The War for our Children’s Hearts

I’m not yet a father but I’m very worried about what I see happening in the world around me these days. The thought of bringing up children in the world today is one that terrifies me frankly.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that the home is the primary place for children to receive truth that not only informs but forms their character. Christian summer camps, Sunday school, Church youth programs and so on are nice and helpful but they can never take the place of the home as the most effective teacher of Christian values.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in a culture war. The degradation of morality around the globe today is far-reaching. Even worse is the fact that the vehicles conveying these anti-Christian cultural values are increasing in number. Social media, advertising agencies, sports, work, leisure, entertainment, music, the arts, recreation and so on, are increasingly bent to complement a popular culture that is subtly and in some cases, overtly determined to obliterate every trace of Christian truth from public consciousness.

If we fail to bring up our children in the way of the Lord, the world will gladly step in to fill the void. It’s a scary prospect to think of allowing a culture that has lost all sensitivity and given itself to sensuality as described in Ephesians 4:19, to form the way our children think about authority, service, responsibility, amusement, justice, mercy and other important character issues.

Today, children are being brought up in a 2 Timothy 3 kind of environment. The Apostle Paul described it this way:

Remember this! In the last days there will be many troubles, 2 because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud. They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants. 3 They will not love others, will refuse to forgive, will gossip, and will not control themselves. They will be cruel, will hate what is good,

Sound familiar? It does to me! The bible says we should no longer conform to the way the world thinks but the world has a nasty habit of trying to force its way into our homes. It is impossible to quarantine our children from the world system. In fact, we’re not called to cower in fear and hide from the world but rather to go into all the world and dispel the darkness with the light within us.

So how do we raise children who are light-bearers of the good news? How do we ensure their minds are renewed with God’s way of thinking rather than the prevailing thoughts of popular culture?

It’s clear that we have a huge responsibility to instruct our children in the way of truth during their formative years. If we get complacent or relaxed about consciously providing our children with a culture rooted in God’s truth, we can be rest assured that the militant popular culture which is increasingly anti-Christ in its beliefs will have more of an influence on our children than we will ever have.

It’s our job to pass on a culture of value to our children. If we fail them in this, we have failed them big time. Like Joshua, let’s take a stand to ensure that despite the popularisation of a militant cultural viewpoint that is increasingly anti-Christian in its approach, we and our households will serve the Lord.

But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, you must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. You may serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River, or you may serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

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F.R.I.E.N.D.S – I’ll be there for you

 

Proverbs 18:24 - A man who has friends must himself be friendly,[a]But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Most of us will remember the popular U.S sitcom, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, that took the T.V world by storm in the 90′s and early 2000′s. Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and Monica entertained millions of viewers across the globe for several years.

There were many reasons why that sitcom was so successful but I dare say one of those reasons is that it resonated with the one of the deepest longings of every human being, which is to fellowship with others. Deep down inside, we all want to be known, accepted and loved by our fellow man or woman. It’s absolutely normal.

We were made for fellowship. First with God and then with our fellow humans. No one was built for isolation. That is why when prison wardens want to break the most hardened criminals, they usually resort to prolonged periods of isolation as effective means of torture. It is inhumane to be isolated. It truly is.

So if God has created us in such a way that we need each other to thrive, then His Church should surely be a safe haven where such relationships can be grown and fostered in an atmosphere of love, truth and safety right? I’m afraid this is not necessarily the case.

Unfortunately, the Church, which is supposed the be the visible representation of Christ to the world is not always the safest place to be in terms of cultivating friendships. I have seen and personally experienced far too many instances where instead of comforting or counselling a hurting individual confidentially, friends betray the trust of those who confided in them and unwittingly set off a gossip chain that ends up worsening the situation.

Sometimes friends judge a situation from a distance rather than draw closer to the hurting individual to find out how best they can show the love of Christ to their fellow brother or sister.

Sometimes friends take sides even without making a genuine effort to gain a balanced view of whatever took place in an individual’s life.

Sometimes friends are quick to hand out prescriptions and formulae of how they think situations should have been handled by the hurting person, without empathizing with the complexity and uniqueness of the situation in question.

Sometimes friends enjoy using sensitive information as discussion material amongst themselves, not to edify anyone but just for the entertainment value it brings.

Sometimes friends exclude hurting friends from their little cliques because they would rather maintain their perfect little happy circles than risk bringing in anyone who might disrupt that circle with their sad story.

I could go on and on but you get the picture. Many individuals have left the faith because they were let down by those who were supposed to be their friends. Those who were supposed to be modelling the unfailing friendship of Christ.

Many have been disillusioned by the disparity that exists between the kind of love Christ commanded us to share with one another and what really happens in some churches today. We have to realise that our actions have far deeper consequences than we may think.

As believers, we are always held to a higher standard than what is required of the world. With a perfect role-model like Christ, why do we struggle as believers to be better friends? Selfless friends? Loving friends? Faithful friends?

It is because we are all work in progress. We are all being sanctified by the Spirit of God and are going from glory to glory. Whilst we should not condemn ourselves for our shortcomings in this area, we must continually aspire to be the best friends we can be to our fellow brothers and sisters. We must aim to be a friend like Christ.

To those who have been hurt and let down by their friends, I pray you will find it in your heart to forgive. Understand that your friend(s) is not perfect and do your part to have that friendship restored.

To those who have let their friends down, I pray you will receive grace and courage to make amends by acknowledging your failure and asking for forgiveness. Don’t condemn or beat yourself up indefinitely. There is grace available for you.

Let us all take our friendships more seriously because the world is watching to see if we practise what we preach. It is also imperative because God requires that we love one another. This is how we will build each other up and advance the Kingdom of God.

Rather than spreading GOSSIP, let’s spread the GOSPEL. The Church should be a safe haven where those who are hurting can run to. Where they can share their pain and expect to still be loved unconditionally.

John 15:12-15 - 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

 

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One Body, many parts

My name was eye. My vision was unparalleled. I could see what others couldn’t. I often got frustrated at the shortsightedness of those around me. Why couldn’t they all be like me? Why couldn’t they see what I saw? Why is everyone else around me so blind and ignorant? I thought I was the best thing to ever happen to the Body.

All of that changed when I became a nose. I could smell foul play from a mile away. The inability of others to perceive as well as I did often drove me bonkers. I would stick my nose up in pride and look down on my peers. I truly believed that being a nose trumped being an eye or any other part of the Body.

All of that went out the window when I became an ear. I could hear everything that was being said around me. When others were clueless, I would have an edge over them because of what I heard. Nothing was a secret any longer. I could hear all things. I truly felt as though being an ear was the most important part of the Body. The eyes and nose were plain lazy as far as I was concerned.

All of that was scrapped when I became a mouth. I could express myself better than any other part of the Body. Having my voice heard was an exhilarating experience. I couldn’t imagine how I once thought being any other part of the Body was more important than being a mouth. What on earth was everyone else doing?

You may say I’ve got identity issues but trust me, when I became a shoulder, I never felt more fulfilled in my lifetime. People could finally lean on me in their times of distress. I could carry the weaker vessels around me and nothing made me feel more alive. I suddenly felt as though the eyes, ears, nose and mouth were nothing but selfish parts of the Body.

That was until I became a heart. I could finally empathize with others. I could feel their pain as well as their joy. It opened me up to a myriad of emotions I never thought existed. What kind of emotionless life was I living when I was a different part of the Body? How cold and lifeless are others around me? Surely, nothing could trump this feeling I had inside, right?

Wrong! My perspective changed once more when I became a hand. I was diligent and hardworking. Rather than waste away looking at stuff, smelling foul play, listening to gossip, mouthing off or getting overwhelmed by emotions, I was working hard to accomplish tasks facing the Body. As far as I was concerned, everyone else was lazy.

Alas! That view changed the day I became a foot. What was the point in being any other part of the Body if you couldn’t get to the action. As a foot, I could go places I had never been. The Body was useless without me. Surely, I am supreme amongst the parts of the Body.

My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time we stopped belittling each other’s contributions to the Body of Christ which is the Church and started appreciating our differences and unique gifting. The maturity and thriving of the Church is dependent on its unity. A house divided cannot stand. Food for thought.

I leave you with the words of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26:

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,[e] some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[f]

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

 

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I love the view from here!

Ever attended a concert or theatre performance and left with the feeling that you got the best seat in the house? It’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it? 

Sometimes, our view of such performances can add or take away from the experience. I remember attending The African Praise Experience (T.A.P.E) sometime in July. We had a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling experience. Of course the Presence of God in the room was the major factor for this but our seats definitely made it easier for us to enjoy the experience. Fast forward to sometime in October, when I attended the sequel, T.A.P.E 2, due to the success of the first concert, the main auditorium was packed out in record time. I was forced to sit in the overflow and try to connect with the concert via a small tv screen. Trust me, the enjoyment levels were different this time around.

We can liken this to life in the Spirit. Although all believers have access to the same resurrection life, some choose to see everyday life from a supernatural plane, whilst most others simply get stuck in the natural. In other words, we may believe the same things fundamentally, but we both see life differently because of where we choose to look from. It’s all about perspective. In Ephesians 2:6, Paul wrote, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Seated with Christ! Wow…talk about best seats in the house.

Our view should be the same as Christ’s. Do you think the King of kings looks down into people’s lives and sees circumstances He cannot overcome? Do you think the Lord of lords looks down at giant obstacles and becomes intimidated? Do you think the Creator of the universe looks down and thinks the devil has outsmarted Him? I don’t think so. If that is the case then why do so many believers (myself included) choose to see things in a way that does not accurately represent Christ’s view-point? What are we doing with our vantage point?

The Apostle Paul was so immersed in the resurrection life that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28.

What would life be like if we truly started to see our circumstances the way Christ does? Nothing would seem impossible. No task would seem too daunting. No obstacle would look insurmountable.

If we change our seats, we change our viewpoint and our viewpoint will determine our perspective, which in turn will shape our thinking and eventually, our actions.

 

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The Hunger Games

The person who labors, labors for himself, For his hungry mouth drives him on. – Proverbs 16:26 

I have walked with God for the last six years and one thing has become very clear to me in that short period of time: desperation drives me deeper into His sustaining word. During the lean times of the soul, the only thing that guarantees my survival is a daily supply of fresh manna from God. Nothing else will do.

I remember a particularly trying time I went through for six months last year, it was a combination of the Spirit’s comfort and the nourishment I derived from my daily supply of manna that saw me through. One scripture that served as an anchor for me in that season was Psalm 119:105, which says, Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. Literally speaking, His word was a lamp to my feet, guiding me from one step of faith to the next on a daily basis. I clung to every single word that proceeded from God’s mouth to sustain me in that season. His word was also a light unto my path, constantly reminding me of a future filled with hope. Truly, that was when I realised that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of God’s mouth.

Remember the Israelites received fresh manna from heaven everyday whilst they journeyed through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land. In Exodus 16:12-31, one can see how God instructed them not to store today’s manna for tomorrow’s use. It only kept for a day. Those who tried to bend this rule only found to their detriment that the manna went bad if stored.

Since the manna was a foreshadow of the Word of God, it is still true that yesterday’s feeding in the word should not be relied on to sustain us today. We need to partake of His living Word every single day of our lives.

The key ingredient in living a life of constant dependence on the word is HUNGER. As today’s key scripture spelt out, a hungry mouth can be a very powerful driving force both in the natural and the spiritual realms. I know how driven I am to eat when I am starving!

As a medical professional, one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to trying to diagnose a patient is whether or not there is a loss of appetite. In the natural realm, a loss of appetite is one of the tell-tale signs that an individual is under the weather. Likewise, in spiritual things, a lack of hunger for God’s word is a sign that we are not functioning at full capacity.

A spiritual examination usually exposes what the underlying cause of such a lack of hunger actually is. For example, it could be unforgiveness, hidden sin, pride, anger and so on. We need to constantly submit ourselves to the capable Hands of the Holy Spirit to probe beneath the surface and reveal what is causing our lack of hunger for God’s word.

There is a direct correlation between spiritual hunger and spiritual vitality. Without a hunger for the Rhema Words of God, it is difficult for an individual to be motivated enough to search for fresh manna every single day. Personally speaking, I am still a work in progress in this area but one thing that helps is filling yourself with the Logos (written word) and then allocating a portion of your prayer time (five minutes in my case) to ask the Holy Spirit to speak a living Word into your life for that particular day. I have now practised this for two years and I can tell you it has been a thrill of a ride to hear the King of kings speak directly into my life circumstances in that manner.

There are no special instructions or requirements. You need no qualifications whatsoever. All you need is to pick up your Bible and begin to dig in with an attitude of expectancy. There’s no short-cut to it guys. The more you labour in the Word, the more it labours for you. That has been my personal experience.

I am excited at the prospect of what God will do in our lives as we begin to prioritize His word in our lives. He delights in speaking life into our unique circumstances. I hope your stomachs are growling! There is abundant food in His mouth.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. – Psalm 1:2-3

 

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The Darkness of Complacent Satisfaction

God calls the judges into his courtroom, he puts all the judges in the dock.2-4 “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them.”5 Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges! They haven’t a clue to what’s going on. And now everything’s falling apart, the world’s coming unglued. 6-7 “I commissioned you judges, each one of you, deputies of the High God, But you’ve betrayed your commission and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.” 

The above scripture, which is an Asaph Psalm, is a very sobering one indeed. I stumbled on it a couple of weeks ago and it has challenged my thinking ever since. 

It is basically God chastising His representatives on Earth for doing a terrible job of being judges on His behalf. It is interesting that God is less interested in highlighting the wickedness of evildoers and more focused on highlighting the ignorance of His own people.

In the context of the world in which we live today, one can say that a lot of Christ followers are lost in the darkness of complacency. We no longer know what our job descriptions are. We have becoming complacent at being judges sent to represent the Great Judge of all Creation. What is our job description as judges of the earth? The scripture above says:

You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them.”

I ask myself: “when was the last time I defended the defenseless and made sure that underdogs got a fair break”? “When was the last time I stood up for the powerless and prosecuted all those who exploit them”? “When was the last time holy anger was stirred up in my heart from watching the poison being pumped out of the entertainment industry and filling the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting generation?”

If most of us are honest with ourselves, we are satisfied with our solo Christianity. We turn a blind eye and pretend like we don’t see the evil around us and hence fail to act as judges by taking the matter to the heavenly throne room in prayer. Our inaction is a sin because it leads to evil consequences. The scripture brings this out well: “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder.

Our inactivity as judges is causing a whole lot more damage than we can fathom. The world is depending on us. God is depending on us. That’s why the scripture says: Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges! They haven’t a clue to what’s going on. And now everything’s falling apart, the world’s coming unglued.

When we look around us, can we really deny that the world is coming unglued as the scripture suggests? Many of us truly haven’t got a clue what’s going on. The darkness increases whilst the judges remain in their slumber. Gay marriage, twisted doctrines, the redefinition of family, the perversion of the church, the commercialisation of our faith and so on, have all crept in and taken root in our world today because the judges have failed in their duties. The scripture says: “I commissioned you judges, each one of you,deputies of the High God, But you’ve betrayed your commission and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.”

By what standards are we to judge? Come with me to Hebrews 4:12 for some insight on this - 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Fellow judges of the earth, it is time we answered the call of God to bring justice to the world. Every time your knees touch the ground in prayer, you stand before the throne of the Judge of all Creation as a representative, bringing issues from our world to His attention. It is not as though He doesn’t know what’s going on and can’t act without us but He lowers Himself and sometimes limits Himself to our cooperation and involvement.

It’s high time we woke up from our slumber and satisfaction with the complacency of the world around us. Without God, we can’t but without us He won’t. We are privileged and blessed to have a Maker who wants our cooperation in ruling the earth based on His standards.

We are called to be salt and light, rather than judges who bury their heads in the sand and pretend like all is well when it clearly isn’t. Let’s ask God for the grace to snap out of the darkness of complacent satisfaction and begin to rule and reign with Him in heavenly places.

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Angels on Assignment: A personal testimony

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14

 

A friend of mine invited me to his church’s annual convention themed ‘Angels on Assignment’. It ran from Thursday the 19th of September to Sunday the 22nd.

 

During the convention, we received sound, balanced, scriptural-based teachings on the ministry of angels. To buttress the teachings, the guest speaker also shared several personal testimonies of his encounters with angels. These testimonies really stirred up my faith as I recalled that at the start of this year, the Lord laid on my heart that He was going to increase my awareness of supernatural activities around me.

 

On Saturday the 21st of September, I went to the cinema with one of my younger brothers. I had a very tight schedule that day and was in a hurry to get to a traditional wedding ceremony right after the movie. Once the movie was over, we left the cinema complex in a haste and it wasn’t until I arrived at home thirty minutes later, that I realised my recently purchased handset was missing. I called it with my other phone and searched the vehicle frantically but it was nowhere to be found.

 

To make matters worse, all of my bank cards were also lost because they share the same pouch with my handset. The probability of ever having my handset and bank cards found and returned to me where slim to none. Unfortunately, this is especially true given the kind of society I live in.

 

Distraught from thoughts of having to replace my handset, the possibility of losing almost a thousand memo pad entries, contacts, details and so on, I gathered myself and gave up searching the vehicle. I tried calling the phone a few times but it just rang. The thought of going through the inconvenience of having all my bank cards replaced was also unsavoury.

 

I decided to fulfil my promise of attending the wedding first before heading back to the cinema complex to try my luck and fulfil all righteousness. I called a good friend of mine and related my ordeal to her. She encouraged me to keep a positive outlook and maintain some level of optimism. As I got into the bathroom to shower, my thoughts started to engulf me again with negativity, when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted me and asked a simple question: “Haven’t you learnt anything from the teachings on the ministry of angels?” I replied, yes Lord, I have. To which He replied: “then ask Me what you want”. So I uttered a very simple prayer: “Lord, please assign an angel to watch over my phone and bank cards until I can get to them”.

 

As soon as I stepped out of the bathroom, I saw my other phone ringing and it was the friend who had just encouraged me earlier. She sounded excited on the phone and I thought to myself: “she must be very insensitive to be laughing at a time like this!” She was calling to tell me that someone just called her to say my phone was found in a toilet at a location that was far away from where I was certain I lost the phone. I was so confused. My brain was working at 1,000 miles per hour as I tried to sort through the barrage of questions that came to mind.

 

I wondered how and why they chose to call my friend. I also wondered how my phone was found in a restroom since I never used any that day. I also wondered how it ended up in a location far away from where I was earlier in the day. I simply thought my friend was playing a practical joke on me, which led me to wonder even further, if it was possible for anyone to be that insensitive.

 

She assured me it was serious and that she wouldn’t joke about something like that. She then proceeded to give me the number of the lady that called her with all the information. I thanked her and made the call to the lady. She introduced herself and then explained with further clarity how she ended up having my phone and cards in her custody. She said a young man named Gift found the phone in the cinema and had a hunch that I belonged to a particular phone network. He then took the phone to that network office, pulled out one of my cards, and using my name, they were able to identify who I was and contact my friend. Even after the network confirmed to him that they had contacted the owner (me) and he was on his way, the young man refused to leave, saying that he wanted to make sure I got hold of what belonged to me. He decided to wait!

 

I got there about 30 minutes later and everyone at the network office was telling me how lucky I was because of the nature of the handset and all the bank cards in the pouch. The young man introduced himself to me as Gift and I jokingly told him I had renamed him Gift to Mankind! All my cards were intact and everyone was simply amazed.

 

I took Gift to a more private area and I prayed for him from the bottom of my heart and sowed into his life as led by the Spirit. Gift was an answer to my prayer earlier. An angel sent to watch over my property until it was returned to me safely. Thank God for His mercies.

 

2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2

 

 

 

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