Monday, November 30, 2015

The secret of facing plenty and need

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians. 4:10-13.
We live at a time when a teaching called prosperity gospel, or word of faith or health and wealth gospel is gaining followers by the day. Their basic tenet is that a Christian, who is a child of the King (GOD), must not suffer lack or poverty, ill-health or sickness. He must always be healthy and wealthy. According to them the Christian message of the good news is that Christ died so that you may be well in health and in possession. This emphasis on material and health prosperity is being preached in different congregations cutting through all denominations! But is this is the message of the Bible? You have heard it preached here so many times, by too many people, that I wonder if this is an uphill task to venture to deal with it in less than an hour.
Yet I must show you from the Bible that this is an unbiblical message, which by the subject that you have given me, ‘ups and downs’, you acknowledge that there are times of ups and times of downs. The life gives us both bitter and sweet, light and darkness, day and night, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, valleys and hills/mountains. It is important to know that this the way God displays both his manifold wisdom and glory. We must realize that this message of health and wealth is foreign to the Scriptures. Neither did the Lord Jesus Christ preach it, nor condone it. Neither did any of the Apostles preach it nor condone it – and so we must not. Rather we are to receive God’s providence with thanksgiving.
I could have spoken of the ups and downs of our Saviour, Christ and could have taken Hebrews 2:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. But I thought that some of you may say that we are different from Jesus, since He was and is God-Man in one person. Just remember that, Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Heb 2:17. The Lord Jesus Christ, went through what we have and more. We would be wise to listen to Him, for of poverty He said, so categorically, “… you will always have the poor with you.”
But I before us is Apostle Paul speaking of his own experience of ups and downs, as a believer and an apostle, with the authority of His Master, the Lord Christ. He gives a very personal and candid experience – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance – in plenty and hunger, in abundance and need… I have known a secret of facing all these different circumstances. This is the secret I would like us to unlock by the grace of God from this passage.
1.     Do you know how to be brought low, and how to abound in Christ?
When Paul says, “I know” it is not some subjective knowledge – it is informed by the Word of God, the truth, so that one perceives and is assured. In this word is confidence based on a settled opinion informed by the Word of God. It is the same Word Paul uses in 2 Timothy 1:12 – I know whom I have believed!
Thankfully in these words is stability and maturity of facing the ups and downs of this unpredictable life, in a fallen world of sin. We can only gain the necessary Christian stability and consistency that is so much necessary in Christian living only when we are taught of God in the scriptures. There is no doubt that there are times of being brought low, by sin, by life experiences such poverty, health, things simply not working out, people failing you, etc.
However, our stability is not in naming it and claiming it for this is utter folly. Rather, the secret is in the promises of God in His word – depend on what God has promised, not on your preferences. Your spiritual life is not dependent on positive confession – it is dependent on the grace of God as revealed in His Word.
After all, the Lord has said that He is keen to work out all things for the good of those who love Him, those that He has called according to His eternal purposes. Not a single promise in His purposes will miscarry. This knowledge gives a believer stability to know how to be brought up or down, yet abounding in Christ and in His everlasting love.
Earlier on in this book of Philippians Paul says, For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.  Php. 1:29, 30. The call to be a Christian by believing in Christ, is also a call to deny oneself and take up his cross and follow Christ. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mat 16:24-25. Undoubtedly suffering as part of the believer’s package of the things they share with Christ (see. Philippians 3:10).
There are times when we suffer spiritual darkness and wander around in wilderness like the children of Israel. There are times when you don’t feel like praying. There are other times when you don’t feel like coming to the church. Some other times you do don’t enjoy brotherly fellowship, the Word of God. If feels like you are in the valley of the shadow of death. But there are times when you enjoy the sweet hour of prayer. You relish the bread of life, the Word of God and you cherish the Christian fellowship. How do you deal with all these changes as a Christian?
But many do not know what to abound means – it is to be in Christ. When you believe in Christ, you stop living for yourself, you stop trusting in yourself, you stop depending on yourself and you stop being earthly-minded to being heavenly-minded. Since you have been raised with Christ, you seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Because you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God, so that when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. You do this by killing every sin that wage war against your mortal bodies sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. This war is a real one and if you are not watchful you will be brought down by these terrible sins. If it brings you down, you would suffer being down. This is the most horrifying experience for a Christian – the guilt of sin.
Yet you may abound by putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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. Col. 3:12-17.
This may appear too easy – but this is very difficult for a body that has known sin all its life. Bearing our cross is the most difficult of Christian living. Yet this is at the heart of the Christian faith. Christ died for sin once and we died with Him so that we may live in the newness of life. The struggle with sin – killing it to death is very difficult. The list of what is to be put to death in Colossians, begins with sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires etc. May I seek to show you how this sin is mortified. Do you struggle with lustful thoughts? Pornography and some of you may even have fallen to the actual sin of fornication. You know what guilt, shame and discomfort comes with sexual sins.
To fall into sexual sin is to be brought very low. The Lord has told us to flee from it. Do not waste time where there is potential for sexual sin, because your weak body will soon be overwhelmed. For example, when you ladies accept to meet with a gentleman in a private study in your hostels, or just the two of you at night, in a car, then what do you expect? Flee from sexual immorality (1Cor. 6:18). If you are struggling to deal with this sin in your life, and you are not making as much progress, just remember that the Lord as given us the assurance of His help. When we are faithfully killing sin, the Lord helps us.
The second antidote to sexual sin is marriage – you are all old enough to marry and be married! For the Bible says, But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband… But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1Cor. 7:2.9. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2Tim. 2:22. I counsel you then to start thinking of marriage – it is not a far-fetched idea.
Suffering lack is to be brought low. As I speak here, I know that that some of you are not sure what you shall eat. Your project is giving you headache because of the financial constraints. This can give occasion for discouragement and being brought low. Financial challenges is just another life reality. In fact, the context of this letter is to appreciate the financial gifts that the Philippian church had sent to Paul. You see this as you read on in this chapter - I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Php. 4:10-11. Paul suffered not just the anguish of bringing the gospel, but the challenge of going on in lack and poverty. But in his statement here, there is no complaint, just stating the reality in contentment. He has learnt the secret of receiving God’s providence with both hands.
2.     What is the secret of facing all these different circumstances?
The secret is Christ - I can do all things through him who strengthens me (v.13). Undoubtedly Christ strengthens us. Unless one is in Christ, in this world, when in the flesh – who is the enemy within, the defeat is inevitable. From the flesh we are constantly faced with sin, the war that we wage against our mortal bodies is a real conflict. Yet the world has so many attractions to the body. But do not love the world or what the world promises, the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes, and the pride in possessions. But these are not from the Father but is from the world. But remember that this world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
More than the flesh and the world, is the devil who is constantly attacking Christians in order to bring them down. Only when you are in Christ will you know the victory, For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5. If the secret is Christ, then we are to show our dependence on Him by being fervent in faith and in prayer. You pray because the Lord promised to listen. And you pray to display your faith and dependence on God, our heavenly Father. So when you don’t feel like praying these two reasons should be factored in order to encourage prayer.
Christ suffered for our sake so that we might not bear the wrath and punishment of God for His suffering was a vicarious or substitutionary suffering. His death was a sacrifice to atone for our sins. Those who believe in Christ have this hope. Christ became poor for our sake, so that through His poverty we might receive the richness of God – for in Him we are made the children of God (John 1:12-13). Therefore your hope is in Christ, not in yourself or in relatives or friends.
The secret is contentment – I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (v.11). Whether in being brought low, or in abounding, whether in plenty or hunger, abundance or need, Paul has learnt a secret of facing any and every circumstance, being in Christ – it is the joy of Christian contentment that keeps going strong. I highly recommend a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Boroughs (A Puritan Preacher). This book is free on line (
Contentment begins with humility. Paul has already cited the example of Christ in embracing humility for the sake of God’s people. He exhorts us to have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Php. 2:5-8. Embrace God’s providence without complaining like our Lord.
It is on the basis of Christ-like humility that one will not be trapped in selfish ambitions, which are borne out of conceit, and high view of oneself, giving birth to materialism of our day. Rather we are to count others more significant than ourselves and not look only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Php. 2:3-4). It is for this reason he wrote to Timothy,
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 1Tim. 6:6-11.
In all the ups and downs of Christian living, do not lose your first confidence in Christ as spelt out in His Word. Do not trust in chariots, or the arm of flesh, or your wisdom. In the long run these do not hold hope for your Christian stability in the storms of this life – only Christ does. His Word is our firm foundation. His promises are the cables that keep us sailing. Do not through overboard the confidence we have in Christ.

May you know to abound in His grace in whatever situation, to be content even when you are brought low, and know how to abound. Grace to you so that in any and every circumstance, you may learn the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baptize Them Properly

Matthew 28:19-20.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Baptism is an integral part of disciple-making endeavour. For this reason when the Lord commissioned the disciples to be disciple-makers, He instructed them to do this by baptizing those who believe in Him and teaching them to observe all that He commanded. The disciple-making enterprise involves these two means. It is with this in mind that I venture to touch on this important practice of the church. Essentially, I will attempt to answer a few questions.
What is baptism? It is the dipping, immersing, submerging or plunging into water (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23) in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to signify our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to His church. In the Words of the various dependable and historic confessions, ‘Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be to the person who is baptized - a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Christ, of remission of sins; and of that person's giving up of himself to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.’ (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16) It outwardly marks the entrance into the body of Christ.
Why baptism? It might look the silliest thing to do to a carnal eye. Yet it is so simple to obey! It is so important, that the second Person of the Trinity – the Lord of glory Himself, even Christ, was baptized, ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). Moreover, it is His command and ordinance. We know that the commandments of the Lord are holy and righteous and good (Romans 7:12) – saints obey them! No true Christian would disdain or neglect the rule of the Lord who left His glory, shed His blood and gave His life to save him. The apostles obeyed this rule. At the very inception of the church of Christ, all who believed were baptized and added to the number of believers in His church. Shall we disobey what the Lord has set an example and commanded? If you truly name the name of Christ, then be baptized and be part of the church of Christ.

 The Presbyterian theologian, A.A. Hodge, puts it this way, ‘Protestants regard the sacraments both as a preaching of the Word, and as authoritative seals, and badges of church membership’. A long-serving Baptist pastor, Keith Underhill, so well explains the intention of Baptism in his exposition of the Baptist Confession of Faith:
What is the intention of baptism? It is both a message from God to the one being baptized, and a response to God by the one being baptized.
1)       A sign from God – God declares, and so assures the one being baptized, that he is united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12, see also Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 1:13-16, 10:2), because baptism has the idea of being united with someone in leadership over the person; and he has forgiveness of sins through Christ, symbolized by baptism as a washing with water (Acts 2:38, 22:16). Baptism does not accomplish this, but is an outward sign that this has happened.
2)       A commitment by the baptized – Baptism also symbolizes our saving response to the Gospel, that we have submitted to the demands of the Gospel, in order to live a new life in Christ (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Thus baptism takes on the character of a covenant ceremony between God and the one being baptized[1].
While baptism is a means of grace, yet it does not and cannot save. Its proper and appointed use cannot be too highly valued. On the other hand, if it is abused to purposes for which it was not given by the Lord as if it were containing in and of itself salvation to man or washing from sins, then it is desecrated as it would encroach on the throne of Christ, the Saviour. The water of baptism must neither be confused with the blood of Christ, nor the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. In effect, there is no place of the so called baptismal regeneration by the Roman Catholics. This truth also crushes to powder the ‘golden calf of reformation[2]’ called infant baptism, which is prevalent among our Presbyterian brothers, as well as Lutherans and Anglicans friends.
 As a means of grace, it means that as one is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Clearly this is one of the clearest verses on both the unity of Trinity – in the name (the name is singular – it is not in the names) meaning God is one. There is diversity of the three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, for each is distinctively designated. By all means, we must look up to God in this ordinance, since it is Christ’s own idea, and we must expect from God through it the conveyance of His grace and peace. ‘Baptism is to be reverenced, but not idolized. It is to be used as means, but not rested in as an end. No one is to imagine himself the better, simply because he has attended on any ordinance, (baptism included)’[3].
Who is eligible for baptism? Of course, we should just learn from the pages of Scriptures how to rightly administer baptism, to the right people (true believers) at the right time and age (definitely not at infancy, as such cannot clearly and publicly profess faith in Christ. In quoting the Baptist Confession of Faith, Those who actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects for this ordinance. (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12; 36,37; 2:43; 18:8)
Where and in what context should baptism be administered? Can Christian baptism be conducted as a private event, outside of the oversight of a local visible church? Who should administer the sacrament or ordinance of baptism? Can it be administered by any person, by any baptized Christian, or must it be administered only by a minister who has been set apart to office in the church? These are ancient and important ecclesiological questions, which are being raised anew in our day. However, in answering them, we should evaluate the evidence of Scripture in terms of instruction and example.
A close and thorough examination of the New Testament evidence clearly indicates that our Christians have held that baptism should only be administered within the context of the local church and that baptism should only be properly administered by the church’s officers. In obedience to the Great Commission cited above. After all, these instructions were especially given to them as the leaders and representatives of the church.
The context of Acts indicates that the converts at Pentecost were baptized by Peter and the other apostles (Acts 2:38-43). The first Samaritan converts were apparently baptized by Philip who had preached the gospel to them (Acts 8:12). Philip was one of the seven servants of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). Luke notes specifically that the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized by Philip (Acts 8:36-38). Saul (Paul) was ostensibly baptized by Ananias, who, though he is only overtly described as a “disciple,” likely served as an officer of the church at Damascus (Acts 9:10-18), since God spoke to him directly, designating him a prophetic office.
Cornelius and the other converts at Caesarea seem to have been baptized by the apostle Peter aided by the six men from the church at Joppa (most likely including at least some of the church’s officers) who accompanied him (Acts 10:23, 44-48; 11:12-17). Paul and Silas apparently baptized Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and the converted members of his household (Acts 16:14-15, 31-33). Paul also apparently baptized Crispus and the other converts at Corinth (Acts 18:5-8; cf. also 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16 where Paul says he baptized only Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanus in Corinth), as well as the twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:5). A survey of Acts reveals that there is not a single explicit narrative description of a believer being baptized by anyone other than a church officer. It further shows that, whenever the Apostles preached to an entire household, and they believed, and manifested the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the whole household was baptized.
The Great Commission specifies duties, for the performance of which the apostles were to provide. One of these was the administration of baptism. They were commanded, not to make disciples and teach them the baptism doctrine or the duty of being baptized; but to make disciples and actually baptize them. The administration of the rite was in their care; and, where they could not personally perform it, it was made their duty to provide for its performance by delegation. Therefore the administration was not designed to be left to any one whom the candidate might select or prefer (this is true of teaching as well). It is the duty of the pastors under whose oversight he is to provide.
This has direct implications on any non-baptized Christian. Even though you have been a Christian for a century – seek to be baptized properly (biblically) immediately as a believer. Then become a member of a Bible-preaching, believing and practising local church. You must delay no further in obedience, if you want to honour your Saviour and Lord. For, He has instructed us to baptize them in the Name of the Triune God. Pastors, you have a responsibility of baptizing those who believe properly.

[2] Paul Washer, Ten Indictments Against the Church
[3] Charles Simeon, Horae Homilecticae

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Letter to a Faithful Pastor

15th November 2015

Dear Pastor Thomas,

I write on behalf of Trinity Baptist Church Nairobi, to express heartfelt gratitude for your commitment and faithfulness in ministry of the gospel of Christ for half a century. Your labour of love as a pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church has been an evidence of God’s grace. Undoubtedly the Lord has walked with you brother. He has greatly and divinely enabled you to be His servant, His tool and a vessel of honour. This has not gone unnoticed even from the ‘overseas’. We thank God for you for you have been a gift to the church of Christ not just in the town of Aberystwyth, but also in the UK, in the US, in Russia, in Asia and in Africa. Many missionaries have been commissioned from APBC.

We would like you to know that you have been used of the Lord in being a channel of innumerable blessings for the people of God in this Kenya.  Primarily, this has been through the ministry of Keith Underhill, whom you commissioned forty years ago and have supported through thick and thin. Keith will himself say that were it not for your unqualified support, a few years back, he would not have been able to continue here in the midst of those fiery darts of the evil one. Moreover, you have also faithfully been visiting Kenya almost annually and teaching faithfully at our small seminary.

May the Lord, the God of hope, who called, graced and equipped you, be your hope, your joy, your all. That you may be assured of His obvious work in your life, upholding you for these many years and giving a crown and a glory in the people to whom you have ministered these years. Besides, He has made a wonderful promise of a crown for His faithful servants, He alone knows what He has in store for you.

May your sunset years with you wife Iola, be of more blessings to you and your hearers. We pray that the Lord will soon provide another man for APBC.

Grace to you & yours.

Murungi Igweta

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is your role in world missions?

You wonder, then, if there are specific men that the Lord God has graced, equipped and placed in the local churches, from where they are specifically sent out to be the heralds of the gospel, what is my role as ‘an ordinary Christian’ in the evangelization of the peoples? This is a very important question that should be so highly regarded for in it lies the hope of those unreached peoples to hear of the wonders of the grace of God in Christ, our Saviour. We do not need the so called 'radical Christians' - we need faithful believers. Those who take the Commission of Christ serious enough to move with the gospel, in His power and presence. When the Lord gave the Commission, there was no requirement to be radical, but to just to be  a faithful follower, a disciple.

To be a missional Christian, you ought to live a life of faith. Be fully engaged in the life of your church – devote yourself to those means of grace that the Lord has ordained.  The early church had men and women who devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Act 2:42-47.

You can only be missional if you are a faithful Christian in your local church. This understanding is most important at this time when everyone is being told to be a missionary. You don’t all have to go to the mission-field – there are those who have to go and will go because God has put it upon their hearts to go, and He has provided the means of sending them through His church. But the sending church has to remain functioning as a church! This means that there are those who will be left to be part of the sending church, who are crucial in the support of the work. We must resist the pressure from para-church organizations that put undue pressure on us all to abandon our churches to go on missions. Please remember that missions are not an end in itself – the purpose of missions is to plant churches. But churches are only to be planted by other churches - if they will be properly constituted churches.
Missions gather peoples, nations, tribes and languages into local churches, which exist to offer worship to God. In the words of John Piper, missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship exists in the local churches, because they gather, just as heavenly worship is of a gathered assembly. Therefore, faithfully gather with other people who have known God’s saving power and worship God – you were saved to glorify God. The church is the institution designed by God through which His manifold wisdom is displayed in the universe. And in all eternity, God will be magnified by His people whom He has graciously saved. What does this mean for you?

1.       Devote yourself to the Word of God – Be there to hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Listen to the Word preached and unite it with faith and then it will benefit you greatly. You realize that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart – it will powerfully work in you. Spiritual growth will occur where there is a healthy, consistent spiritual diet of the Word of God, which is the Bread of Life (1 Peter 2:2). The spiritual growth will enable you to be discerning - knowing the will of God, and the people that He has appointed for His work, even as you also serve. When you value the Word of God  by devoting yourself to it, even unbelieving relatives and friends could be forced see that it is such an important thing for you, and want to come to find out for themselves what is this that is so important to you. When they come, hopefully, they will be converted. You will be greater use to those in the mission field if you are more knowledgeable. It could be that through your knowledge of the Scriptures, you can be a better qualified support staff in the field, if the church deems it wise to send you as such.

2.       Devote yourself to fellowship – Christian fellowship is another means of building and edifying the saints. Iron sharpens iron, so saints sharpen each other, as they pray for one another, love, care and even admonish each other. There are those who by their fellowship have been led to believe that the Lord is sending them on missions. When such a person goes from this warm fellowship, he will be assured of a strong fellowship by which he can depend for prayers and support. It is where the fellowship bonds are close, and loving that missionaries are produced. This is both edifying and inspires confidence. It is where there is brotherly harmony and unity that the Lord commands a blessing. Where there is such a fellowship, brethren will be encouraged to share their resources for we have read, And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.

3.       Devote yourself to prayer – There is no question that this church was a praying church. They well understood that as a matter of priority the Lord desires and urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions for this is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God desires then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling. There is no doubt that God honours His word and blesses it's obedience. He listens to the prayers of His people whose desire for the salvation of sinners is the same as His own. Such prayers which are in accordance to the will of God are answered by God. The great apostle and missionary Paul, confessed, “You also must help us by prayer,  so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many (2 Cor.1:11). This means that you attend your church’s prayer meetings and pray earnestly both for the ministers and the sinners to be saved. Besides, you may form a special group to pray for missionaries. There is a lovely example of what was called, “the Haystack Meeting” that established a society called, “the Brethren” led by Samuel J. Mills and through which Adoniram Judson et al. were sent out from America to Burma by an association of churches.

4.       Give generously for the cause of the gospel – When we realize how much the Western Christians have invested for our evangelization, then we would be less attached to our money. A number of good Christians men who are consumed by the zeal to see sinners brought to Christ have said, “If you can’t go, then send someone.” To send someone means you work hard, in your job and give generously for the support of those men who have been sent out. It is not for nothing that you have so much salary, or resources. It is not for nothing that the Lord has given you the business acumen you have. The reason why you are doctor, the architect, engineer or lawyer is so that through these resources His cause may be furthered. But too many of you think that it is so that you may change from living in a one-bedroomed to a three bedroom, from Kibera to Kileleshwa, from a Toyota Corolla to Aston Martin. The reason that you have more is so that you can give more for the eternal cause of Christ – the giver. This should be done within the context of your church, lest you be defrauded and make the cause of the gospel to the unreached suffer. Paul devotes the book of Philippians to express his gratitude for their gifts – “… no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again… having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Phil. 15-18)

5.       Prioritize being a means of encouraging those who have gone out – Sometimes being in the mission field is very tempting and discouragements abound there. A call or a letter or an email from the brethren who hold the rope from outside the pit can be a means for lifting up the spirits of the downcast. Even Apostle Paul himself confessed, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” and again “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need… yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” (Phil. 4:12,14). Finally remember the missionaries are treasures in jars of clay, appointed by God to show the surpassing power that belongs to God so that you will be close to provide the encouragement that is necessary to be effective and useful in the mission-field. At TBC we have requested members to identify some of our church-plants and seek to gather as much information, maintain contact with these men and seek to encourage this work by enlisting the prayers of others. Plan to Visit these communities – There is no doubt that there are those who go to live among these unreached or least reached communities but there is a need for those who support to visit and see what actually happens there. You will be able to pray, give and encourage better if you can plan to visit and see for yourself. Do not be content to just read the reports from the missionaries or from those who visit, although we should provide such reports, yet everyone should consider going to see the opportunities and needs that exist. Take supportive responsibilities – You all have been endowed with many skills that can be absolutely necessary in the mission field. Use them to help those who go to be more effective in the gospel. Consider what you can do, and ask those in the mission field how these skills can be invested to farther the gospel cause. Why should the church buy an architectural plan when there are architects in the church? Or employ construction engineers when there are those in the church who can do it? Surely such who have such skills should employ their abilities, skills and strengths (even weakness) to make the gospel speed ahead. Some of you can make excellent translators – if you were trained. Consider all the supportive responsibilities that you can do, you can be a Sunday school teacher, a nurse, a mechanic, etc. so that the one who has been sent to be the mouthpiece of God is not distracted. The company of such men like Timothy, personal assistant and the Apostolic emissary; Dr. Luke the physician and chronicler, and Silas who was sent now and again, was so important for the success of Paul’s ministry. It is out of this desire to encourage missionary workers that Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) was formed to provide cheap air services.

Churches should send mature and tested Christians to the missions  fields. As the church continues in its ministry of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, people are not only trained to godliness (holy men are needed for missions) and are equipped as their gifts and abilities are identified in their churches. We must not think that only zeal is needed to go on missions - you need to be first of all qualified men (if you are not qualified to serve as a pastor of your current church, then you are not qualified to serve as a missionary!). There is no Biblical example of a woman sent out to be a missionary, because primarily the aim of missions is church-planting and women are not qualified, nor suited to be spiritual leaders of a church of Christ (see 1 Corinthians; 1 Timothy 2:11-14). The qualifications for elders are masculine (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)

Each one should faithfully play his Christian duty, pray, support and give such resources and encouragement that are useful for the effectiveness of the one in the mission field. The faithfulness of both the missionary and the sending church is what flourishes the gospel cause.

Anguish for kinsmen

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Rom 9:1-5.

This passage has intrigued me for a number of reasons:
1)      Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles is so keen and interested in His own blood kindred
2)      That Paul is himself willing to be ‘accursed and cut off from Christ’ for the sake of his brothers
3)      Paul takes strong vows to show how true this is – “…I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit…”
The reasons why this is particularly true of Paul with regard to the Israelites as an ethnic entity is because of the reasons he gave those eight things that are peculiar to them – to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all.
This also motivates me to think of my tribesmen – the Merus as a community. This is because more often than not in the Bible we see God pronouncing judgments upon the nations (or ethnic groups) than He pronounces upon individuals. There are things that I see happening in our nation or among other nations or communities and you would be blind to fail to the just retribution and judgment of God upon them as a community. Yet we know that the electing grace of God is directed at individuals, not nations.
The only time the Lord God identified a nation to bestow His grace, it was rejected nationally by the Israelites. They rejected the Law and the Christ who is the Saviour although He came from among them. Therefore, the Lord displayed the richness of His grace by unconditionally electing people from every nation, every tribe, every language. It is this multi-ethnic, international and multi-lingual community that will forever be assembled in heaven to offer unceasing worship to Him. The ingathering of peoples in missions is what is happening now. We all have a responsibility to pray that the Lord in His mercy may send men from local churches to proclaim the good news of His saving power by the means of His Son, who is the propitiation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world where the Lord is believed.
This understanding motivates my desire to see genuine Christian religion among the people of Meru. Although I minister outside the geographic Meru, yet I desire to see more and more people from this community brought to the saving knowledge of our Saviour, even Christ. I pray for them, for among them is my mother, my brothers and sisters and all other relatives the Lord has providentially given me. I desire to see them forgiven of their sins and brought to the lordship of Christ. I desire to see more and more Bible-saturated churches in the major towns in Meru, but also in every village so that Christ may be worshiped as God, and His gracious fragrance spread to the lives of these people.

Meru people believe that they migrated from the Congo Basin towards the east coast of East Africa and then approached and settled to the east of Mount Kenya. The name Meru refers to both the people and the geographic location. Merus are primarily agrarian, raising a few domestic animals. The Meru tribe is a fairly homogeneous group composed of nine sub-tribes, each of which speaks its own dialect of the Kimeru language.
The oral tradition has it that they were once enslaved by the Nguu Ntune "red clothed people". They eventually escaped and, in their exodus, came across a large body of water called Mbwaa, which they crossed by magical means (reminiscent of the crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews from the Egyptian bondage). They later followed a route that took them to the coast of the Indian Ocean. They stayed there for some time, however, due to poor climatic conditions and threats from the Arabs, they were forced to travel further north west through the Tana river basin, until they finally reached the Mount Kenya area where they reside today.
They are to the East of Mount Kenya, what used to be Eastern Province. The Ameru people comprise nine sub-tribes (these are also the different dialects of the Kimeru language): the Igoji, Imenti, Tigania, Mitine, Igembe, Mwimbi, Muthambi, Chuka and Tharaka.  The Meru community spreads out into two counties - Meru and Tharaka-Nithi Counties with 11 constituencies.
Culturally, the Ameru believed in an ancestral god called Murungu or Ngai. There was deep reverence for the spirit of the living dead. The divine leader of the Ameru was called the Mugwe. These were respected persons who made sacrifices and performed healing on behalf of the tribe.
They highly regarded the two huge high grounds - Kirimara (Mt. Kenya) and so would pray facing to the west towards this mountain where they believed their god, Ngai wa Kirimara lived whom they called Mweneinya (the almighty). From him they believed rains and all good things came. They also believed a lesser god lived in Nyambene ridges (Ngai wa Nyambene) and would also face these high grounds. During the severe climatic conditions such as drought and consequent famine, they would offer animal sacrifices (unblemished lambs or goats) to appease the gods. They strongly believed in the ancestral spirits and would pour libation on the ground to please them before taking their meals as a way of appreciating the provision.
Other interesting religious activity was the believe in curses (and blessings) incurred through ancestors or parents or through the famous Council of Elders called Njuri Nceke. This council was primarily there to punish the evil doers and mete justice. It functioned like the parliament and would make laws that governed various matters such land, marriage, succession, etc.

Although there is a lot of Christian activities by these denominations and the community is described as having 97% Christianity, there is barely evangelical and Biblical Christianity. Very few churches are teaching the doctrines of the Bible, as the inspired, authoritative and infallible Word of God. Rather, there is a lot of hypocrisy and syncretism with the traditional religions and the word of faith teachings which emphasis extra-biblical revelations which are more often than not subjective and misleading. Many purport to be 'prophets' and 'apostles' and so infallible. This has led to a lot of confusion.

Prayer needs
That the Lord may be pleased to:
1)      send a genuine spiritual awakening through Biblical means of grace,
2)      raise many faithful preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
3)      more healthy churches to be planted,
4)      eradication of such traditions and rituals that are anti-Christian (Njuri, Giachiaro, all forms of idolatry, animal sacrifices to appease the gods etc.),
5)      church leaders to concentrate on church work rather than politics,

6)      Christians to live godly lives that adorn the gospel of Christ.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Benefits of Sickness

(a) Sickness helps to remind men of death. The most live as if they were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics, or science, as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for the future, like the rich fool in the parable, as if they had a long lease of life, and were not tenants at will. A heavy illness sometimes goes far to dispel these delusions. It awakens men from their day –dreams, and reminds them that they have to die as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good.
(b) Sickness helps to make men think seriously of God, and their souls, and the world to come. The most in their days of health can find no time for such thoughts. They dislike them. They put them away. They count them troublesome and disagreeable. Now a severe disease has sometimes a wonderful power of mustering and rallying these thoughts, and bringing them up before the eyes of a man’s soul. Even a wicked king like Benhadad, when sick, could think of Elisha (2 Kings 8:8.) Even heathen sailors, when death was in sight, were afraid, and "cried every man to his god." (Jonah 1:5.) Surely anything that helps to make men think is a good.
(C) Sickness helps to soften men's hearts, and teach them wisdom. The natural heart is as hard as a stone. It can see no good in anything which is not of this life, and no happiness excepting in this world. A long illness sometimes goes far to correct these ideas. It exposes the emptiness and hollowness of what the world calls "good" things, and teaches us to hold them with a loose hand. The man of business finds that money alone is not everything the heart requires. The woman of the world finds that costly apparel, and novel-reading, and the reports of balls and operas, are miserable comforters in a sick room. Surely anything that obliges us to alter our weights and measures of earthly things is a real good.
(d) Sickness helps to level and humble us. We are all naturally proud and high–minded. Few, even of the poorest, are free from the infection. Few are to be found who do not look down on somebody else, and secretly flatter themselves that they are "not as other men." A sick bed is a mighty tamer of such thoughts as these. It forces on us the mighty truth that we are all poor worms, that we "dwell in houses of clay," and are "crushed before the moth." (Job 4:19), and that kings and subjects, masters and servants, rich and poor, are all dying creatures, and will soon stand side by side at the bar of God. In the sight of the coffin and the grave it is not easy to be proud. Surely anything that teaches that lesson is good.
(e) Finally, sickness helps to try men’s religion, of what sort it is. There are not many on earth who have no religion at all. Yet few have a religion that will bear inspection. Most are content with traditions received from their fathers, and can render no reason of the hope that is in them. Now disease is sometimes most useful to a man in exposing the utter worthlessness of his soul’s foundation. It often shows him that he has nothing solid under his feet, and nothing firm under his hand. It makes him find out that, although he may have had a form of religion, he has been all his life worshipping "an unknown God." Many a creed looks well on the smooth waters of health, which turns out utterly unsound and useless on the rough waves of the sick bed. The storms of winter often bring out the defects in a man’s dwelling, and sickness often exposes the gracelessness of a man’s soul. Surely anything that makes us find out the real character of our faith is a good.
J.C. Ryle