My Life as a Christian

The Minister’s Self-Watch: Be sure you are converted

     It has been some time since our last class.  It seems our professor, Pastor Spurgeon, was tied up with other equally important assignments but now is back and is bringing his second lecture which he has entitled, “The Minster’s Self-Watch.”

     In this lecture, Spurgeon discusses the need for constant self-evaluation of a minister or a pastor. Of course, this is to be done by the grace of God. He opens with this profound thought:

     “It is true that the Lord can work with the faultiest kind of instrumentality, to be useful in conversion; and he can even work without agents, as he does when he saves men without a preacher at all, applying the word directly by his Holy Spirit; but we cannot regard God’s absolutely sovereign acts a rule for our action…This is a practical truth for our guidance, when the Lord makes exceptions, they do but prove the rule.”

     By this Spurgeon emphasizes on the need for a minister or God’s servant to prepare themselves, by God grace, for service every day. There is no room for neglecting this responsibility on pretext that God can use anything, even that which man intends for evil, to accomplish good (Genesis 50:19).

     Spurgeon goes on to illustrate how negligence of our both spiritual and physical preparation for God’s service can ruin even the good things we would like to accomplish for God as he writes: “It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul and body are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.”

     Professor Spurgeon goes on to list the following important points.

First, “It should be one of our first cares that we ourselves be saved men…How horrible to be preacher of the gospel and yet to be unconverted… Unconverted ministry involves the most unnatural relationships. A graceless pastor is a blind man elected into a professorship of optics.” Spurgeon has a great sense of humor but here he drives home a very important truth.

     Spurgeon then quotes from “Reformed Pastor” by Richard Baxter and writes: “Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to yourselves first, that you be that which you persuade others to be, and believe that which you persuade them daily to believe, and have heartily entertained that Christ and Spirit which you offer unto others.”

     While asserting the need for a preacher to be a converted man, Spurgeon still accepts the fact that: “The word of an unconverted man may be blessed to the conversion of souls, since the Lord, while he disowns the man, will still honor his own truth.”

     Oh, it’s already time! Professor Spurgeon will stop here for today. May God grant us the grace to reflect on these matters and instill in us the hunger to seek to be his better instruments through His grace alone. 

 


 

 

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My Life as a Christian

Will You Sit with Me under Pastor Spurgeon’s Lectures?

I am currently making my way through Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) Lectures to my Students. This is a book comprised of lectures he delivered to the students at the college he founded, Pastor’s College.  Although the biblical truths contained in the lectures were meant for the men who were being trained as pastors and preachers in the nineteenth century, they are also timeless and relevant to every Christian even today.

I am certain that these biblical truths applied to our lives by the grace of God and by his power working in us will contribute immensely to our spiritual growth. Therefore, I would like to humbly request you to join and sit with me under these lectures. Even if you will never preach a single sermon in your life, these biblical truths will still be of great benefit and enable you to glorify God and enjoy Him forever which by the way is our chief end as Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 1 beautifully puts it.

Pastor Spurgeon begins by giving us a background to these lectures and says that he delivered them every Friday afternoon after the students were weary with sterner studies and were intended to ‘fire their hearts’ and sharpen their focus towards the goal of proclaiming the gospel faithfully. Spurgeon also states that the lectures are full of references to himself because his “own experience is the most original contribution he can offer.” He then makes this profound remark:

“The solemn work with which the Christian ministry concerns itself demands a man’s all, and that at its best. To engage in it half-heartedly is an insult to God and man. Slumber must forsake our eyelids sooner than men shall be allowed to perish. Yet we are all prone to sleep as do others, and students, among the rest, are apt to act the part of the foolish virgins; therefore, I have sought to speak out with my whole heart.”

What I intended to do on this blog is to share thoughts and rich lessons I am drawing from the book. I will strive by God’s grace to post as often as I can.  Please also take your time to give feedback or leave a comment if you can. All is set.  Here is my pen and notebook.  Will you join me to study under pastor Spurgeon? I hear somebody asking about tuition fee. No, there is no need for one.

Grace and peace to you.

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My Life as a Christian

Great Things He Has Done

There has been silence on the blog for the past weeks. One main reason that can better explain the muteness is preparations and departure for studies in a land not my own, United States of America (USA).

Together with my family, I have temporarily moved from the land of my birth, Malawi, to Grand Rapids,  Michigan to study for Masters of Arts in Religion (Emphasis: Systematic Theology) at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS).

One of the opening sentences to the International Student Manual for PRTS reads: “We know that God has brought you through many challenges to be with us.” This can’t be further from the truth. My preparations for studies have not been a piece of cake. Through the whole process, my understanding of God’s sovereignty has improved for the better, and I can confidently say like David: “If the Lord had not been on our side…” (you wouldn’t have been reading this post and I wouldn’t have written it either). The Malawian Gospel singing group, Ndirande Angilcan Voices, also put it better when they sang: “Akalemba Mulungu walemba basi” literally meaning “What God has determined to do, He will definitely do.”

For sure, this is not about me or my family but God alone who is the center of everything in heaven and earth. His ways are not our ways and they shall never be. I would like to thank Him for making my dream come true. He not only gave the dream but He also fulfilled it. Soli Deo Gloria! (To God alone be the glory)

I would like also to thank my parents, relations, in-laws and so many friends and work colleagues for standing up with me in prayer and encouraging and supporting me when the going got tough and I was about to throw in the towel. May God richly bless you. Like David again we can sing: “He who goes out weeping bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him,” (Psalm 126:6).

I will quote God’s Word recorded for us by David once more. Like this King of Israel I feel very much overwhelmed by what God has done for me and I can’t help it but wonder:

“Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? And this is a small thing in your eyes, O God…And what more can (I) say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. For your servant’s sake, O Lord and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness…There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you” (1 Chronicles 17:14-20).

So, may all the saints join and help me sing “To God be the glory, great things He has done.” Fellow saints, lets also continue to remember each other in prayer. Seminary life just like any life can be hard at times but I pray that Christ alone will keep me going. Remember me in your prayers that God will also meet my needs and that of my family as I pray that he meets yours too.

Postscript:          We got a warm and nice welcome in Grand Rapids when we arrived on August 2, 2013. Most people are friendly and more than willing to assist and help as we are settling. I have also noticed so many Reformed churches in this part of Michigan and that’s more blessings for me. Oh, what great things He has done!

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My Life as a Christian

My Reflections on God’s Sovereignty

God is Sovereign. He is in control of all that happens in this world and there is nothing that can come to pass without his knowledge or will. I strongly believe in this truth. Over the years as I have studied Scripture, I have come to realize that this is Biblically true and theologically sound. I have even gone ahead to teach and preach this truth in my theological classes and sermons.

However, some instances arise and challenge my belief.  These are the moments when I yield to the temptation of doubt and ask my God, “Why me or why this, Lord?” Alas, to believe this doctrine is one thing and to live it out when all chips are down is another. It really requires God’s grace.

There have been times when I have asked myself: “Is God really in control?”

These are the times when life has poured its bitter juice in my cup. Times that I have been on the receiving end of unjust and unfair treatment. Yes, times when I have suffered for doing nothing wrong.  In such moments, I have turned to God in tears. I have cried and wept asking for his intervention but silence has been the response and I have ended feeling like a helpless toddler crying for help in the middle of no where.

This helplessness mixed with anger has produced questions like: where are you God? Like David, I have wondered and cried:

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

And have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God

Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:1-4).

In the midst of my cry, passages of Scripture which assures me of God’s sovereignty have come floating in my mind; and moments in which I have faithfully and passionately taught and preached God’s sovereignty have slowly played at the back of my mind. It’s really self-defeating! I have then asked myself: Is God in control. Yes! Has he forsaken me? No! Then why do I believe the opposite? I don’t know…but hard times really have a way of obscuring God’s truth from us.

Now when this truth of God’s sovereignty re-establishes itself in my life, I often tell myself, “Well, Lord, do as you please. I resign myself to your will.”

However, as the hard times rage on, I have repeatedly found myself back to square one questioning whether God is really in control. Whatever I resigned to God’s will, I quickly grab it back into my own hands and, sadly, this cycle goes on and on:  believing God’s sovereignty, questioning God’s sovereignty and back to believing God’s sovereignty again.

God is sovereign. Do I believe it? Yes! Do I live it? Not all the time. There are other times when I act and behave as if some things are beyond God’s control hence I have to take matters in my own hands. I am sorry Lord! But this is really me. I wish I could always live out the truth hence I pray that God will grant me the grace to always say:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom

Nor fruit be on the vines,

The produce of the olive fail

And the fields yield no food

The flock be cut off from the fold

And there be no herd in the stalls

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength

He makes my feet like the deer’s

He makes me tread on my high place” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

By His grace, I am learning to trust the LORD more. I am not there yet, but hopefully and prayerfully one day before I leave this life to be with Jesus in glory I will be able to both believe and live out the truth of God’s Sovereignty no matter the circumstances.

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My Life as a Christian

Reflections on my 2013 Birthday

Today, I celebrate a gift of over three decades in this world from our Father whom all blessings flow. As the day is progressing I have taken some time to reflect on my journey of thirty plus one years. One thing that has lingered in my mind is the truth that God can do all things and no single plan of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2).

Over the years, especially, the time that I have been a Christian, I have fully understood that God’s plan for my life cannot be frustrated by anything or anybody. Where I am today and what I am doing today is exactly what God planned before the foundations of the earth were laid.

This is a source of my comfort, especially in hard times,  hence I can’t  agree more with what Martin Luther once said, “… the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered.”

But life is not only about hard times, there are also good times. In those good moments too, it is also of great consolation to know that God is still in control. Another instance this morning has even confirmed this great lesson even more.

Last year in November, I was offered a place and tuition scholarship to study at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS).  Like any other person who would find themselves in my shoes, I was very excited. Then the process of planning to go and study begun which eventually led to visa application then to visa interviews. Now, the thought of  ‘visa interviews’ sent a cold chill down my spine, particularly, as I faced the possibility that my application could be turned down and my cherished dream to study at PRTS would be shattered.

The process of visa interviews began today at 8 O’clock in the morning. My wife and I passed through all the necessary stages then came the last stage of actual interviews. Our names were called on a speaker within the waiting room and we went into the ‘interview room’ our hearts in our mouths with the fear of being denied the visa.

To our amazement, the interviewer just asked very few lighter questions like why did I chose PRTS of many seminaries in USA. She also asked my wife and I regarding our previous visits to US respectively. Then she found out when we got married and confirmed if we met at African Bible College where both of us were students. Then, that’s it! Visa granted. “Come tomorrow afternoon to collect your visa…good luck,” she ended the interviews.

We could feel our hearts settling down as joy and amazement took over anxiety and fear.  Just like that? Yes, just like that. Then we recalled that “God can do all things and his plans cannot be thwarted.” It was God’s will and plan that we get the visa today which also happens to be my birthday and nothing or anybody could stop that.

Friends, may this great truth also comfort you both in joy or pain. Never ever forget to remember that God will always accomplish his will. William Cowper was right when he composed that famous hymn, God moves in a mysterious way, and said:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Oh, what an amazing God!

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My Life as a Christian

Our Defense Lies in Prayer

“We know that our defense lies in prayer alone. We are too weak to resist the devil and his vassals. Let us hold fast to the weapons of the Christian; they enable us to combat the devil. For what has carried off these great victories over the undertakings of our enemies which the devil has used to put us in subjection, if not the prayers of certain pious people who rose up as a rampart to protect us?

Our enemies may mock at us. But we shall oppose both men and the devil if we maintain ourselves in prayer and if we persist in it. For we know that when a Christian prays in this way: “Dear Father, Your will be done,” God replies to him, ‘Dear child, yes, it shall be done in spite of the devil and the whole world.’ “- Martin Luther

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My Life as a Christian

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

There has been silence on this blog. Yes, weeks of no words. I was down with malaria and a persistent pain in the stomach. It was a hard time for me and my family; however, we thank God for sustaining us and pouring more of His grace in our lives which is always sufficient.  For sure, His power is made perfect in weakness.

My family and I thank God for all the prayers of the saints as well as the gift of medical doctors whom he has used to  heal me. Of course, I continue to feel the pain once in a while but it is lesser now and we continue to trust God for His complete healing. Please remember us in your prayers and join me as I sing this doxology:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him, all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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