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary

What tough times we are living in! This is how my mind has summarized today.

You see, I woke up early this morning only to realize that electricity has gone off. Determined not to give in to despair I went out to exercise. I was looking forward to a warm shower after the exercise only to discover that the taps were dry. No water! Still determined to be more positive I get ready for the day.

Later in the morning I meet one member of our church. His wife had been in labor for the past two days and just yesterday gave birth to a baby boy. Praise the Lord!  But as I meet this brother, I learn that he has not yet met his son. Actually, that’s just half of the story. This brother was not able to be with his wife when she went into labor at the hospital. He was not even there when the wife was giving birth. Reason? COVID-19 restrictions at the hospital. The hospital would not let him go and see his wife as they are trying to protect the wife and other patients from the virus. Can you imagine the agony?

Soon after this meeting I proceed to deliver food items to another family in our church that is in self-quarantine after getting in contact with a COVID-19 patient a few days ago. I bring the food items at the gate and call the husband on my phone to let him know that I am there. But wait a minute! I can’t get close to him and his family. So, he just comes out, stands at a distance as if one of us is a leper of Biblical times, and briefly greets and thanks me for the items. I head to my car to get back to office.  At this time my pastoral heart is bleeding. This can’t be!

Later I get home. My girls are always excited when they hear dad’s car driving in. They come running to hug daddy. But as I jump out of the car my brain sends out a quick reminder, “Remember you can’t hug them.” So sadly, I hear myself saying, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t hug you now I am just coming from outside and who knows what is sticking to my clothes and myself.”

By this time I can’t pretend and put up a brave face any more. These are tough times we are living in.

 As I reflect on the events of the day, a song we used to sing in Bible college softly echoes in my mind:

Days are filled with sorrow and care
Hearts are lonely and drear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near

Troubled soul, the Savior can see
Every heartache and tear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near

These lyrics take me to two places: The Garden and the Cross. You see the main thing to remember in these difficult times is not really the virus. It is what happened in Garden of Eden about six thousand years ago and what occurred on the mountain of Golgotha about four thousand years later.

In the garden our parents disobeyed and rebelled against God by eating the fruit they were commanded not to. With that they plunged the whole human race into sin and misery. COVID-19 is just one of the consequences of that “cosmic treason” as R.C Sproul would have put it. The broken systems of our electricity and water providers are just one of the consequences of man’s fall from grace in the garden.  That single act of disobedience “made all of us liable to all miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

But praise the Lord that the garden is not the end of the story. Four thousand years later, God’s Son was hanged onto the cross to reverse “the damage” that our parents caused to humanity. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, nailed sin and death to the cross. As the last breath was about to leave his lungs he cried out: “It is finished!”

It is in these three words that our hope and comfort must lie. Yes COVID-19 might take our loved ones or even ourselves home. Yes COVID-19 will deny us some things we enjoy with our children like giving each other tender hugs. Yes COVID-19 has denied my friend the joy of seeing his first-born son come into the world. Yes COVID 19 has disturbed our normal relationship and routines but one thing we know for certain: “It is Finished!”

For us in Christ the momentary afflictions of this world are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17-18). One day sooner or later the Lord will wipe our tears and take away all our sorrows forever (Rev. 21:4). COVID-19 might kill the body but Christ has overcome it (John 16:33). After we have suffered a little while the God of all grace who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:10).   Therefore, let’s bring all our burdens onto the cross that the Savior might lift them away. Let’s cast all our cares unto Christ for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Our burdens might be heavy but Christ’s arms are stronger and his grace is ever sufficient.  

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A Prayer For Malawi and the Fresh Presidential Elections

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Our Heavenly Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Great I AM who does not change;
Who keeps every promise and does not forsake the work of his hands.
You are the Great King of the universe.
You alone change times and seasons
You alone raise up kings and bring down kings
You alone is the true God
And the universe is filled with your glory and majesty

Father, we thank you for our nation of Malawi.
We thank you for blessing us with peace and freedoms we enjoy
The freedom to worship you and preach the gospel
The freedom to choose our own leaders
We thank you for our people and their hard-working spirit
We thank you for our beautiful country
As we sing in our national anthem, thank you for
“Our own Malawi, this land so fair,
Fertile and brave and free.
With its lakes, refreshing mountain air,
How greatly blest are we.
Hills and valleys, soil so rich and rare.”

As we approach your throne of grace and holiness
We are reminded that we are sinners in need of your forgiveness
So we confess our sins before you
Lord, forgive us for not loving you with all our hearts
For worshipping the idols of this world rather than you
Please also forgive us for not loving our neighbors as ourselves
And committing the sins of tribalism, regionalism, and favoritism
May you forgive us for being unkind to one another
As one politician once observed, forgive us for
“Often judging those we disagree with, whether politically or otherwise,
By their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
For exaggerating their weaknesses while minimizing ours
May you forgive us for slander, spreading lies, and unkind words
Forgive us, Lord, for justifying our hatred for those we disagree with
By claiming that it is righteous anger
Forgive us for harboring bitterness and refusing to forgive
Forgive us for abusing our positions and authority for selfish gain and ambition
Forgive us for corruption that is so rampant in many levels of our society
Forgive us for dishonest gains, theft, cheating, and disregard for the law
Forgive us for sexual immorality and ungodliness in our nation
Lord, our sins are many
And you are justified to condemn us
Only you and against you have we sinned
So we pray for your mercy and grace.
We thank you that with you is forgiveness that you may be feared
Cast us not away from your presence but may you do good to Malawi
We are thankful for Jesus Christ the perfect sacrifice for all our sins.

Father, as we look forward to June 23, 2020 with great anticipation
To cast votes in the Fresh Presidential Elections,
We pray for those entrusted with responsibility of managing them
We pray for all the commissioners of Malawi Electoral Commission,
All the staff, all security agents, and all political party monitors
May you give them the courage to stand up for what is right and just
May they undertake their work without fear or favor
We pray for your wisdom and guidance for voters
As you have created us in your image, we all long for a country marked by
Justice, unity, freedom, order, and opportunities for all
A nation where law-breakers are punished and the “innocent” are protected
We desire a nation that is less corrupt and more prosperous
So we pray that you please give us a president and a vice
Who will help us achieve our aspirations as a nation
As you blessed your people long ago with good and godly leaders
Like Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah and others
We also pray that may you grant us upright leaders today
Yet, Lord, help us to remember that no single human being
Can grant what only you is able to give
Hence we pray that help us not to put our trust in princes
In a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Father, we also pray that when the elections are over,
Malawi will continue to be peaceful and stable
We pray that the winners will celebrate with modesty and grace
The losers will lose with dignity
And honor the will of Malawians expressed through the ballot

Heavenly Father, as we look at Malawi right now,
We realize that our problem lies deeper than politics and leadership
Because we all like sheep have gone astray
Each one of us has turned to his own way
We have fallen short of your glory and no one is righteous – not even one
So we pray for godly sorrow over our sins that will lead to true repentance
Father, bring Malawi to yourself through your Son by the power of your Holy Spirit
That times of refreshing may come upon us
Father, may you also revive and awaken your Church from our spiritual slumber
May there be a great awakening and reformation in your Church
That we may be the true light and salt of Malawi
In Jesus’ name we pray:
Amen!

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Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – Q & A 1

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question one asks: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

The catechism here asks a very important question which I believe every person has considered at some point. Why are we here in this world? Why did God create you and me? The catechism gives two main reasons: first we were created to glorify God and second to enjoy him forever. Let me briefly expound on these two points.

In simpler terms, to glorify God means that we were created to live our lives for God and God alone. Whatever we do in this world we should do it to bring honor and praise to God. This is why Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” Even in very small details of this life like drinking a glass of water or a cup of tea or coffee we are to do it with the purpose of glorifying God.

As we seek to glorify God we in turn enjoy being creatures of God in this world as one of the great African theologians, St. Augustine of Hippo also noted,  “O God you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

I know that the word “enjoy” can sometimes be used sinfully.  However, here the catechism has in mind the real joy that comes as a result of a good relationship with God as we read in Psalm 144:15: “Blessed or Happy are the people whose God is the LORD.”

Friends, when we live our lives for God we quickly realize that there is nothing outside of God that can satisfy or make us happy. The Psalmist was right,  “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” (Psalm 73:25-26).

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Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – Introduction

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Let me begin by welcoming you to  “Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism.” This is a series of posts in which I will take us through the Westminster Shorter Catechism and give a brief commentary to the questions and answers that we find in the catechism.

But before we begin with the commentary,  I thought that it is important to give a brief introduction of the catechism. The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1647 by a gathering of pastors and theologians also known as the Westminster Assembly in England.  The purpose of the catechism was to be a tool for biblical instruction both for churches and families.

Ever since then the catechism has been used by Presbyterian and Reformed churches all over the world. So, what are some of the ways you can use the catechism? Let me suggest two: first use it for personal devotion. Read the questions and answers prayerfully while also checking the Bible to confirm that they are true. Second, use it to shepherd and teach the little hearts of your children. Just a brief personal testimony on this point:

When I was a child, my grandfather bought me the shorter catechism and taught me God’s word from it. I memorized its truths with an innocent zeal of a child. But later in my teenage years I wandered away from the faith. However, the Spirit of God continued to use those truths I stored in my mind and heart to convict me of sin and eventually bring me back to the faith.

Therefore, I would like to encourage parents who have little children to faithfully teach and encourage their little ones to memorize the catechism. Believe you me you will never regret doing it. I can’t agree more with Charles H. Spurgeon who  once observed, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times.”

So, may he Lord bless you as we go through the catechism together and may he bless your children as you labor to teach them God’s truth.

 

 

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Christ Presbyterian Church is Here!

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17).

In June last year we made announcement that we were coming to Blantyre. We are thankful that the Lord fulfilled our plans. On September 15, 2019 we officially began our church planting efforts with our first Bible study meeting. Up until the end of December we have been studying the book of Ephesians. It has been a great blessing to go through this epistle that has a lot to say about our salvation and walk with Christ.

As a church planter I was greatly encouraged to see the Holy Spirit applying his word to our lives powerfully. One instance that stood out to me was when we were studying chapter 4.  Towards the end of the chapter, Apostle Paul writes: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31, 32).

These two verses spoke strongly to one of us who was harboring bitterness and anger against a family member. At the end of the Bible study, this person asked us to pray for them to overcome this sin and to be helped to forgive and seek reconciliation. It was very beautiful for us as a God’s family to come together, surround a fellow saint, and pray that God by his grace will help them accomplish what is possible only with the power of the Holy Spirit working through his word. What a blessing!

This is one of the reasons why Christ Presbyterian Church exists. We strongly desire and pray that God will ground and root his people strongly in Christ. When members of a family seek forgiveness and reconciliation due to a conviction wrought about by God’s word, Christ is glorified. It is also a great testimony to the world of the power of God’s word. We pray that God will continue to work in the lives of his people through Christ Presbyterian Church. As the Psalmist prayed, we also pray that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.

This month we have just begun studying the Gospel according to John. We are excited and looking forward to wonderful times as well. If you are in Blantyre,  consider joining us this Sunday and every Sunday from 2pm-4pm.

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Briarwood PCA Conference: Leading the Nations to Christ

This past week I  attend a mission conference organized by Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) under the theme, “Leading the Nations to Christ” taken from John 12:21.

It was a wonderful time. The keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Neil Stewart of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church (ARP) in North Carolina, exhorted missionaries to constantly look to Christ and depend on him in our work. Through a series of sermons under the title, “A Master Class with Jesus” from Luke 5:1-32, Dr. Stewart reminded us of our call to man-fishing, Christ’s power to conquer the strongholds of sin, Christ amazing love for sinners, and the importance of us being worshippers of God first before we are servants. He warned of that subtle temptation to be consumed with the work of the Lord  and forget the Lord of the work. We are first and foremost created to worship Christ and draw our power for service from him. The words of Charles Simeon summarize it well: “No amount of homiletical technique can make up for the won’t of close personal walk with God.”

Briarwood family was also amazingly hospital and generous with their time and resources as they cared for missionaries who came from at-least fourteen countries. I have lost count of how many times I have been prayed for or being promised to be constantly prayed for as we embark on God’s work in Malawi.  It didn’t take me long to realize that Briarwood is a praying church and understands that one of the great gifts they can give to missionaries is prayer.

Interacting with other missionaries was also a huge blessing. It gave me an opportunity to hear great things the Lord is is doing in all the continents including the closed countries. The promise of Christ that he will build his church and the gates of hell will never prevail against is ever true. What a blessing to hear that a church in one  of the closed countries is is one of fastest growing churches in the world. It was a good reminder of the truth that is regularly emphasized in the book of Acts that despite the persecution of the church, the word of God increased and the church grew in numbers.

The organizers of conference also organized a cake baking competition in which children, teens, and adults were challenged to bake a cake for a missionary and the best cake in each of these categories will receive $500 which will go to the accounts of the missionaries. I was humbled to see love for missions even from children. About 30 children baked cakes for missionaries. The icing on the cake for me was to hear that the cake that was baked for my family as missionaries to Malawi was the best in the teen’s category. I am very thankful for Emma Grace. This girl has great love for missions and great baking talents. She is also excited about our work of planting confessional Presbyterian churches in Malawi. She gave her all and managed to win for me and my family $500.

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I also enjoyed making presentations to a group of college students, high school seniors and juniors. The young people were excited to hear what God is doing in Malawi. I am very thankful for Briarwood’s commitment to Great Commission and to the work of making Christ known not only in Birmingham but the rest of the world. Their mission statement fully captures it all: “To equip Christians worship God and  to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” This, I can say without the fear of contradiction, is what really makes the heart of Briarwood beat. To God alone be the glory!

 

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Walking on the Highway of Holiness: A Tribute to Rev. John W. Chinchen

I have just received the news of the passing of Rev. Dr. John W. Chinchen also fondly known by many of his students as Rev. Jack. Dr. Chinchen was the founder of African Bible Colleges (ABC) in Liberia, Malawi, and Uganda. He was also my professor of homiletics (preaching) when I studied at ABC Malawi over a decade ago. As I reflected and thanked the Lord for Jack’s life, three fond memories of him stood out in my mind. They all begin with the letter, H.

First is Holiness. Jack preached and encouraged his students to pursue holiness without which no one will see God (Heb. 12:14). His Exodus sermon series titled, “The Highway of Holiness” remains one of impactful sermons on my life. As ABC family mourns his passing, I am comforted to know that he is now walking on this highway and beholding the glory of the one who is Holy, Holy, Holy.

Second is Humility. Jack demonstrated true humility of a Christian leader in a number of ways. One example that remains vivid on my mind is watching him caring the lawns of ABC Malawi campus. During the day, and sometimes during the night, one would see him going around the campus repositioning sprinklers. This other day, one of ABC labourers told me that Jack put on gloves and helped him repair a broken sewer line. As the president of the college, he did not have to do it. But he gladly chose to do this menial work, probably with the intention to demonstrate to his students and the workers that godly leadership is never void of humility and service.

Third is Homiletics. Jack was a man who loved and preached the gospel with passion. I recall the Tuesday mornings during my time as a student at ABC when Jack stood on the pulpit of the Kirk of the Hills Chapel and took us through various books of the Bible: Exodus, Nehemiah, Ezra, Colossians and impressing upon our hearts the truths of the gospel. I will remain grateful for one time when he spent about an hour with me in his office critiquing and guiding me in writing and preparing my first sermon series from the book of Jonah.

Some years ago, I was invited to speak during the ABC chapel service. I preached from 2 Timothy 3:16-17. After the sermon, Jack came to me and said something like: “Son, I am sorry, I have hearing difficulties, and I could not hear every word of your sermon. However, I heard you mentioning the word “scripture” many times. Thank you. I love to hear my students preaching scripture. Keep on preaching scripture.”

Jack is now with the author of Scripture. He no longer needs to hear a preacher like me expound it. As he rejoices in the presence of the Word, I will continue to preach the scripture as he encouraged and charged me until the day I will meet him again in the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

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My Review of Walking Through Infertility by Matthew Arbo

I was drawn to read and review Walking Through Infertility: Biblical, Theological, and Moral Counsel For Those who are Struggling by Matthew Arbo because my wife and I have a number of friends who are experiencing infertility. Furthermore, for the short time that I have been in ministry, I have come to discover that this is not uncommon problem among God’s people.

The book is primarily written for couples who are not able to have their own biological children and secondarily for those who desire to minister to them. Its main purpose is “to address biblical, theological, and moral questions surrounding infertility. The aim is to instruct and inspire the church, especially, those couples with personal experience with infertility” (p. 21).

Walking Through Infertility is divided into four main chapters. The first chapter surveys the biblical stories of infertility and how God proved his faithfulness to his people. The second chapter focuses on following Christ despite the trial of not being able to have your own biological children. The third chapter centers on the church and how a childless couple can find help and comfort from fellow believers. The last chapter analyses various ethical and moral considerations regarding modern methods of helping infertile couples to conceive and give birth.

I would say that the book’s greatest strength lies in the last chapter. Arbo goes into detail to explain the modern reproductive technologies and the ethical dilemmas they pose to Christians. In as much as we should thank God for the advancements in modern medicine and medical innovations, we also need to be aware that not all of them are without moral quandaries. Arbo’s discussion of intrauterine insemination (IUI), intro vitro fertilization (IVF), and surrogacy is outstanding. I would greatly recommend any Christian who might have questions or considering these reproductive technologies to prayerfully read this section.

IUI involves a medical expert taking a man’s sperm and inserting it into a woman’s uterus during ovulation to increase chances of conception while IVF is very complex and involves a medical expert taking a man’s sperm and woman’s eggs and fertilizing them in a laboratory and later implanting the embryo in the woman’s uterus.  Surrogacy entails a couple contracting with a woman to carry their biological child to term and surrender it back to them at birth. As you might see these methods raises a number of ethical and theological concerns. Should or can a Christian use any of these methods with a clear conscience?

Arbo does not leave the couple struggling with infertility to answer this question on their own. Instead he biblically and pastorally challenges them “to consider whether the relation between conception and sex is sacred and the manner of procreation as designed by God is open to amendment?” Towards the very end of the book, he encourages a couple experiencing infertility to consult, do the hard work of listening, thinking and praying for God’s wisdom. “Speak with others you trust—family, friends, pastors—and do the hard work of listening and thinking and praying. Wise is the one who heeds a sound word of instruction. In Christ are the riches of wisdom, and if anyone lacks wisdom, ‘let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him’ (James 1:5).”

This is why I say that the last chapter is the best part of the book. Not only because of its biblical and pastoral approach to these ethical issues but also because it explains very complex reproductive technologies in an easier to understand language for less scientifically sophisticated Christians like me.

Disclosure: Crossway has given me a courtesy copy of the book for this review.

 

 

 

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