Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Earnest Praying

Jesus Christ, My Redeemer, Implore Thee,

Who can deliver me out of the Hands of…God? What measures can I take, or who will be my Defence? Is there not one, who is called…the Saviour, and mighty Deliverer? Upon his Name I will call aloud; Jesus, the blessed Jesus. This, this is He, the Judge at whom I tremble, but the Saviour in whom I trust too….
O Jesus, Jesus, by this most blessed name I beg, that thou wouldst deal with me according to the importance of this name. For this is a name full of love, full of delight, full of comfort, and holy confidence to every sinner, that takes sanctuary in it. For what does Jesus signify but a Saviour? and why didst thou take that name upon thee but to declare that thou wouldst make it good to the uttermost, by saving thy people from their Sins?
For Thy own sake I implore thee to be my Jesus indeed:
·         Thou hast created me, destroy not then the work of thine own hands.    
·         Thou hast redeemed me, do not cast away the purchase of thy own precious blood….
My Iniquities, I confess, are many and grievous, yet do they admit both of number and measure; thy goodness and thy power know no bounds; and therefore beseech thee, by all the past demonstrations of thy love and Condescension, as thy majesty is in itself, so let thy Mercy be to me, infinite.
Remember, Lord, that I am thine…. Even thine, O dearest, kindest Saviour; who, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, art worshipped and glorified, ever one God World without end.
Amen.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430).
Bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Work is Necessary


The ideas that most Christians have of work are informed more by the world rather than by the Word of God! This is most tragic, for it means that instead of working for God, they work for mammon (money)! Instead of living a coram Deo like in their places of work, they are clouded by the darkness of this world, called financial security or prosperity.
Is work a spiritual subject that should concern us? Absolutely! For God has so clearly said,
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:17, 22-24 ESV.

Whatever your hands finds to do – do it as to the Lord. Do not worry about whether it is the right job, as long as it is honest employment, be concerned that you please God in it. The Lord has put your there as a Christian to showcase His glory to your boss and colleagues. Do not make a mess of it. If you are student – study as if Lord sent you to study, and as if He will set the exams!
If you are thinking that your job is so meanial, remember that the Lord, in His sovereign will sent you there. Do everything in the name of the Lord, and not in the name of ‘substantial salary’ or promotion. The Lord points to the least of all – bond servants, workers who have no right… no trade union, no salary. And what is the instruction? Work as if God is your boss! Forget that the earthly master is not watching and remember that the heavenly Master – God, is watching! Do not aim at pleasing men, aim at pleasing God by working sincerely, from the heart, fearing the Lord. Note the wonderful promise harnessed to this instruction – from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. It is absolutely important and fulfilling to know that the Lord will reward all our labours on earth.
Do you just work to earn a living? To get money? Is work something to be endured? – “I owe; I owe; so off to work I go!” No you are serving the Lord (v.24)
Why is work necessary?
1.      Work is a requirement of God to man.
From Creation: There is a close correlation between the work of God and the work man because God implanted in the human constitution the desire to not only have dominion, but also multiply all that He gave him. Remember that this was without the necessity to having to work to eat, to clothe or to shelter. The Garden of Eden was such that it was going to yield fruit and food for man without any infestation of thorns and thistles, or pests and diseases which were a result of the fall into sin. With the fall came difficulties of labour in that just like the rest of the world is under the influence of the fall and sin. God told Adam,
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:17-19
As a command: The Fourth Commandment is so categorical:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

The fourth command begins by rest and ends with labour and from it we see that labour is the convers of rest, and not the other way round. In fact when we will be in glory, we rest from all our works and we shall enjoy the full rest. Our observance of the Sabbath now points forward to that eternal reality. The fourth commandment refers us to the initial labour command in Genesis 2:15 - The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Clearly, part of God’s original purpose for human life is to work. Labour is divinely designated by God to yield Him glory. For any individual to fail or refuse to work, is abnormal and unnatural and it is direct rebellion against the divine order. Therefore, whether you eat or drink or what you do, do all to the glory of God.
 On the other hand those who labour outside what God has said must realize that they will yield vanity – for unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1). The whole book of Ecclesiastes is about the vanity of work without God (see 2:11, 22-23). We must reiterate that there is meaning and significance in human labour because it is divinely appointed. Luther so categorically said that when we carry out our vocation in faith to God and obedience to His commands, God will work through us.
2.      Work is necessary to meet your own needs:
Because of disobedience of Adam, eating what he wasn’t supposed to eat, God instructed in the curse that man was to eat from the cursed ground. A ground that was to be infested with thorns and thistles, pests and diseases was to provide food for man’s livelihood. This was to happen all the days of his life – God does not see any retirement for an eating man! There is an emphasis on pain and toil. To reject work when God required the fallen Adam to work is a double rebellion. You also notice the dependence of man upon the earth, to eat of it and to die in it. We live to work.
Paul by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ puts it like this,
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10
Work is not being idle. Your hands have to find something to do. A working person is not content to simply eat what others have worked for, and not doing anything to provide. Paul says that they did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. Instead they lived a life of  ‘toil and labour’ they ‘worked night and day’ so that they did not become anyone’s burden. This is how they were able to set us a good example to emulate. So if anyone is unwilling to work, let him not eat. Why should eat what you did not provide? Only parasites and thieves want to enjoy benefits without taking any responsibility.

3.      Work is necessary to meet the needs of others
We work to cater for the needs of the family. Any Christian must be able to provide for the needs of his own. And so the instruction from the Lord is,
 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8.
But how can you possibly provide for yourself, let alone others if you are not willing to work? The inability to provide for one’s relatives, is a denial of the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Unbelievers work for money. They will meet their needs and the needs of their people. A Christian works for the glory of God and for his own good as well as for the welfare of others beginning with his own.
 We work to provide to the needy.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12


I pray that this knowledge will transform your work ethic as a Christian. You will spend your time, skills, and energies in a manner that understands that God is watching to remunerate you! God’s reward surpasses all that this world can afford. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Practical Applications of the Book of Esther

(This is the third and the last part of this series on the book of Esther

1)      God is in it all
The Book of Esther shows the choice we make between seeing the hand of God in our circumstances in life and seeing things as merely coincidence. God is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and we can be assured that His plans will not be moved by the actions of mere evil men – even kings and rulers. Although His name is not mentioned in the book, His providential care for his people, both individuals and the nation, is evident throughout.
For instance, we cannot fail to see the Almighty exerting influence over King Xerxes’s timely insomnia. Why did the king decide to look at the annals? Was it God or coincidence that led him to open the very page with the actions of Mordecai that foiled treason? Can’t you see God ordering things to go in His own way that Haman came in at the very time when the King was already set on honouring the same Mordecai that Haman had come to have him hanged on the gallows?
Here we see God ordering, directing and governing all His creatures and all their actions. Thank God that He is sovereign. That we do not worship and serve an impotent or dead God – our God is both living and actively involved in all the aspects of your life.
2)      Be assured of the Love of God always
Through the example of Mordecai and Esther, the silent love language our Father often uses to communicate directly to our spirits is shown in this book. We see both the powerful hand of God, as well as His gracious dealings with His people so that in love we are not consumed by our enemies or are also the enemies of God. We need not fear the devil and his entourage – because the one in us is greater than the one in the world. There is nothing that has the capacity to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This truth is anchor for our souls. For we know that we are loved by the sovereign, eternal God with an everlasting love. We may be rejected by anyone here on earth, yet our delight and comfort is that the one who is able, powerful and sovereign is in love with us. He is abounding in love and this is for our joy and blessedness.
3)      Humility is all you need – submit to God’s will.
… “If I perish, I perish” (4:16). In this she did not count her life of more value of others, even though a queen. She knew that the Lord had appointed her to the position of queen for service. For she had been appointed for ‘such a time as this’ to serve His people. She therefore took the counsel of Mordecai seriously –
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (4:13-14)

Esther proved to have a godly and teachable spirit that also showed great strength and willing obedience. Esther’s humility was markedly different from those around her. It is particularly contrasted with the arrogance of Vashti! This humility caused her to be elevated into the position of queen. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Esther shows us that remaining respectful and humble, even in difficult, if not humanly impossible circumstances, often sets us up to be the vessels of untold blessing for both ourselves and others. We would do well to emulate her godly attitudes in all areas of life, but especially in trials. Our Master, remember, was an epitome of humility. He did not call a legion of angels to fight for Himself. Like a lamb to the slaughter, He did not open His mouth. Not once is there a complaint or bad attitude exposed in the writing of Esther’s mouth.
Our lesson here is that the sovereign and loving God dwells with those of a humble and a contrite spirit. He will not despise those who diligently seek Him with broken and contrite spirits. He gives them grace (James 4:6; 1Pet. 5:5).  It is amazing that the sovereign would dwell with anyone who will admit that He has nothing! As long as you are in Christ, you are assured that  He has cast His love on you for good.
4)      Salvation is of grace alone
Many times we read that Esther won the "favour" of those around her and especially of the king (2:9, 15, 17). Grace is living in the understanding of not deserving anything – this is animated by the humility. While God dwells in inapproachable light where immortality dwells, and the reality that God cannot behold evil, should tell us that just like Esther could not just go before the king, we also cannot stand before God. Because of our iniquities, no we cannot stand before Him. The only reason why we can stand before God, is because of divine grace and favour that He has been pleased to offer to us. It does not depend on anything that we have done (this is humbling) but on His mercy.
Such favour is what ultimately saved her and the people. We can be granted such favour as we accept even unfair persecution and follow Esther’s example of maintaining a positive attitude, coupled with humility and the determination to lean on God. Who knows but that God put us in such a position, for just such a time as this?

5)      The Victory is ours
In one day (500+300) were enemies of the people of God were killed in Susa, and 75,000 more in the rest of the kingdom! We are sure that the victory belongs to Christ as depicted in the prophesy of the book of Revelation of John. We can be assured that there is no apocalypse that will annihilate Christians though all the world kings and leaders gather and take counsel together. Muslims gather together. There is no reason to worry that nuclear and atomic powers will end the world, because God is the one in ultimate throne of sovereignty not human beings. We know that the Lord will have the last laugh and we who are in Christ shall reign with Him forever. Ultimately, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of Christ.
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." Rev 11:15.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Rev 12:10.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

THE SPIRITUAL REALITY OF THE BOOK OF ESTHER

(This is the second part of thoughts on the Book of Esther)

Esther's story is much like the story of Joseph in Genesis 41 Both stories involve foreign kings who control the destiny of the Jews. Both accounts show the heroism of Israelite individuals who provide the means for the salvation of their people and nation. The hand of God is evident, in that what appears to be a bad situation is indeed very much under the control of the Almighty God, who ultimately has the good of the people at heart. At the centre of this story is the ongoing division between the Jews and the Amalekites, which was recorded to have begun in the Book of Exodus. Haman’s wicked goal is the final effort recorded in the Old Testament period of the complete eradication of the Jews. His plans eventually end up with his own demise, and the elevation of his enemy Mordecai to his own position, as well as the salvation of the Jews.
Feasting is a major theme of this book: there are ten recorded banquets, and many of the events were planned, plotted, or exposed at these banquets. Although the name of God is never mentioned in this book, it is apparent that the Jews of Susa sought His intervention when they fasted and prayed for three days (Esther 4:16).
In spite of the fact that the law allowing their destruction was written according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, rendering it unchangeable, the way was cleared for their prayers to be answered. Esther risked her life twice by going uninvited before the king (Esther 4:1-2; 8:3). She was not content with the destruction of Haman and his company; she was intent on saving her people. The institution of the Feast of Purim is written and preserved for all to see and is still observed today. God's chosen people, without any direct mention of His name, were granted a stay of execution through the wisdom and humility of Esther.
In this book, we are given a behind-the-scenes look at the ongoing struggle of Satan against the purposes of God and especially against His promised Messiah. The entrance of Christ into the human race was predicated upon the existence of the Jewish race. Just as Haman plotted against the Jews in order to destroy them, so has Satan set himself against Christ and God’s people.
Just as Haman is defeated on the gallows he built for Mordecai, so does Christ use the very weapon that his enemy devised to destroy Him and His spiritual seed. For the cross, by which Satan planned to destroy the Messiah, was the very means through which Christ “having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15). Just as Haman was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, so the devil was crushed by the cross he erected to destroy Christ.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Book of Esther (1)


(Read through the 10 chapters of the book of Esther) 
This is a  three part series covering the whole book of Esther. I will cover this by the end of this first week of February, a sermon preached at Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi)


The Book of Esther contains a wonderful story filled with thrilling drama and intriguing excitement. Is there anything that this book can teach us? Every word of God is precious to us. Every Scripture is breathed out by God is profitable for us (2Timothy 3:16). Let no man; therefore, pretend that there are some parts of the bible from which he can derive little instruction to be made wise for salvation. We have the privilege of gleaning truth that has a bearing on our eternal perspective from this historical book, let us pay attention. The blame is in yourselves, if you do not find treasures more precious than gold, in this inexhaustible mine of sacred knowledge, the Holy Scripture. Herein is something sweeter than honey and honeycombs – enjoy it!
The purpose of the Book of Esther is to display the providence of God, especially in regard to His chosen people, Israel. In providence, God wisely and powerfully preserves and governs all His creatures and all their actions in order to execute His decrees and accomplish His purposes. In a biblical context, providence means that God sees what is ahead and is at work to accomplish His future purposes through the events of the present.  Providence is God at work, through natural means, in our world.  This is one of the greatest encouragements and comfort for Christians – the knowledge that the Lord God is in absolute control of all things. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). He orders our footsteps, so that we are not overwhelmed by the wickedness of this world as to be distracted from our eternal perspective.
 The Book of Esther records the institution of the Feast of Purim and the obligation of its perpetual observation. It was read at the Feast of Purim to commemorate the great deliverance of the Jewish nation brought about by God through Esther. Jews today still read Esther during Purim.
The noble Esther risked her own death as she realized what was at stake. She willingly did what could have been a deadly manoeuvre and took on the second-in-command of her husband‘s kingdom, Haman. She proved a wise and most worthy opponent, all the while remaining humble and respectful of the position of her husband-king.
“But, though the name of God be not in it, the finger of God is directing many minute events for the bringing about of his people’s deliverance” (Matthew Henry)
“He [God] doesn’t sit for a pent portrait in the story of Esther, but His mind, His will, His power, and His presence are working in concert on every page.” (Charles Swindoll

A.     THE CONTENTS
1.      The Feasting (1:4)
·         The Great feast
Ø  Lasted 180 days (six months)
Ø  Lavish Display of Wealth  and pomp
Ø  Nobility, Officials, Employees of the Empire were invited
·         The Smaller Feast (1:5-9) 
Ø  Lasts for seven days (a week)
Ø  All people in Susa were invited
Ø  Wine for everyone (Hebrew is literally “drinking feast”) 
Ø  Queen Vashti also gave her own feast for the women in the palace
        The Awkward Request (1:11-2:1-4) 
Ø  “Queen Vashti to the banquet hall, wear your crown.” 
Ø  Show your beauty
Ø  The Refusal (1:12)
Ø  The king was enraged and banished/divorced her (1:13-22) 
Ø  Four Years Pass: During which time Xerxes invades Greece suffering defeat 
Ø  Then the king missed his queen 
Ø  His advisers hold a beauty contest to find a new queen, a better queen
Ø  The Beauty Pageant to look for another queen
2.      Mordecai  introduced (2:5-23)
v  Tribe of Benjamin, a descendent of Saul 
v  Caring for his cousin Hadassah (Esther) 
v  Introduced to Esther 
ü  Beautiful figure and lovely to look at (2:7)
ü  Esther is made queen (2:17) 
v  Mordecai overhears an assassination plot and reports it to Esther who tells the king saving his life.
3.      Haman introduced with his wickedness (3) 
v  He was an Agagite, son of Hammedatha
v  He is a proud, arrogant man 
v  He resents the attitude of Mordecai
v  Haman, knowing that Mordecai is Jewish, seeks to destroy all Jews.  He accomplishes this with a sizeable bribe to the king’s treasury.  The date of the genocide is set almost 12 months in the future. 
4.      The Courage of Esther (4:1-5:8)
v  Mordecai informs Esther of the plot against the Jewish people
v  Mordecai enlisted Esther’s help 
v  Esther risked her life to go before the king and invite him to dinner 
5.      The Tables Turn (5:9-6:13) 
v  Haman angered by Mordecai and seeks to have him killed
v  The king can’t sleep and reading the annals, realizes he owed his life to Mordecai
v  Queen Esther holds the first feast, inviting the king and Haman
v  Mordecai is honored at the expense of Haman
v  The Second Dinner (6:14-7:6)
v  Esther reveals Haman’s plot   
v  Haman is killed on the gallows intended for Mordecai (7:7-7:10)

v  The Salvation and victory for the Jews and the destruction of their enemies (Chapters 8 -10)