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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Terrorists in Shepherds' Clothing

June 2, 2014

Dear Christian, who is interested in Africa,

Re: A Reminder of your Role in Bringing Revival

Introduction
Perhaps you know this, or perhaps you don't, but our beloved Africa is under siege from assailants who are catalyzing a catastrophe which is worse than anything the Al-Shabaab could ever do. The Scriptures say, "...If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household?" A little later on, it continues, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:25, 28, ESV).

In context, these verses discourage Christians from too much fear of a certain group of people (the persecutors of Christians), and encourage them to fear Someone else (Jesus Christ). That Jesus is the One to be feared (and the reason why he should be feared) is further clarified in verse 33. "But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" Some of the good news in this blog is that the false teachers who are misleading people, deceiving them, and pointing them towards hell are ultimately incapable of putting any one in hell. Only Christ can. We should fear only Him. 

Meeting the Issue
Nevertheless, false teachers are doing something treacherous. Terrorists persecute genuine and nominal Christians alike: They blast them out of this world. They are the human killers of the bodies of whomever they perceive to be advancing Christian thought against their Jihadist causes. May I submit to you, dear Christian, that we have a worse form of terrorists in leadership over purported Christians all over Africa? They are the human slayers of the souls of billions. These figurative terrorists are quite easy to identify. Like their brothers the Pharisees, they tend to love Mayfair and pomp. They drive pompous cars, and love to dress in pure white from head to toe. When they enter there stadium-sized auditoriums or visit actual sports stadiums, people cheer and act as though they were watching the Triumphal Entry of Matthew 21. But what is worse than their love for the praise of men is their doctrines. Their doctrines are "teachings of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1, ESV). This blog is about such figurative terrorists.

With this letter, I intend to add my voice to those sounding an alarm for a spiritual revival in Africa. Spiritual revival in Africa CAN come about in our life times (not necessarily WILL). If it comes, it WILL (not just it CAN) start with a de-emphasis of the so called "anointed man of God" and a re-emphasis of the anointed Word of God, the Bible. We have a perfect example of Christians whom the Holy Spirit commends for their holy mistrust of man and total trust in God. These were the Berean Jews (Acts 17:11-12). 

"God will give you a job making more money than you've ever imagined / With a position you're not even educationally qualified for. / It is called Favor"--Marcus Gill

My friend had not only borrowed the words and graphics from a Marcus Gill; she had appended three words of her own before the borrowed graphic. She had said, "Recieve this. NOW!" Do not get me wrong, I love the motivational quality intended by this graphic; I even shared twice. But when "Receive this" heads up anything, my theological antennae go up because I understand something about the contemporary scene of theology in Africa. Savage wolves, those terrorists, who call themselves prophets are all over the Christianized segment of the continent spreading a lie: If you accept Christ, they hiss, you will invariably "Receive" tremendous material blessings. They love to use the word "Receive!" in their twisted theology to deceive many who are naive. They say that if you claim anything (especially wealth and/or health), if you claim any of the material lusts of your wildest fantasies, you "WILL" receive it. They say, “you are a god,” and by that, like their father the devil, they mean that “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). It is a half-truth, a lie connivingly calculated for the doom of the hearer. The biblical fact is that if you ask for wealth or health or anything else from God, you CAN receive them. You may receive them, but only if God wills (Cf. Matthew 7:7-11 and 26:37-39; Mark 14:32-36; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; James 4:13-16 and 5:14 etc.).

What liars they are! Both the Scriptures and Christian experience provide overwhelming evidence against this lie which is propagated by these false teachers, these savage wolves dressed in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15 cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). May the condemnation and downfall of their erroneous theology come quickly! My earnest desire is that God may save them lest they stand before Him on the Day of Judgment and be as surprised as the fools of Matthew 7:22-23. May God save them or do whatever else it takes in His wisdom and design to rid our motherland of the menace of false prophets. Dear Christian, who is interested in the well-being of Africa, I hope you can join me in prayer for that.


Most of the rest of the material in this blog (i.e., after this paragraph) is an edited comment that I wrote under the post for my dear friend others to see. "Why is it edited?" you might ask. I had to add a good amount of Scriptural support to my argument so as to beef it up. I wanted to prove it to you from the anointed Word of God and not just my opinion. The "man of God" (2 Timothy 3:17) is incompetent without the Word of God. If you have the Holy Spirit in you, it may take time, but you should come to appreciate that the so-called prosperity gospel is unbiblical. I hope and pray that He does so sooner than later. I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit convinces at least one person through this blog. In faith, I am praying for this, and I know that He can even though He may not do so. I do not know about you, but I cannot bring myself to say that God WILL do something unless He has said so Himself. Maybe I am just coward, but I cannot muster the arrogance to say that God WILL have to do this or that. My understanding of reverence for God demands otherwise.

When Gill said, "God will give you a job making more money than you've ever imagined / With a position you're not even educationally qualified for. / It is called Favor,"

I said

Powerful words: I would change just one word. "Will" would become "can." "God can give you..." The fact of Scripture and of life is that God may or may not give his children material things. But whether He does so or not is a manifestation of His favour. Often God's favour on you may demand that He take away the material things that have become idols to you so that you can be molded into Christ's image from glory to glory (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18). God may show the greatest favour to you by allowing Satan to inflict you with a terrible and undesirable affliction so as to keep you from sin or to perfect you. We know that God did this for Paul so as to keep him from pride (2 Corinthians 12:6-7). When he thought of it, Paul could say, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities" (verse 10). It takes a refiner's fire to purify gold (see Malachi 3:1-5).

Question 1: Why does gold have to go through the hot embers of purification?
Answer: Because, coming straight from the mines as a raw mineral, it is impure. Precious as it is to the miner, even gold needs purifying from impurities that naturally comprise and compromise it. 

Question 2: Why may Christians need to go through the hot embers of suffering?
Answer: Because, coming straight from total depravity as unbelievers, they have clinging impurities (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 1:8, 10). Precious as they are to their Maker, even saints need cleansing from sin that naturally comprises and compromises them.

In short, from God's perspective, at certain times, suffering may be a better for you than earthly prosperity. (Cf. Isaiah 45:7; compare the two major portions of Psalms 73, i.e. verses 3-16 and verses 17-28). "And we know that for those who love God all things (whether "good" or "bad") work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV).

Conclusion

Dear Christian, who is interested in Africa, you probably know that theological astuteness eludes Africa. You have probably heard the cliche "Christianity is miles wide and an inch deep in Africa." Sad to say, this is generally true. (I say GENERALLY to protect us from the deception that grasped Elijah's heart to make him think that he was the only true worshiper of YHWH left in Israel at that dark moment in the nation's history, 1 Kings 19:9-10, 18). The fact is that God has preserved many other miles-deep kind of Christians today just like He did in Elijah's day. For all such Christians in Africa, we thank God.)

Therefore, dear Christian, who is interested in the well-being of Africa, pray that a correct understanding of Scripture may soon pervade Africa. Pray for revival. Furthermore, ask God to reveal to you how He can use you to beat back the effects of the terrorists among Christ's under shepherds in Africa. Ask Him to show you how else you can support the drooping hands of the faithful few Christians in Africa. Let us stand opposed to all those who defame Christ's name in Africa.

May God bless you abundantly! Mwenyezi Mungu awape baraka tele! Wele abawe tsingabi mubwitsufu! Mukama abawe emikkisa mu bujuvu! Ba Lesa na bakwate uku mipala sana fye! Chibumba abawe enkabi enindi ino!

For the fame of Christ's precious name,

Caleb Nakina

P.S. I believe that every Christian bears a part in the mandate to spread the gospel “to ends of the earth. As such, although this mock letter is set in Africa, its content is intended for every Christian.

Two Possible Objections

#1 What about Jeremiah 29:11?

My Response: Action speaks louder than words. God cannot promise through Jeremiah a kind of prosperity which he does not give to Jeremiah. Do you realize that the prophet who wrote these words suffered tremendously? In fact, he suffered so much that, apparently, he started to make a habit of whimpering (e.g. Jeremiah 12:1-4). When Jeremiah whimpered, God saw it fit to give him an interesting kind of rebuke. In the NIV Jeremiah 12:5 reads, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” In other words God saw that Jeremiah thought that he had suffered enough, in the worst possible ways. God, therefore, asks in effect, what if I increased the intensity of your suffering. What, then, Jeremiah? Hebrews 12:4 is a similar rebuke for suffering Christians. So, unless you believe that God can contradict Himself, whatever prosperity means in Jeremiah 29:11, it cannot mean that there is no physical suffering for God’s people. I hope you see what I mean when I say, Action speaks louder than words. God cannot promise through Jeremiah a kind of prosperity which he does not give to Jeremiah. The life struggles of Jeremiah throughout the book of Jeremiah refute the interpretation of Jeremiah 29:11 to mean that God intends that we have no pain in this life.

#2 What about Psalm 37:4

My Response: This one should be easy. I could simply ask you to transpose my argument in the response Jeremiah 29:11 to fit into Psalm 37:4. The David through whom the Holy Spirit wrote Psalm 37 was surely no stranger to suffering. But secondly, I will say, when you switch the places between the 3 and the 7 of Psalm 37, you get a Psalm 73, I referred to earlier in my mock letter above, i.e., Psalm 73. One could see interesting similarities in the content of Psalm 37 and Psalm 73, but the major one is in the fact that the both of the Psalmists’ hopes are not in immediate but in future prosperity (Compare Psalm 73:17-20 and Psalm ). The terrorists who are spreading the prosperity gospel and their blind followers are eager to follow the bad attitude and bad example of Asaph displayed in Psalm 73:2-16 instead of the renewed attitude that he manifests in verses 17 through 28. Trust me: Christ is better than all the wealth and health of this world. For crying out loud, He creates them and sustains them (Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16-20). If you have developed the Berean attitude of holy mistrust for man and complete trust in God, which I encourage in this mock letter, then it will be more convincing to you when I say to you, Trust God’s voice in the following verses, He wants us to desire Him more than His gifts: Psalm 37:7-9 and 73:26-28; Matthew 6:19-34 and 16:24-27; Mark 8:36; Galatians 1:6-10; Hebrews 3:1-19 etc.). For those of you who love poems and rhymes, this portion of my amateur poem.

           I know that streets of gold,
           Have advertised heaven from of old.
           However, when you hear, “repent, and be saved,”
           Think “Embrace Him who created us,”
           Not so much to walk the streets He paved,
           As to be with Him who breathed you into existence.
           Learn to love the gift-Giver,
           More than the many good gifts He gives.
           Do not be the horrible gift-receiver,
           Who is so terrible; only for himself he lives.

#3 What about….


My Response: Surely there can be no other objection can there? You know exactly how I will handle it. 1) I will urge you read the rest of the immediate context. 2) I will urge you to read the rest of the Scriptural context. 3) I will challenge you to think if you are better than Job and all the other biographical characters of the Bible (see, for instance, Hebrews 11 especially from verses 35b through 40.). I am convinced that all the purported Scriptural arguments for the so-called prosperity gospel will fail when subjected to closer scrutiny in the concentric contexts of Scripture. Friends, I rest my case.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Prayer as a Distress Call

I read on Matatu recently, "When there is no way out, let God in," and I wondered whether that supposedly wise saying was even wanted, let alone needed. After all, prayer in distress comes almost involuntarily. It is silly to suppose that God is good enough for us only when we want Him to solve our problems. Sadly though, this skewed perception is very common (We can have a post on that in future). In this post, let us think about the saying I saw on that Matatu.

Is it Needed?

Prayer in distress comes almost involuntarily. What else can one do? What may one do when they reach the end of their human resources with no resolution to their travail? Such a one seeks aid because their situation clearly indicates their insufficiency; naturally, they must look for someone more apt to overcome the situation, someone to provide a solution. It has been said that there is no atheist on a deathbed. It is not that atheists do not die; it is just that they tend to adopt a softer stance when they are dying. The deathbed, which is perhaps the most distressful thing about life on earth, gets rid of all atheists. They start saying things like, "What if God is really there? Perhaps there is really a God." This change of mind happens because of their natural desire to let Someone bigger than themselves take the foes who are too strong for them, e.g. death. Prayer in distress comes almost involuntarily; it is virtually a reflex. Just as you do not need anybody to remind you to blink, you do not need some purportedly wise individual to remind you to let God in when there is no way out. Not even hardened atheists need to be reminded to pray when they are at their wits' ends.

Is it Wanted?

Prayer in distress is a good thing. But, surely, we must agree that it is not enough. None of us desires to be in a relationship with someone who talks to them only when they want something. Nonetheless, many of us are eager to foster a parasite-host relationship with God--ourselves playing the role of the annoying parasites. For people, who pray only when battered by life's difficulties, may I adapt Christ words to the Pharisees, this "you ought to have done without neglecting the weightier matter of" (cf. Matthew 23:23) prayers at all times as taught in Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 etc. Prayers are not only to be offered in times of distress, but in times of tranquil too. So to the extent that let God in when there is no way out may be misconstrued to mean that we should wait until things are out of hand before we pray, to that same extent the saying is an unwanted one. We ought not want to wait that long before we pray.

Even the unbelieving world knows that prevention is better than cure. Praying only when distressed is like visiting the doctor only when the illness has advanced to life threatening proportions. That is, when your off-the-counter medications, your own efforts, can avail nothing. It is like attempting to appeal your case in the hour when you are set to be hanged. Are you not afraid of how long it might take for your appeal to be reviewed? When the judge is done reviewing it, will there be any time left to save you from your death sentence? Even worse, prayer that is restricted to times of distress is like a prideful and persistent turning down of the benevolent offers of the physician and the judge in my illustrations until it is a hopeless situation in your estimation. Then you have to plead with them hoping that their benevolence still exists unperturbed by your previous insolence.

The Conclusion of the Matter

When you are in distress, pray. But hopefully you are not learning how to pray in your distress. And hopefully you will continue to pray after your perceived distress. You ought to continue to pray after that particular issue is resolved (whether positively or negatively). Hopefully you will pray before the next issue arises. That is the point of this blog post, to encourage my Christians fellows to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We must not wait until there is no way out to let God in as that saying on the Matatu seems to advocate. Whether or not there seems to be a way out, dear Christian, pray. Remember, "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine" (Isaiah 55:8, NLT). Or as most of the other more popular translations put it, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (ESV, KJV, NASB*, NIV, ISB*, etc.). There are times when you think all is well when, in fact, the opposite is true. At times you will think the worst thing is happening to you, when in fact, from God's perspective, you are experiencing His utmost favour just then. In short, you cannot trust the judgment of your deceitful heart to tell you when you are truly in distress. After all, for as long as we are in this fallen world, we are in a place where we need God's unceasing sustenance and intervention. We ought to pray without ceasing for this.

Adieu! Have a prayerful day, won't you?

*NASB and ISB use the word "nor" instead of the "neither" in the more popular three.