Christianity and theology

Godliness

The third ‘Trustworthy saying’ is found in 1 Timothy 4:8, 9: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”

Timothy being a young man was most likely involved in some sporting activities. Apostle Paul then takes advantage of Timothy’s knowledge of sports to communicate an important truth. He tells Timothy that physical exercises are good but they cannot surpass the need for godliness in a life of a Christian.

Now, godliness does not just come automatically in ones life; there is a need for deliberate effort to pursue godliness while still relying on God’s grace. This is why the apostle is bringing in the analogy of athletics.

In as much as athletes train for physical fitness, Christians while relying on God’s grace should ‘train’ for godliness. This is where spiritual disciplines like studying God’s Word, prayer, fasting, meditation and others come in.  Christians should not neglect these things.

It is also true from the saying is that Christians should always bear in mind that all the things we do in this world will pass away but only that which is done for Christ will last. Therefore, Christians must always seek to glorify Christ with their lives. Remember:

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last” (Anonymous)

This is not to discourage Christians from participating in other activities that the world offers us like education, business, sports, and music.  Let’s get involved in these things; however, we should never at a single time let them take the place of God in our lives because they will one day pass away but our relationship with God through Christ is eternal.

 

 

Standard
Christianity and theology

The Noble Task

The second ‘trustworthy saying’ is found in 1 Timothy 3:1 and reads: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.”

The words ‘Overseer’ and ‘Elder’ are used interchangeably in the Bible (Acts 2:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-2). This, therefore, means that an overseer is an elder and according to Scripture the duties of an elder include teaching and preaching God’s Word (1 Timothy 3:2), directing the affairs of the church (3:5) and guarding the church from error (Acts 20:28-31).

There is a false belief which says that one should not openly desire to be a Christian leader or an elder and those who openly express their desire are regarded as ‘unspiritual or prideful.’ However, according to 1 Timothy 3:1, this belief is unbiblical. Christian men should desire to be elders or to provide leadership in the church.

The Church is in a sad state today because some Christian men have run away from their responsibility of teaching and preaching God’s Word. Sad to note that some Christian men have chickened out from their duty of guarding the church from error hence false teachings are rampant nowadays.

The Scripture is encouraging Christian men to be deeply concerned with this status quo. Christian men should desire the duty of standing up for God’s truth and guarding the Church from error. This is a noble task.

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

The ‘Roots’ of Christ

Some have accused Christians of always trying to paint a good picture of Christ. These people have even gone to the extreme of ‘exposing negative stories’ about Christ which they say Christians have always kept under the carpet.

However, this is a sad accusation because Christianity or the Bible does not hide anything about Christ including those incidents that seem embarrassing. Therefore, God willing, from this week, as we look forward to Christmas, we will dwell on the genealogy or the descendants of Christ whose life stories are not all that beautiful. These include Tamar who seduced her father-in-law,  Judah, to sleep with her, Rehab who was a prostitute, and Manasseh one of the most evil kings of Judah.

When we read and reflect on the life stories of these people, we are amazed at how God could allow such people to be the descendants of Jesus. It only confirms that God’s ways are not indeed our ways.

Furthermore, the stories of some of these descendants assure us that God’s grace is indeed amazing for it transforms sinners into saints.  These stories also show us that God is not limited or controlled by our sinfulness.  We might not be faithful, but He always remains faithful and he can accomplish his good will even through our unfaithfulness.  We might have evil intentions, but he overcomes them with his goodness.

Standard
Christianity and theology

Of Anointed Water, Stickers, Handkerchiefs etc

There is one dangerous thing I have lately observed in the African Church, more especially, in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles and would like to raise an alarm. Some ‘men of God’ are giving or selling out anointed water, stickers, handkerchiefs and what have you so that people can use them to receive various miracles from God. The miracles include jobs, special favors, success, healing, deliverance from demons  etc.

The most dangerous thing I have noticed concerning this development is that these anointed objects are slowly and steadily taking the place of Christ in the lives of people hence ending up being idols. John Calvin once remarked that ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’ and indeed due to our fallen nature, we easily make idols of many shapes and sizes and worship them thereafter.

The anointed items are fast becoming idols for many. What is happening with this anointed stuff is that people are told to use them whenever they want to experience a miracle or blessing from God. Recently, I met a relation who is a Christian and he greatly boasted about a certain anointed sticker bearing a face of ‘man of God’ and said:

“You know, this sticker is very powerful. I always travel with it in my car and if the devil had plans for me to get involved in a road accident, it doesn’t work. I am also told that next time, I am invited for job interviews, I should just put it in my shirt’s pocket and before entering the interview, I should pull it out, gaze at it for a while and then say a prayer and I will be successful.”

It is evident that my relation’s life is revolving around this anointed sticker. To him this sticker is his life. Now, where is the place of Christ in his life?  Are not our lives supposed to revolve around Christ? I hope you get my point.  I will not mince words here: placing our faith in this anointed stuff is superstition and nothing else.  It is not different from relying on charms or ‘small pillows’ (zithumwa) from witchdoctors.

My fellow Africans will understand this better. For most Africans who are not Christians, they rely on witchdoctors.  For instance, when one wants to get a job, they might go to a witchdoctor who would give them some charms which they are to put in their trouser’s pocket when going for job-interviews. The charms, they are told, will guarantee success in the interviews.

I believe this is similar to how some Christians are treating these anointed objects.   Only that this time around we have sugar-coated them with the name of Christ. Please, fellow Christian, think twice about your involvement with these anointed objects.

But some will quote for me Acts 19:11, 12 which reads: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” They will then ask, isn’t this passage supporting the use of these anointed items?

No, it isn’t. A couple of things need to be pointed out here. First, Paul never asked for any amount of money  for the handkerchiefs and aprons. But the ‘’men of God’ today are asking for a certain amount of money for one to have these anointed stuffs.

Secondly, Paul never sat down and packed these aprons and handkerchiefs and sent them out to be used for miracles rather it was the people who came to Paul who took these  items and used them on the sick.  As a matter of fact, these aprons and handkerchiefs were used ones. New Testament historians tell us that the handkerchiefs were wore around Paul’s head to absorb the sweat as he worked as a tent-maker while the aprons were used to cover Paul’s clothes to protect them from dirt and dust(The Acts of Apostles: The Daily Study Bible ©1966, The Saint Andrew Press).

Thirdly, let me borrow the words of R.C. Sproul and point out that “This was not Paul’s doing; because of their pagan religious background, the Ephesians were used to employing superstitious means (v.19). God accommodated His gracious work to their ignorance” (Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries © 2005).

Fourthly, it is very important to note that what is recorded for us in Acts 19:11, 12 was never a trend. You don’t read this anywhere else apart from this passage which means that this was not a regular occurrence and I, strongly, believe that this was done in Ephesus only.

However, some ‘men of God’ today have made the giving or selling out of anointed items a trend, thereby leading our fallen nature to turn these objects into idols.  It’s very heartbreaking to see that some Christians can’t live without this anointed stuff. Oh Lord, may you deliver us from these idols.

 

 

 

Standard
Christianity and Society

Christian Leadership is Not for New Converts

A couple of years ago, I was privileged to be part of a Christian group that conducted Bible studies every week and also encouraged one another through God’s word. One summer, the group organized a retreat at the lake and we were joined by two other friends who had just been converted to Christianity.

For some reasons, unknown to me, the leadership of our group entrusted these newly converted brothers with some leadership roles at the retreat. This was a great mistake as we will later realize. During the retreat, various teachings were programmed. But trouble came up when it was a turn for a teaching that had to deal courtship and marriage.

Ten minutes into this teaching, the two brothers felt it was not ‘spiritual enough’ so one of them  stood up while the teacher was speaking and told him in the face: “Sorry sir, but as one of the conveners at this retreat, I see that this is not what God wants. We can’t come all the way here to hear about courtship and marriage. God is telling me that we should spend more time in prayer not unnecessary teaching like this one.”

Boy! I couldn’t believe my ears. The brother was very zealous for the Lord but had little knowledge. The speaker was evidently embarrassed.  But thank God that despite being offended by these remarks, the speaker handled it very well  and we continued with our program.

Later as I reflected on this scenario, 1 Timothy 3 came to my mind. In this chapter, Paul discusses qualifications for Christian leaders and one qualification he lays out is that a Christian leader “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

I, strongly, believe that the leadership of our group was wrong in entrusting leadership roles to these newly converted brothers. They were supposed to grow first in the faith as well as learn from other mature Christian leaders before they could provide leadership. I don’t think that someone who’s grown and continues to grow in their faith would regard a Biblical teaching on courtship and marriage as unnecessary and unspiritual.

This is just one of many examples of challenges the church faces as a result of entrusting leadership to new converts. Please get me right, I don’t mean to say that new converts are of no use in God’s Kingdom. This is not what I am saying and meaning. Rather, basing on Scripture I am arguing that new converts should be taught first and enabled to grow in their faith before they can lead.

It saddens my heart to see a person getting converted today and in no time he is pastoring a church. No, this can’t be! What kind of pastorate is this brother going to provide. Also, get me right. I don’t intended to underestimate the gifts and power that God gives out even to new converts. However, these gifts need to be nurtured over a period so that they can be used in a proper way that glorifies God.

In this part of the world, where many Christian leaders hardly make it into seminary, Bible or theological college due to lack of resources and inadequacy of training institutions, I would not argue that every new convert should be trained in such institutions before he leads a church; nevertheless, I would suggest that if one cannot make it into to a training institution, he should learn under a mature and godly Christian leader or leaders for some time before he can venture into leadership of God’s flock.  Timothy never went to seminary but he learnt from his spiritual Father Paul. Even apostle Paul, himself, before he ventured fully into Christian leadership on his own, he partnered with Barnabas and in the process he learnt some lessons of Christian leadership, I believe.

As somebody said, “Every Timothy needs Paul and every Paul needs Timothy” I would like to encourage our mature Christian leaders to identify young people, probably, those who have just been converted to Christianity and train them in Christian leadership. Young people should also be humble enough to sit down under mature and godly men and learn from them how to lead God’s flock in a way that glorifies God.  In this way, the church will never give leadership responsibility to a recent convert who may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Standard
Christianity and theology

Is Home Unclean for Worship?

Last Sunday, I was reading the newspaper, Nation on Sunday, when an article titled “I don’t want to go to church” by Christian Psychiatrix caught my attention.  The author of the article argued that people should go to church and not worship in their homes because “homes of men are unfit for worship.” He contended:

“The home is unworthy because every minute of every hour in every day the home is unholy or unclean for one reason or another. Let me illustrate. The parents of the home might have spent the morning today making love and the material their body fluid touches is made unclean and it in turn makes what it touches unclean until the whole house is unclean from flesh to cloth to utensil (Leviticus 15). It will be afternoon before the house is declared clean by Levitical Law and that is if they take a bath and pray for a cleansing of the home, if they don’t then the home in unclean till the next day.

“Or it could be that the maid starts her monthly period the next day. A woman during her monthly flow is unclean by Levitical Law, that is why men are not supposed to have sexual relations with women during this time (Leviticus 18:19). In her function as maid she will touch 90% of the house making everything she touches unclean before God’s eyes” (Public Pulpit  of Nation on Sunday, Sunday, August 12, 2012, Religious Perspective page 7)

All I can say in regard to this statement is that:

There is a need for every believer or Christian to fellowship with fellow Christians in a church.  God’s Word requires of us to do so in Hebrews 10:24, 25. From the birth of the New Testament church, believers have always assembled together to among other things hear the teaching of God’s word, break bread (Holy Communion), and pray (Acts 2:42). The importance of the church can also be seen in the whole of the New Testament in which two-thirds of the epistles (letters) were addressed to churches where believers met.

We should also not forget that the church is also responsible for administration of Sacraments namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion). These cannot be administered outside the church but only within the church by ordained men called by God to lead his flock. Sacraments are very important in every Christian’s life as they are means or channels established by God in which He uses to give grace to his children.

Furthermore, general overview of the Bible also shows us that meeting in a church helps Christians to be accountable. On our own, we can easily fall into various temptations and sins without someone warning or helping us; however, in church, fellow Christians help us remain faithful to Scripture and God uses the church to discipline and restore a believer when he, temporarily, stumbles into sin.

In a church, we also encourage one another through sharing of God’s Word and testifying to the good work that the Lord is doing in our lives. In the same set-up we are also able to carry each other’s burdens as commanded in Galatians 6:1-3.  These things cannot happen if we are on our own.

However, we should also bear in mind that the Bible encourages us to have time when we can personally fellowship with God in prayer (Matthew 6:6) and meditation on his word ( Psalm 1:1, 2). This too is important.

Therefore, church should not replace personal time of fellowship with God just as time of personal devotion should not substitute God’s requirement of believers to assemble in a church. All these two activities are required of every Christian by Scripture.

Now,  in response to Christians Psychiatrix argument that  worshipping God at home is defiled by a married couple having sex in the home or a maid experiencing her monthly period, I would like to point out that  in the Old Testament, there are three types of laws namely ceremonial, civil and moral law.  The laws that my friend cited in his article fall in the ceremonial law category.

Ceremonial laws related to Israel’s ceremonial purity, diet and sacrifice. They pointed forward to Jesus Christ hence were fulfilled and no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. These laws, symbolically, showed how man falls short of God’s holiness.  But when Christ came, he fulfilled the requirement of God’s holiness so that everyone who believes in Christ is regarded as holy because of the righteousness of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-14).

It should further be known that God ordained sex to be enjoyed in the confinements of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3; Hebrews 13:4) and there is nothing unclean when a married couple has sex.  A woman also remains clean and holy in Christ and before God the Father even if she having her monthly period because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law on behalf of all believers.

Standard
Christianity and Society

A word for our president

Today, I would like to write our president Mrs. Joyce Banda. First, I would like to congratulate her for becoming the fourth president of Republic of Malawi.

Perhaps, the president will read this blog. I would like also to share with her one thing that has bothered me over the years in regards to how we treat our presidents.  We, sometimes, tend to exalt them to the level of God.

I have seen and heard the previous presidents been given names which belong to God alone. We have equated them with Jesus by referring to them as Messiah or Savior or Mose wa Lero.  Biblically and theologically, Moses was a shadow or pro-type of Jesus Christ hence ‘today’s Moses’ is Christ.

I would like to ask our president to refuse such titles if any of us will give her one. It’s sad that often it’s Christians who give such names to the president. I appeal to my fellow Christians to give to God what belongs to God and to Caeser what belongs to Caesar. Never take what is God’s and give it to man.

God can never share his glory with mortal man for he says, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11). Scripture also says “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen (Rev. 7:12).

Standard