PRAISE DURING THE STORM!

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Praise ye the Lord (Image source:blog.logos.com

When political leaders speak, of the military and other branches of a nations security agencies, they often do so with plenty of praise for these agencies. We are very aware that there are bad officers in these agencies, but out of a heart filled with gratitude for the history of service from these agencies, we offer our praises.

There is an odd story in the Bible about two missionaries, Paul and Silas, followers of Jesus. They had traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city in the district of Macedonia, northern Greece. In the course of their preaching, they offended influential people. As a result, they were severely beaten and thrown into jail.

Then the impossible happened – Acts 16:25-26 says: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken… All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!  

Paul and Silas were not singing hymns because they were in chains; they sang in confidence that the storm around them will pass, and a good result will come out of it. How could they be so sure? Simple – countless numbers of faith people in the history of the Bible, have experienced storms and come out of them rejoicing.

The fact that life throws plenty of storms our way, is not news. The good news is that like Paul and Silas, we can pray and praise the One who has power to lift us out of any storm life throws at us. We praise not out of naivety, we praise in thankfulness for the many rescues in our own lives and the lives of others close to us.

The storm today will pass away, just like the storm of yesterday is gone. As we pray and praise Yahweh for his rescue yesterday, our rescue today, and from the storms of tomorrow, are scheduled to arrive just in time.

Praise be the Lord, Amen!  

MAGNUS OPUS!

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The greatest sermon on the Mount (Image source: forhisglorytexas.com)

In this age of wide availability of knowledge, we all face a huge challenge of who to follow as a spiritual guide. C. S. Lewis, author of the popular ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ novels, was clear about this; in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ he wrote:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

In the book of Matthew, Chapters 5 to 7, Jesus teaches on how to live a godly and considerate life, ending with this counsel in Matthew 7:24-28 (MSG):

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” 

When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause… This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

This was a magnus opus moment for Jesus; Matthew Chapters 5 to 7 are a Jesus masterclass with some of his greatest principles for life. May God help us to learn these principles and live by them one day at a time, Amen!    

SATISFACTION – HOW TO GET IT AND KEEP IT…

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In search of SATISFACTION!

 

The great French sociologist David Émile Durkheim in 1897 published his study of suicide rates in Europe. Among his discovery was that people experienced high moral confusion in times of economic depression (hard times) and also in times of economic boom (good times). This satisfaction deficit is linked to expectations.

In hard times, expectations are shattered, leading to disappointments and depression. In good times, expectations are overly ambitious, leading to disappointments and depression. How then are we to live whether in hard times or in good times, in order to avoid falling into the disappointment-depression hole of misery?

Paul, from jail in Rome, wrote to Christians in Philippi, and penned these wise words about satisfaction in Philippians 4:10-14 (MSG) (shortened): “I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess… I don’t have a sense of needing anything… I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances… Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…”

Paul says “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am…”; Paul’s contentment and satisfaction is not in what he owns or does not have, it is based on faith in God. A faith that includes the knowledge that God is looking out for your interest in good times and bad times.

May we experience the satisfaction-contentment that comes from faith in God – that takes away depression from disappointments, Amen!  

MAY YOU BE BLESSED…

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Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph (Image source: Pinterest)

 

It is tempting to view life as just a series of disappointments, with all the broken promises and relationships we may have experienced. It is true that every adult person can recall many hopeful situations that brought pain instead; many exciting journeys that ended up as experiences we don’t want to remember anymore.

Jacob, was a man who experienced many disappointments through his long life. He struggled with his twin brother Esau to be the first out of their mother’s womb, but he came out second in that contest. He was beloved of his mother, and they both deceived his father Isaac to give him the blessing of the firstborn – the result was he had to run away from home and never saw his beloved mother again till she died.

The story of Jacob and his children from Genesis 25 to Genesis 50, which takes up half of the book of Genesis, seems to be a story of one painful episode to the next. It is tempting to only see the pain and forget the joys Jacob experienced – loved by his mother; married two gorgeous women; had 12 strong tough boys; was quite a wealthy dude; lived a long life; and died seeing one of his son chief minister of Egypt.

On his deathbed in Genesis 48:3 (NLT): Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and BLESSED me…”

A blessed life is a not a life without disappointments, its a life where at the end we can testify like Jacob in Genesis 48:15-16 (NLT) that God “has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day” AND “has redeemed me from all harm…”

May you be BLESSED by the Great God today and always, Amen! 

 

MESSIANIC HOPE – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

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The Messiah (Image source: Patheos)

 

In 1949, the Irish writer Samuel Beckett published ‘Waiting for Godot’; Godot is pronounced as Go-doe. In it, a couple of men are eagerly waiting for the arrival of another man called Godot. While waiting they discuss about their lives – their hopes, challenges, and many disappointments. They talked and talked, waited and waited, but Godot never arrives; the novel ends in sad disappointment.

A survey by the British Royal National Theatre revealed that ‘Waiting for Godot’ is one of the most important publications of the 20th century. ‘Waiting for Godot’ promotes the view that life is meaningless – just a series of sad disappointments.

Bible theology and philosophy gives us a different view, clearly seen in the writings of the Biblical prophets like Isaiah. In Chapters 1-39, we see Isaiah asking Judah to change their wicked ways; in Chapters 40-66 we see Isaiah telling Judah that God’s messiah with restorative healing powers, will come rule with kindness and justice.

Hear Isaiah 42:1-3 (NLT): “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all…”

The Bible teaches that a day is coming when God’s messiah will rule the earth with justice – this is the messianic hope. Thus, life is not meaningless, it is an unavoidable journey to the next world when God brings justice to the nations.

May God help us to understand the messianic hope clearly – may we experience its healing power and strength it provides daily, Amen! 

 

ISAIAH – BURNING PASSION FOR JUSTICE

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Act justly with mercy and humility (Image source: medium.com)

There is a saying in French, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, meaning “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. King Solomon would nod his head in agreement, for he also wrote “there is nothing new under the sun”.

So, it is not surprising that almost 3000 years ago, the prophet Isaiah writing to national leaders in Judah, spent much of his energy preaching against bribery and corruption of judges – issues that are still of huge importance today.

Isaiah 5:21-23 (MSG Bible), in strong language says: “Doom to you who think you’re so smart, who hold such a high opinion of yourselves! All you’re good at is drinking—champion boozers who collect trophies from drinking bouts And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty while you violate the rights of the innocent.”

God’s Word Translation (GW) Bible says: “How horrible it will be for those who think they are wise and consider themselves to be clever. How horrible it will be for those who are heroes at drinking wine, who are champions at mixing drinks, who declare the guilty innocent for a bribe, who take away the rights of righteous people.”

In Isaiah Chapter 5, the prophet makes it clear that the God of Israel does not approve of  unjust leaders, and will hold them to account for their action. This is the same God we profess to worship in the Christian faith, and He holds all of us to the same standard. Thus, in our daily lives, do we deal with other people fairly?

May the Lord help us to have the strength to deal fairly with other people, black and white, female and male, poor and rich, Amen! 

ISAIAH STILL SPEAKS…

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Statue of Isaiah, Rome (Image source: Pinterest)

My late paternal grandfather was a thoughtful person and storyteller. He would tell stories of his life as a young man and draw out lessons from his successes and failures. My grandfather’s lessons on marriage and family still speaks to me many years after his death; I find them relevant as I work on being a good husband and father.

The message of the Prophet Isaiah, written 3000 years ago, still speaks today. In the 66 Chapters of the book of Isaiah, we see him speaking against bad leaders, and speaking up for justice and compassion. Isaiah is easy to understand when we read The Message Bible (MSG) version freely available online at Bible Gateway.

In Chapter 1:13-17 (shortened) Isaiah gives a message from God: “I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion… No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody… Clean up… Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.”

This is a powerfully relevant message for people everywhere today – from the USA to Brazil; Britain to France; Saudi Arabia to China; Cameroon to Zimbabwe.

Yes, Isaiah also speaks of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus – he speaks of a time when Jesus will rule on earth with justice, and compassion for the weak; but before that time comes, Isaiah speaks to you and I to: learn to do good, work for justice, help the downtrodden-homeless-defenseless people we come across in 2019.

May the Lord help us respond positively to Isaiah’s message, Amen!