Monday, February 12, 2018

Bearing fruit in keeping with Salvation (part 2)

Christians should be easily identifiable! The Bible makes it quite clear that you know people by their fruits. One such fruit that will be evident is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a group of virtues or attitudes that should be true of every Spirit indwelt individual. Today we begin looking at each of the virtues in detail. The Apostle Paul states:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
The first in the list is love. Paul is saying those who have been saved from their sins and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit have the love of God imparted to them, and the love of God should be growing in them. So what exactly is this love of God that should be evident in believers? What makes it different from the love that the world gives? Here are a few things to note about the love of God.

Love takes the initiative
The love of God is unique in that it is not dependent on the worthiness of the recipient but on the choice of the lover. God chose us and demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were sinners Christ died for our sins (Rom. 5:8). God took the initiative not because we were lovable or deserving of the love but because He chose to. In fact, left to ourselves we would not have chosen God because sinful man does not desire or seek after God (Rom. 3:10-18).   
This is the same love we should be showing and giving to people around us, unconditional and sacrificial love. Love without strings attached; love that does not look for what it can gain from an act or relationship; love that does not wait for others to love. It is love that takes the initiative, and it is love that will cost and inconvenience. Everyone who is a Christian must be a dispenser of love.

Love forgives the offences of others
God forgave our sins in Christ Jesus, and He promises us that He will always be faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we humbly confess our sins before Him (1 John 1:9). Love bears the cost of others and holds no record of wrong. It is then no wonder that the Bible commands us to forgive one another as God has forgiven us (Col. 3:13-15).

Love is action and not simply emotion
Love is more than just being nice to each other or feeling nice about each other. It definitely involves emotions, but it is more than feelings because you are to love even when you do not feel like it. No wonder we are commanded to love; you could not command someone to feel. Love is a command because it is a choice you make, and it is seen in action. For instance, God demonstrated (action) His love towards us. Christian love is more than just mere words and more than just feelings because it culminates into action. This is why the Bible urges us to love our enemies and strangers. No one ever feels like loving his enemy, but a transformed heart chooses to love his enemy and to do good to those who do evil to him.

It is for this reason that Christ told the disciples that love is the essence of Christianity. It is by our unique love that the watching world will know that we are Disciples of Christ. Hear the words of the Lord:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bearing fruit in keeping with salvation (part 1)

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that salvation is exclusively by grace through faith in Christ and not of anyone’s works (Eph. 2:6-9, Rom. 3:19-26). Sadly, many people still hold to, practice and preach a salvation by works deceiving themselves into thinking they can earn their way to heaven despite the teachings of Scripture that salvation is in Christ alone (John 14:6).

While salvation is not by works, biblical salvation certainly produces works. In a sermon Tim Keller says, “We are not saved by fruit but by faith and not fruitless faith.” In Ephesians 2, Paul argues that we were all dead in our sins and were therefore unable to awaken ourselves but thanks be to God who made us alive in Christ Jesus. He further states that the result of God saving us from our sins (making us alive) is that we will fulfil the purpose we were created for, namely his workmanship, created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It then becomes clear that where salvation has taken place fruit is produced. The farming analogy is quite replete in the Bible. The righteous are often likened to a tree that bears fruit while the wicked are the fruitless plant. Salvation brings life, and life produces fruit that is in keeping with living organisms. That therefore means that this fruit is real and organic as opposed to fake and mechanical. Fruit in keeping with salvation is not mere behavioral change or conformity to a system. This fruit comes about because there has been a radical transformation in a person’s life. They were once dead, but now they are alive; they were blind, but now they see.

The Bible speaks of different kinds of fruit that believers should be producing in their lives. It speaks of leading others to faith (Rom. 1:13-16), righteous behavior (Phil. 1:11), offering praise to God (Heb. 13:15), and godly attitudes/graces or the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It is the latter of these fruits that I intend to focus on in the coming weeks. A few notes of introduction will suffice for now.

It is important to notice in Galatians 5 the contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Work of the flesh carries the idea of strain, toil, draining effort and being dead. While on the other hand fruit carries the idea of freshness, beauty, attractiveness and life. Secondly, the fruit of the Spirit is a present continuous idea, meaning it is ongoing. In other words we should continuously produce the nine virtues of the fruit of the Spirit. The third point of introduction is that the fruit of the Spirit is singular, it is the fruit and not fruits. Finally, the nine virtues must be true of each one of us. We are not meant to pick and choose as we please. The fruit of the Spirit produces nine virtues not two or three.  The nine make one, and therefore these graces should be true of each one of us as believers.

I will leave you with the Galatians passage to meditate on.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:22-24)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Lessons I learnt from my mothers part 5

This is the fifth installment on the lessons I learnt from the different women who played a significant role in raising me. My goal in this series has been to show how character rubs off on the people who observe our lives, particularly in the context of the home. Generally speaking children (dependents) are a reflection of their parents/guardians. Granted there are some (few) exceptions, but by and large principles of life are learnt in the home directly or indirectly. So though none of the women I have highlighted are perfect, they taught me quite a lot and laid the foundation for my life. For that, I am highly indebted to each of them. The fifth person who kept me and raised me was Jayne Chibuye, Auntie Jane as we fondly call her.

Determined perseverance
Auntie Jane is some sort of a maverick! She has a resolve and perseverance that is not easily broken. From as early as I can remember, she was the kind of person who relentlessly pursued her goal come rain or sunshine. One of the things that she clearly resolved early in her life was that she would not be a dependent in anyone’s home. So, after school she got a job and launched out. Through many challenges she has never looked back.

Another area where her determined perseverance shows up is in the area of entrepreneurship. She has over the years never shied away from venturing into business. Despite success or failure, her resolve never wavered! 

A full person
Auntie Jane’s motto in life was (is) “life is too short to be miserable.” She determined to live life to its fullest. When she jumped into something, she was all in! She rarely did anything half-hearted. So, when she decided to venture into a project, she was all in. When she decided to help someone, she was all in. And when she decided to have an issue with something or someone, she was all in! I remember two incidents that just epitomize her fullness. While living in Mufulira, she was angry with me for something I did, and she was ready to discipline me, so I evaded her and ran for my dear life. And to my total shock, she decided to chase me in high heels! The second incident was with a neighbor who had vicious dogs that were a terror to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, they were quite careless and inconsiderate with the way they managed them such that they would run into your own yard. After many times of drama, Auntie Jane had enough of the nonsense, and she confronted the neighbors. The dogs never came out of the gate again! She is an all or nothing kind of person. After all, “life is too short to be miserable.” I guess that kind of means in the biblical sense: whatever your hand finds to do, do it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23).

Her own man
I am of course using the phrase “her own man” as a figure of speech. Our family like most families is one where everyone wants to have a say in what everyone is doing and be involved in the decision you make. The pressure can be so high that if you not careful, your life will easily be controlled by other people. Auntie Jane is not one of those whose life you can control or easily influence. She is her own person. She runs her own life, and all the best to the person who attempts to control how she lives her life!

A willing helper
Another trait I picked up from Auntie Jane that may not be entirely evident to many is her willingness to help people. Because she is a “live wire” and often speaks her mind, her kindness is often over looked. But being a full person, when she decides to help out, she often pulls out all the stops to ensure that you are helped. In fact she has such a willingness to help that at times she over commits and goes all out trying to help. I guess that’s what it means to be an all or nothing kind of person.

When I actually think about it, my family is full of “characters” which makes for some interesting relationships! But one thing is sure, parents and guardians have a great influence on the children they raise whether or not they realise it. My prayer is that every Christian mother will emulate Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15), who taught their boy the Holy Scriptures.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lessons I learnt from my mothers (part 4)

This is a fourth installment in the ongoing series of blogs on the lessons I learnt from the women who played vital roles in raising me and teaching me the essential principles of life. Some of the lessons highlighted were taught to me directly and some indirectly. In other words, learning takes place whether we are being intentional about it or not. The fourth lady in my hall of fame is Agness Kaseka. I moved into her house in my early teens and was there until I moved out to start a house of my own. So as you would expect I am highly indebted to her in ways I will never repay. So here are the lessons I picked up from her.

Gentle and firm
Mrs. K, as we fondly called her is one of those rare breeds of people who are gentle as a dove and firm as a lion. She always wears a smile on her face and having a conversation with her can often be sweet and uplifting. She has the cunning ability to diffuse a tense and hostile situation with her grace and gentleness. Many people have often taken her gentleness for weakness and so did I, especially since she was the exact opposite of my late uncle, Mr. Kaseka (Mr. K) who was a straight shooter!
I remember one time after the passing of my uncle, Mrs. K decided to call for a family meeting. We were about 13 in the house (the Kaseka’s always took in people), and yet we were not all helping out with the chores, particularly the guys most of whom were grown men. The meeting was Mrs. K at her best; she made it clear in no uncertain terms that things had to change. Whoever was not ready to chip in, the door was open, and yet she at the same time allowed for dialogue. I remember her apologizing for something offensive she had said. Let’s just say the meeting ended peacefully, and the guys started working!

Quietly strong and determined
When Mr. Kaseka passed, it was a heavy blow to the entire family. The man was the bread winner par excellence! And many people were certain Mrs. K would not pull through. The children where young (7, 5 and 3 respectively), and on top of that, there were other dependents to take care of. All kinds of advice was shared from all corners, yet she stood her ground and soldiered on. Even I in my youthful zeal doubted she would survive. 19 years later, Mrs. K is still standing and in the same house. The children are all grown. Chabala the first born is a qualified nurse and working for the government; Maria and Mark are both mid-way through college.
It is the way she has gone about her life that has been the most instructive. She has quietness of spirit and a settled determination. She does not make noise and cause confusion. She simply focuses on her life and quietly got things done and does not complain or meddle in other people’s business. 

Honest and reliable
Among the most reliable people in our family, Mrs. Kaseka is among them. You are guaranteed she will do what she says she will do. If she tells you to pick her up at 6, you will find her ready at 6. You are also guaranteed that she will be honest and not lie to you. She always kept exhorting us to tell the truth and avoid being caught up in a web of lies.

Kind and respectful
Be it in the family, the community or at church, Mrs. K’s kindness is evident to all. She goes out of her way to help people and is often the go to person when in need. She has such a sweet spirit, it is hard to hate her. She has a genuine desire to see others excel and help them along the way. The people who rent apartments from her become like family. I remember some years back she extended hospitality to the guys who came to take the readings from the water meter. To my shame, I stood there thinking to myself what a waste of food! But that is Mrs K through and through, kind and respectful to people who come in her life regardless of state or position.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Keep the main things the main things in 2018

2018 is upon us, and we yet again begin the 365-day journey through the year. I personally think the turn of the year comes with the danger of a superficial hope. Many of us have been duped into thinking that after midnight December 31st, you magically take on a new lease of life and whatever struggles and problems you faced at 11:30pm are gone at 1am. Now we all know that is not how life works and any thinking that promotes such thinking abandons all sense and reason. A new year, like a new day, offers us an opportunity to take stock of how we are living life and whether or not we are making the most of the breath God has given us. It gives us the chance to look back and evaluate, but also to look ahead with hope by planning. Planning is the operative word here. Making resolutions is good, but resolutions are good for nothing if they are not planned and executed. So my encouragement as you begin the year is make few, realistic resolutions with clear practical steps on how you will achieve them.  Allow me to suggest four areas you can work on this year.

Prioritise your relationship with God
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength (Duet. 6:4). Whatever you do seek to cultivate a health relationship with God and grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). That means you must be disciplined and intentional about cultivating a godly life. Godliness does not come accidently; one has to work hard to be godly. Exercise yourself towards godliness (1 Tim. 4:6-8) through spiritual disciplines.  Read, study, meditate and apply the words of Scripture in your life. And then let the Scriptures inform your praying. And you may add reading good, solid Christian books as a supplement to your Bible reading. If you do not know good books, ask brethren who know to recommend some. Studying the word and praying takes time and great effort, and you will struggle if not fail at times but soldier on, the same suffering has been experienced by the saints throughout time!

Be a healthy church member
The Lord has placed you in a church for a purpose. The body of Christ is there for your edification. Do not let your pride mislead you into thinking you do not need the believers in your church. You are no wiser than God so be thankful for the church He has placed you in and be a healthy church member. That means being committed to church meetings and participating whole heartedly. It also means building others up by serving them, loving them, praying for them and keeping them accountable. It further means submitting and supporting the leaders God has placed over the church. Lastly, it also means being faithful, generous and sacrificial in giving financially as the Lord blesses you.

Be committed to your family
A person’s Christianity is primarily seen in the context of the home. It is easy to pretend at church meetings and put up a face. But in the home with your spouse, children, parents and siblings a person’s true colors manifest. The family is also the best opportunity for ministry to show case transformed lives to the watching world. There is just something about a godly family that serves the Lord together. In the busyness of life and the pursuit to earn the next Kwacha, the family is the first to be neglected and before long distance and division are inevitable. You begin to live like guests in a lodge and not as a family. Whatever you do this year cultivate healthy relationships with the family: eat together, play together, pray together, read together, serve God together, go out together etc.

Do everything with all your might
Do not waste time doing things half-heartedly. Whatever you are going to engage in this year put your foot to the peddle and go all in! That obviously means you need to be sure before you jump into something. Plan well and once you decide to do it, do it with all your might. Do not be like those drivers who come to overtake the car in front of them and only start deciding if they can make it after they have pulled out. Evaluate first, then step out. Have a clear purpose why you exist, and live your life fully. Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord (Col. 3:23). If you work, do it with your all to the best of your ability with a joyful heart. If you are a student, apply yourself to those studies so you can acquire knowledge to better perform a skill and not just cram for an exam.

Life is short, do not waste time on things that do not count for eternity. Do not waste your life living in sin or pursuing the temporal. Neither should you waste it going through life half-heartedly. Grow in your walk with the Lord; be a health church member; prioritise the family, and do everything with all your might. May God bless you and keep you in 2018.