Friday, August 18, 2017

Characteristics of Cults

When people hear the word cult, the stereotype notions include: a group that worships Satan, weird rituals involving blood, people cutting themselves, people chanting iffy slogans, etc. In the broadest sense of the word a cult is simply a group of religious people who adhere to a set of rules and rituals. In a Christian context, the definition of a cult is, specifically, “a religious group that denies one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth. A cult is a group that teaches doctrines that, if believed, will cause a person to remain unsaved. A cult claims to be part of a religion, yet it denies essential truth(s) of that religion. Therefore, a Christian cult will deny one or more of the fundamental truths of Christianity while still claiming to be Christian”
This fine-tuned definition is very important because it means that people who think they are Christians may actually be part of a cult. So what are the characteristics of a cult?
Extra biblical revelation
Cults do not hold to the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. They often have some leader who started the movement after having an encounter with God, seeing a vision, having a dream and/or receiving a prophecy from God. Cults will often have another book in place of the Bible or in addition to the Bible that they consider as equally authoritative and inspired.   
Selective teaching of the Bible
Another trait of a cult is that they do not teach the whole counsel of God. They have a tendency to focus on one portion or genre of the Bible, and it is often the part that teaches what they emphasize. So there are groups whose primary teaching is based on the first five books of the Bible (the law), then there are groups whose main preoccupation is the prophetic books, etc. What these groups forget is that “all scripture is… profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  
Salvation based on works
Cults also teach a works salvation. For them salvation can come by human efforts such as adherence to the law, baptism, good deeds and sacraments. They cannot stomach the words of Jesus Christ in John 14:6 where he declares “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father except through me;” nor the charge in Romans 3:21 that the righteousness of God is revealed apart from the Law, through faith in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is not assured
As a result of a salvation based on works, members of cults cannot find assurance of their salvation. If salvation is based on the good you will do, who knows whether God will approve of your life or not? People in cults have no hope and are enslaved to meet the demands of their system.
Human mediators
Another characteristic of a cult is that they often have human mediators. They teach that no one can have access to God apart from some super spiritual human being. So either their prayers are offered in the name of another human or they need a fellow man to stand in for them before God. This they do despite the Scriptures telling us that we have one mediator before God and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), and through Him we have access to the throne of God. (Hebrews 4:16)
Preoccupation with new doctrine or revelation  
This comes as a result of their belief in extra biblical revelations. These groups feel the need to invent new doctrines each passing day. They are not content with the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These new teachings come in different forms. For example, there are some who are so preoccupied with the details of the last days that they have on a number of times identified a person to be an Anti-christ only for that individual to die, and they without shame move on to another person! There are others who come up with all kinds of teaching on prosperity or visions and dreams.
False doctrine of Christ
The mark of every cult is their unbiblical view of Christ. Some will deny His deity, others will deny His humanity, yet others will deny His finished work on the cross. As a result, cults will often reduce Christ to a prophet, an angel, a good man or to a name that you use to end a prayer or unlock your breakthrough. They refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is the bedrock of Christianity and everything else is held together by Him, and it is through him that growth takes place (Colossians 2:8-19). If Christ is not your Lord (the master of your life to whom you submit) and Savior (the one trusted for the forgiveness of sins) then you are not a Christian, and any church that does not teach this truth is a cult.

These characteristics are obviously not exhaustive and may not necessarily apply to all cults; they are however very representative of what a cult in the Christian context looks like. You may wonder, why is this important? It is important because our country is full of cults that are misleading many and condemning them to hell with their Christ-less gospel. Those of us in the light need to make sure that we proclaim the gospel intentionally and with clarity. Secondly, we need to be ready to give a defense of the faith against the many false teachers misleading the masses.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Danger of secret sins in ministry

People often assume that Christians in public ministry are immune to sin and temptation. Christians in the public eye often face the danger of assumed holiness. By that I mean, we often assume because someone has taught it they have lived it. While there are scandalous sins we constantly look out for in the lives of those who are in ministry such as sexual sins, financial misappropriation, and/or failure in marriage, there are some secret sins that often go unnoticed or unchecked. These often render a man ineffective and unusable in the Lord’s work. What makes these dangerous is their subtlety coupled with the lack of sincere accountability in the ministry.
There is the obvious and disturbing pride that you can smell and sense from a distance in a person, then there is the deadly and subtle one that rarely comes out publically. It is the pride that has to do with one’s motives for doing what they are doing. Consequently someone can do a perfectly good thing and yet their pride is fueling them. In ministry, this pride is seen in two forms:
Glorying in results
In our desire to make a name for ourselves, we are so driven that we want results, and we want them at all costs. And when the results do not come, we are discouraged and want to quit. As a result of this desire for results you find people preoccupied with numbers. How many people came, how many conversions did we get, how much was given, etc. Now obviously statistics are necessary, but numbers do not equal success. One test for not glorying in results is whether you are satisfied and joyfully serve regardless of the numbers. This is opposed to viewing a high attendance Sunday as great and a low attendance Sunday as bad. The problem with glorying in results is that you focus on the quantity rather than the quality.
The second sign of ministerial pride is having a sense of self-importance. You soon begin to feel you are indispensable to the work and trust your ability and experience. You want people to praise you and acknowledge your work and efforts. It’s not uncommon to hear ministers say things like “they do not recognize the work I am doing.” Imagine Jeremiah looking for recognition, such kind of whining can be an indicator you have a higher view of self than is biblical. The other way this level of self-importance is noticed is in our response to criticism or opposing views. Those of us in ministry should remember we are not all knowing, only God is! Be careful of statements like: I agree with you but… or I see your point however… Having said that, obviously there are times you have to insist and hold on to your point because you are right, but if you are always right, then there is a big problem. Ministers should not behave like politicians who have issues with those who oppose or criticize them. Let us have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:1-10).
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” James 3:14
Pride breeds envy and jealousy. Jealousy is seen in feeling hurt or bothered when others succeed. It is seeing God bless others and questioning His wisdom in giving to others and not to you. Jealousy makes us forget that every good and perfect thing comes from the Father, who gives to all freely (James 1:17). In our pursuit for self-importance we turn ministry into a competition; brothers in Christ sometimes behave like supermarkets competing for consumers and doing everything in their power to tarnish the other’s name. Jealousy and its sister envy hinder fellowship and partnership. Guard against this deadly sin; it ruins your soul. Instead may our hearts thrill with joy and gratitude at the blessings and successes of others. When it comes to brothers and their ministry resolve to be their biggest supporter and not their biggest critic as a result of envy!
“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.” Proverbs 10:26
There is a danger of laziness in the ministry because there is no supervisor checking your logins and logouts. Furthermore, a lot of ministerial work is done in the closet, so no one can really see whether you are being faithful or not. It is no wonder that ministers are tempted to do everything but their primary tasks of prayer and the study of the Word. We should remember that laziness does not always mean idleness; it is also means aimlessness. You might be busy and yet you are busy doing nothing! Laziness invariably leads to half prepared messages and poor planning, and before long the minister and the people suffer from spiritual malnutrition.
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1Thessalonians 2:7
Gentleness is defined as “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.” It is this one of the clearest evidences of salvation in a believer. The temptation to be harsh and mean is ever present for ministers. It is easy to get fed up, irritated with people and treat them with contempt. While leaders must be thick skinned, they should have a gentle and tender heart.
The exhortation from Proverbs is one every minister must heed to daily.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Friday, August 4, 2017

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare is a subject that invokes mixed feelings among people. On the one hand you have those who have made it the bedrock of their entire theological system and basically operate with the belief that people sin because of the devil, while on the other hand you have those whose system of theology seems to ignore the subject of spiritual warfare all together. Both systems of thought are faulty at best and can be detrimental to one’s spiritual progress. Thankfully the Bible has quite a lot to say about Christians overcoming the schemes of the evil one. It is therefore important that believers are aware and equipped for the spiritual battle that they are engaged in. Thomas Brooks’ balanced advice to believers is on point when he says, “Christ, the scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, or happy hereafter. It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.” [1]
What the Bible says
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
The imagery in this text is rather vivid. All you have to do is think of how the king of the jungle skillfully picks, stalks and hunts down his prey, and after he has pounced, he tears it apart ruthlessly; that dear friends is our everyday danger. No wonder Peter urges his readers to be sober and vigilant. After all Peter should know. Christ warned him of the impending attack on his life from Satan, and what exactly was the devil’s plan? To sift Peter like wheat. Hours later the over confident Peter was denying Jesus three times.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12
This passage reminds us that (1) spiritual warfare is a reality, (2) our enemies are real, powerful and conniving (3) believers can only overcome if they are walking in the Lord and by His grace. In other words, Christians who are not walking worthy of their calling cannot stand against the schemes of the devil. Spiritual warfare is in essence a battle for righteous and godly living. Invariably those who are striving to live godly lives become targets of concerted spiritual attack.
Possible signs of spiritual attack
Since the devil’s schemes are intended to hinder you from living a godly and righteous life, you can tell you are under attack when your relationships with God and people are not as they should be. It is the devil’s every intention to ensure that you do not walk right with God and that you have ungodly and unbiblical relationships with other people (spouse, friends, family, boy/girlfriends, workmates, etc.) Let me therefore offer four SUBJECTIVE signs of spiritual attack.

1.      Increased and unusual marital and family conflict
The home is the best indicator of people’s spirituality. It is also the most vulnerable to the schemes of the devil, primarily because families make up churches and the state of the family is indicative of the church.  
2.      Increased or sudden discouragement, despair and discontent
Elijah is a perfect case in point. After he spectacularly defeated the wicked prophets of Baal and had experienced the Lord’s hand in a special way, he suddenly became discouraged, discontent and despaired. Nothing had really changed, the enemies were the same, the threats and dangers were the same, but suddenly the courageous Elijah was despairing and ready to throw in the towel. One could argue he was under a spiritual attack.
3.      Struggles to attend to the means of grace
By that I mean struggling to read/study the Bible, to pray privately and publically, to worship, to fellowship with other believers, etc. These are the means by which we grow in godliness and Christlikeness. The devil will ensure that he distracts and discourages us from doing them.
4.      Increase in sudden and/or recurring temptations
Memories of past sins or failures suddenly pop up. Or sometimes there is an unusual increase in the rate of temptations. Remember Job? He was hit suddenly from all angles. 
What is one to do?
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:6-8
1.      Acknowledge your weakness and struggles
You cannot submit to God and seek His grace without humbly acknowledging your weakness and struggles. Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3).
2.      Confess and repent of sin
He who conceals his sins will not prosper but he who confesses them will receive compassion. (Proverbs 28:13)
3.      Attend to the means of grace even when you do not feel like it
You will not always feel like praying, reading the Word, worshipping or fellowshipping. Do it anyway. Soldier through it, and you will know God’s grace.
4.      Seek accountability
That is what meaningful friendship is all about after all. We need someone to ask us the tough questions and watch out for us.
5.      Preach the gospel to yourself and others
Yes believers need the gospel. Mediate on what God has done to save a sinner like you and the implications of the gospel then preach it to others. There is something about it that feeds life to your soul.

[1] Brooks Thomas. (1810:10). Precious Remedies against Satan’s remedies. Jonathan Pounders.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Erick Raymond’s observation is spot on when he says “it seems that sometimes we deal with sin in the church with the same approach that the government deals with terrorism: It is impossible to remove it completely so we just kind of have to accept it and do our best to keep people safe.”[1] Gossip is spreading information about someone in a malicious way (negative way) to people who do not need to know with the obvious goal of trying to tarnish their character or personality. And wherever there is gossip you are almost guaranteed to find slander, malice, strife, lies and dissension.

While gossip is obvious in most cases it can also be dangerously subtle as it comes out in many “spiritual” ways. As a result we no longer call it gossip but confiding, consulting, sharing, showing concern, venting, seeking counsel, I want to hear you opinion and in some cases sharing a prayer request ETC. Now while there may be a place and time for each of those things, in many cases what we are basically doing is sharing information about others in a negative way to people who do not need to know. And because of this subtlety it has become harder to identify and deal with gossip in churches. So how do you stop the cancer of gossip? Dan Phillips offers five questions[2] to ask people who are sharing things with you as a way of curbing gossip.  

  1. Ask, "Why are you telling me this?" Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
  2. Ask, "What's the difference between what you're telling me and gossip?" See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
  3. Ask, "How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ's love?" Isn't that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won't it take the working of each individual member (Eph. 4:16)? Isn't the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry (Heb. 3:12-1310:2413:12-15)?
  4. Ask, "Now that you've told me about that, what are you going to do about it?" While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is "Pray," a good response might be "Then why didn't you do that and leave it there in the first place?"
  5. Say, "Now that you've told me about that, you've morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?" The least that this will accomplish is that you'll fall of the list of gossips'/whisperers' favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn't that worth it?
I believe the reason gossip thrives in churches is because it finds fertile hearts and minds that are ready to listen and spread it further. For gossip to take place there are three parties involved. The victim of the gossip, the gossiper and the person receiving the gossip. If everyone in the church refused to accept or entertain gossip, the sin will be totally cut off. Believers need to heed the warning of the wise man in proverbs.
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him: . . .
one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:1619


Friday, July 21, 2017

Dear Christian learn from John the baptist

John the Baptist is a fascinating character. He plays an essential role in the narrative of the gospels and yet so peripheral we often do not pay attention to him. In fact every time John speaks, he is pointing to Christ and deflecting focus from himself. Interestingly Jesus called him the greatest man that ever lived and yet at the same time the least in the kingdom (Matthew 11:11). John the Baptist was always humble in his ministerial perspective. Notice the phrases used to refer to or describe the man: “he was not the light”, “I am not the Christ”, “I am not Elijah”, “I am not the prophet”, “a voice in the wilderness”, “I must decrease”, “he ended up in prison and beheaded”. It is not a glamorous ministry and neither is it one you want to crave for, yet John by Christ’s estimations was the greatest. What lessons can we learn from the life and ministry of John the Baptist?
Ministerial platforms come from God
And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. John 3:26-27
This perspective of life and ministry will save many of us from envy of other people’s ministry and success and also from jostling for attention and praise from people. Ministry platforms and opportunities come from God and they are to be used for Him not self-promotion or exaltation. This perspective will also ensure that you are content with your ministry whether it is celebrated or little-known. This is so because you can always be assured that you are where God wants you to be at any given time.
Ministerial platforms are meant to point to Christ
John the Baptist understood that he was just meant to prepare the way and stay out of the way. He was merely a pointer and not the point. The point was Jesus Christ! Someone rightly said “if all people see is you and your efforts to build a platform then you are stealing the show.” The clamor for praise and people’s attention among us ministers is an ever present temptation. With the rise of social media the temptation is ever real. Where does one draw the line? On one hand it is a wonderful tool for ministry, while on the other hand the dangers for self-praise are ever present. At the end of the day every man knows the motives behind their action. Ada Whiddington’s prayer should be every minister’s.
Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ be seen, be known and heard;
Not I, but Christ in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee,
Oh, that it may be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.
Ministerial platforms can only be enjoyed when used to the glory of God
Whenever I am involved in a wedding, i make it a point to have a word with the bridal party. I remind them it’s not their wedding and it is not about them! They are simply the supporting cast. I even go as far as saying if they decided not to show up on the actual day, the wedding would still go ahead. The reason i give this talk is because I have seen some bridesmaid act as though it’s their show, they whine and grumble and make silly demands and they want things done their way. Such bridesmaid or grooms men forget it is not about them and their behavior is totally unacceptable. I have also noticed that such people never get to enjoy the wedding.
That is often the case in ministry. People who miss the point and fail to understand their role do not have the joy of serving God. Their joy is often tied to results. They are happy when the numbers are high and they miserable when the numbers are low. They rejoice when they are invited to speak at conferences and camps and are downcast when it is another who is invited. They go home smiling when someone praises their preaching and are bothered when no one does. All these and many other examples simply reveal wrong focus in ministry. It is not about us, we are mere instruments in the hands of our maker and our joy comes from the fact we have made our God known whether people listen or they do not or whether they praise us or they do not. Listen to John’s perspective
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:28-30

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cultic Tendencies among Baptist

I am proudly and unapologetically Baptist. In fact I have the privilege of pastoring a Baptist church that is committed to planting Baptist churches! In other words I am highly persuaded that what we believe is true and biblical. However, there seems to be an increase in cultic tendencies among Baptists of all kinds and conservative evangelicals in general. When you are part of a system you are often oblivious to the problems within your own system as they tend to appear normal. One aspect we seem to be blind to, is the increase in cultic tendencies. Let me offer three tendencies that are a danger to us.
Suffocating rigidness
Baptist have always been known for their strong and unwavering doctrinal convictions, a good trait to have, since the bible admonishes us to hold on to sound doctrine. However, often times instead of being unwavering on doctrine, we are unwavering on traditions and in most cases preferences such that we are willing to fight tooth and nail for our preferred tradition. So, when it comes to changing structures or practice to set the sails in order to catch the wind for the cause of the gospel, unrelenting opposition develops. Usually the logic is, if others are not doing it, it must be wrong and that is regardless of the cultural, economic and political dynamics in a village, city, town or country. There is nothing wrong with a group of people having and insisting on a tradition, it becomes a problem when we equate the tradition to absolute truth and anyone doing things differently is wrong! Such people will often defend their positions with verses quoted out of context all at the expense of pushing a preference. When we hold to our traditions and preference we should be wise and humble enough to acknowledge that they are simply that and be gracious and kind to others who may hold a different tradition. So while we should have positions on things like musical instruments, order of service, styles of worship, dress code of church meetings, frequency of communion etc. We should never equate them to essential doctrines and rigidly hold on to them that it becomes embarrassing when you chose to change.
Unbiblical exclusiveness
Another area we show cultic traits is in unhealthy exclusiveness or separation. The bible commands us to separate from unrepentant Christians (1 Corinthian 5, Matt 18:15-19), from worldliness and from false teachers (heretics). We however seem to add to the bibles list to include people who are different from us. We no longer draw the line between evangelicals and liberals but Baptist and those who are not or between ones millennial views or whether or not they can explain TULIP or not. Now do not get me wrong, all those are important and there is nothing wrong with clearly identifying what we each believe and be clear about areas of differences and not shy away from acknowledging the differences. But I have met people who the first time you meet them in the first few minutes of the conversation you are arguing about millennial views! Again its healthy to have these discussions on matters we differ but we need to be careful that we are not separating from people we should be embracing simply because they do not cross their T’s and dot their I’s like we do. We do well to heed the advice of the little known German theologian Rupertus Meldenius who penned down the famous words “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Exaltation of men
Baptist have spoken out about the man of God syndrome that is rampant among Charismatic churches and rightly so. The man of God phenomena is nothing more than proud men exalting themselves to the place of God. While generally speaking Baptists are not as extravagant as charismatic in this area, we too have developed our own celebrity pastor (man of God) syndrome. We have our own men and literally everything they say, do or write is taken as gospel truth. People are no longer been transformed to the image of Christ but to the image of their favorite pastor(s).
Spirituality is equated to whom you have read and can quote, relevancy in ministry is judged not by your faithfulness to the word of God but your association with celebrity pastors or how big and glamourous your ministry is. The sad outcome is we have many ministers who forget that they are in ministry in 2017 in a town in Zambia and not 1756 Zurich Switzerland.
God in every time and season blesses his church with uniquely gifted leaders who rise up to be a prophetic voice and example to many, that does not mean they should become our idols and cause us to forget that the scripture alone is our standard of practice and doctrine.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Christians Politics and the gospel

Whatever your views on politics or wherever your political party affiliations lie, we all cannot run away from the fact that the political atmosphere in the country leaves a lot to be desired. The talk and thinking along tribal lines, the hatred which is been portrayed through insults and violence. To add insult to injury both parties keep pointing fingers at each other and yet the hatred, tribal talk and malicious slander is ever on the increase and people feel the need to pick a side and have their say. A number of Christians have correctly been disturbed by the state of affairs and have sought to do something to help the situation. So what is a Christian to do in such times?
Submit to the governing authority
This is probably a truth you know and have heard several times in your Christian life but do not be deceived into thinking that you obey it by the mere fact that you know it. We should appreciate the fact that when the bible calls believers to submit to authority the rulers of the day were in many cases persecuting Christians. Refusing to submit to human authority is in essence refusing to submit to God’s authority. Hear Paul’s charge to the Romans:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Rom 13:1-3
Love your neighbor and enemy
When political lines are drawn and sides are picked we get so charged up and set our minds on winning, whether it is an election, an argument or in worse cases a fight. In fact not only do we want to win but we want to do so in a way that shames the opponent. We become obsessed with been right that anyone with a differing view is in our mind a stupid fool whom we cannot stand. Such attitudes may be expected of non-believers, it should not be so for Christians. Not only are we to love our neighbors, we are to love our enemies as well and do good to those who harm us and overcome evil with good. The hate speech, malicious slander, tribalism and violence should definitely not be found among Christians who claim to be in the likeness of Christ. Christians should be filled with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control and humility. We need to learn that it is possible to disagree with each other and yet still live in harmony with each other. It’s not only humane, it is Christian.
Properly diagnose the problem
It is interesting that everyone is agreed we have problems as a country, but we are not all agreed as to what the problems actually are and worse still on what the solutions should be. Part of the reason there is confusion among Christians as to what their responsibility should be is that there is confusion on how to diagnose the problem. Our country has many issues ranging from poverty, unemployment, corruption, poor health services, lack of proper infrastructure, bad roads, bad governess etc. However, our biggest problem is a moral one. Sin in the human heart is the biggest challenge and problem we face. It is because of sin that people are corrupt and self-serving. It is because of sin that people will steal and kill. It is because of sin that people abuse authority. It is because of sin that lies, fights, slander, hatred, tribalism and violence exist among us. Therefore unless sin is rooted out of the human heart any other solution is temporal and bound to fail as it simply removes the fruit and leave the roots.
Believe in the power of the gospel
If sin is our biggest problem as the country, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only solution. Paul cries out “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation”. Elsewhere he says “woe unto me if I do not preach Christ and him crucified” Paul lived in a time when Christians were persecuted by rulers, inequality was on the rampant, hatred and tribalism and yet he preached the gospel. Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. There are many Christians who think the only and best solution to dealing with the problems in our country are through political means i.e. lobbying, demonstration, press releases and boycotts. However Zambia’s problem is not political, it is a moral one and the only lasting solution is the gospel.
We are in a spiritual battle against worldly thinking and ideologies, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. Paul says: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The moral bankruptcy in our country is an indictment on the church of Jesus Christ. While evil and darkness is raging where is the light of the gospel? Where is the light of Jesus shinning in Christians in our society?
John MacArthur is spot on when he says “we must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God's standards of righteousness.We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society's moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God's methods and maintain scriptural priorities.”
Trust in God

Guard your heart against despair and discouragement. God is not dead. He sits enthroned and He is in absolute control of all the affairs of the earth. Rulers come and again but God remains constant and His reign is from everlasting to everlasting. Why are you downcast? Trust in God. Hope in the living, all powerful, loving and all wise king or kings.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Challenges of the Mission Field- Confessions of church planters.

I recently had chats with the three church planters that Faith Baptist church has sent out and I asked them to share what general or specific challenges they have faced or continue to face on the mission field. My goal was to do a write up and share with the church so that we are aware of the challenges the men we have sent into the trenches face in order for us to support and pray for them with knowledge and in a sense some of them apply to ministry in general.
It is also important to note that facing or acknowledging challenges in ministry does not necessary mean one is complaining neither does it mean one is unspiritual. Paul and his team often faced challenges in some cases the challenges were life threatening. And though Paul served with a joyful heart and found blessed contentment he often shared the challenges of the mission field with the hope of informed prayers been offered for them.  In their first missionary journey John Mark a member of their team could not endure the challenges faced that he called it quits (Acts 13).

High demands and expectations for success
When an entire church holds a service to ordain you and sends you off into the mission field they often do so with clear outlines of what your responsibilities are and they have very high expectations. Truth be told we expect fruit and in some cases we expect the fruit yesterday! Now expectations are not necessary wrong, because you do not want to be paying a man for lazing around and giving lame excuses. The problem comes in when the expectations are unrealistic and/or unbiblical. Unrealistic expectations often tempt the missionaries to start been “creative” with their reports and conjuring up numbers that do not exist or manipulate salvation testimonies out of people that still spiritually dead!

There is also a sense in which the people you are ministering to on the mission field equally can equally have false expectations of you and your work. They begin to treat you like the super saint who never struggles with sin when in actual fact you struggle with sin daily. As a result missionaries face the danger of keeping up face so that they can keep the super saint image. 

Cultural differences
Moving to a new area comes with its own cultural shocks regardless of the distance from your home. This is true even if you are ministering to your own countrymen. Granted the degree of shock varies the further away from home you are. For instance a person moving from Riverside Kitwe to Wusakile, Mindolo or Kakolo in the same town is still in for a rude shock. The worldview and dynamics are totally different that one has to do some adjusting in order to be an effective minister to the people. Missionaries who fail to adjust and understand the dynamics of their mission field will either become an offense (rendering their ministry effective) or they will abandon the work in frustration. Paul was wise to this and his philosophy was I am all things to all men. To the Jew I became a Jew and the Gentile I became a Gentile.  Missionaries who insist on forcing their culture on the mission field are not fit to be on the mission field. The damage they do to the ministry takes a long time repair.

Uncertainty of financial support
This is probably the biggest challenge or struggle missionaries have to face because it touches on their families livelihood. Generally missionaries have to make do with very little and have to make a lot of sacrifices to remain in the church plants. This can bring a lot of strain on the family and make serving extremely difficult.

Any work requires money and a lack of resources to do actives and do projects can be very frustrating for the missionary. The apostle Paul struggled with this challenge as well and shares his experiences in the fourth chapter of Philippians.  As a sending church it is important that we are not only praying for these men and giving faithfully and generously to ensure that their needs are met while they labor

Loneliness and discouragement
Been on the mission field can feel like out of site equals out of mind. I really admire our missionaries! They willing decide to uproot their families and go to a new area and basically start all over again. Away from friends and family. With the many challenges in ministry both from within and from without it is easy to get discouraged and despair. Especially in moments of personal attacks. The wives and children can also get discouraged and sadly we often forget they have also gone and made sacrifices.

Despite these and I am sure many other challenges, we thankful that there are families who are still willing and ready to go and labor for the gospel. We grateful that these men and women do not throw in the towel when the going gets tough. I am positive the Lord the righteous judge has many crowns waiting for them on that great day. As for us who have remained. Pray, give and visit these families. Assure them that out of site is not out of mind. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Biblical Truths on Time for African Christians

Let’s be honest. We are generally terrible with time as Africans (with some notable exceptions). We never really keep appointments, our meetings start and end late and generally all our programs start with an apology about it starting an hour or more late and official programs have a starting time but no ending time. That in itself says a lot. I was at a pastors conference where some speakers where from several African countries and a few from the USA. As we were putting final touches on our notes in the speakers lounge two brothers from the USA were frantically working on theirs because they had a meeting coordinated by African brothers in a few minutes (the meeting was planned at 13:00 hours), or so they believed! They finished going over their notes and said yes it’s time for out meeting. They waited for a few minutes then went out to look for the coordinators. To cut the story short they came back clearly frustrated and continued studying. One of them remarked “I guess that’s how things work in Africa” as painful as that was, it was actually very true. That meeting eventually took place at night!

If you have lived in Africa for any period of time, you know that’s the order of the day. Not only don’t we keep time, but we generally struggle with using it wisely or in the words of scripture making the most of our time. There are two reasons why we are often not mindful of how we use our time.  The first is a worldview issue. In the African worldview, time is not viewed in terms of seconds, minutes or hours but in blocks of time. So if you typically ask an African what time you are meeting instead of saying specific time i.e. 10:00 hours, they will say in the morning. Consequently, as long as its morning the appointment stands. Furthermore relationships are more important to Africans than time. So if someone pops in unannounced you drop what you were doing and attend to them. Similarly it’s more important that the person has come than that they have come on time.
The second reason we are not mindful of time is a failure to grasp biblical teachings on time. When one surveys the scriptures you soon discover that the bible has quite a bit of truths or principals for Christians to live by. Let me share three of them and then we will look at the implications.

Time is our greatest asset- Matthew 25:14-18
The parable of the steward primary teaches us the need to be prepared to give an account to the Lord our master and use the gifts he has blessed us within the time he has given us wisely. It is interesting that though the talents were different, the time was the same. We may differ in gifts and abilities but we have the same amount of time. The same minutes, hours, days and weeks. The really difference is how we use and manage our time. In other words, the Lord is actually going to judge us on how we use and manage our time. Hence the need to make most of our time because time is our greatest asset the Lord has given us. So where relationships are important and it’s true we should not become slaves of time, we definitely should not waste our time.

Time is a non- renewable resource- Psalm 90:10-12, 78:39
Don Whitney once tweeted “If we wasted our money the way we waste our time, we would say that person is made”. Of all the resources on earth, time is the only one you can never recover. The moment time is gone it is gone. The years you have spent here on earth are over, you will never get them back. The few minutes you have spent reading this blog are gone. I hope it was worth your time J. If we actually grasped this truth about time, we would place a high value on time such that we would desire to make the most of it. We need to truly develop the heart to number our days. In other ways live in light of eternity and pending judgement. Value your time.

There is a time for everything Proverbs 24:27, Ecclesiastes 3:1
God is a God of order. He gave us an example in creation. He worked within time and days. And when he created he ordered that there be a time and a season for everything. The seasons have their time and the sun and moon have their order of operation. Anything less would be chaos. What is actually interesting is that in the villages this truth is grasped and practiced when it comes to farming. The farmers know that there is a time to prepare the land, a time to till the land, to plant, weed and harvest. How we miss this concept in other aspects of our lives I have no idea.

The heart of the issue
When you actually think about it, a lack of regard for time is pride. It is reveals a high view of self and low view of God and others. Why do I say so? A person who does not make the most of their time is refusing to realize and acknowledge his stewardship to God. It is also a total disregard to others. Failure to observe time is implying other people have nothing to do with their time and you are so important that they should simply wait for you. Whenever a meeting starts and ends late, the people who suffer are those who keep time. We punish the time keepers to please the late comers.
Another important thing to note with people who are poor at time management is the plain fact that they are disorganized. People who cannot keep time or use their time wisely are often times disorganized individuals. These are people who do things at the last minute and appear very busy running around when in actual fact they did not plan and prepare in advance. We also need to learn that just because you have an excuse for your poor time keeping does not mean your disorganization should be excused.

The Lord has blessed us with time. Let us learn to number our days and make the most of our time.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Missionary God with a Worldwide Agenda

I have been reflecting lately on God’s agenda in drawing people for himself from every tribe, tongue and nations for His glory. It is actually interesting to see how God’s agenda in bringing a people to himself from among the nations is presented throughout scripture from Genesis through to Revelation. Another interesting reminder is that God has ordained to achieve these purposes through his people. It is therefore very refreshing to see an increase in churches in Zambia that are committed to missions and are sending and supporting faithful men to plant churches. May we strive to outdo ourselves in this endeavor because the God we worship is a missionary God with a worldwide agenda as we can be seen from a sampling of scripture. 

He called Abraham with the promise of making him a father of Nations
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-2

He reminds His people that His name will be great among the nations
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1:10-11

The great commission is a call to make disciples of all nations
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We are charged to be salt and light to the nations
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

John tells us that in the end God will be worshiped by people from all nations
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-11

Implications for the church

Missions should be central to every true New Testament Church
"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity." — Mike Stachura
"People who don't believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North and South." — J. Howard Edington
"If the Church is 'in Christ,' she is involved in mission. Her whole existence then has a missionary character. Her conduct as well as her words will convince the unbelievers and put their ignorance and stupidity to silence." — David Bosch

Missions demands great sacrifices from churches
“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." — C.T. Studd
"All the money needed to send and support an army of self-sacrificing, joy-spreading ambassadors is already in the church." — John Piper
"You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving." — Amy Carmichael, missionary to India

Missions reveals a church’s relationship with God
"Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God's delight in being God." — John Piper
"If missions languish, it is because the whole life of godliness is feeble. The command to go everywhere and preach to everybody is not obeyed until the will is lost by self-surrender in the will of God. Living, praying, giving and going will always be found together." — Arthur T. Pierson
Dear Friends God is a missionary God with a worldwide agenda and He carries out His mission through his people. As John Stott proclaimed "We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God."