Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Antidotes for a Discouraged Soul


I recently noticed that I was becoming disinterested in the events of life, my responsibilities, church meetings and people. I further noticed that I was getting mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually tired. So there I was busy with life and work, yet tired, disinterested and wondering why I should keep going. And the fact that everything was by and large going well simply deceived me into thinking all is well. However, the restlessness and the disinterest was not ceasing. Then one morning it hit me, I was discouraged! When I did a diagnosis, I found the cause was a combination of little things (i.e. persisting illness, failed plans, unmet needs/wants, etc.). I prayed to God and quickly reached out to a few godly friends and mentors. So here are some antidotes that began the healing for my discouraged soul.
Repent of Pride
One brother called me to enquire what was going on, and after hearing me out said to me “you need to remember that you are dust and if you drop dead today, this world will go on just fine.” In another words, do you part and rest. There will always be something that needs to be done, but just because it has to be done does not mean I am the one who has to do it. Christopher Ash in a sermon preached at a pastors conference on burn out says, “There is only one savior in the world and it is not you.” He later says, “God has already appointed his messiah and it is not you.” In my pride I was beginning to think I am the god of my life, and if I did not get things going or get things done then the work will fail. I was rebuked to repent of my pride. As my dear wife likes to say, “stop thinking you are superman and rest!”
Remember and Savor the Goodness of God
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-3
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:1-5 (Emphasis added)
Meditate on the Gospel
We are often guilty of a narrow view of the gospel. Preaching through the book of Romans has given me a greater appreciation of the wonder and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the gospel we (condemned sinners) are saved from the penalty of sin and the just wrath of God. Through the gospel we are reconciled to God and have peace with him. The gospel liberates us from the power of sin and the law and secures us in Christ Jesus. Paul then asks, if God gave us his son what else can’t he give us by his grace? He ends chapter 8 by assuring us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even those times when trails are raging, the love of God is ever with us.
Take time to Sing
I love singing, and I find meditating on the great truths of the Scriptures through song can be quite encouraging for my soul. Jonathan Oatman’s old time classic was a song in season. Listen to the first stanza.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The sermon I needed to hear

The last few days have been quite challenges in many ways. And I found my faith in God wavering, as doubts began to settle in. Even though I knew the truth about God I wondered if He truly was a God who sees and provides, whether he is indeed good and kind. In short I was beginning to doubt the wonderful promises of God in His words and anxiety crept in as. Thankfully my dear wife was having none of such nonsense! She sat me down and gave me a good talking to. She batted away all my arguments and reminded me of who God is and what His word tells us.

Providentially it so happened that the passage I was preaching on this past Sunday was dealing with the nature of Abraham’s faith! God truly has a sense of humor. I preached a sermon that I totally needed. Let me quickly share a few thoughts from the passage that reminded rebuked me and encouraged me at the same time.

Biblical faith trusts the revealed word of God
Abraham believed in what God had promised and trusted that the God who promised will indeed fulfill his promises. This meant that Abraham had to recognize his own inability. To truly trust God is accept that without him you can do nothing. And yet at the same time, it is to recognize His power and acknowledge your total dependence on Him. Louisa Stead put perfectly “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, and to take him at his word; just to rest upon his promise, and to know, "Thus saith the Lord."”

Biblical faith does not waver
God had promised to make Abraham a father of many nations through a son that God was to give him. When Abraham looked at his age and that of his wife Sarah he knew they were passed the age of conceiving and yet his faith did not waver. He had a confident expectation that God will deliver what he has promised. In fact the scriptures tells us that even when God asked for Isaac to be offered, Abraham was confident that God would raise him from the dead.

In the midst of obstacles, this faith still trusts in the God who saves.

Biblical faith brings glory to God
The dead do not get credit when they are brought back to life. Those who are totally unable and desperately in need do not get credit for been delivered. The deliverer gets the glory. God saves us by His grace though we are undeserving so that He may receive the glory. He justifies us in such a way that it is to the praise of His name.
The same is true of our lives after justification. We are to live in such a way that our lives are a pleasing sacrifice that glorifies our God.  

Biblical faith results in obedience
We are saved by faith and we live by faith. Biblical faith results in justification and obedience. Those who truly believe in God produce works. Those who trust in God will obey Him. A faith that does not produce fruit is a dead faith. Those who walk with God learn to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WHAT THE TEENAGE SEX PARTY SAYS ABOUT OUR SOCIETY

NOTE: My dear friend Vincent Zgambo features on the blog today. The write up was initially posted on his facebook page and he was kind enough to let me post it on the blog and I simply added a biblical solution to the problem he addresses. Vincent, thank you very much man!

Those 70 kids didn't go to the party that night. We did (meaning the society). Children don't do sex parties. They are children! Right? Right?! That sex party is not even the problem, it is the belated result of a moral decay that has been growing with time. It's not sex they were after. It's meaning, it's identity, it's a sense of belonging; they were searching for themselves. The party is just a tip of the iceberg. The iceberg is us. It is an indictment of the 21st century parent. The parent who won't allow their child to 'suffer' because they themselves suffered (by suffering meaning learning the principals of hard work and that life does not come on a silver platter).

Children are a product of their society. They mirror their environment. They become what they see. Those kids are a product of broken homes and absent fathers. Parents who gave them everything they wanted, but nothing they needed. Parents who were chasing a dream while unwittingly breeding a generational nightmare. Busy parents. Parents who are busy building houses while neglecting their homes; who have time to chat and debate on social media but not to talk to their children. Parents who can no longer take their children to Sunday school because they either have golf with 'the boys' or are nursing a hangover. Parents who're chasing after contracts and promotions while losing touch of their homes. Parents who'll soon realise they didn't raise children, they raised strangers. While we take our children to expensive schools and pay for tuition, we're churning out intellectuals without morals.

We gave our children their names now we want to call them lost? We are looking for values in our children that they were never taught, we're expecting them to live by morals they don't see. We have no idea what they read, what they watch and who their friends are. Their heroes are celebrities who glorify sex and to whom Jesus Christ is merely an exclamation.

We have sacrificed our own children on the altar of modernity. We have fanned the flame with vanity, with logs of narcissism. And now we stand by watching with hollow hearts and exaggerated grief at the embers of our handiwork. Next time we look in the mirror, we should hang our heads in collective shame. Shame.

More specifically the state of the family is a huge indictment on men- husbands and fathers. The men who are meant to be leaders and spiritual guides are generally spoilt, greedy for money, entertainment driven, gadget acquiring over grown children. Gone are the days when the men where the spiritual fortresses of the homes, churches and nations. The women on the other hand are generally known for either their slanderous, malicious speech, their immoral behavior, dressing (or lack of), or simply their career advancement (nothing wrong with it) rather than their godly character and faithfulness to whatever God has called them to. The effect are children who are a product of the television and social media and families in disarray. Whenever Christians let the world tell them how they should do what God instituted the results are disastrous.  

What is the solution?
The Lord through Moses instructed the children before entering the Promised Land on how they should live and he gives them principals for families.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy  6:4-9

Remember there is only one true God
Knowing that they are entering a land where the people had gods for everything, the Lord reminds them that He is God who is everything, he is God all by himself. Therefore God should be number one and main priority. The worship of other gods is ongoing and we equally have plenty of gods usurping the almighty God’s place in our lives. You have the entertainment god (movies, sports, music, and games), the education god, the relationship god, the material things god etc. Hear O people the Lord our God, the Lord is one!

Love the one true God like no other
We are naturally a self-centered people that life easily becomes about us. This is so evident in our relationships. We have believed the lie that other people exist for us and our happiness. And we have falsely believed that we are the center and focus of the world, taking the place of God. People who get in a relationship convince themselves that life would be better if they just ran away to some far place just the two of them and live happily ever after. Just as husband and wife convince themselves that if their spouse simply loved or cared for them they would be happy. The Lord says we should have one focus and priority in life to passionately and whole heartedly love the Lord. Any time I am more committed, focused and dedicated to something else other than God then I have an idol.

Teach and obey the word of God

The third principle of a biblical family is that they will be teaching and obeying the word of God. Every Christian home should be bible school in the sense that they study the bible and live it out. The Christians home should be an embassy of God’s kingdom as it were. Everything done in that home is guided by the principles of the word of God.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Portrait of an Outreach Minded Church


Every Christian will tell you, it is important to evangelize. And a church worth the name will tell you at least on paper that their mission is to reach the lost to the glory of God. However, saying is one thing and doing a completely different matter. There is a reason the scriptures urge us to be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:19-22), we are a people whose lips and lives often do not match. So the last few weeks i have been doing some soul searching and asking myself whether we are really an outreach minded church. This reflection lead me to ask the question, what does an outreach minded church look like. I jotted down a few practical signs of a church that is outward looking.
Knowledge of the gospel
Such a church will know the gospel. They will know the facts and person of the gospel. They will know the true gospel. They will believe in the gospel as God’s only means to salvation to all who believe. One of the reasons people do not share the gospel is because they do not know the gospel and do not truly believe in its saving power. A church that is grounded in the truth of the gospel and its power will proclaim it to others.
Pursue Holiness
One result of knowing and believing the gospel is that you become a new creation. You were once dead in your sins and your very nature was sinful but by the grace of God you are radically changed and transformed. If Christians are to have an effective outreach ministry in their communities, the transforming power of the gospel must be clearly evident. You really cannot call people to repent and forsake their sins when you have not done so yourself. That is pure hypocrisy. An outreach minded people pursue holiness.
Interest in the lost
We love our holy huddles and clicks in our church. And it is absolutely imperative that we meeting with other believers and building each other up. However we need to have meaningful and intentional gospel relationships with non-believers. Notice that it is “intentional gospel relationships” meaning the purpose of relating with them is to share the gospel. That also means we do not wait for them to come to us, we actually go out to them. To be outreach minded is to love the lost.
Follow up of visitors
One result of having interest in the lost is that we will be diligent in welcoming, hosting and following up visitors. How often do we have visitors and they simply fall through the cracks? How often do we have to crank ourselves to welcome and host visitors? And when get round to hosting them it is rather mechanical. Brethren we have a glorious opportunity to show Christian love when we have visitors. We should show genuine interest in them, cheerfully greet them and even give them information they might find helpful. We can show hospitality by inviting them to our homes for meals and follow them up afterward. It is one thing to offer juice to someone when they have visited it is a different level of commitment to follow someone wherever they stay.  An outreach minded church diligently follows up its members.

Giving and using of resources for the furtherance of the gospel
As you engage in outreach, you will soon discover that it will demand of your time, your energies, your possession and your money. While the first two are often obvious and easy to part with the last two quite hard to part with. But outreach will at one point or the other require that you use your home and your food as you host people, it might require that you give up or use your car and fuel to pick people or visit them. Outreach will also require that you give money to support the various outreach activities that the various ministries of the church might have. A church that is outward looking gives generously.
Ministry involvement & use of gifts
The best platform we have to reach out is through the ministries of the church. Church ministries give every member an opportunity to use their gifts to build believers and reach out to non-believers. Those who are zealous about reaching out will do so in the context of the ministries of the church. There is a reason the church is called a body of Christ. A solo Christian is like a part of the body lying in the street on its own. It is a rather disturbing site! An outreach minded church will have full ministry participation from its members. Members who are not using their gifts in the ministries of the church are missing out on an opportunity to reach out to the lost.

I pray God may grant us the heart and perspective of our savior the Lord Jesus Christ who when seeing the lost, he was burdened for them and indeed laid His own life for their sake. 

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Church's biggest need today


Today’s church is crying out for men and women who are burdened for God. We are in desperate need of people who have a single passion and will be dedicated to pursue their God with all of their being. The eyes of the Lord are roaming the earth; they are searching for those who are resolved to stand in the gap behalf of the nations. In other words the Lord is searching for burdened souls.  The world needs men and women who are burdened for God, His word and His glory. People who are burdened about the gospel and lost souls. People who will with a sense of urgency proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the perishing world.

Is the church of Jesus Christ full of burdened people? Are we as Christians passionately pursuing our God and His glory with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength? Are we moved with compassion by the millions who do not know and therefore worship our God that we are desperately pleading with them to turn to Christ in repentance? These are the questions that have been disturbing my soul lately because I fear we have become double minded as Christians. I sense a Luke warmness in the church today towards God, His word and His glory. I sense a casualness with the gospel and the plight of sinners. Indeed I fear that one will have more success finding an oasis in the desert than finding people with a real burden for God. I fear that Bible Colleges and Seminaries are more concerned about producing students who have conformed to a system of theology than are passionately burdened about God’s work, lost people and God’s glory. I fear that the church is more burdened about investing in more, bigger and fun programs than we are investing in knowing God and proclaiming the gospel to lost people. I fear we are more burdened about our entertainment and social media such that we are more concerned about the next football match, next series and updating Facebook and our twitter feeds than we are about pleasing God with our lives so that He may be glorified in all things. Oh that God would raise up an army of burdened Christians who will passionately be zealous for Him among us.

What does the bible say about the need for burdened people? There is no better place to begin than the amazing account in Ezekiel 9 where the Lord is abhorred with the idolatry of the people and priest alike and in the midst of all that he looks for those who “sigh and groan” over the wickedness of the nation. This chapter and the preceding one say at least two things; God wants his people to be burdened about his glory and he takes the absence of a burden among his them seriously. It was this same burden that made Nehemiah do great exploits for God (Nehemiah 1:4).  The oracles of the prophets are referred to as burdens (Isaiah 13:1, 14:28, 15:1, etc., Nahum 1:1, Habakkuk 1:1, Malachi 1:1).  It is the same burden that lead Paul be passionate about lost souls to the extent that he was willing to tread his own salvation (Rom 9:1-3). We also see Jesus’ example in Matthew 9:36 were His burden for the people moved him with compassion.

If a burden for God is essential why is it that some people lack the burden and others have lost it? The first reason people are not burdened is a lack of an eternal view. They are only consumed by the affairs of the world and all their energies are directed at amassing wealth, being entertained and getting more educated that they soon lose sight of the majesty of God and forget the reason for their existence. In other words they are living as though the things of this world are all that matter in life. They do not store treasure in Heaven. The second is a sinful life. When you are living in sin you lack the desire to know God and do His work nor do you have the enablement to carry it out. And all you do is go through the motions like a lifeless corpse. The third is when people are detached from the work of the ministry. Whenever someone is not exposed to the needs, frustrations and blessings of the ministry, they lack the burden. When all you have are theories in your head of what should be done, and lack the exposure of what actually on the ground, you will lack the burden that comes with such exposure.

What does the church desperately need today? Conrad Mbewe summed it up perfectly in a lecture he gave on ministry.  

“Men of the time, who discern the signs of the time, the possibilities of the time, the potentials of the time, as well as the seasons, movements, and dangers of the time become God’s prophets to His people and the world. Instead of being cast into the mould of history they make history. Instead of being frustrated by the storms of the times they ride the crest of the waves triumphantly for God and His cause. Thus the question is whether we are tradition bound or anchored fearlessly in such a time as this. Men of the time are urgently needed. While others may survive, these will triumph and lead the cause of Christ in the triumphs of our Lord”[1].



[1]               Mbewe, Conrad. Church based ministries and missions. Seminar address. 2012

Monday, September 4, 2017

PASTORAL LESSONS FROM THE MINISTRY OF CONRAD MBEWE


Pastor Conrad Mbewe clocked 30 years of faithful ministry at Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka. And as you would expect many are giving praise and thanks to God for using this servant to His glory. 30 years of ministry in one church is indeed a remarkable achievement in light of the high ministerial turnover at the present time. Rather than simply add my small voice of appreciation to the considerable many that have flowed, I instead, asked myself, what can a young pastor like me learn from a seasoned Pastor like Conrad Mbewe?
Consistency
Having had the opportunity to interview a number of people who have known him for decades, one thing became rather apparent—this man’s life screams consistency. He has been consistent in his beliefs, consistent in his principles and philosophy, consistent in his passions, consistent in his manner of preaching and consistent in his love and passion for Christ and making Him known. The only changes that have taken place in these areas have been as a result of growth and maturity.
Centrality of preaching in the local church
Pastor Mbewe has been many things and worn many hats, but he is first and foremost a preacher. This is because he is convinced that people can only be changed by the Spirit through the Word. Three things particularly stand out about his preaching: 1) It is simple and uncomplicated. You do not go away wondering “what on earth was he saying?” You do not go away with your head spinning from theological jargon, and yet it is richly doctrinal. 2) It is clear. You know what he is saying and what he is saying about what he is saying! It has a clear logical flow. 3) It is Christ centered. He has taken the Apostle Paul’s plea, to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). You hear the man preach, and you go away exalting Jesus Christ. 4) It is applicational. He doesn’t just give you the facts like a lecturer, he applies the truth to your life. This I believe is his biggest strength in his preaching, the ability to bring the truth to everyday life (scratching where it is itching as it were).
Organization
Many people have big visions and great intentions, but few people have the discipline and organization required to carry them out. Pastor Mbewe is one of the most organized and orderly people I have ever worked with. He plans ahead and puts clear action steps to fulfilling the plans. And most importantly, he gets things done. As a result of his orderliness, he can be quite a hard task master!
Writing
Though writing is not necessarily our primary calling as pastors, there is no doubt that one way a pastor can serve his congregation is through writing. It provides an opportunity to clearly, and in some sense permanently, put thoughts and teachings into people’s hands. Pastor Mbewe’s love for writing developed in his secondary school days, and he has taken advantage of that ability to teach his church and beyond through his writing. I think this is an area we can really develop in as African Christians; let’s put thoughts and concepts onto paper!
Christlikeness
This is where the rubber meets the road! If anyone is to be used of the Lord, Christlikeness is an absolute essential. Pastor Mbewe is a godly man who loves God. It is easy to look at the successes, hear the appreciations and admire the reputation, and yet miss the fact that all we see is born in private, it comes as a result of daily fighting sin in his life and applying himself to spiritual disciplines.
John Piper’s warning when he gave a lecture about the life and ministry of C.H Spurgeon is equally instructive for us even as we celebrate Pastor Mbewe’s life and ministry.
“What shall we make of such a man? Neither a god nor a goal. He should not be worshiped or envied. He is too small for the one and too big for the other. If we worship such men, we are idolaters. If we envy them, we are fools. Mountains are not meant to be envied. They are meant to be marveled at for the sake of their maker. They are mountains of God… we are to benefit from them without craving to be like them. When we learn this, we can relax and enjoy them… let us be, by the grace of God, all that we can be for the glory of God. In our smallness, let’s not become smaller by envy, but rather larger by humble admiration and gratitude for the gifts of others.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is God really in charge?

Some years ago, I came across a prayer posted on Facebook by some prophet praying for the President, and since then I have seen several prayers of such a nature. The prayer said in part:

“Let every COFFIN they have prepared for the President catch fire right now and burn to ashes in Jesus mighty name. Let every shrine and every evil altar bearing the President’s image catch fire in the mighty name of Jesus. May the place they are monitoring him from catch fire and collapse in Jesus name. Every coven assigned to monitor his life with whatever gadgets they are using be stricken with blindness in the name of Jesus. May every spell, sickness or disease manufactured from the underworld that will seemingly appear as a genuine medical problem expire by fire in Jesus name.”

Prayers like this one have an underlying theology, and they force us to ask the all-important question: who is in charge? Is it God? Is it the devil and his evil spirits? Is it man? Who exactly is in charge of the happenings of life? Who determines what happens, when it happens, how it happens and to whom it happens? People who see the need to declare and decree even death clearly believe the devil is in charge and in control of what is happening on this earth. They are convinced that the devil can frustrate the purposes of God, and therefore, they have to help God by unlocking his power!

Thankfully God has not left us in the dark on this matter, for the Bible is very clear on who is in charge and in control on the earth. The following texts show us that God is indeed sovereign:
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

God is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords…to him be honor and eternal dominion” (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).

Our God has both the authority and power to do as he pleases, and no one can stop him. Furthermore, nothing happens on this earth that is outside of God’s purposes because whatever happens in this world has been decreed by God. God’s decrees include:

TIME OF DEATH: “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5).

GOVERNING OF NATIONS: “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

APPARENTLY ACCIDENTAL SMALL DETAILS: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29, 30).

NATURAL DISASTERS: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).
ELECTION UNTO SALVATION: “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call” (Romans 9:11).

ULTIMATE DESTINY OF THE WICKED: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

The fact that God is in total control of the all the affairs and happenings of the world is both a comforting and humbling truth. It is comforting because I know that all that happens in my life is in His hands and nothing can or will happen that God has not allowed. It is also comforting to know that the devil and his minions are not on the rampage doing as they please. At the same time it is humbling to think that such a great and mighty God should love sinners such as us and shower us with His amazing grace.


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.
Conclusion

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

GUARDING AGAINST 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.
MINISTERIAL PRIDE
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.
Self-importance
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).
MINISTERIAL JEALOUSY
“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!
MINISTERIAL LAZINESS
“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.
MINISTERIAL INSENSITIVITY
“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.