It’s Been Long

•August 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

It’s interesting how time flies. How seconds are looked up to by milliseconds and how they themselves find themselves to be mere midgets in comparison to the lofty hour…. and how the hour beholds the day and week with awe and jealousy, but also with an unmatchable kind of admiration. Each beholds the other wishing they would be like them and when they are, they stare right ahead- always ambitious to grow! And grow they do, unceasingly, faithfully, consistently and seemingly impatiently. Indeed, they are said to wait for no king; and seeing as am no king, I have been a victim of being left behind by this subtlely vicious family of dictators. This family called time.

It’s been long since I last wrote. I’ve missed writing and have been meaning to do this. But time always flies! And now am seated atop my bed, phone in hand, streams of endless thoughts in mind, and with some irritatingly loud music in the background. Did I mention that it’s secular? My neighbours are always so loud and rowdy, playing some unpalatable kind of music. Many are the times when my hand involuntarily slides down to my waist in search of my belt. I am always so irritated whenever the music starts. Sad thing is that I’ve never been bold enough to share Christ with them- for shame, for shame! But I pray that I’ll march up to them one day(before this semester comes to an end) with a weapon in hand; this time not with a belt but, hopefully, with the sword that is the word of God.

Many things have been happening in my life. When I started Out Of The Picture, I promised myself that I’d never feature in any of the posts- that I wouldn’t bring in the events of my personal life into the blog. Well, I am being tempted to change that just a little bit. Am tempted to just say what has been keeping me from writing(what’s been keeping me busy, what has changed in my life and so on and so forth) but that is a resistable one because am not quite the public figure whose life is as an open book. However, one that I have failed to resist is a testimony that I hope shall help many out there.

I have known my dad for 21 years now, and ever since I knew him, he’s been a chimney. Yes, a chimney. The man has been smoking for the longest time. This did not go well with me. Ever since I could do some multiplication and addition, I’d calculate for him the amount of money he would WASTE on cigarettes. Of course at that time my biggest concern was probably the fact that he would claim that there was no money to buy me a Play station or to take me out to a fancy place for dinner. With time, my concerns changed and I felt that by smoking, he was endangering his life and therefore being very unfair to his family. Oh how I’d be mad at him! We would argue about his smoking and these arguments would not end well. Come to think of it, that must have been the origin of quite an ugly rift that we’d suffered for quite some time because every time I looked at him I saw a very unfair and careless man.

So last Saturday we were talking. For a Saturday, he had come home quite early and so I congratulated him on that improvement. He took it farther and told me that he’d made quite a number of improvements. And that’s when he gave me the good news. That he had stopped smoking!!!!! How now!??? Just like that? Yes, just like that. He had not smoked the whole of that week and the on following day, that is Sunday, he would clock a whole week of being clean! You see, the man was not a small time smoker. In fact, I know of no one who would smoke as heavily as my beloved father. On average, he would do like 60-80 cigarettes in a day then bam! He stopped. No withdrawal effects no nothing. Unbelievable? Believe it!

He has been my constant prayer item since childhood. He’s been one of those prayer items that eventually become a meaningless and hopeless song that’s just recited during that hour of prayer. After more than 15 years of praying for him, I must admit I did get comfortable with the fact that my dad was a smoker and that he was unsaved. But it’s a good and amazing thing that our Father in heaven does as He pleases, even in our weakness expressed in unbelief.

Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.”

Eph 1:11 “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of HIM WHO WORKS OUT EVERYTHING in conformity with the purpose of His will,” (caps my own)

And how glad I am that the word “everything” actually means “everything”! That the Lord performed a miracle on my dad and enabled him to stop smoking in a most inexplicable way is something He willed and planned to do. He does as He pleases and what He does He does for our good.

Rom 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I was just thinking, my dad told me that he has been smoking for 33 years (he alluded to Christ’s life on earth while saying this). If he had stopped smoking before I got born, then at this point of my life, I would not have witnessed God’s great ability to make such a heavy chain smoker just stop smoking. But now I know, for I have seen it for myself. He is sovereignly able.

Jer 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You.”

As I said earlier, this post is an exception. I had promised never to paint a picture with myself in it but today I paint a picture that has me in it albeit in the background. It is my hope that those who read shall be encouraged. I have a friend whose dad has a drinking problem, which has affected what she has known to be family. Now I hope that when she reads, she will be encouraged to continue praying for him in the hope that one day he will stop, not out of of his own strenth and ability, but simply and only because of God’s grace and mercy upon her and her father, for “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven”(Jn 3:27).

So now that you have read, I hope that you will be encouraged. Share it with friends to encourage them too, and let’s continue calling to our God and where we are without strength, let us, like the father of that boy with an evil spirit, cry out “I do believe; HELP ME OVERCOME MY UNBELIEF!”(Mark 8:24) and He who is able to sympathise with our weaknesses will give us mercy and grace to help us in our time of need(Heb 4:16).

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Pleased In Another’s Pleasure

•May 29, 2013 • 2 Comments

One of the most dominant themes in Paul’s prayers was thanksgiving.

Romans 1:8

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Philippians 1:3

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

1 Corinthians 1:4

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 1:15-16

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete  it  until the day of Jesus Christ;

Col 1:3-5, 1 Thess 1:2, 2 Thess 1:3, 2 Tim 1:3 and Philemon 1:4-5 also show his gratitude.

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He gave thanks to God always because of the report of the members of his audience. When we give thanks, we are grateful about something that fills us with joy- something that makes us happy. And to Paul, the thing that made him happy always was the increase in faith of the people that he would write to. At times- as was the case with the Roman church (Rom 1:13) and the church down at Colosse- he had not even interacted with his audience, but he was still happy about their growth.

We know that we are also happy when our loved ones are genuinely happy. Because this growth in faith was not something that was directly linked with Paul that he may rejoice about it as if it were his doing, we learn that it must have been linked to a Person whom Paul loved and knew. This growth must have been something that was the pleasure and will of Another other than Paul; an Another whom Paul knew and cherished.

So who, apart from Paul, would be so pleased with a growth in the faith of Paul’s audience? Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith  it is  impossible to please  Him,  for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and  that  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” and Colossians 1:10 says “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing  Him,  being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” We know that the knowledge of God is eternal life(Jn 17:3), which comes from believing(Jn 3:16); and this believing(faith in Christ), comes from hearing the Word(Rom 10:17)]. We see, therefore, that the growth of faith is the pleasure and will of God.

Paul was pleased by people’s growth in faith, which is actually a thing that really pleased God. From this, we see Paul’s love for God reflected. Paul loved God so much that what God willed he also willed and delighted in. And so we find that loving God will actually drive you into rejoicing over what He wills. How much do you love God? How happy are you when other people come to salvation- when they grow in faith? Are you aloof and indifferent or does it excite you when you see the growth of individuals and the Church generally?

May God grant us the grace to love Him more and more so that what makes Him smile makes us smile as well:)

Though The Path Be Dark

•May 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Mark 8:35 Then He called the
crowd to Him along with His
disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The phrase ‘come after me’ is a phrasal verb that simply means to follow. Considering this meaning, it looks a bit queer that this verse is here, and this is why:

Mark 8:31 He then began to
teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed…

Christ is in the process of explaining the bends and bumps on His road of life. He explained to His keen audience that He would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and the teachers of the law. These three were actually the spiritual authority over the Jewish people- the custodians of ‘what is good’ and the people deemed to be closest to God; the people upon whom all eyes gazed for spiritual and moral direction. These people were the influential ones in society and they simply ran the show, for they had all the Jews at the palm of their hands, giving direction and setting
standards. Whatever they said happened; whatever they willed came to pass. If they told they Jews to jump, they (Jews) would probably ask, “how high?”, “how many times?” and “in what way?”

These were the people that
would supposedly reject Christ. Needless to say, a rejection by these elite translated into a rejection by the whole community. It meant excommunication or, most likely, death. And Christ held nothing back as He predicted His path. He clearly told His audience where He was headed- Calvary. He explains that He must suffer, and that He must be killed. Not just die, but be killed. Here is a man, innocent and faultless in all His ways, causing nothing apart from good; healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, freeing those oppressed by evil spirits and teaching the very word of God with a deity unseen before. Yet this man- this good God- says that He will die, not out of disease or natural calamity, not peacefully in slumber, but painfully in the hands of a
bloodthirsty mob. Unfairly and shamefully before many eyes, all of which were able to see only because of His goodness which they deserved not; and amid loud and condescending jeers, all of which were made only because in His divine and sovereign meekness, He allowed them.

And then He says “If anyone
would come after me…” It looks terribly out of context,
this phrase. That you should
explain all your coming hardships and tribulations- trials that you will face and yet you are innocent- and then ask people to follow you looks a bit off. Doesn’t it?

When we follow someone, it
means that we take the path
that that person is on. We go behind them so that we may go through what they went through and thus share the same experience. Therefore, when you are telling someone ‘follow me’, you want them to be one with you in experience, and so there must be some sort of incentive. One must be convinced that therein lies
good for them- that therein is a better option compared to what they already have. That changing from their path and direction to yours will actually add to their coffers rather than spell calamity. The future of your path must promise jolly times rather than regretted folly.

Let’s go back to Christ’s invitation in Mark 8:34 again: “If anyone would come after me…” Christ calls. Still looks out of context; that He should promise doom and gloom for them that follow His path and still ask people to walk that path seems, to some extent, quite absurd. And doubtlessly, that’s what many in our generation, and definitely in those past, sight as a problem to the gospel that we preach. For they see no good in the Good News. They see the path- that it is narrow and scantily populated, and thus apparently lonely. They see the sweat and
troubled times, the pain that has to be endured, the cross that has to be carried, the rejection and most clearly,
the death. All for what? “Why should I leave my ‘good’, comfortable path and follow your ‘hopeless’ and gloomy path?” rings the question time and time again in the mind of the unbeliever during an encounter with a faithful conveyor of the message of the gospel.

So, again, here we are. Christ is saying, “I will suffer and surely die. But do follow me. Come my way by denying yourself and taking up your cross, and walk the path that I walk.” Question is, what’s the incentive? What’s the logic?

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.”(Mark 8:35)

I love that word ‘for’, for it
shines brightly through the
gloom of dilemma as it brings to us Christ’s explanation. Equal to the word “because”, it explains Christ’s stand- His invitation to follow Him even into the vale of suffering and death. Christ explains the reality of things. The reality, not necessarily as we see it, but as God sees it. It is a fact of life. You see, the beauty of this truth of life is that it is the view of Him who created life. It is the Creator’s description of what He created; explaining
how His ingenious invention works. Therefore, whether we, mere dust, like it or not, whether we accept it or reject it (as many do), whatever side we take, it is fact. It is sure!

Ps 19:9 The ordinances of the
LORD are sure and altogether
righteous.

And here is that blessed truth: That whoever wants to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for God and the gospel will save it. But what is it that Christ came to do so that in the path that He walks, He should find such brutality?

You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”(Jn 18:37)

Christ came to take a stand for the gospel and proclaim the truth. But why should this lead to painful, shameful Calvary?

Jn 3:19-21 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

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Anyone who lives by the truth
comes into the light because the truth is light- it clearly shows the darkness, depravity and fallen nature of our hearts. It shows our weakness, and exposes the situation and desperation of our nature; that we are, indeed, lost, fallen and dead in our trespasses and therefore that we very direly need a savior. This tramples on human pride. It reduces one to nothing so that like Isaiah, one says, “Woe is me, for I am UNDONE” (Isa 6:5 KJV).

“What are you saying? That I am weak and unworthy and that I cannot save myself? Even a little?” and the truth would give a simple resounding “Yes!” to that. And by doing this act of trampling on human pride and esteem by setting forth and standing for the incorruptible truth, you will, like Christ, rub many the wrong way and hence be rejected. This is because what you stand for is hated by men; for man naturally loves darkness in which none of his folly is exposed. And that path of standing for the truth (with the knowledge that it might cost you your life) is what Christ is calling us to. He is not just asking us to run towards death. He is not encouraging us to look for a cool way to end our lives here on earth. Rather, He is asking us to follow Him. To love the truth. To love light. To love God so much so that like Jeremiah, we may say, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.”(Jer 20:9 NIV) This passion for the Christ leads us to, like He did, stand for the truth and the light irrespective of the result; and this result- this inescapable result- is rejection by man, for man is by nature evil and therefore delights in darkness. And the incentive?

Mk 8:31 “…and after three days rise again.”

Eternal life! “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”(Jn 17:3 NIV) The incentive, dearly beloved, is knowing God. Having an intimacy with God- with Christ who hung on that tree, with the weight of your sin on His bruised shoulders, for when we walk His path of standing for the gospel and consequently meet inevitable suffering, we fellowship with our Lord.

Phil 3:8-11 What is more, I
consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like
Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

So Beloved, why follow Christ
in this difficult and narrow
path? Why speak and stand for truth in love and gentleness yet it makes others ‘uncomfortable’ and hence makes them reject us?

In Paul’s words, “To know
Christ and the power of His
resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

In Indistinct Carnality

•April 30, 2013 • 2 Comments

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.(Mark 8:31-32 NIV)

Jesus did something that He did not ordinarily do, and that is speaking plainly to His audience. Usually, He would speak in parables(Mark 4:34~ He did not say anything to them without using a parable); but now He was clear, plain and to the point. And so the disciples understood what He meant; hence Peter’s reaction of rebuking Him.

It’s really ironic that Peter should rebuke Him. And this is because of what happens just before the rebuke.

Peter confesses that Christ is Lord. He makes what is seemingly a risk at blasphemy when He says,” You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16). He told Christ ,”You are God!” and in so doing, should have been placing Christ above all, and His will above all. But did he?

Even after acknowledging the Deity of Christ, Peter rejects that which this divine Being says. Christ explains to His disciples that He was destined to die but Peter rejects that outrightly. There is none more ironic than the way He rejects the annunciation of God’s will.

“Never Lord!” he said, “This shall never happen to you.

He used “Lord” and “never happen to you” in the same statement. Ironic, right? Yet this is how so many of us deal with our God. We have no problem with God being God. In fact, we go round, here and there, proclaiming that He is God. We exalt Him and declare His greatness, wisdom and love. God is God. Hallelujah! But when it comes to His will we cringe. We have reservations. We’re okay with Him being God but we’re not okay with Him doing as He wills. His will, to us, is debatable and many are the times when we go aside in prayer and say,”Never Lord, this shall never happen.”

And it is what Paul warned Timothy about when he talked about people in the last days in 2 Timothy 3:5 (NIV) saying,  “having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people”.We acknowledge that there is a God who is seated on the throne but we have issues with what He wills over our lives. We acknowledge that God is good,and that He wells up with unmatchable love, that He is the source of incomprehensible
peace, but we forget a very
important aspect of His divine nature. His Sovereignty! On getting a glimpse of His perfect will, we cower when the implications seem somewhat detrimental to our well being and so we stand against it. We forget what Paul tells us, that God “works out EVERYTHING in conformity with the purpose of His will”(Eph 1:11). We doubt that the word ‘everything’ actually means everything. So, we decree and declare otherwise. But, as who? Who are we to stand in opposition to Supreme Sovereignty?

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed  it , “Why have you made me like this?”(Romans 9:20 NKJV)

And Christ diagnoses this disease correctly; after Peter rebuked Him, He rebuked Him back:

But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying,  “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not  mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”(Mark 8:33 NKJV)

And that is what we very frequently suffer from. Having our minds on the things of men. This does not necessarily seem to spell out SIN in a clear and outright way. It’s just an ‘innocent’ and natural tendency to prefer things pleasurable and seemingly right before the eyes of men- before our own eyes. In Peter’s case, it seemed right that Christ should live on with them. That the Christ certainly deserved a higher, more victorious life in which multitudes would bubble up with a warmth of amiable love and acceptance towards their Messiah rather than the cold and loathful rejection mercilessly directed towards Him. Peter meant well and was very sincere. And so do we, most times, when we “decree and declare”. We desire things that seem right in our eyes. Jobs, spouses, health, wealth and ‘perfection’ but many times we do so in the carnality of our naturally corrupt minds, not considering that God’s will could be what is best for us.

Because the carnal mind  is  enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.(Romans 8:7 NKJV)

And also,

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.(Proverbs 14:12 NIV)

And it is in our depraved carnality that we forget and perhaps doubt Christ’s words to us through Paul, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV) and the assurance in Eph 1:11 that, come rain or shine, hell or high water, Christ is in control because He works all things according to His purpose.

And so we see that true acknowledgement of Christ’s deity lies not in simply saying that He is Lord but rather, in yielding to His will and saying, “It is well!”

Who do you say He is?

•April 14, 2013 • 2 Comments

They must have made it sound like a kindergaten class. Like a room full of toddlers, each frantically shooting his hand up in a bid to get that golden opportunity to outshine his peers. They were grown men alright, but the question had aroused such uncharacteristic excitement that they would have reminded an observer of the good old kindergarten days when answering a question asked by the teacher would earn one exclusive bragging rights. Each disciple had an answer to the question that the Lord had asked.

“Who do men say that I am?” Jesus had asked.

So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some  say,  Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”(Mark 8:28 NKJV)

To this question a myriad of answers was fired. It was an easy question, and an interesting one too as each disciple probably got to imagine,privately in his own mind, just how much the multitudes did not know Christ. So each reported what they had heard from whispers here and there. Then Christ posed another:

But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29 NKJV)

And with that the chorus came to an unforeseen end. To the first question, everyone had an answer but to the last, none dared to speak freely. The loud ‘seemingly reckless’ replies were no more, and each retreated into their own cocoon of mind. Not all answered. Not all knew the answer to that very important question.

The disciples had walked with Christ for quite sometime now. They had heard Him teach with divine authority, they had been there when He had cast out demons, healed the sick and fed the thousands. Yet they still hesitated! They still were not sure. All were uncertain. All looked away. All but one!

“You are the Christ,” said Cephas.

Only Peter answered this time, and he said that Jesus is the Christ!

Matthew 16:16 NKJV

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

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This was a profound answer! By saying that Jesus was the Son of the living God, Peter was risking. Imagine a certain pastor or preacher saying the he is THE Son of the living God. That’s scary! It would strike the ear of any person as terribly defiant blasphemy. Peter’s answer was one that could very easily be deemed to be a blasphemous answer.

John 10:30 NKJV

“I and My Father are one.”

In John 10:30 when Jesus said that He and the Father are one, the Jews that He was speaking these words to wanted to stone Him, claiming that He had committed blasphemy.

John 10:36 NKJV

do you say of Him  whom the Father sanctified and  sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’  because I said, ‘I am  the Son of God’?

What had Christ really said before? He had said, in verse 30, that He and the Father are one, and what He has said now in verse 36 He says as if quoting what He had earlier said: “I am God’s Son” – to mean that being the Son of God is the same thing as being one with the Father!

And that’s how big Peter’s answer was. When he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he was simply telling Christ, “You are God!”

Matthew 16:17 NKJV

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,  for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but  My Father who is in heaven.

Peter saw Christ to be God- the Creator of the Cosmos, “the Alpha and the Omega,  the Beginning and the End,” the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the  Almighty”(Revelation 1:8 NKJV). The one in whom we live and move and have our being(Acts 17:28). And so Christ blessed him, saying that he did not come to this knowledge by being told by any man. He did not know this because he himself was wise, or because some wise person had whispered to him; rather, he understood Christ’s deity because God had revealed it to him.

And that’s what it means when we say “Jesus is Lord!” We mean that He is not just another ordinary prophet or holy man. We understand that indeed He is God. That He and the Father are ONE. He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (Jn 14:10) and that if you know Christ, you have known the Father (Jn 14:7) because Jesus is God!

Philippians 2:5-6 NIV

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being IN VERY NATURE God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage…(caps added)

And Christ puts it so well: that Peter did not know this blessed truth from ANY MAN(even himself) but that he understood ONLY because God revealed it to him. Only God can lead us into this truth, for it is written, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13 NIV). And so I dare say that the truth that Jesus is Lord- that He is God- can only be arrived at by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And notice that there was nothing special or different about Peter. He had not done anything extra so that the blessed truth might be revealed to him; rather, God chose to reveal it to him because of His own Sovereign wisdom. He was not influenced by Peter, but He did it out of His own goodness- out of His abundant grace, so that the undeserving Peter might not boast. And so my prayer is that as you read this and walk on in life, God will guide you into this truth, not because you deserve it in any way; not because you are good, but simply because He is good! Because of His grace! And this I hope He does, so that you may say “Jesus is Lord” and mean it!

How Fallen We Must Have Been!

•March 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Those words echoed in her mind. They sounded so true-so soothingly convincing! Surely, they had had their effect on her. They were so irresistably ensnaring and, softly but persuasively, made her turn to look at what had been the object of discussion. It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was good! At least it seemed so! She wondered how it would taste; it looked sweet and was a beauty to behold. Surely a work of art by the Creator. What’s more, she had been told that it would open her eyes and that she would be wise; and who wouldn’t want to be wise? It was perfect! So right! For a moment, she thought she’d heard it call her name- asking her to partake of it. To be one with it and dive into wisdom; Ah wisdom, how desirable! And for that moment, that dire moment, all creation hung in suspense. All waited. Stillness. Silence…

The choice was made.

And man plunged, not into wisdom, but into the murky waters of despondent depravity.

Romans 7:15-24 NKJV

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that  it is  good. But now,  it is  no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but  how  to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will  to do,  I do not do; but the evil I will not  to do,  that I practice. Now if I do what I will not  to do,  it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul himself, a man whom many look up to, confessed of his utter depravity as a man. Wait, Paul? Wretched? Imagine that!! And the glorious thing about this portion of Scripture is that it convinces us, too, of our being dead in sin since many are they that use Paul as a yard stick, motivator and mentor. Paul understood full-well that nothing good lived in him. Nothing! And Christ had earlier spoken of something similar to this when, while giving that popular sermon on the mount He asked, “…Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”(Matthew 7:16 NKJV) and further added that “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”(Matthew 7:18 NKJV)

Paul says that nothing good lives in him, and Christ says that no bad tree bears good fruit. So since nothing good lived in us, then there is NO WAY that any good thing could come from us. NOTHING! And that explains why our righteousness is as filthy rags to our holy God.

Isaiah 64:6 NKJV

But we are all like an unclean  thing,  And all our righteousnesses  are  like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

And how our acts of religion, if done just casually, are a detestable sight before the Creator as He said in Isaiah 1:13-14 NKJV

Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing  them.

So depraved were we, so utterly wretched and hopeless that salvation could not come from us. Can a man in whom there is absolutely no good make a good decision of accepting Christ? Can a dead man make a choice? Can bad tree bear good fruit? Of course not! And hence it was written, in Ephesians 2:8 NKJV

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;  it is  the gift of God,

That the salvation we have is not from ourselves. It came not from us, and had nothing to do with us but that it is totally from our Father in heaven and so we cannot, in our right minds, boast. For we were NOT just people who had a few issues here and there, and then made a right choice! No! We were completely dead and entirely lost, with no hope whatsoever of life, but the Sovereign One chose us and gave us a gift called faith, out of the abundance of His grace, that we might be saved. He did not help us up; rather, He picked us up from the dirty ground and carried us on His shoulders.

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Isaiah 52:14 (NIV)

Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—

Millenia ago, three nails held up a heavy weight- a weight upon which rested the weight of the whole world! Their once-gleaming appearance had been replaced with red blood clot. They had gone through a medium they were not used to. Flesh! They had forcefully torn through the one who had willed them into existence. Had they a mind, they would have wondered. They would have been disturbed at the ghastly sight that they held up for all to see. “What would make this man, so innocent and righteous, so gloriously holy, be our client? What would make our paths cross?” they would have thought. If they could communicate, one would say to the other two,”He must have really loved those that He is here for. He must have loved them so much, for even in holding his defaced body up on this tree, we play only a minor role compared to Love. Surely He loved them.”
And in addition to this, the other nail would say to the other two, “I wonder, my friends, what kind He has died for. How depraved! How desperately lost and wretched, how dead and hopeless they must have been. They must have been reduced to the nothingness we now behold. They must have been in the state that we see Him in. Only that they did not know; and still, sadly, do not know. Can it not get to them- just how despondently they wallowed in the dark? How, grieveously downtrodden they were that God- the Creator of the Cosmos, the Author of life, the Alpha and Omega, the great I AM- had to bleed and die for them. How contemptibly afflicted they must have been!”

Beloved, how I wish that we may see this. That if our Creator hung on a tree and bled for you and me, then totally lost in sin, and morally corrupt we must have been. How lost and dead!

And my hope is that even as we reminisce our Lord’s death for us, may we be humbled at the conviction of how depraved we must have been!

Called? No Need to Worry

•March 24, 2013 • 2 Comments

Many shudder at the thought of it. Others ‘run for their lives’ while others wander in the wilderness of denial for years; few, however, humbly hearken to it and embrace it in the way that it deserves.

Those that shudder and run away do so because of the picture they have of the call. To many of us, that word “calling” brings what is a scary mental picture; it makes one imagine themselves, first, on a pulpit wielding a huge Bible, and punching well calculated words energetically into the still church air…we further imagine that the pulpit is in a large building full of people who seem tortured, not only by the Sunday morning cold, but also, and especially, by the words that spring from our mouths. Some among the congregation find these words boring and the rest that are listening find the words a bit too harsh and, consequently, distancing. And so we imagine that the result of this is a life bereft of friends since we are seen as harsh and inconsiderate -not to mention, boring- members of society. And who wants to be an enemy of the people? Who wants to be avoided by all that spot us in the streets? So because of this attitude towards our calling, we run. But could we have misunderstood it?

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Image from sanctusblog.wordpress.com

Mark 3:13-14 NKJV

And He went up on the mountain and called to  Him  those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach,

This portion of Scripture speaks of a time when Christ called to himself those He wanted. It is when the apostles received their calling of apostleship. I don’t know about you, but I think that that’s a really big and humbling calling! A calling to be among the ‘fathers’ of the Church must have been more scary than my (and your) imagination of what a calling entails. Right? Yet the apostles did not shy away from it. Why?

Perhaps it is because they understood what a calling entailed.

‘…that they may be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.’

In a calling, the most important element is the “being with Him” part. The Lord does not just call you so that He can send you out to a remote area with harsh climate, intolerable living conditions and a bunch of hostile barbaric natives. In stead, He calls you so that you may be with Him. The first and most important part of your calling is to be with Him. To hang out with God and bond with Him. Get to know Him more, to align your desires to His by staying with Him; allowing Him to conform your will to His and to transform your image to His.

John 15:15 NKJV

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends,  for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

In John 15 Christ explains to His apostles that they were not just servants, who would do things in a legalistic way and as a formality, but rather, that they were now friends. Friends don’t just do things because they are supposed to, but they own and carry the vision of their friend so that as they carry out the task at hand, they are doing it with the right attitude and they do it as if it is their own task.

And so the most important part of your calling is your friendship with Christ. He calls you to first of all be His friend. So that you may hang out with Him. Know Him and so carry the vision that He carries. Have His attitude as concerns your calling. So that your heart may beat in synchrony with His and your mind may be in congruence with His. A calling is an invitation to get more intimate with Christ- to take the relationship to the next level.

So, next time you think of your calling, I hope you will not shriek with crippling apprehension, but that you will be welled up with a warm feeling of excitement at the thought of deepening your relationship with the Lord.