He gave us back to our Father

“And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.”—Luke 9:39 (ESV)

The story of this boy in Luke 9:37-43 is personal to me, not that I have been attacked by evil spirits, but that I have been countlessly attacked by sin and whatever the evil spirit does to that boy, sin has done to me before.

Sin has seized, shaken, shattered and even more, it hardly left me. It has kept roaming around. I have felt powerless, broken and utterly defenceless. It seems to me that the only way Satan will have control is by beating us up! How weak of him!

What about you? When you give in to that addiction, or log into a website that promises what it cannot give, or hang around people you shouldn’t be around, or make a decision that doesn’t seem right, don’t you feel shattered? Shattered that you are at a point of no return? Do you feel like your flimsy bones are stuck until you bow down to the demands of your flesh? Do you feel weak in the knees?

If you identify with me, then this boy is our brother and his struggles are the same as ours. Sin is nothing to be proud of, for it takes whatever it wants by force. Satan doesn’t negotiate, and he surely doesn’t give any choices (for those of you who believe in your freedom to choose).

But thank God for Jesus. “While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.” (Luke 9:42, emphasis mine) Jesus healed the boy and gave him back to his father. You see, the evil spirit which had seized the boy had done something else: it had separated the boy from his father—it had stolen this boy from the only love he had.

Like with this boy, Jesus defeated our sin. In His life, death and resurrection, He put an end to the power of evil. At the right time, he snatched us from the claws of the beast and gave us back to our Father. Jesus saving work is also restorative; it restores our relationship with God. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Gal 4:6) “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Rom 8:15)

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Easter Sunday has to be a Big Deal, even on Easter Monday.

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”—Romans 5:9 (ESV)

I’ll say it. For many of us, Easter Sunday is not so much a big deal. We get excited because we are getting a 4-day break from work (to travel or sleep), and also eat some good food. We celebrate the day, and get back to our usual grind of keeping the rules and living by them.

If we are going to shout “He is risen, Hallelujah!” on Sunday and then get out our ledger books and start keeping score on Monday, I suggest we keep Easter Sunday in the same category as Fool’s Day. Because the day which is not going to radically alter me, my views, relationships, and devotion to God, is not worth much. We will just tell a few lies and hope that our friends fall for them.

If by Easter Monday we are still looking at God as a rule master who walks around with a big stick, punishing those who fail to keep His rules and rewarding those who do their best, then Jesus means nothing to us. If we still imagine God as an angry Police officer waiting to give us “a taste of our own medicine”, then the resurrection is not the Good News they told us it was. We, of all people, should be pitied.

Easter Sunday has to be bigger than our little systems of tit-for-tat. It has to unsettle us, leaving us lying on our backs and asking: “Holy smokes! Is God crazy?” The hairs on our skin have to stand as we wonder why someone would die at the hands of crooks and still forgive them as they continued to hammer nails through His feet. Easter has to be a big deal.

God has to forgive my sin and remember it no more. Not just that, He has to stop being angry at me—now—this is radical. Yes—God has to stop being mad at me—and I have to stop thinking that He is mad at me. Because if Good Friday means anything, it’s that the wrath that God had towards me was poured out, in its entirety, onto Jesus. Easter Sunday, on the other hand, is the Father’s seal of approval, that he won’t be wrathful towards me anymore. As one person said, “Easter Sunday is the Fathers Amen to the Son’s It is Finished.

What this means is that until you die (or until Jesus returns), God will deal with you in mercy and grace instead of raging anger. That you can screw up, and go into destructive behaviours, mess up your relationships, break the 10 commandments seventy times seven before ten in the morning and ultimately fall away from God and God will bring you back to Himself with grace. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Easter Sunday means that you and I have been reconciled to God and that we can never lose that reconciliation. That God’s devotion to us does not depend on our devotion to Him. And that His acceptance of us is not dependent on whether we avoid dangerous situations, or join the church choir, or lead the women’s group in Church. God accepts us because the righteous requirements that would ensure that God forever loves us were met by Jesus Christ on our behalf. (Romans 8:3-4)

Easter Sunday is a declaration that God is no longer an angry rule master but a loving Father (He has been a loving Father all this while but we are just discovering it now). As Robert Capon once wrote: “But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, and certainly will need from here on out into the New Jerusalem: the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the love that draws us home.” Your unfaithfulness to God will never alter God’s loving faithfulness to you. Never! Let that sink in.

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Why the Gospel Makes so Many People Angry

“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’”—Matthew 20:11-12 (ESV)

One mark, and probably the most visible one, of a false congregation (church/Ministry) is when it’s overflowing in numbers. When people are coming from the big and small towns, walking tens of hundreds of kilometres just to be at this one place, you ought to smell the fish.

Why do I say this? Because, by its very nature, the gospel is offensive. It makes people angry, it sends more people out of church than it brings them in (fact). This world has a way it operates. Mainly, it runs on a kind of fuel called earning­. I like to call it tit-for-tat. “To get something, you have to work for it”, “Good things come to those who are prepared for them.” You have heard this.

In other words, to get something, you have to work for it. When you work hard, then you have earned the right to deserve it. You can now enjoy your kill because you went out in the woods and did the hunting (by yourself). I feel I am speaking a familiar language here.

Now enter the Gospel. It’s free and doesn’t require anything on our part. What about our work and deserving? The gospel throws that in the garbage can (it always has one garbage can reserved for such purposes). It doesn’t draw lines of those who are deserving and those who are not. It recklessly gives the same amount to all.

But then, we have people who have toiled their entire lives to deserve God’s love for them. They have worked. And then there are those whom society thinks they don’t deserve an ounce God’s love, because they haven’t worked enough (or they haven’t worked at all). They have continued to remain in wrong groups, are doing a lot of bad stuff (my friend recently lost her phone, one of these guys snatched it from her), they can’t even show up in church, not even on Easter Sunday or Christmas. These are the riffraff you hear about, the ones we love to talk about in our “holiness groups” as a way of demonstrating our own exponential holiness.

The offense of the gospel is that it accepts these riffraff without requiring them to first change. To add salt to injury, the gospel does not ask for a guarantee that they will change after they are accepted. The gospel just opens its doors and lets it the riffraff, the beggars and fools in to eat and drink until they are full, without a coupon. Not just that, it asks them to stay as long as they want because this party is for always.

Now hear the good guys: “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” The gospel pays the same amount to those who have been working 50 years and those who started yesterday at 5:30 in the evening. What is so offensive about grace is that it gives, for free, the same amount to those who have spent their entire lives working and those who have never even showed up at the workplace.

The “good guys” are mad because they think God should pay them, in hard currency, for their sweat, tears and blood. They have endured the scorching sun, put up with annoying line managers, walked in the rain every morning just to get to work, and along the way, they have accumulated a wealth of experience. But when it comes to payday, they receive 30 shillings and the whippersnapper who confirmed his appointment today at lunchtime also receives 30 shillings. How offensive!

That is why a gospel-preaching, bible-believing church will be nearly empty, these “good guys” will find another congregation where their efforts are congratulated and their picture printed on top of the Sunday Worship bulletin. Thanks Morris.

The seemingly good guys think that they are good, which just outright foolhardy. The bible says that no one is good, that all of us have fallen short. Question is: “Where are these offended guys getting their ideas from?” They better calm down and accept the truth that they are no way better than anyone else.

And when we accept that we are not good, in fact, that we are worse off that we can dare imagine, that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect glory (better still, that we fall short every day), the gospel of God’s free grace that requires nothing on our part but gives everything to us becomes Good News for every day. You are not better than the other guy; it’s just that God is Good enough to save you and the other guy. While all of us were still sinning, Christ died for all the ungodly.

That is your very long (but relieving) Lifeline, AMEN.

Palm Sunday: How shall we be Triumphant?

Today Christians all over the world, even those who have not been to church in a long time, will grace the pews for Palm Sunday. Palms will be all over the place and we will be waving hosanna with the joy of a little kid who has just unpacked his new toy.

When Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:53), we know that a lot of theological and Prophetic bombs are about to go off. He is walking to His death. “Jesus setting His face towards Jerusalem” could literally be translated as Jesus setting his face towards his grave and Palm Sunday is when He walks into jaws of death like a lamb walking towards the bloodied altar.

The road leading into Jerusalem is by now beaming with life, it is Palm Sunday. Jubilation and celebration. Shouts of praise and adoration. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” We should not forget that by this time the palms are shaking. By today’s standards, this was a red carpet reception only fitting for dignitaries and Hollywood blockbuster movie stars.

But there is something else: this King who is coming to town is mounted on a donkey! A donkey! And surely, the jubilant ones would have noticed this. They would have asked themselves why he was not on horseback. By the look of things, this is not your typical king.

The jubilations in town are a sign of the triumph about to come, but how? How shall we be triumph? Indeed if you read the story of this triumphant King, it doesn’t go well in the next few days. The lips that shout “Blessed is the King” on Palm Sunday will be the same lips that shout “crucify Him!” on Good Friday.

What is going on? How shall we be triumphant? When Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on an ass (a donkey), He is making a statement that his backers gravely miss: the battle will be won by dying. Indeed, a donkey is the antithesis of a horse. While a horse is a sign of battle, a donkey is one of peace. The King comes in peace; He comes for peace, to die in it.

The dilemma of the people waving palm branches on Palm Sunday is that they also have an idea of how they shall be triumphant. And their idea is different from Jesus’s. Theirs is one of conquering, drawing swords and bleeding the enemy out.

Our church today cannot be any different. We may accept and celebrate the fact that it’s Palm Sunday and Jesus is in town but when it gets to climbing the hill to face our death, we rather stay downhill and monitor the proceedings from below. While Jesus insists that winning will only come by dying, we insist on living. Where he makes it clear that we can only win by bleeding ourselves out, we insist on winning by bleeding out the enemy.

Today’s church has outrightly refused to die. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33) The Gospel of Jesus is very clear: it’s only in dying that we will ever be able to live. But we insist on living. We insist on doing it our way, because we have convinced ourselves that if we work harder, we get to keep our lives.

But getting our hands dirty doesn’t guarantee life. If anything, it guarantees death. Those who insist on living will eventually die a death they will never come back from. God’s ferocious judgement awaits everyone who tries to earn salvation by doing more, trying harder, getting better or trying to hold tightly on their rotten life instead of just dropping dead.

God only accepts corpses because He alone knows what to do with them. To use the words of Robert Capon, Jesus “never meets a corpse that doesn’t sit up right on the spot.” When we die, we give up on the one thing that will always condemn us—our rotten life. “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:7) But in death, we are able to receive a new and better life, Jesus’s life. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

In this case, Palm Sunday is a call to die to our rotten life. A call to give up on our life so that we will be resurrected into a new one—a life in Christ. It through dying that we get to live. The Good News is that God has offered His body, in exchange for our rotten ones and when we give up on this awful life, we soon realise that things are better on the other side. The garments are white and the sins have been forgiven and forgotten—this is the joy of the redeemed. You can only be hid in Him if you die with Him. So how shall we be triumphant? By dying.

4 Reasons why you should Always Remember your Sin

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”—Psalm 51:3 (ESV)

For the last couple of years I have had the privilege of teaching God’s people, many have come back to me with concerns. Concerns over my hermeneutic of preaching Law and then Gospel. (Hermeneutics is the study of the methods of [scripture] interpretation).

God speaks two words; His first is the word of demand (Law) and then His last word, the word of deliverance (Gospel). ‘Law and Gospel’ teaching or preaching (not Gospel and Law, order is important) is where Law is preached first (to expose our sin) and then Gospel is preached after (to expose Christ who has once-and-for-all conquered our sin and in Whom we have the forgiveness of our sins).

The concerns arise from my preaching of Law. Most of these concerned people raise issues like: “Aren’t you over-emphasizing sin?” “I feel like you are mourning sin”, “Sin lies in my past, can we talk about my present and my future?” and so many like those. Here are four reasons why you should always remember your sin.

1. Your sin grieves God. Since God is Holy, any unholy thing grieves Him and invokes His wrath. In the first place, it was Adam’s sin that shattered God’s relationship with mankind. Since we are Abba’s children, we ought to know that He has set boundaries (His perfect Law) and that our freedom should be within these limits He has set.

2. Sin is ugly (it has this tendency to look nice but vomit is never something to be proud of). Sin, when you first fall for it, it looks beautiful but make no mistake, it’s ugly, very ugly and it stinks. It promises what it can never give and it leaves whoever falls for it in misery: failed marriages, wayward kids, addictions, resentment, jealousy, fights, a lot of tears, etc. You have to remember the beast that sin is lest you are tempted into entering a marriage with it.

3. Sin is around us (all the time). Imagine falling in a pond filled with filthy water and then you start telling yourself: “don’t think about the pond, it’s not there.” Does that eliminate the pond? Even if you were pulled out of it, you need to always remember that there is a pond in your vicinity lest you fall in it again. Remember. Remember. Remember that as a Christian sin still stalk you like a mother lion stalking its prey.

4. It needs to be repented (and forgiven every day). The sins we always bring to God in prayer are those we struggle with, and thankfully so, God has done something about our sin. But when we choose to deliberately forget our sin, we stop looking at it as sin and it will grow into a habit and later an addiction. Remember your sin, always.

There is a reason why God in the Old Testament always reminded the Children of Israel of their past: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” That way, they were equally reminded of how gracious God had been and continued to be for them.

Likewise, when we are reminded of the sewer pit we fall into every day, and the rebellious life we used to lead, we are reminded of the gracious God who pulled us out without asking anything on our part. Grace is appreciated the most by people who remember how deep they had fallen and to what length God stooped to pull them out. Our sin is reminiscent of our gracious God. God reminds us of our depravity because He loves us so much to let sin devour us.

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Don’t Fake it, your Tears Glorify God

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”—Romans 8:22 (ESV)

This world can be dreadful. Darkness always surrounds us. Misery also marks our faces with its own stretch marks. This world can tear us apart; it can fill our eyes with tears.

Pain is all over, death stalks us like a vulture hoovering over its prey. Our bodies are diseased, our loved ones are just hanging on because of life support, our kids have fallen off the deep end—at least morally—and tribal tensions are on the rise.

Malice and false accusations in the workplace, jealousy between siblings, addictions to porn and drugs and perverted sexual behaviour mark our lives. Death, caused by sin, stares us right in the face every day.

Life is hard, sin is real and death is inevitable. This place we call home is a place washed in tears, tears of pain. We cry and ask God why it had to be us. We lay in our beds and stare at the ceiling unaware of whether we will amount to anything amidst this violent and deadly environment. Everyone but me has a gun.

When tears come, let them flow. Mourn your pain and groan about it. Because our cries are a sign that things are not as they should be. Our mourning is a declaration that all creation is amiss, that Genesis 3 didn’t leave us the same.

But when we hide our pain and tears, we also declare something: that things are okay, that they are as they should be and that this world needs no redeeming.

God’s children know that things are not as they should be, so they hope for a better world. We groan in hope and anticipation, like a mother in labour, we groan in pains of childbirth knowing that out of it will come something new—a new and better and perfect world.

Therefore, those tears flowing down your cheeks are your Maranatha cries. For we all cry “come back Lord and put things right. Come back and make all things new.” In that, we glorify our Saviour and Redeemer who alone can put things right.

But also, our tears are a way of holding on to the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. “For in this hope we were saved”, says Paul (Rom 8:24). Our hope is in Christ who will deliver to us the New Earth—a better place, perfect and free from sorrow, pain and death caused by sin. There we will be with our Lord because He has promised:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5a)

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Why “Never put all your Eggs in one Basket” is Really Bad Advice

The experts have said it. We have heard it, and done it.

You have heard it being said that “never put all your eggs in one basket”. You need some security and a number of options at your disposal. You need to be in control of the situation. You need to prepare for the unseen and the unexpected of occurrences.

To put all your eggs in one basket is to be sure that you will finally deliver the goods safely without upsets here and there.

Me + Baskets = Safe

In business, they say its disaster to have one income stream. If you run an enterprise that is healthy and making you richer everyday but with just one income stream, you are sitting on a time bomb. And bombs explode, my friend.

A fantastic businessman, therefore, will be him who can creatively find ways—not a way, but ways—in which his company can make more money. He should be able to find other baskets in which to place his valuable eggs.

This is not just a business thing; it’s our way of life. For example, I have not met any sane person who puts all his savings in one savings account. If I met one, I would pray that we don’t ever cross paths again. Such reckless tricks and total disregard for life are nothing to be proud of.

Control is our game, and you should play along.

The Rich Young Ruler—a Man of Baskets

Luke’s gospel carries an interesting story of a rich man who approaches Jesus for some consultation (Luke 18:18-30). This young man had made all the money that is there to be made, he had driven alongside the hottest girls in his open-roof Mercedes. He had seen the most beautiful sand beaches, and at that moment, I think he owned a fleet of private jets.

This guy had built mansions, employed many people and he was the master of an enormous chain of command. Since he was so rich, I assume, he had earned the right to set his own rules and then live by them.

But this young man wanted more. He wanted eternal life. It’s possible that he knew the saying that: “If you need something, go and get it.” Here he is trying to “get” eternal life. And so he asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Then Jesus tells him that eternal life is in keeping the 10 commandments. To Jesus’s surprise (and mine), the guy had kept them all since he was a kid. But Jesus was not done, He still had one more trick down His sleeve. He looked the rich guy in the face and told him to do one more thing: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The next thing we read is that this rich man was dismayed by what Jesus told him. He went into the parking lot, jumped into his yellow Bughatti and drove off. We never hear of him again.

It’s clear that this guy had invested his entire life building a life around baskets. He may have had a multiple-income-stream-business, a couple of investments here and there, mansions at the beach and in the country. His life generally felt safe because he had put his eggs in so many baskets.

But he still wanted another basket full of golden goose eggs which is why he went to Jesus.

Jesus – Baskets = Safe

Jesus’ answer to this rich man was brutal, it unsettled whoever heard it. So Peter, the inquisitive one probed even more and Jesus gave him the answer which the rich man needed to hear:

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

In this mind-blowing statement, Jesus dismantles the idea that keeping your eggs in many different baskets is safe. In fact his assertion is that baskets, altogether, are not safe: that those who locate their security in houses, wives, relatives, and so many other things will never receive eternal life.

Jesus says that eternal life in the age beyond this one is for those who have given up on control and trying to secure their future using their things, like the rich man. When you desire eternal life, you bring nothing and hide behind nothing; you give up on human initiative and stake your life on God’s initiative—which, by-the-way, doesn’t look safe at all in human terms.

The reason we love this whole eggs-in-many-baskets thing is because we have a lot of weak unhappy gods we are controlling and we are not sure that they will do the job anyway. That is why the many the baskets, the safer we feel because baskets are weak. We need many of them to feel safe. But they never do the job.

It’s impossible to claim that we are Christians and still locate our salvation in the baskets that carry our eggs. The Gospel of Jesus is a call to abandon the basket project—to give up all control—so that our hope, meaning, purpose, identity, security and salvation are found in someone else, outside of ourselves—in Jesus Christ alone in whom we have rest for our weary bones, forgiveness even for our darkest sins, and eternal life in the world to come.

 

God climbed down into the Pit

“…at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”—Jonah 2:5 (ESV)

When Jonah talks about the ‘pit’, he is not referring to a literal pit that you can dig with your hands. In fact the KJV uses the word ‘corruption’ instead of ‘pit’. In this sense, what Jonah is talking about here is sin—his sin—to be specific.

He talks about a different kind of pit, the one we all find ourselves in: sin. It is a pit in which Adam and his wife, due to their disobedience, fell into, and we, on Adam’s account, are born in that pit.

The prophet is singing a psalm of praise to God for bringing him out of this pit, a song of salvation. But it’s important that we pay attention to his words here. He says “yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” He doesn’t say: “yet you called up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”

He is not saying that God stood at the mouth of the pit and called him out of it saying: “Jonah! I am here, reach out your hand and grab mine and this nightmare will be over.” This is not what Jonah says and salvation doesn’t look like this. You don’t reach out to grab Jesus’ hand; at least dead people don’t grab hands.

But in this sweet melody, Jonah says that God “brought up” his life. How wonderful are these words! God in Jesus climbed down into the pit in which he had been plunged and pulled him out. Jonah did nothing, God did everything. Salvation is 100% God’s work and 0.0% our work.

His only contribution to Jonah salvation was his resistance that plunged him deep into the pit. Like Martin Luther once wrote, the contribution we make to our salvation is always sin and resistance, which is all we can offer.

The Good News is that God came. He walked these dusty roads, was betrayed by Judas’s depraved human heart, denied by Peter’s truth-less lips, crucified and killed by treacherous religious men. But He rose from the dead by conquering it and its power and now stands in victory.

Paul has this to say But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-6)

Friend, be encouraged by the truth that Jesus came. And that all the work affecting to your salvation—all of it—was done by Him and now He bids you come and rest, IT IS FINISHED!

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Now Go and Be Faithless…

“For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;”—Romans 3:3-4 (KJV)

Just before I sat down to meditate on the faithfulness of God, even amidst the meditation, there was a battle raging in my own heart: a fight to be faithful to God and His spoken word at that very moment. I am not sure that this is a fight I would win on any day.

This may be your problem too—if you are honest enough to admit it. The thoughts that run through your mind and the acts that they lead to are a divine shame. We all struggle with faithlessness.

Sin, boiled down to one word is unbelief, or faithlessness. Because sin is birthed by the desire to find an alternative to the standards and boundaries God has set. One theologian said that when a man enters a brothel pleasure himself with a prostitute, what he is actually looking for is God.

Sinfulness, by definition, is our natural tendency to look for God in places where he cannot be found—in things smaller than Jesus. To ask if you struggle with sin would be stupidity and incompetence on my part. Sin is everyone’s problem. And so, it follows that faithlessness is everyone’s problem.

But amidst your faithlessness, do you ever feel that God has, or will give up on you unless you clean up your act? Do you ever feel that that your faithlessness will nullify God’s faithfulness to you? I believe, like me, you do too.

Paul encountered such objections. The children of Israel had been unfaithful to God but were the chosen people, the children of Abraham. And so the question was: “Will the faithlessness of the Children of Israel nullify the faithfulness of God (to His promise to Abraham)?” Paul’s answer was big fat no. Absolutely not! “God forbid!” the KJV says.

God’s faithfulness to us doesn’t depend on how faithful we are to him. If it were like that, then Jesus would still be waiting for us to be faithful so that He comes down here to die. And why would a sane God die for a faithful person? The coming of Jesus, then, is a testament to our faithlessness.

God, in Jesus comes for the faithless, not those who manufacture Chinese-bred-faithfulness. The other day, a Chinese zoo which didn’t have a lion came up with a brilliant idea. They got a huge dog, put wool around its neck and presented it to visitors as a lion. Hell broke loose when the lion started barking. Since then, their troubles have been increasing day by day. I feel sorry for the guide who was on duty that day.

You see, what most of us claim to have is not faithfulness. In the economy of the gospel, it’s a dog-lion kind of faithfulness. We have come up with tricks and tweaks of trust that we call faithfulness. My prayer is that you will leave that junk on the garbage heap near you as Jesus draws you near to Himself.

Even our ability to be faithful to God is not faithfulness at all. Faithfulness does not come from inside us. Because at the core, faithfulness is first and foremost not a thing to be done, than it is a gift to be received. A gift from God.

It is God who faithes the faithless. The faithful are so because they have already been faithed by God the faither. He fills faithless and doubting hearts with His faithfulness. To us who struggle to be faithful, he freely gives his faith, the faith that won’t leave us. We take nothing but receive everything.

Now go and be faithless, giving up on all attempts at manufacturing your own trust in the hope that He who is faithful will faith you. Those who believe and have received the finished work of Jesus are faithless in themselves but above all, faithful in God. The faithfulness we have is for us but apart from us—it comes from without—it’s passive.

God’s faithfulness to us does not depend on how faithful we are to him, but rather, His faithfulness to us births in us a gift of faith which, with time, grows towards God. It all starts and ends with God the faither.

Now go and be faithless…

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Sleep Until Something Happens

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”—2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)

This past Sunday, Christians around the world, in unison, celebrated the ‘Day of the Transfiguration of our Lord’. The transfiguration is not that popular in church today. The other day, I was sharing the gospel with a few friends when I mentioned the transfiguration everyone was like: “Trans-what? What is that?”

But this event is of significant importance. That is why the church set aside a Sunday for it. Luke, the doctor in his gospel account captures the scene in full (Luke 9:28-36).

Jesus took Peter, John and James to pray on the mountain, and this happened to Jesus: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:29-31)

What we read is that Jesus took three disciples with him, and that weird stuff happened to his face and clothing. But also, that the three disciples went to sleep as soon as they reached the mountain. And they really slept.

Now when I said this event is very important, I wasn’t joking. In this event, Moses is representative of the Law, Elijah the Prophets and Jesus Christ the New Covenant of grace. Verse 35 says “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!””

The God who had promised through the prophets that He would forgive us and remember our sins no more was going to fulfill his promise. He wasn’t going to do it through Moses or Elijah but through Christ. Salvation can only come through Christ.

So, if you think you can earn salvation by keeping the 10 commandments or living ‘an exemplary’ life, you are doomed. Instead, you better be sleeping. You should be snoring. “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep…” (v. 32a)

You see, God sends us to sleep for a reason: He can put things right without us. Just like He did to Adam in creating the Woman, God sends us to sleep so that He can do the work. I think that is why he created us last, after the beetles, mice, mosquitoes and chickens. He didn’t need our ideas on giving the mouse a fifth leg so that it can run faster or giving bigger thigh muscles to mosquitoes. He kept us asleep in His plan of creation.

As we slept, God was being born in the dusty, sun hot town of Bethlehem. As we slept, God was learning to curve furniture out of wood. As we slept he was picking 12 Ragamuffins to change the world. As we slept, God was betrayed, whipped and crucified. As we slept, His body was being laid in a borrowed tomb. It was in our slumber that God defeated death and resurrected.

As we go about our usual business of snoring, God takes on flesh to do for us what both the Law and the Prophets could never do—atone for sins once and for all. Moses and Elijah couldn’t save us because they were also sleeping along with us.

On the day of the Transfiguration, what God made clear to us was that He doesn’t need us to save us. He preferred that our striving and good behaviour remain things we dream about, not the things that save us. He prefers that salvation remain a gift.

You can snore instead of praying and still be saved because your prayers don’t save and neither does your audible snoring or illustrious dreaming, but the One who works as you snore saves. At a fitting time, he wakes you up with snore juices running down your chin, with eyes covered in disgust. He won’t allow you to even wear make-up, and that is when He hands you the gift.

The gifts we receive in Jesus are free and we do nothing to earn them. He prays, we snore. He saves, we receive the gift. Just like that. We wake up to utter our “Amen” to God because of what His son has done. Who said sleeping is a waste of time? Send them this devotion!

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

 

 

Will you Receive your Miracle?

And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”—Ezekiel 37:13-14 (ESV)

There is an on-going restlessness for people to see a miracle in their lives. The “ministry” of miracles, signs and wonders is back but this time with a twist.

Last week I read about “miracle money” on Facebook. There is this young soul who has been attending a fellowship where their teacher (cum prophet!) is teaching about something called “Error Connection”. I think it means that mistakes will happen in your life but they will be favour, something like that.

That same day I was digging into this miracle money thing, I came across pictures. Pictures of a text message (SMS) notifying the owner of the phone that a certain amount of money, in excess of a million shillings, had been “accidentally” deposited to their account! “Miracle money”! And that was his miracle!

How dishonouring are we to God that we have reduced His sacrifice for us on the cross to a mere sum of money! How grieving is it to God that we have taken His life, death and resurrection as a means to facilitate the cravings of our evil hearts! How dare we render the cross of Christ meaningless! May God have mercy on us.

That, however, doesn’t mean that God no longer performs miracles in our lives. He does. He promises a miracle for each one of us. Ezekiel 37:9-10 says “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”

The greatest miracle, I believe, recorded in scripture is Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. It’s what He promises in Ezekiel 37, to cover our dry bones with muscle, flesh, warm flowing blood and breathe life into us. It is what Jesus does for Lazarus.

I have heard so many people talk about the freedom they received in Christ. And the ones who say it through tears are those who received freedom from sin and its power over them. Not that they no longer sin, but that God gave them new affections and desires that were better than what the world, working on the whims of sin, the flesh and the Devil, could offer them.

To these folks, it wasn’t a mere conversion but a resurrection. They were dead in their sins and looked to bottles, sex, money, fame, tobacco, reputation etc. for salvation. They drank and passed out, had sex with every girl in their small town, watched all the porn, smoked tobacco like a chimney and did everything the world could offer but now, without explanation, they don’t do those things anymore or desire to do them—they have been resurrected to a new life.

Friends, Jesus Christ offers this resurrection to all of us, free of charge by grace alone. He says “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, ESV).

The Good News is not that He says it; it’s that He has done it. Paul in Ephesians 2:1 writes “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…” Now hear the gospel: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”  (Eph. 2:4-5). Isn’t that amazing? But God…

“But God” is a paradigm-shattering statement, those two words are the true gospel. God, who has made us alive when we were dead, still makes alive. His business is to breathe life in dry bones, your dry bones and mine. This miracle still makes my heart skip.

Will you receive your miracle?

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

348 Words on Winning without Ever Lifting a Finger

When our world talks about winning, what comes to mind is adequate preparation, meticulous planning, to-the-dot execution, and later celebrating the victory. In pedestrian terms, down here, wins don’t come easy. The saying goes: “success comes to those who are prepared.”

Winning takes a toll on you. You do the work. You sweat in exchange for a hard earned win. This is how we have been schooled and this was God’s judgement to Adam in Genesis 3: A combination of sweat and soil were to produce the bread which would then feed his wife and children.

But there is another story of winning. It is Apostles’ story. Acts 5:17-21 tells the story of how the Angel of the Lord comes down to open the prison cells in which the Apostles had been locked up. The first word the Angel says is “Go” not “give me a hand here”.

The Apostles are passive in this case. The victory is theirs but they did nothing to enable it. They just open hands and take the gift of victory. It is theirs by faith.

Such is Christianity, God in Jesus who is the head of the church does the sweating, the bleeding and dying, and the church takes the victory. Just like that. He becomes poor so that we will become rich. He loses everything so that you and I will earn everything. Because Jesus was poor in spirit for us, ours is the Kingdom of God.

The gospel story is a story of a God who gives trophies to bad kids who didn’t even finish their homework; it is a story about a slave who is adopted as a son to inherit the estate he had nothing to do with by faith alone.

Frankly, this is the best story ever told, the billion dollar lotto doesn’t come close. And who would be so silly not to take up on such a deal? A deal that asks nothing but gives everything to you. Not me. Certainly, not me.

“Sensible people, of course, should need only about thirty seconds of careful thought to realize that getting off scot-free is the only way any of us is going to get off at all”—Robert Farr Capon.