What Are You Reading? 26-02-2018

  • 9 Things You Should Know About Billy Graham (1918–2018): Graham has preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories.
  • Why do Churches cover up sin?: This is a very thoughtful article on why sometimes churches cover up complaints about individuals in the church. Complaints that are sometimes criminal in nature including sexual abuse etc. I hope that more people in church leadership think through these issues.
  • The Missing Word in Our Modern GospelBut let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation. They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside. They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are…There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel. It’s the word repent.
  • The Sinfulness of Cinderella ThinkingSin is not just the bad that you do but the good that you do not do. ‘Not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy’ is considered sin by God just like arrogance and homosexuality.
  • The Black Panther as Afrofuturist Womanist Vision: I confess, I’m a huge comic book fan. I also find any article by Thabiti Anyabwile to be very thought provoking and challenging. His writings on race are simply brilliant. So when I saw that he had written an article on Black Panther, I had to add it. This is quite a deep take on womanhood.

The Sinfulness of Cinderella Thinking

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
(Ezekiel 16:49, NIV)

Finish school, get a well-paying job, marry and have kids, take care of my family and live happily ever after!
The ‘Cinderella’ Mindset

Is the ‘Cinderella’ Mindset the mindset you have? Is this how you think – more or less? Is this your ambition in life – more or less? Well, you should re-consider if pleasing God is something you care about. It’s good to aim to provide a good life for yourself and family but this is not the extent of your responsibility as far as God is concerned.

Consider the following statement God made in Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV): “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”; they did not help the poor and needy. When we think about the sin of Sodom we think about homosexuality. Yes, that is certainly a sin that existed in Sodom but over here we see God saying that their sin was that there were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. God judged them for being unconcerned about the poor! Sin is not just the bad that you do but the good that you do not do. ‘Not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy’ is considered sin by God just like arrogance and homosexuality.

Taking care of your family is a fine aspiration indeed but find somewhere in your life’s aspiration to include ‘strengthening the hand of the poor and needy’ otherwise you will be living a sinful life. In the same way that you work hard for a good future for yourself and your family, you should work hard to also help the poor. The world doesn’t judge people for not helping the poor. If you steal, you will be arrested but if you are unconcerned about the poor, no one will arrest you. It is not against human laws to be unconcerned about the poor. However, it is against God’s laws. Don’t plan your life the way that the world does. Don’t think only about yourself and your family. Make room in your life for helping the poor!

What Are You Reading? 19-02-2018

  • 5 Ways Pastors Can Prepare Their Churches for SufferingPastors, keep preaching expositionally. Pastors, don’t forget to preach the Old Testament. Pastors, make the church a safe place to open up about pain. Pastors, talk about heaven a lot. Pastors, build a culture of care—starting now.
  • I Learned It the Hard Way: Our Best Life Is Later: …the apostle spends ample time encouraging this full-orbed hope in the congregations he loved and prayed for (e.g., Rom. 8; Col. 1:21–27; 1 Thess. 4:17–18). Without hope we live aimlessly (Eph. 2:12), lacking God’s provision for living in this world and the next. Without hope, we give way to sin and despair. But a living hope subdues the flesh, animates desire for Christ, calms the heart, steadies the resolve, and gives strengthen amid weakness and opposition (1 Pet. 1:3–9). Hope reminds us that present circumstances—however difficult—are not the end (Rom. 8:18, 28). Life in Christ is.
  • How Does ‘Willful Sinning’ Threaten My Salvation? Answering the question 1. Do these verses ( Hebrews 10:26–29) teach that we can lose our salvation? 2. What does Hebrews 10:26 mean by referring to “sinning deliberately” or “willingly,” since in one sense all sin is an act of the will and thus deliberate?
  • New Planter Spotlight: Musa Ntinga: Musa is a friend of mine who is heading a church plant in Soweto, South Africa. It is always encouraging to read about people who are committed to faithfully preaching the Gospel. “We named our plant Christ Central Soweto because we want to see Christ at the center of everything we do and to tell Soweto that he is enough, as the saying goes “Christ + nothing = everything ”. As a launch team we are young and so feel specially placed to reach out to young adults and young families of Soweto with this simple moto: KNOW CHRIST – LOVE EACH OTHER – REACH SOWETO.”
  • Don’t Just Preach!Sister, they must not just hear your preaching, they must see your good deeds! Brother, it is not just about quoting scriptures, let them see your good deeds! Pray that God will give you true compassion that cares not only about the soul of people but about their material well-being and practically helps them out.

Don’t Just Preach!

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” – Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

 

Some christians think they are more spiritual than Jesus! When you talk to them about helping the poor materially, they tell you things like it is the soul that matters! Such people are always eager to go out and preach to the lost but have no interest whatsoever when it comes to providing practical assistance to the needy in society. Jesus spent days teaching the people the word of God. He was concerned about their soul but he was also concerned about whether they had food to eat. That is true compassion. That’s the example Jesus set for us. We must be concerned not just about the spiritual state of people but their material state as well! You are not more spiritual than Jesus! If Jesus cared about whether or not people had eaten, so should you!

When I think of such people, I remember the priest and levite who saw the man who had been beaten by robbers and passed by on the other side. (See Luke 10:25-37) Such people readily preach or sing in church they will readily provide practical help to a needy person! Such people are not following the example of Jesus Christ! Jesus gave practical help to the people in addition to preaching to them.

Another important point is this. We can only reach so many with words and Bible quotes. We must demonstrate the Spirit through whom we are preaching! The fruit of the Spirit is love. How can we expect people to believe a gospel in which our Lord laid down his life for humanity when we – the advocates – will not lay down anything for humanity. God is good, caring and compassionate: we must not just tell it; we must show it! As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 (NIV): “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Sister, they must not just hear your preaching, they must see your good deeds! Brother, it is not just about quoting scriptures, let them see your good deeds! Pray that God will give you true compassion that cares not only about the soul of people but about their material well-being and practically helps them out.

What Are You Reading? 12-02-2018

  • When Not to Believe an Angel:The truth that underlies Galatians 1:6–10 is that there is only one gospel. Growing up out of this truth are three statements which are very crucial for us to hear and believe, because nothing has happened to change them between Paul’s day and ours…
  • The Rise of a Parallel, Post-Biblical Christianity: I had the pleasure of sitting under the headship of Grant Retief for a few years. He is faithful minister of the gospel and passionate teaching the next generation of Bible teachers. In this article he gives an analysis of Christianity in South Africa. I think a lot of parallels can be made with Ghana. He says this about what churches are beginning to look like: “In short … these churches offer motivational talks, not biblical sermons; proof-texts, not biblical theology; applications of the gospel, not the gospel; moral improvement, not conversion; calls to social justice and giving, not evangelism; status in the community, not accountability-affording membership; flattery, not discipline; lessons in getting busy, not discipleship; professionalism, not leadership. All this produces nice people instead of godly people. They don’t come to read, mark, and learn the Scriptures, they come to learn self-help. They don’t encounter God in his Word, they encounter themselves. The Bible is seldom more than a stage prop, and atmosphere takes the place of a real redeemed community, grappling with the loving and wounding word of God.
  • Avoiding Pride in a World of Selfie Sticks and Social Media Platforms: “God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with. He gave us a self, not to be the object of our joy, but the subject of joy. That is, not to be the focus of happiness in front of the mirror or the selfie, but the furnace of happiness in front of Jesus…”
  • You are the Salt of the Earth: “We affect the world just as salt affects whatever it’s put into. If the world is too tasteless then it is because too many of us have lost our saltiness”

You are the Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” – Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

Jesus’s reference to His disciples as the salt of the earth reveals some very important truths about making change in this world. First, who we are and what we do matters. It is not inevitable that the world must be tasteless. We can make a difference! We can make the world better! We may not be able to make it perfect; but we can certainly make it better. We affect the world just as salt affects whatever it’s put into. If the world is too tasteless then it is because too many of us have lost our saltiness.

Secondly, it shows us that a small group with enough people can make a difference. ‘Small’ and ‘enough’ may appear as contradictory descriptions but on further contemplation, the meaning becomes clear. A tablespoon of salt cannot affect a barrel of soup much. At the same time, one does not need a barrel of salt to affect a barrel of soup. To make change, we need what I call a critical mass. This is a very encouraging thought. We don’t need everyone to care deeply about making the world better; we need only enough people. Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thirdly, that Jesus refers to Christians as the salt of the earth, begs what kind of christians most of us are. If being christian is being salt of the earth, how is it that there are billions of people who claim to be christians and yet there are children in the world without food to eat? If there are truly more than 1 billion “salt” in a world with about 7 billion people, shouldn’t the world be more tasteful than it is? Pray that God will help you to be truly salt of the earth!

Test the spirits

 

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“1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

This verse assumes that not all who claim to speak from God are actually from God. It is clear from the passage that not only do false prophets exist, but they are actively in the world trying to deceive the elect. The question then is how do we know if a prophet is genuine. We are told three things about them:

They do not believe in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ (v2-3)

“2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

The key point in this passage is that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God”. This calls back to what is said in the first chapter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…” This is central to the message of the gospel. God became man. Those who don’t believe and confess this truth are not from God.

They are popular in the world because they have the same message as the world (v4-5)

“4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.”

Christians ultimately overcome the deception of world and its agents because we have Christ. We hear the voice of the Shepherd and can distinguish it from the sweet seductive voices of the wolves of this world. We are able to do this because “because (we) are strong, and the word of God abides in (us), and (we) have overcome the evil one ” – 1 John 2:14. In recent times a lot of worldly principles have sneaked into christian doctrine. We sometimes celebrate greed and selfishness in the name of blessing and empowerment and in so doing we neglect the material and spiritual needs of those who struggle in our midst. We need to go back and continually feed on God’s Word so that we are strengthened to overcome. The best way to recognize what is counterfeit is increased familiarity with the authentic Word of God.

They do not listen to authentic gospel as preached by the Apostles (v6)

“6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

The “we” here I think refers to the combined witness of the Apostles and those to whom they are writing (and by extension all christians). It seems like a callback to Chapter 1: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”. We have fellowship with God because we listened and believed the witness of the Apostles. We in turn proclaim that gospel and whoever does not agree with that witness, that Jesus Christ our Lord left his throne in heaven to die for our sins so we can have life eternal, shows themselves to be false.

There are many different gospels being preached. There are many different people who all claim to be sent from God. But not all who claim to speak from God are actually from God. Let us draw near to God’s Word and test that what we hear is in line with Scripture.

What Are You Reading? 05-02-2018

  • Pray Shorter Prayers“When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7–8)…
  • Do You Love the Church?The Apostle Paul explains the doctrine of the church so that we might understand what God has done and so that we may understand who we are. And in calling us to understand who we are and what we’re called to do, Paul says that we’re the church. We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church…
  • What Makes a Good Sermon? Five Questions to AskIs God’s Word the most important part of this sermon? Do you leave understanding the main point of the text? Did the preacher preach Jesus? Did the preacher apply the sermon to my life?Does he speak as one who knows God or knows about God?…
  • Jackie Hill Perry on Why God Gives Artists to the ChurchJackie Hill Perry—speaker and hip-hop artist—discusses why God gives artistic talents to members of his church…

My Worth Is Not in What I Own

This husband and wife duo write the best modern hymns. Their songs are not only beautiful to listen to but rich in content as well. There is really a lot of gospel in their music.

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Written by:
By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
© 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music

The Art of Listening

There are several elements that make a band sound great. One of those elements is the ability of the individuals in the band to listen to each other. Paying attention to what each person is playing and supporting the lead instrument so that the band sounds like a cohesive unit . No matter how brilliant the individual musicians are, if they don’t listen to each other the overall sound can be cluttered.

Bass virtuoso Victor Wooten uses this analogy to describe playing as a band. He says it is like having a conversation. When you are having a conversation with a group of people, not everyone talks at the same time. Someone is always leading the conversation and everyone else listens. They might nod and say a few things in agreement with what the lead is saying but that is only to support the lead. When everyone starts talking at the same time it becomes noisy and cluttered.

In this live performance of the track “Monterey” from the smooth jazz band Fourplay, Nathan East (bassist), Lee Ritenour (lead guitarist) and Bob James (pianist) play some of the most inspired improvisations I have heard:

The interplay between the three of them is simply brilliant and the way their solos blend with each other can only be that smooth because they are listening and supporting each other the entire time. And they are also able to express themselves fully because drummer, Harvey Mason, has built a solid support structure to keep the entire band going. He builds up and slows down, plays quieter or louder all depending on what the other instrumentalists are doing.

 

The same thing applies when the lead instrumentalist is the vocalist. Sometimes, we as instrumentalists, can get so carried away with what we are playing that we compete for space with the singers. Instead of supporting the vocalists and giving them space to be heard we overshadow and drown them out. In gospel music, words are very important. It is from the content of what is being sung that people can actually hear the gospel. We can aid in that process or hinder it, depending on how well we support one another musically in the band.

 

This is Keith and Kristyn Getty performing their song “In Christ Alone”. Notice how the piano and the vocals work together. The pianist supports the vocalist so that we can truly appreciate the words of this great song.

So next time you are playing in a band, it will be helpful to ask yourself a few questions:

What are the other members of the band playing?
Is what you are playing blending in with what they are playing?
Is the band creating space that allows the congregation to actually hear what is being said in the songs?
Is it possible for you to play less in order that the entire band sounds better?

What Are You Reading? 29-01-2018

  1. Public Faith: How to Share the Hope You Have in Christ: We remember what it is like not to believe, and we do not expect people to believe simply by being told what is true. People want to know why
  2. Why Young Christians Need Old Books: At times, the church can be guilty of thinking that young Christians need something new. A new app, new Bible translation, new style, or new truth for modern times. But what young Christians need is tremendously and radically old. We need faithful wisdom from ages past. Instead of newer, cooler, faster, edgier, we need simple, beautiful gospel. Growing young Christians need mature old Christians to help guide, curb, and correct…
  3. 5 Lies Christians Tell About Money: Money is an important part of our lives, so it’s important that we clearly grasp what the Bible teaches about it. Take time to study the Scriptures for yourself and see how they apply to your situation … Above all, strive to be a faithful steward of all that your King has entrusted to you…
  4. How Christian Is Self-Improvement? You might go running to your Bible looking for “self-improvement” verses. You will be hard pressed to find any command (or even license) to pursue your own growth and maturity in a way that does not directly and immediately affect other people. Instead of self-care, you will find self-control and self-denial. The Christianity we find in Scripture is not about self-improvement; it’s self-abandonment. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” …