Month: July 2013

Dressing African Traditional Relgion in Biblical Garments?

These are excerpts from an article on Conrad Mbewe’s blog.

Dressing African Traditional Religion in Biblical Garments?

Many explanations have been given for the explosion of the Charismatic movement in Africa. Many have seen this as a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit. Whereas there is probably more than one reason, I want to add my own observation to this for what it is worth. In this blog post, I do not refer to the old conservative form of Pentecostalism once represented by the Assemblies of God churches. I have in mind the current extreme form that is mushrooming literally under every shrub and tree in Africa. How can one explain this phenomenon?……………………………………………..

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services…………………………………………………………………………

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services…………………………………………………………………..

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I do not mean to be unkind, but what the modern Charismatic movement in Africa has done is to simply take this entire erroneous superstructure of African religious worldview and baptise it with wrongly applied Bible verses and Christian language. The only difference is that the layer of dead ancestors and evil spirits is now one hotchpotch of confusion. This is why the nonsense of demons becoming spirit husbands and wives, and wrecking havoc in marriages,……………………………………………………………………………………………

In the African Charismatic circles, the “man of God” has replaced the witchdoctor. He is the one who oozes with mysterious power that enables him to break through those two impregnable layers, which us lesser mortals cannot penetrate. So, when blessings are not flowing our way despite our prayers, we make a beeline to his quarters or his church for help. This explains the throngs in these circles. The crowds are not looking for someone to explain to them the way to find pardon with God. No! They want the “man of God” to pray for them.

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Read the the rest of the article herehttp://www.conradmbewe.com/2013/07/why-is-charismatic-movement-thriving-in.html

will be interested in knowing what your views are about this article from Conrad Mbewe.  All debate should be civil.

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All That Glitters…

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9

“Give me neither poverty nor riches”.  I can see a lot of people agreeing with the first part of that statement, but the second part is a little bit harder to swallow.  Who wants to have to struggle with poverty? Who doesn’t want to be rich and wealthy? This statement seems counter-intuitive in this modern culture which has a “get rich or die trying” attitude towards wealth. In our world today it will seem that money is the solution to all our problems.  It would at least make life more comfortable and enjoyable.
It seems as if this same attitude towards money, wealth and prosperity can be found within the church.  In a new show that will be shown in the USA on the Oxygen Network called Preachers of LA, one of the cast members says”P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/preachers-of-la-trailer-teases-with-lavish-dramatic-lifestyles-of-six-mega-pastors-99070/).  If nothing else, the statement seems to imply that Christians deserve to live the good life like the celebrities of our day.  And how else can we do that if we our bank accounts aren’t overflowing like the drainage system in Accra after heavy rains.
The gospel message in recent times seem to be focused on living life to the fullest or said another way, living to your full potential.  99% percent of the time this refers to being materially wealthy and successful.  When you have fees to pay, relatives to support, “chop money” to give to the wife etc that is a message you want to hear.  There are lots of people who are genuinely struggling to survive on a daily basis and this message gives them the hope that this is will finally be the year of their financial victory.  On the 31st of December, when millions of Ghanaians hold all-night vigils at church to welcome the new year, the predominant message that is often preached is the assurance that “this is your year of financial breakthrough”.  The result is that the focus of gospel messages seem to be around material wealth and prosperity.  You would think that we become Christians in order to drive Ferraris and live in large houses.
This shift in focus has at the very least skewed the message of the gospel, and in doing so the attention is being shifted away from Christ to earthly possessions. The gospel message when phrased in purely materialistic terms seems to almost forget the heart of the human problem, our need for forgiveness.This shift sometimes makes us think that the blessed Christian refers only to the person who is financially prosperous and if nothing else fuels the desire for wealth.  This shift does nothing to teach Christians what godliness with contentment means.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  – 1 Timothy 6:6-10
I don’t think Paul is asking everyone to resign themselves to a life of poverty.  He tells Timothy that instead of eagerly pursuing material wealth and wandering from the faith like so many have done, he should rather pursue things that have an eternal value (“… pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” – 1 Timothy 6:11 ).  He instructs Timothy to command the rich to not put their hope in their wealth but on God(” Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” – 1 Timothy 6:17) and to be generous with what they have. The point is, whether rich or poor, our lives must centered around pursuing godliness and God by His Spirit will enable us to do this.  Paul says it in another way in Phillipians:
“..for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” – Phillipians 4:11
The gospel tells us that our biggest problem is not our lack of material possessions. Our biggest problem is that we are alienated from God (” Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior… ” – Colossians 1:21) and in desperate need of a Saviour. Christ has reconciled us, through his death, holy, unblemished and free from accusation, to God (“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death…” – Colossians 1:22).  We now have an inheritance which is free from the decay of this world and kept for us in heaven where we will reign with Christ forever.  The Holy Spirit is a seal that guarantees this inheritance(“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” – Ephesians 1:13-14) and enables us to live godly lives until that day.
 This is the gospel and hope that Paul held on to and enabled him learn to be content in whatever situation he was found himself.  This is the gospel that enabled Paul say that godliness with contentment is great gain because his hope was not in the riches of this world.  This is the gospel that enabled Paul to tell the rich to be generous and place their hope in God because they know how much they have received from Him.  This is the gospel that allows the weak to say they are strong and the poor to say they rich because of what the Lord has done.  This gospel shifts the focus from ourselves to Christ and from material possessions to our glorious inheritance.
A gospel that emphasizes material possessions and blessings is always saying “this is the year of my financial breakthrough” and asks “which revival and/or prophet/pastor etc I can go to make this happen?”.  This in turn creates an environment where con-artists can parade as men of God to lure and deceive the desperate and gives them a false hope that only glitters like gold but has no substance.  But a gospel that has Christ has its centre says “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” and asks “how do I grow in godliness?” and can make the difficult decisions for Christ when they come because their hope is built on Jesus Christ.
A Christ centered gospel produces a Christians that have a faith that looks back at the cross and a hope that looks forward to the glorious inheritance that has been kept safe for us.  And while we are in this world we trust and pray to God for our needs so our financial lack doesn’t drive us to ungodliness and we are also generous with our wealth so that the lure of riches doesn’t drive us to ungodliness.
The writer from Proverbs can say that “Give me neither poverty nor riches” because he understands that there is something more important than our financial status. He is so focused on living for God that he prays that God will take away whichever one will shift his focus. I wonder how many of us have that focus or are even praying that God gives us that focus.

This might not be the year of our financial breakthrough.  It might not be the year of financial victory.  But today is the day that the Lord has made and are we living for God in it? That is ultimately a much more important question.

Both Rebel and Legalist
What he really needs is genuine freedom and genuine goodness, an unsullied righteousness. What he can’t easily understand is that such goodness and freedom come apart from the law. He’s prepared to pay for it. He’d happily work for it. After all, if he could pay or work for it then he could go on boasting about how good a man he is, even if a rebel. But what confronts him is a freedom so radically free that it not only comes to a man apart from the law but also makes that man free from the law. It even comes with its own language: grace. If this rebel lawyer would truly be free, he must learn an entirely new language. That sounds simple enough until you realize that learning a language requires more than simply acquiring some vocabulary, picking up a few grammatical rules or mimicking a few stock phrases. Nor have we learned a language with fluency when we become pretty good at hearing the language, translating it into our mother tongue, then translating our response back into the new language. No. He’ll have to learn to think in the new language. He’ll have to hear the language of grace as one who all his life has thought and spoken in grace. He’ll have to learn what grace thinks, what grace sees, what grace feels, what grace hopes, and how grace acts–all from inside the world of grace. Only then will he know genuine freedom. For only then will grace teach him to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to say “Yes” to self-control, uprightness, and godliness in an age full of rebel lawyers.
Read more as Thabiti Anyabwile expalains further here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/07/09/both-rebel-and-legalist/

A description of how two polar opposites, the legalist and the rebel feed of each other in a symbiotic relationship. Very revealing insight by Thabiti Anyabwile. Read more here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/07/09/both-rebel-and-legalist/

Praying for friends

Praying for friends

    For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.Philemon 1:7

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccles. 4:9-12

Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship—for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you give me through my friends.

When we walk through difficult and draining seasons, we’re inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through. Nobody can relate to my feelings and confusion. Everyone would handle this mess much better than I am.”

Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of long-standing, all-weather, burden-bearing friends becomes especially precious.

Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for friends who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”—including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, of the love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.

I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.

Father, my all-weather friends turn my heart heavenward. They simply remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in the gospel. It’s overwhelming, settling, and centering to hear Jesus say to us, “I no longer call you servants… I call you friends” (John 15:15). Indeed, Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).

What wondrous love is this, indeed? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Hallelujah, what a salvation! Hallelujah, what a Savior! So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ most glorious and gracious name.

Taken from The Gospel coalition

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2013/07/07/a-prayer-of-thanks-for-the-gift-of-good-friends/

Why are you not married?

It seems it is couples season. There are a lot of relationship seminars in town. I see the flyers everywhere and on radio programs. I spoke to a friend during the week. And he told me how happy he was that he was going to one of such programs.

‘It is a singles seminar.” he told me bashfully. “You know what that means? A lot of ladies are single and are coming for one purpose.” he winks. “It is the best place for a single guy to go to.”

This would probably add to the pressures of being single in this society. As if the kindly old woman who would nosily ask you, “So when are you getting married?” or the constant badgering of family and friends as to why at least you are not dating, is not enough. They say marriage is tough, but being single is a lonely life filled with harassment and badgering.  This helps to fuel the appetite for these summits and conferences.

I have quite honestly not been to any one of these, therefore I do not know and cannot speak into the content of these summits. I am not criticizing these summits. It is just an indicator as to what the culture thinks of marriage. I am more concerned about the societal status given to marriage and the lower status given to the single among us. It is not just the culture,  as individuals we crave companionship. Everyone at one point or the other, one time or the other, has thought about companionship and craved to have someone in our lives. Relationships we say are the bedrock of society. It is almost as if the craving for companionship is hardwired in us. The reason why isolation could be the cruelest punishment given to anyone is because we are social beings. Evolutionary biologist would say we have evolved into that habit.

The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heaven and earth and He saw that all He had created was good, it was very Good, Genesis 1:31.The only thing that was not good was a lonely man. And hence enters the helper. Note man’s reaction it is one of great joy.

“This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”  Genesis 2:23.

In Genesis 2:25, Marriage is declared, there is separation, unification, and consummation. The relationship is perfect with trust. As illustrated by the nudity with no shame. This is a perfect relationship. A relationship established by God and enjoyed by man in the presence of God. This is so because we are created like God (Genesis 1:26); a God that has enjoyed a perfect relationship since from before time; the relationship of the Trinity.

Surely that points out why we are so relationship crazy. Everyone should be in a relationship. But the picture above is a very perfect situation. You have probably been around long enough know things aren’t that perfect. The reason why things are not the same is because Genesis 3 happens. There is a sort of coup d’ etat against God. God’s abundance and good work is treated with disdain and cast away. The relationship between God and man is fractured, along with that is the relationship between man and woman (Genesis 3:6).

The most important question would be the function of relationship or marriage in our society. What does it mean? Is marriage a sort of high stool or crown that becomes the goal of every individual? What happens if you don’t get married? Well the Bible talks about marriage in the shadow of our relationship with God. Marriage points us to a greater more fulfilling relationship. In Ephesians 5:21-33, when Paul speaks about marriage, there is a direct correlation between the relationship between a man and a woman to that between Jesus Christ and the church. The man is to love the church like Christ loved the church even to the point of death. The submission mentioned in verses 24 points to a loving relationship not one to be abused. The man has the responsibility to make sure that they love their wives as their own bodies. Bringing no harm to them. And the holiness of the wife is also the responsibility of the husband; verses 27. Verse 31 quotes the proclamation on marriage from Genesis 2:24. We are in an everlasting relationship that is more important than the physical one we crave. It is growth in that relationship that would determine how our other relationships go. The cravings that we have for a relationship act as a sign board pointing us to a greater relationship. The relationship between God and the church; God and I; God and you. Our desire reminds us that we are social beings and are created for a close and intimate relationship with God. A very personal and relational God. Not a distant God or a God we need rituals and customs to get to. But one that came down in flesh to die so he can be that close to you and me.

What is there to be said about those of use who are single in this marriage happy culture? Does the fact that we are single make us defective in some way?

In 1 Corinthians 7, the Bible talks about relationship status and being Christian. I know a lot of people that are slightly disappointed in that part of scripture. Some friends claim Paul is too laissez faire on the matter and some just presume he is just discouraging on the matter. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul says I wish everyone was like me, but each one has his own gift. I wonder if we see singleness as a gift. Especially if we are considered to be of marrying age or even beyond it. I don’t think our society treats singleness as a gift. It is often treated with disappointment and quite honestly with disrespect.

Do you see singleness as much a gift as marriage? For every one of us, whether we are in a relationship or not, our status is seen in the Bible as a gift. The place in life in which we find ourselves has been assigned to us (1 Corinthians 7:17). The goal has always been and will always be to grow in the relationship of our God and savior. The most important relationship you have is your relationship with God. Hence every other relationship you have or go into serves the purpose of glorifying God or ushering you into a better relationship with God. You see the Bible is not quick to compare one to the other or to say marriage is a bigger blessing because that is not the goal. Even marriage itself is but a sign an illustration of a marriage sealed by blood: one we have with God. If that is your stance then the question will not be so much why you are not married. But rather is your status leading you towards God? How well are you using your status for Christ? Your marriage decisions, like who to meet, where to meet,  how to grab,when to marry and who to marry are all viewed in the umbrella of Gods relationship.

If you are single like me, then know that our desires are right and good. But they are not an end in themselves. They point us to something greater. Something more fulfilling. I will continue to pray for a wife, a family. A family that I can love, because that is good and right and Godly. But I know that it will lead me to a more everlasting relationship. I won’t be in a hurry to change, but rather, no matter my status my first and foremost priority will be to grow in Christ. To get to know his will. I wonder whether in all these single seminars and relationship counseling sessions the center of relationship is Christ. I know most have heavily Christian overtones. But I wonder if we are taught to be content in Godliness 1 Timothy 6:7.

I am indeed single now and do not intend to remain single for the rest of my life. But If I am to be a Godly husband, the best thing I can do right now is to seek the number one relationship. It is to grow in Christ so that no matter my status, God is glorified. I wonder if our society understands this. I think if we did we wouldn’t put singles under so much pressure (aside the internal pressure we feel). I think if we did we would support them and help them grow.

Let all our relationships and the ones we don’t have lead us to Christ.

Living for Christ