Christianity and Society

Should I Continue to Use Resources by Ravi Zacharias?

Ravi Zacharias’ ministry has had great impact among many young people in Malawi. Ravi Zacharias has been a household name among many Christian students on various college campuses in our country. In the light of the depressing and shocking revelations of last week about Ravi’s secret sin, some of these young people are wrestling with the question of what to do with Ravi’s books, CDS, DVDs and other resources.  Do they continue using them? This is one of the common questions I have been asked as a pastor. Here are my thoughts:

First, as one of the gifted African theologians St. Augustine observed, all truth is God’s truth. The truth that Ravi proclaimed was not his own but God’s (Psalm 119:160). This even applies to the truth that is conveyed to us by unbelievers, it is still God’s truth. “A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord wherever it is found. Gathering it and acknowledging it even in pagan literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding those who ‘Though they know God did not glorify him as God’” (St. Augustine).

Second, God’s truth often if not always comes to us through weaker and sinful vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). Of course, some of these vessels that God has used have committed more grievous or heinous sins than others. Some have truly repented while others have not. But there is no one who has not sinned (Rom. 3:23). I can guarantee that there is no single resource that we are going to read or use out there that was not written or prepared by sinful hands or minds this blog post included. Now this is not to excuse sin or downplay the impact of Ravi’s sin upon those he abused, the Church and her witness in the world neither am I implying that everyone should use his resources regardless of the sin, however, I seek to assist us consider that while all truth is God’s truth it often if not always comes to us through sinful agents.

Third, conscience. Will your conscience be at ease to read, listen or use Ravi’s resources? Some might not have any problem while others will never stomach the idea of even touching any of his resources. I am particularly thinking of victims or survivors of sexual abuse. Most of them could find Ravi’s ministry not edifying any more. So, follow your conscience on this one. You are not obligated to use Ravi’s resources. Praise the Lord that he has many vessels out there that he can use to help you grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Christ.

Lastly, a humble suggestion to my fellow preachers and teachers of the word of God. I think discretion should be exercised if we would cite or use Ravi’s resources in our sermons or teachings. I have always appreciated the advice that one of my preaching professors in seminary gave us. He said that when quoting someone in your sermon who might bring out mixed feelings from your audience, it’s often wise not to mention them by name and instead say something like “As one preacher or writer said…” That way you acknowledge that this is not your own material but also at the same time you avoid unnecessary distractions that could come with the mentioning of the actual name of the source. I think as it stands now if one quotes Ravi in his sermon or talk someone in the audience could just hang up on the name. Their train of thought could go something like: “Did you just quote Ravi who did this or that?” and in the process the speaker could lose the attention of that person.  

The revelations about Ravi’s hidden life are disheartening but should not be very surprising. As JC Ryle once observed “The best of men are men at best.” We always err if we place our confidence on the arm of flesh which will always fail (Jer. 17:5). As one of my dear friends and pastor has noted, “We are reminded once again that no pastor, no teacher, no orator, no author, nor theologian—no matter how gifted—can be our hope; they are all fallen and will disappoint. Our hope is bound up with the one perfect Godman; He will never disappoint” (Jason Helopolous).

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It’s My Father’s World

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

One of the doctrines that comfort believers in their daily walk with Christ is the doctrine of God’s providence. The doctrine teaches that God is in control of all things both in heaven and on earth. Even when things are not going on well or they seem scary in our human eyes, God is working all things for the good of his children in Christ.

This is our comfort even now as the world is battling against COVID -19 which has hit our country very hard. We can remain calm and hopeful in these difficult times not because we are the proverbial ostrich that hides its head in the sand but because we know that our God is good and in control.

A story is told of a boy on board a ship. Violent storms raged against the ship but he remained calm. One of the passengers was amazed by his serenity and asked him if he was not scared of the storm. The boy replied, “My father is the captain.”

Dear Christian, our Father is the Captain of the whole world. He is not only the all-powerful captain but also good, most gracious, and most merciful Captain. Not a single hair from your head will fall to the ground apart from his will. If God pays attention to a tiny little hair which you hardly even notice when it falls to the ground what more with your life and that of your loved ones? The hymn writer put it well:

This is my Father’s World

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the Ruler yet.

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Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary

What tough times we are living in! This is how my mind has summarized today.

You see, I woke up early this morning only to realize that electricity has gone off. Determined not to give in to despair I went out to exercise. I was looking forward to a warm shower after the exercise only to discover that the taps were dry. No water! Still determined to be more positive I get ready for the day.

Later in the morning I meet one member of our church. His wife had been in labor for the past two days and just yesterday gave birth to a baby boy. Praise the Lord!  But as I meet this brother, I learn that he has not yet met his son. Actually, that’s just half of the story. This brother was not able to be with his wife when she went into labor at the hospital. He was not even there when the wife was giving birth. Reason? COVID-19 restrictions at the hospital. The hospital would not let him go and see his wife as they are trying to protect the wife and other patients from the virus. Can you imagine the agony?

Soon after this meeting I proceed to deliver food items to another family in our church that is in self-quarantine after getting in contact with a COVID-19 patient a few days ago. I bring the food items at the gate and call the husband on my phone to let him know that I am there. But wait a minute! I can’t get close to him and his family. So, he just comes out, stands at a distance as if one of us is a leper of Biblical times, and briefly greets and thanks me for the items. I head to my car to get back to office.  At this time my pastoral heart is bleeding. This can’t be!

Later I get home. My girls are always excited when they hear dad’s car driving in. They come running to hug daddy. But as I jump out of the car my brain sends out a quick reminder, “Remember you can’t hug them.” So sadly, I hear myself saying, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t hug you now I am just coming from outside and who knows what is sticking to my clothes and myself.”

By this time I can’t pretend and put up a brave face any more. These are tough times we are living in.

 As I reflect on the events of the day, a song we used to sing in Bible college softly echoes in my mind:

Days are filled with sorrow and care
Hearts are lonely and drear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near

Troubled soul, the Savior can see
Every heartache and tear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near

These lyrics take me to two places: The Garden and the Cross. You see the main thing to remember in these difficult times is not really the virus. It is what happened in Garden of Eden about six thousand years ago and what occurred on the mountain of Golgotha about four thousand years later.

In the garden our parents disobeyed and rebelled against God by eating the fruit they were commanded not to. With that they plunged the whole human race into sin and misery. COVID-19 is just one of the consequences of that “cosmic treason” as R.C Sproul would have put it. The broken systems of our electricity and water providers are just one of the consequences of man’s fall from grace in the garden.  That single act of disobedience “made all of us liable to all miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

But praise the Lord that the garden is not the end of the story. Four thousand years later, God’s Son was hanged onto the cross to reverse “the damage” that our parents caused to humanity. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, nailed sin and death to the cross. As the last breath was about to leave his lungs he cried out: “It is finished!”

It is in these three words that our hope and comfort must lie. Yes COVID-19 might take our loved ones or even ourselves home. Yes COVID-19 will deny us some things we enjoy with our children like giving each other tender hugs. Yes COVID-19 has denied my friend the joy of seeing his first-born son come into the world. Yes COVID 19 has disturbed our normal relationship and routines but one thing we know for certain: “It is Finished!”

For us in Christ the momentary afflictions of this world are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17-18). One day sooner or later the Lord will wipe our tears and take away all our sorrows forever (Rev. 21:4). COVID-19 might kill the body but Christ has overcome it (John 16:33). After we have suffered a little while the God of all grace who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:10).   Therefore, let’s bring all our burdens onto the cross that the Savior might lift them away. Let’s cast all our cares unto Christ for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Our burdens might be heavy but Christ’s arms are stronger and his grace is ever sufficient.  

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A Prayer For Malawi and the Fresh Presidential Elections

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Our Heavenly Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Great I AM who does not change;
Who keeps every promise and does not forsake the work of his hands.
You are the Great King of the universe.
You alone change times and seasons
You alone raise up kings and bring down kings
You alone is the true God
And the universe is filled with your glory and majesty

Father, we thank you for our nation of Malawi.
We thank you for blessing us with peace and freedoms we enjoy
The freedom to worship you and preach the gospel
The freedom to choose our own leaders
We thank you for our people and their hard-working spirit
We thank you for our beautiful country
As we sing in our national anthem, thank you for
“Our own Malawi, this land so fair,
Fertile and brave and free.
With its lakes, refreshing mountain air,
How greatly blest are we.
Hills and valleys, soil so rich and rare.”

As we approach your throne of grace and holiness
We are reminded that we are sinners in need of your forgiveness
So we confess our sins before you
Lord, forgive us for not loving you with all our hearts
For worshipping the idols of this world rather than you
Please also forgive us for not loving our neighbors as ourselves
And committing the sins of tribalism, regionalism, and favoritism
May you forgive us for being unkind to one another
As one politician once observed, forgive us for
“Often judging those we disagree with, whether politically or otherwise,
By their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
For exaggerating their weaknesses while minimizing ours
May you forgive us for slander, spreading lies, and unkind words
Forgive us, Lord, for justifying our hatred for those we disagree with
By claiming that it is righteous anger
Forgive us for harboring bitterness and refusing to forgive
Forgive us for abusing our positions and authority for selfish gain and ambition
Forgive us for corruption that is so rampant in many levels of our society
Forgive us for dishonest gains, theft, cheating, and disregard for the law
Forgive us for sexual immorality and ungodliness in our nation
Lord, our sins are many
And you are justified to condemn us
Only you and against you have we sinned
So we pray for your mercy and grace.
We thank you that with you is forgiveness that you may be feared
Cast us not away from your presence but may you do good to Malawi
We are thankful for Jesus Christ the perfect sacrifice for all our sins.

Father, as we look forward to June 23, 2020 with great anticipation
To cast votes in the Fresh Presidential Elections,
We pray for those entrusted with responsibility of managing them
We pray for all the commissioners of Malawi Electoral Commission,
All the staff, all security agents, and all political party monitors
May you give them the courage to stand up for what is right and just
May they undertake their work without fear or favor
We pray for your wisdom and guidance for voters
As you have created us in your image, we all long for a country marked by
Justice, unity, freedom, order, and opportunities for all
A nation where law-breakers are punished and the “innocent” are protected
We desire a nation that is less corrupt and more prosperous
So we pray that you please give us a president and a vice
Who will help us achieve our aspirations as a nation
As you blessed your people long ago with good and godly leaders
Like Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah and others
We also pray that may you grant us upright leaders today
Yet, Lord, help us to remember that no single human being
Can grant what only you is able to give
Hence we pray that help us not to put our trust in princes
In a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Father, we also pray that when the elections are over,
Malawi will continue to be peaceful and stable
We pray that the winners will celebrate with modesty and grace
The losers will lose with dignity
And honor the will of Malawians expressed through the ballot

Heavenly Father, as we look at Malawi right now,
We realize that our problem lies deeper than politics and leadership
Because we all like sheep have gone astray
Each one of us has turned to his own way
We have fallen short of your glory and no one is righteous – not even one
So we pray for godly sorrow over our sins that will lead to true repentance
Father, bring Malawi to yourself through your Son by the power of your Holy Spirit
That times of refreshing may come upon us
Father, may you also revive and awaken your Church from our spiritual slumber
May there be a great awakening and reformation in your Church
That we may be the true light and salt of Malawi
In Jesus’ name we pray:
Amen!

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Christianity and theology

Three Things That COVID 19 Reminds Us About God and Life

Coronavirus has almost brought the world to a halt. Boarders and airports have shut down; schools and businesses have also closed down. There is fear and panic in many parts of the world and Malawi is no exception. Now how should we react or think of this disease which the World Health Organization has just declared a pandemic? I would like to point out three things that coronavirus should remind us of:

1. THE IMPACT OF SIN UPON CREATION
The impact of the fall (sin) upon creation is real. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned against God their sin had far more reaching effects than we often like to think. Death, diseases, germs (including coronavirus), and suffering are some of the consequences of the fall. We praise the Lord for man’s creativity and the strides that have been made in science, medicine, and technology. However, these advances can never erase the effects of the fall upon creation. Only Jesus Christ can. This is why Apostle Paul tells us that creation is groaning and waiting for its redemption in Christ (Romans 8:18-25). Indeed, a day is coming when Christ will usher in a new creation that will never be affected by sin, death, coronavirus, or any evil (Revelation 21:1-5).

2. THE BREVITY OF LIFE
Coronavirus should remind us how short our days are here on earth. Within a short period of time the virus has spread across the globe and claimed close to eight thousand lives. It is possible that it will claim more. When this year was beginning no one in Malawi ever imagined that three months down the line we would find ourselves preparing against the virus. By then it was only in Wuhan, China. Many thought it will end there. But now it threatens to claim your life and my life. The brevity of life should cause us to always be ready to meet our maker and judge. The psalmist was very insightful when he observed: “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am. Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths…Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath” (Psalm 39:4-6).

3. THE NEED TO TRUST GOD
But all is not dark and bleak. Jesus Christ calls us not to despair. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also,” (John 14:1-3).

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. But you might ask: how can I be calm in the midst of a pandemic that is killing thousands? Jesus tells us how: by BELIEVING in God which also means believing in Christ for Christ is God.

• BELIEVE that Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for you, dear Christian. He fully knows what sin has done to this world. He doesn’t want us to live in this fallen world forever so he is preparing us a glorious home.

•. BELIEVE that Jesus is coming again to take you home where there is no coronavirus.

Although not mentioned in John 14:1, somewhere the Bible adds:

•. BELIEVE that Jesus Christ has overcome death. Corona virus can only kill the body but it can never separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. In fact, even though a Christian might die of the virus he/she shall still live (John 11:25).

•. BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father praying for you (Romans 8:34) and nothing will happen to you without him sanctioning it. He is able to keep you and your loved ones safe through the pandemic.

•. BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords who is in control of all the affairs of the world (Colossians 1:16-17). Even the coronavirus is his virus, and he is making it work for the good of his people (Romans 8:28).

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Christianity and theology

It is Finished: What Christ Accomplished for Us on the Cross

On a Friday like this one about 2000 years ago, Christ was hanged on the cross at about 9 O’clock in the morning (Mark 15:25). From noon to about 3pm, darkness engulfed the land and Christ bore the wrath of God on behalf of his people (Luke 23:44). Theologians call this penal substitution of vicarious atonement. As he who knew no sin became sin for us on that old rugged cross (2 Cor. 5:21), for first time in his life, he experienced a broken fellowship between him and his Father. As one hymn writer once put it, “the Father turned his face away.” And for first time in his life the Son could not call God the Father, “my Father.” The sense of abandonment was so huge that the Son cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Here one of the Christian Creeds, the Apostles creed, summarizes very well what Christ went through and calls it, hell- “He descended into hell.” It was hell that Christ suffered the last three hours of his life. Of course all his earthly life was marked by suffering but this was the climax of it all. And it was all for our sake. What amazing love! “Love so amazing so divine demands my life, my soul, my all.”

Then after paying the full penalty and drinking the cup of suffering to the final dregs and knowing that all was now finished, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” It is done! Then he voluntarily gave up his life (for no one could take it from him) and said, “Father in your hand I commit my Spirit.” (Luke 23:46). These were the very last words of Christ on the cross!

That phrase, “It is finished,” is very powerful and means everything for every person who is in Christ.

  1.  It is finished: Expiation is done: By that we mean that Christ has taken away the guilt of our sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
  2. It is finished: Propitiation is done: By that we mean that Christ has fully appeased God’s wrath; therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 3:25-26; 8:1))
  3. It is finished: Reconciliation is done: By that we mean we have been reconciled to God and God has removed the enmity that existed between us and him (Col. 1:19-20; Romans 5:10-11).
  4. It is finished: Redemption is done: By that we mean Christ has paid his own life as a ransom to redeem us from the bondage of sin (1 Peter 1:18-19).
    5. It is finished: Conquest is done: By that we mean that Christ has conquered sin, Satan and death (Col. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15)

Friends, this is why the cross is everything for a Christian. This is why we ought to always preach Christ and him crucified.

God’s blessings in Christ as you meditate on what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.

 

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Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – Q & A 1

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question one asks: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

The catechism here asks a very important question which I believe every person has considered at some point. Why are we here in this world? Why did God create you and me? The catechism gives two main reasons: first we were created to glorify God and second to enjoy him forever. Let me briefly expound on these two points.

In simpler terms, to glorify God means that we were created to live our lives for God and God alone. Whatever we do in this world we should do it to bring honor and praise to God. This is why Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” Even in very small details of this life like drinking a glass of water or a cup of tea or coffee we are to do it with the purpose of glorifying God.

As we seek to glorify God we in turn enjoy being creatures of God in this world as one of the great African theologians, St. Augustine of Hippo also noted,  “O God you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

I know that the word “enjoy” can sometimes be used sinfully.  However, here the catechism has in mind the real joy that comes as a result of a good relationship with God as we read in Psalm 144:15: “Blessed or Happy are the people whose God is the LORD.”

Friends, when we live our lives for God we quickly realize that there is nothing outside of God that can satisfy or make us happy. The Psalmist was right,  “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” (Psalm 73:25-26).

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Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – Introduction

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Let me begin by welcoming you to  “Through the Westminster Shorter Catechism.” This is a series of posts in which I will take us through the Westminster Shorter Catechism and give a brief commentary to the questions and answers that we find in the catechism.

But before we begin with the commentary,  I thought that it is important to give a brief introduction of the catechism. The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1647 by a gathering of pastors and theologians also known as the Westminster Assembly in England.  The purpose of the catechism was to be a tool for biblical instruction both for churches and families.

Ever since then the catechism has been used by Presbyterian and Reformed churches all over the world. So, what are some of the ways you can use the catechism? Let me suggest two: first use it for personal devotion. Read the questions and answers prayerfully while also checking the Bible to confirm that they are true. Second, use it to shepherd and teach the little hearts of your children. Just a brief personal testimony on this point:

When I was a child, my grandfather bought me the shorter catechism and taught me God’s word from it. I memorized its truths with an innocent zeal of a child. But later in my teenage years I wandered away from the faith. However, the Spirit of God continued to use those truths I stored in my mind and heart to convict me of sin and eventually bring me back to the faith.

Therefore, I would like to encourage parents who have little children to faithfully teach and encourage their little ones to memorize the catechism. Believe you me you will never regret doing it. I can’t agree more with Charles H. Spurgeon who  once observed, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times.”

So, may he Lord bless you as we go through the catechism together and may he bless your children as you labor to teach them God’s truth.

 

 

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Christ Presbyterian Church is Here!

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17).

In June last year we made announcement that we were coming to Blantyre. We are thankful that the Lord fulfilled our plans. On September 15, 2019 we officially began our church planting efforts with our first Bible study meeting. Up until the end of December we have been studying the book of Ephesians. It has been a great blessing to go through this epistle that has a lot to say about our salvation and walk with Christ.

As a church planter I was greatly encouraged to see the Holy Spirit applying his word to our lives powerfully. One instance that stood out to me was when we were studying chapter 4.  Towards the end of the chapter, Apostle Paul writes: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31, 32).

These two verses spoke strongly to one of us who was harboring bitterness and anger against a family member. At the end of the Bible study, this person asked us to pray for them to overcome this sin and to be helped to forgive and seek reconciliation. It was very beautiful for us as a God’s family to come together, surround a fellow saint, and pray that God by his grace will help them accomplish what is possible only with the power of the Holy Spirit working through his word. What a blessing!

This is one of the reasons why Christ Presbyterian Church exists. We strongly desire and pray that God will ground and root his people strongly in Christ. When members of a family seek forgiveness and reconciliation due to a conviction wrought about by God’s word, Christ is glorified. It is also a great testimony to the world of the power of God’s word. We pray that God will continue to work in the lives of his people through Christ Presbyterian Church. As the Psalmist prayed, we also pray that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.

This month we have just begun studying the Gospel according to John. We are excited and looking forward to wonderful times as well. If you are in Blantyre,  consider joining us this Sunday and every Sunday from 2pm-4pm.

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Christianity and Society, Sound Teaching

Christ Presbyterian Church coming soon to Blantyre, Malawi

 

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“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth…For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:7, 9).

I am excited to begin the work of planting Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) soon, Lord willing. My family, friends, and I have been praying for this work for so many years and we praise the Lord that he is now establishing it. We will  start with a Bible study in September 2019. We have a few families that will form the core group of our study. We are praying for more to be added.

We also have three pastoral interns that will be joining us. We desire to invest in these young men and prepare them for pastoral ministry in the coming years. One of CPC’s major goals will be  to see more confessional churches planted across Malawi. We trust that the Lord will use these interns to help us accomplish our goal.

Looking ahead the following are major events coming up:

  • June 2019: My family and I attend a church-planting training in Europe.
  • July 2019: We arrive in Malawi.
  • September 2019: Our interns begin their pastoral internship.
  • September 2019: We begin to meet and study the book of Ephesians in our home.

So may we ask you to pray for us. Also if you have friends in Blantyre let them  know that CPC is starting soon. If you would like to know more or attend our Bible study do not hesitate to contact me or visit our website http://www.christchurchmalawi.org

 

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