My Life as a Christian

From My Devotions This Morning… (10/03/2018)

Tough Love

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works”– 2 John 10, 11.

At the heart of Christianity is love. Paul reminds us that of the three, faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13). However, we should not confuse love with tolerance of falsehood. Love does not mean paying a blind eye to heresy that threatens to destroy the Church.  Christians must never give approval or support to false teachers. Those who preach the false gospel, which is no gospel at all, are not misguided brothers but the enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). Of course, we should pray for them, love them while hating their falsehood, show them their error, and strongly challenge them to repent. But Christians should not offer them any encouragement or hospitality for it might be interpreted as a sign of approval. The false teachers might also take advantage of any hospitality shown to them to pounce on the unsuspecting and vulnerable people with their heresies. This for sure is tough love.

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My Life as a Christian

Lessons and Highlights from Twin Lakes Fellowship 2018

With one of the keynote speakers, Rev. H.B. Charles of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida.

From Monday to Thursday last week I had an opportunity to attend a gathering of ministers, elders, seminary professors, and seminarians called Twin Lakes Fellowship (TLF). The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi (PCA) organizes the fellowship with this vision in mind: “We seek (by brotherly persuasion, helpful publication, friendly discussion, and compelling example) to build a church that will be faithful to the following commitments: expository preaching, biblical worship, biblical and confessional theology, a biblical understanding of the Gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of mutual accountability in the church, a biblical understanding of church government, and a biblical view of Christian discipleship – and thus a church with a shared vision of ministry.”

As always, this year’s gathering was rich and full of sound and God-glorifying teachings, exhortations plus fellowship. This year’s TLF granted me an opportunity to fellowship with brothers from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Free Church of Scotland, Southern Baptist, and other denominations. I was significantly edified and encouraged by various sessions and interactions with my brothers. While I cannot exhaust everything in this post, here are some of the highlights and lessons from TLF 2018:

We cannot do ministry without the Holy Spirit. The keynote speakers, H.B. Charles and Geoff Thomas, emphasized on our need for the Holy Spirit to empower us not only for ministry but also for our personal walk with Christ. Without the Holy Spirit our preaching and shepherding is in vain. I know that many of us know this truth very well but how often do we live as if we don’t know it. So, it was a blessing to be reminded again of our need and dependence upon the Holy Spirit who not only empowers us but also continually intercedes for us. As H.B. put it, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate prayer partner.

The best of men are men at best. Jon D. Payne gave a lecture on the life and ministry of Dr. David Martin Lloyd Jones fondly known by many as the doctor. We praise the Lord for the life and faithful ministry of Dr. Jones who as Payne put it is probably the greatest preacher of the 20th Century. Yet despite being used greatly by Christ, the doctor just like all of us was also a man of weaknesses both personal and theological. Payne focused more on the latter and highlighted some of the doctor’s shortcomings in the area of pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit). D. Martin Lloyd Jones like many of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians today believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion. He even supported the charismatic movement of his day in private but never in public. As I sat and listened to the lecture, I recalled one of my professors in seminary who often reminded us: the best of men are men at best. The best among us are made of feet of clay. This truth calls for humility and teachable spirit when fellow brothers point us to our own shortcomings, which we might be unaware of.

Never neglect the courts of the church. I was encouraged to hear of what the Lord is doing in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. The denomination is slowly recovering from the liberal direction it had taken over the past four decades or so. One of the factors that has contributed to this good development is conservative men taking initiative and being fully involved in the courts of the church, especially, at presbytery and synod levels. These brothers have with patience and endurance fought the good fight without despair. The Lord is now rewarding their faithfulness. One lesson I gathered as I heard this uplifting news was to never forget that the Lord is still at work even in our church courts although they might be imperfect and often heavily tainted with our sin.

The power is in the word itself. Using the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29, David Strain encouraged us to continue steadfastly with the means of grace ministry. He focused more on the power of God’s word. As preachers, we have been called to do two things: sow the seed and harvest when the fruit is ready. What happens between the time of sowing and harvesting is none of our business. “Growth is God’s business, faithfulness is ours.” The power of the gospel is not in our gifts, skills, academic abilities, or anything in us. So we should never be tempted to think that we could improve the gospel in any way. What a comforting truth! I praise the Lord that I was at TLF this year because this is exactly what I need to hear.

All is not lost in Scotland. I should confess that I have a special place for Scotland in my heart. As a Presbyterian from Malawi, Scotland is my “holy” land so to speak since it was the Scottish missionaries who first brought Presbyterianism to Malawi in the late 1800s. Over the years I have been hearing depressing stories of Presbyterianism dying in Scotland. But I was encouraged last week to hear stories of God’s powerful work there. I met some brothers who are involved in planting churches in the toughest and poorest neighborhoods of Scotland through 20 Schemes Project. My heart rejoiced and I praised the Lord for the great things he is doing in the once called ‘land of the Book.’ I will continue to pray for revival in the land of the Scots as I also continue to pray for revival in Malawi and North America.

“Brother, we are praying for you and we will get behind God’s work in Malawi.” During the fellowship I had a couple of opportunities to share my desire of returning to the land of my birth to plant confessional Presbyterian churches as well as train young men for ministry. Confessional Presbyterianism has been on its deathbed for a long time in Malawi. There is a need to revive it, the Lord willing, as one way of combating false teachers and prophets that have gone out deceiving people and hewing cisterns that will not satisfy. The work is huge and who is sufficient for these things? For sure, not me! But praise God that Christ is sufficient and has promised, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.” Oh, what a promise! So I was greatly encouraged to see the brothers getting excited with the work and praying for it.

As the week came to an end, I packed up to fly out of the warm and beautiful spring of Jackson, Mississippi into the snowy and gloomy spring of Lansing, Michigan (not complaining at all for I have learnt to give thanks in all things). Throughout the way I praised the Lord for a rich fellowship of like-minded brothers. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity…It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1, 3).

 

 

 

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My Life as a Christian, My Sermons

A Cry of the Broken Heart (Psalm 130:1-2)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2)

The Psalmist is crying to the Lord with his broken heart.  His heart is broken due to the sin or sins he has committed. Now please notice the two things about this cry.

First, is the object of his cry. To whom does the Psalmist cry out? To the Lord! “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” In the depths of his sin, the Psalmist cries out to the Lord. This is very important to notice because sometimes when we believers sin, more especially if it is a grievous sin, we feel ashamed to turn to God. We look at ourselves and think of how much we have brought the name of the Lord into disrepute. And we think to ourselves, “How can I turn to the Lord in this mess. Where do I start?” And Satan takes advantage of our guilt and shame and whispers in our ears and says, “Look at you a hypocrite! You claim to be a child of God, how can you sin this way if you are really a child of God. How can you? Do you think God will hear you prayer after you have let him down like this?”

If we are not careful we buy into this lie of the devil and instead of drawing close to the Lord, we withdraw from the Lord and like a wounded dog run into the corner in darkness to lick our wounds. Satan does this deliberately so that we can despair and think that the sin has conquered us and there is no way out. However, we need to learn from the psalmist here. When we have fallen flat on our face because of sin, it is time to lift our eyes and cry out to the Lord through Jesus Christ. The Psalmist did not completely fall into despair. He turned to the Lord and cried for help. For sure the hymn writer was right when he wrote:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Secondly, I want us to notice the plea or the request of his cry. What is the psalmist asking in his cry? “O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my please for mercy.” The Psalmist is crying out to the Lord for mercy. He is saying: “I know that I deserve your judgment Lord because of my sin. But please be merciful to me and do not punish me in your anger, as my sin deserves.” The Psalmist is not crying to the Lord because he is worthy but rather because his God is a God of mercy. So, when we have sinned let’s remember that God is merciful.

Of course, God hates sin and nothing will change that. Of course, God will punish all unrepented sin and nothing can change that. But also God is a God of mercy. When we have confessed and repented of our sin, he freely grants his mercy. This why the psalmist in Psalm 103 rejoices and declares: “Bless the LORD, O my soul and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity…He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (2, 9-11).

So, when our heart is broken due to sin. Let’s remember to cry out to the Lord. Don’t despair. Don’t wallow in your sin because there is mercy with God. He pardons those who truly repent of their sin.

(This material first appeared in a sermon form which was preached at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, USA on October 22, 2017)

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My Life as a Christian

Fear Not!

Fear no no noFear is one of the greatest enemies of our  faith and Satan uses it to trouble our souls.  He often creates the worst possible scenarios in our minds to cause anxiety and panic. “What will I do if God should bring me into such and such affliction?” What if I lose my loved one or all my property and money?” What if…?”

However the  LORD in his word reminds us again and again to resist fear.  Charles Spurgeon observes  “FEAR not” is a plant, which grows very plentifully in God’s garden. If you look through the lily beds of Scripture you will continually find, by the side of other flowers, the sweet, “Fear nots” peering out from doctrines and precepts even as violets look up from their hiding among places of green leaves.”

Yet despite Christ’s assurance and encouragement  that we do not succumb to fear, this enemy of our faith continues  to trouble us. Are there some things we need to do in order  to win the battle?   Reading through William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour  one finds  three great Scriptural truths that will help us overcome this foe.

First, we should remember that every event in our life is the product of God’s providence. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God’s providence as,  “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions,” (Q & A 11). No single  Christian falls into poverty, sickness, persecution or any hardship apart from the wisdom and care of our Father (Matt. 10:29)

Secondly, God has promised to never forsake us.” I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5). There is something special about this verse which is hardly noticed in the English translation.  In the original Greek the verse contains five negatives for emphasis and literal translation would lead:  ” I will not, not  leave  you;  not, no never forsake you.” But since in  English language two negatives would destroy each other only single negation is used. If God has such emphasized we must believe his promise without any reservations.

Lastly but not least, God in his wisdom conceals the comforts he intends to give us during our trials until we have actually experienced them. Gurnall’s own words say it better:   “God his wisdom conceals the comforts he intends to give you at various stages of your life, so that he may encourage your heart to full dependence upon his promises now. Thus, to try the metal of Abraham’s faith, he let him go on, until his hand was stretched forth to slay Isaac, and then he came to his rescue” (Gen. 22).

So, be of good cheer and fear not but in everything through prayer in Christ’s name bring your fears to the throne of grace where we find strength and comfort.

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Christianity and theology, My Life as a Christian

My Thoughts and Prayers for the Persecuted Church

This morning as I thought and prayed for fellow Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ and His word worldwide, especially, in Iraq and Syria I was reminded of the following passages of Scripture:

Revelation 6:9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth? Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

Matthew 5: 10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Romans 12: “Bless those who persecute you; bless them and do not curse them.”

1 Peter 4:16: “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Father, may you watch over and protect your Church. May you keep Her faithful and bold even in times of persecution. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!

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My Life as a Christian

Christ Knows Best

Christ Knows Best at What Time to do Anything for His People

John 11:16: “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.”

“We read that when He had heard that Lazarus “was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.” In fact, He purposely delayed his journeys, and did not come to Bethany till Lazarus had been four days in the grave. No doubt He knew well what was going on: but He never moved till the time came which He saw was best. For the sake of the Church and world, for the good of friends and enemies, He kept away.

The children of God must constantly school their minds to learn the great lesson now before us. Nothing so helps us to bear patiently the trials of life as an abiding conviction of the perfect wisdom by which everything around us is managed. Let us try to believe not only that all that happens to us is well done, but that it is done in the best manner, by the right instrument and at the right time. We are naturally impatient in the day of trial. We are apt to say, like Moses, when beloved ones are sick, “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (Num. 12:13). We forget that Christ is too wise a Physician to make any mistakes. It is the duty of faith to say, “My times are in your hand. Do with me as you will, how you will, what you will, and when you will. Not my will, but Thine be done.” The highest degree of faith is to be able to wait, sit still and not complain.

Let us turn from the passage with a settled determination to trust Christ entirely with all the concerns of this world, both public and private. Let us believe that He by whom all things were made  at first is He who is managing all with perfect wisdom. The affairs of kingdoms, families and private individuals, are all alike overruled by Him. He chooses all the portions of His people. When we are sick, it is because He knows it to be for our good: when He delays coming to help us it is for the same wise reason. The hand that was nailed to the cross is too wise and loving to smite without needs-be, or to keep us waiting for relief without a cause.”Taken From Day By Day With J.C. Ryle Edited by Eric Russel.

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My Life as a Christian

Reflections on my 2014 Birthday

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).

“Time flies,” so they say. It seems like yesterday when I wrote about my birthday reflections for 2013. I would like to thank God for granting me another year in my pilgrimage in this world. The just ending year has been great as God has once again proven himself that he remains faithful even though, sadly, I don’t.

As I thought about my birthday this year, the name of my late grandpa, Gannet Damson Makhalira, kept surfacing in my mind. He died a day after my birthday, almost two decades ago and he is on the list of people that the Lord has greatly used to shape my life. Two things he impressed on my mind and heart still linger even today: Love Christ and work hard. I mean, he did not just tell me but demonstrated it as well.

I recall while still very young, he bought me my first ever booklet, The Westminster Shorter Catechism. He read it out to me and encouraged me to memorize the questions and answers. “What’s the Chief end of Man?” He would ask expecting an answer.
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” I would respond.

“Excellent! Intelligent boy,” he would encourage me. Then he would turn to the Bible to show me the passages in which this truth is contained. He was a man of the Word.

But he was not only a man of the Word but also a “man of work.” His day began early in the morning on Mondays through Saturdays. After getting out of bed, he went to inspect the workers on his farm, Tonse Farm. No, he didn’t only inspect them but he would join them himself and work until around 7am. Then he would come home to have his breakfast with me during the school holidays. Thereafter, he took me to the farm to “work” alongside him.

“Nganga (grandson) this is how we do it,” he would demonstrate how to plant cassava stems.

“With what you are teaching your grandson, he will definitely be a great man” his workers often told him.
He just smiled and never commented. Grandpa often told me as he noticed his health failing him that he would love to see me taking over his farm when the Lord would call him home. I agreed but I was too young to understanding what I was committing myself into and it never materialized. Besides, the Lord had a different plan hence now I am not a farmer on Tonse Farm but a worker in Christ’s vineyard by His grace alone. Some similarities though.

One would think my grandpa had little time or room for other things in life. But not so with him. At least twice, a week he went to attend church meetings and prayers. He was an elder and session clerk of his local Presbyterian congregation. He loved God. I can’t really recall the actual college, but he was enrolled in a Bible correspondence course with an international Bible college. Every evening, he would pray with me before retiring to bed. What a godly man that God put in the early days of my life on this earth.

Oh, this might be digression but he also showed me how to shoot his hunting gun when I was twelve years young. He also indicated that when the Lord would call him home, I should own the gun. But again, I was too young to legally own it so this too never worked out. “The old soldier” as some called him, grandpa fought in World War II under the King’s African Rifles (KAR) now called Malawi Defence Force. After the war, he retired from the army and trained as an agriculturalist.
Sadly, as I grew up, I departed from the godly path grandpa had shown me into Rastafarianism. As he entered into glory in 1996, he left a disappointed man at what I had turned out to be. However, God had heard and listened to all those prayers he made on my behalf. Four years after his death, the Lord reached out to this lost child and by grace saved him. I know that as grandpa looked down at what happened that day on December 24, 2000, joy and amazement at God’s gracious work was written all over his face. Oh what amazing grace, the lost child was now found. Today, as I celebrate my birthday, I thank Christ for such a great grandpa. I rejoice at the thought that one day we will reunite and celebrate more than I do on a birthday like this one.

 

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