Friday, December 15, 2017

Lessons i learnt from my mother(s) Part 2

In my early years I used to call my grandmother mum and my actual mum by her name, Asedi. This was partly because everyone (mum and her sisters) called her mum, and I kind of figured that was her name, and they all called my mum Asedi (with her being the last born). Anyway, Dorase Phiri (my grandmother) was quite instrumental in my growing up. I spent three to four of my early years with her, and they were quite essential in laying a foundation. Here are a few lessons she taught me.

God comes first
From a tender age, my grandmother made sure I knew that God came first in everything and the importance of worshiping him and going to church. She always took me to church, and I remember watching her reading her Bible and singing hymns to God. When I was seven years old, she told her friend that I was going to be a pastor one day! That was way before I was even saved. And when I decided to answer the call to ministry, she was the first person to respond with excitement.

God blesses us so that we may bless others
In her village Dorase Phiri was among the high-class people; she had a higher standard of living than most. But one thing that stood out to me was her willingness to share what she had and help out those in need. As a young boy her generosity was quite annoying; I wondered why we could not keep what we had for ourselves. After all we would have more! For her, being privileged came with great opportunity and responsibility. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.

Children should be disciplined
Dorase is a legend! She had no problems instilling discipline. She had very high expectations of those under her, and she made sure that children understood that they are to obey and submit to the authority of their parents. And when one crossed the line, she made sure she reminded you where you belong, and you stayed there. Two incidents come to mind. There was a day I disobeyed her and decided to run away from her. She simply picked up a whip and started following me at her own pace. She then told me “I will follow you until you get tired and stop”. After a while I realized it was in my best interest to stop because the distance covered running away, would be the same heading back! On another occasion, my friends and I bullied a young girl at school and grabbed her food. Her mother came and told my grandmother, and she decided to come to the school! She asked for permission from the head teacher to address the entire school during assembly. I was called out in front, and she asked me to point out my partners in crime; she walloped us in front of the whole school and gave a lecture about good behavior and manners to everyone.  One thing is for sure, she did not spare the rod neither did she spoil any child.

There is no substitute for hard work
There is something about the older generation and their love and attitude towards work. My grandmother finds satisfaction from a hard day’s labor. Farming season meant work. We would spend the whole day working at the farm. I hated it, and she loved it. While I was complaining, she was singing away joyfully. Whatever she got involved in, she did with all her might. She never did anything halfhearted, and she expected it of everyone else. Even today when she is advanced in age and struggling with health, she stubbornly wants to work.

The Lord has blessed my grandmother with long life, and she has been able to see a number of her great grandchildren. She has seen her own daughters become grandparents and has even out lived some of them. For all her shortcomings, Dorase Phiri has a legacy, and she has set some pretty high standards for all to emulate. Particularly in her love for God and her parenting. Like Timothy I am grateful for my grandmother.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lessons I learnt from my Mother(s) (part 1)

I love my mum! We have not always lived together, but we have somehow been quite close. In fact we are so close that people think she is my elder sister—partly because we relate like siblings and partly because I am taller. I have had the privilege of being raised by several uniquely different ladies in my life (aunties/grandmother) and in the coming weeks, it is my goal to share what each of them has taught me. I begin this series of blogs reluctantly because it has the potential of going south quite quickly (family politics!). Nonetheles here is the first one, four lessons from my own mother- Asedi Chibuye.
Hard work is a good thing
My mother is a hard worker and is a firm believer in giving your best in everything you do. She is also particular about getting your hands dirty and doing manual work. I remember struggling with my school work in my second and third grades and not caring at all. After a term was over, she called for a “press conference” and made it clear to me in no uncertain terms that things had to change. And change they did, she became my tutor and made sure I put in my absolute best.
Laziness was not tolerated when I was growing up, and no work was beyond me. You were expected to clean up after yourself and do it well. And though I do not always put in my best in what I do, I am grateful I was taught to work hard because the Lord expects it of us.
Live at peace with all men
In my third grade, a classmate stole my first ever watch and cut off the strips. I loved that watch! A few weeks later, I caught him with it, and I was ready to beat him up before one of the teachers stepped in and asked us to call our parents. I wanted pay back! He needed to replace the watch and then had to be suspended. That to me, was justice! After the discussions, my mother was more concerned about the guy being helped out so that he can change, and so she offered forgiveness. I was livid! As we walked back home she explained to me that the boy’s character was more important than the watch and besides, we can always replace the watch.
One of the verses that was stuck on the bedroom wall was Romans 12:18 “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In a family with wrangles aplenty, where people not talking to each other is common place, mum always told me not to get caught up in the petty drama and live at peace with all men. Easier said than done!
Singing is good for the soul
Mum loves singing. I grew up hearing her sing. She sang when she cleaned the house; she sang when she did the cooking; she sang when she was just sitting. My wife wondered why I randomly break out in song and often loudly, then mum visited us; she had to contend with two people who sing anytime, anywhere and for no apparent reason. I learnt a lot of the hymns from her as I heard her sing them with joy every day I lived with her. And I must add singing is good for the soul. There is a reason we will do a lot of it in heaven☺
Discipline is not negotiable

Mum has always been close and open with me. We laughed, teased and watched sports together. In fact, she is partly responsible for me being a soccer fan. All that did not stop her from instilling discipline. She loved order and set clear boundaries and would not hesitate to let you know who was in charge. She also made sure you recognized and respected authority. I see young people go at it with their parents and I shudder. I tried on one or two occasions to raise a one man rebellion, and it was crushed before it even started. I was sorted out for even entertaining the thought! Manners and order were important to her, and she drilled it in me. My shortcomings are a reflection on my character and not her parenting.
I love my mother, and I am very grateful to her for all the sacrifices she made to ensure that I turned out a decent person. There were times that I did not understand why she was being hard on me, and now that I am a parent, I grow more appreciative of the work she did and continues to do. I will be glad to be half the parent she was.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Groups of people the church mocks (Part 3)

In my last two blogs I suggested two groups of people that fall prey to the mockery of the church namely singles and barren couples. Today I want to discuss yet another group that we more often than not are guilty of mocking and not showing the love of Christ to. This group is the brethren who fall in public sin. Christians can be the most unforgiving and ruthless people around. It is often true that when a brother falls into sin we are more than eager to pick up stones and stone him instead of extending a loving hand that seeks restoration.
Now do not get me wrong, sin is a mess that affects all involved with the sinner, and many times it can be quite complicated. It is also clear that the Bible exhorts us to confront sin and discipline people who refuse to repent of their sins as their lack of repentance is a serious indicator that they might not be saved (Matt.18:15-19, 1 Cor. 5:1-11, Gal. 6:1-2). So yes we are to hold one another accountable and be each other’s keepers; it is true that we should not tolerate sin in our lives and the lives of others otherwise we risk being guilty of participating in their sins. We however need to remember that the goal of confrontation is restoration. We do well to heed the exhortation in Galatians to restore sinning brethren with a spirit of meekness. The temptation to be unkind and treat such people in the church without grace is ever high. Here are three ways we mock sinning brethren.
We mock fallen brethren by gossiping about their sins
It is amazing how news flies, particularly negative news. It seems there are Christians who have exceptional “journalistic” skills that they pick up information about people’s lives and spread it to everyone and anyone who has ears! This tendency to spread information about people is nothing more than malicious slander. Gossip and slander proceed from a corrupt and filthy heart and hurts the fallen brother. Just because it is true does not mean it is necessary to share, and if it not going to build up the brethren, do not share it. When brothers fall, do not gossip or slander them, lovingly confront and pray for them.
We mock fallen brethren by treating them with contempt
When we become aware of the sin in our brothers’ lives and see them go through the shame that comes with sin, we are tempted to think we are better than them and holier than them. I remember in my primary school days when one of my teachers would ask the class to shame and openly embarrass any pupil who broke the rules. So at the signal of the teacher the entire class would break forth in a chorus of “shame” and mocking laughter. Going through that experience made you feel alone and unloved. Sadly that can be the tendency of the church at times. We can easily be guilty of shaming instead of confronting and embarrassing instead of restoring. And we make sure we hold the sin over the head of the sinner for as long as they live! At times it’s almost like we are hoping others fall and do so scandalously and without repentance so that we can have something to hold over their heads. We should remember as we deal with other people’s sins that we are equally capable of committing any sin if it weren’t for the grace of God.  
We mock fallen brethren by refusing to forgive and welcome them back in the fold

In line with treating the fallen brothers with contempt is the refusal to forgive and welcome them back in the fold. The Bible commands us to bear with one another and to forgive one another (Col. 3:13), and the standard of forgiving is as much as God has forgiven you. Elsewhere Christ exhorts—blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7). We are often guilty of the sin of the steward after being forgiven much by his master, refused to forgive a friend for much less and actually had him locked up! Even when we offer some superficial forgiveness by mouth, our actions actually reveal the truth because we sideline and distant ourselves from the same brother we claim to have forgiven.

Brethren, beware of the attitude of the prodigal son’s elder brother. While the father was rejoicing at the repentance of the son, showering him with extravagant forgiveness and welcoming him back in the fold, the elder brother was sulking and bitter not willing to forgive and embrace his brother back into the fold. Brothers who fall into sin and are repentant should not be distanced from the church because of the unloving and humiliating mockery from the members of the church.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Groups of people the church mocks (part 2)

Two weeks ago I began a series of blogs aimed at highlighting how the church is often guilty of following the society’s thinking in mocking groups of people for what may be perceived as disadvantages or even curses. This mocking behavior and attitude towards people who may be at a different stage of life and have a different calling is contrary to the commands of Scripture, as we are commanded to love, serve, be gentle, kind and compassionate to our brethren and their needs. Last week we looked at the singles as a group of people that is often a victim of mockery; the second group of people the church often fails to minister to in love are barren couples.

In our culture, having a child is a sacred thing and a must for everyone. Children are viewed as the goal of marriage. A childless marriage is considered incomplete and can never be God’s plan or will for your life. A lack of children is grounds for termination of the marriage, and those who stay do so at the cost of facing insults and humiliation. Sadly, Christians are not immune to this mockery and unloving insensitivity toward barren couples. Our response to it often ranges from awkward silence to outright abuse and mockery. In what ways do we act this way? Let me offer two suggestions.

Assuming every couple must have children
When God instituted marriage (Gen. 2), husband (Adam) and wife (Eve) were fully satisfied, and children were not part of the picture. Now it is true that God expects us to be fruitful and multiply, and He himself blesses us with children. It is also true that God in His sovereign wisdom and for reasons unknown to us allows some couples not to have children, either for a season or for the entirety of their marriage. So, while it is perfectly fine to ask God to bless a couple with children, it is biblically unfounded and very insensitive to claim that couples need deliverance. A childless couple is not demon possessed nor are they lacking in their faith. Children do not come from the devil but from God himself, and if the Lord purposes to bless a couple with a child, no amount of demons will hinder that blessing. You know a lot about people’s Christianity by how they respond when God says no to their earnest prayers. 

So, let’s stop the idea of applying pressure on newlyweds, wondering when they are going to have children and what they are waiting for. A marriage is perfectly complete even without children because children are not the goal of marriage!

This is also true with the advice we give, often unsolicited. Who says it is a must for a childless couple to seek medical attention or consider adoption? It is perfectly fine if they chose to do any of them, but even then the reasons must be right and not simply doing it because every couple must have children! At times we need to learn to keep quiet and listen to people particularly people who might be hurting or going through a trial.   

Treating barren couples like they have it easy
Married people think, singles have it easy; couples with children behave like childless couples have it easy. And so it is often common to find childless couples treated with condescending attitudes because they have no children to take care of, so their homes must be neat at all times, and their marriage must be heaven on earth. However, the Bible says God gives us the grace for every responsibility and season of life. So, a family of nine has no excuse for not living the way God intended it to be. Yes, a childless couple will not have the same responsibilities that parenting couples have but that does not mean they have it easy. It is the irony of discontentment that the singles envy the married, while the married envy the singles and the childless couple envies the parenting couple while the parenting couple envies the childless couple. A mark of a healthy Christian is that they are content in whatever state they are in.

The big picture
This is a broken world. It was broken by the fall of man. It is broken and passing away. And while we are on earth, we feel and bear the effects of the fall. That means pain, sorrow and suffering are part of our lives. Our own Lord and Savior experienced and endured this suffering and promised us that we like him will face the same. The suffering this side of eternity makes us long for a better life, it fuels our hope for the glory to come.

“Those who follow the pierced feet of the Savior bear their own scars. Those struggling with infertility might not bear the physical scars of childbirth, but they do bear the emotional and spiritual scars of painful wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24–30). And God has given them his church, and his church to them, to care and comfort and carry them in the pain.”[1]


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Groups of people the church mocks (Part 1)

Mockery is a vice that is fun to dish out but terrible to be a recipient of. The dictionary defines mockery as “teasing and contemptuous language or behaviour directed at a particular person or thing.[1]”  Granted there is a place for good old banter among friends, so that we can laugh at our folly and idiosyncrasies. There is however a rather unhealthy form of mockery that belittles others and is not in the spirit of love. Unloving mockery is common even among believers and is targeted at particular groups of people. I intend to show in the next three blogs how we who are in the church are guilty of being unloving by mocking particular groups of people. The first group of people who are victims of our mockery are singles.

In Zambian culture, marriage is sacred and highly honoured. Children are from birth raised with marriage as the ultimate goal and rightly so. Marriage is God ordained and is an honourable thing. In our culture however, we not only expect you to be married, we demand it! Marriage has social, economic and religious implications. The marriage of an individual brings honour to the entire family and the lack of it brings shame. We have no place for singles who want to remain single. If an individual becomes of age and they are not getting married, the conclusion is either they have serious problems, or they are promiscuous. There may be other conclusions, but whatever the case our conclusion is that something is wrong with that individual. Here are a few ways in which the church mocks single people.

We assume a single person is incomplete without marriage
One of the common phrases and misconceptions about marriage is that your spouse completes you. And therefore people who are single are incomplete. We quickly run to Genesis, where God says it is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). The question we need to ask ourselves is was Adam incomplete before Eve? And the answer is a clear no; Adam was perfectly complete to live a joyful life that carries out God’s purposes. The Bible tells us that those who are in Christ are complete in Him (Col 2:8-10). The notion that married people are complete comes from the false premise that marriage will solve all your problems, make you a better person, and make you happy. Consequently, people go into marriage with all these false assumptions and end up with false expectations of their spouse. If a person is not happy, the problem is not their marital status, it’s their walk with God. Those who walk with the Lord learn to be joyfully content in whatever state they are in, be it single or married. It is because of such false notions about marriage that we expect our spouses to satisfy us in ways only God can.

We add marriage to the qualification of church officers
It is common for churches to demand that a person be married in order to be considered for a church office. Now there is obvious wisdom in preferring a married person to serve in the office of pastor or deacon, but it should be stated as exactly that, a preference! It is not a biblical requirement. Churches even place marital status before godly character and in the process many biblically qualified singles have been overlooked on account of their status. The qualifications to the offices of deacon and pastor (elder, bishop, these terms refer to the same office) are stated for us in the Bible and marriage is not one of them. Demanding marriage as a qualification is in fact adding to the Scriptures.
Many of us would clearly have issues with the Apostle Paul’s view of singles in the church and their service to God. He says singles are free from relational worries and distractions that marriage brings and have the gift and opportunity to spontaneously serve the Lord with undivided commitment (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Paul is no way suggests marriage is not honorable; he is simply acknowledging that while it is a good thing, a high calling ordained by God, it is also a demanding calling.  

We assume married people are wiser and more responsible
When discussing matters of importance, it is a common consensus that singles must keep quiet and listen. When advice is sought on matters or responsibilities need to be taken up, the married almost always take first precedence. Now that in itself is not necessary wrong, and you cannot deny the fact that people who are married and manage homes have generally speaking picked up a level of know how that one who is single may not have. The problem comes in when there is a deliberate mockery of people and their ideas on account of their singleness, or sidelining them from roles of responsibility.

If we are all honest, some married people are not wise neither are they responsible. It is illogical to assume that a change in marital status will make a person wiser and more responsible. There are plenty of examples of people who have entered marriage and their irresponsibility and foolishness simply got worse after marriage. And yet there are quite a number of people who are single and yet are wise and responsible. The reason this is possible is because biblical wisdom comes from above and is evidenced by righteous living (James 3: 15-18, Psalm 1).

We need to remember that God designed the church so that every member may play their role to build up the body regardless of their marital status. Married people have a lot to teach single people, and at the same the married have a lot to learn from the singles as well.

This mockery of people who are in a different phase of life than us actually reveals a deep seated pride that refuses to acknowledge God’s grace for who we are and thank Him for what He is doing in other people’s lives. As a result, you will have married people in the church who fail to see the singles as fellow workers for the cause of the gospel and partner with them in discipleship relationships to the glory of God.

We should thank God for His wisdom in not making a church full of married people or full of single people. He instead made a diverse body with different parts in order for it to function effectively.