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Book Review – The Reason for God

This is a Review by Margaret Achieng. Maggy is on the staff team of iServe Africa working with Gerald Mwangi managing our growing residential discipleship programme for high school leavers (TransformD).

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During one of the Ministry Training Course, I decided to sit in in an apologetics session and that was where I began thinking hard about the topic. I honestly do not like reading sophisticated books or engaging in such conversations, probably because I don’t like thinking too hard; it is too much energy which I usually don’t enjoy. This excuse has often made me to avoid certain kind of books/authors/people in the past. After the session, the facilitator proposed that we read Timothy Keller’s book “The Reason for God (Belief in an age of skepticism)” as a way of helping us think more on the topic.  I decided to take up the challenge. I read the book during the Christmas holidays thinking it was going to turn out as I had always thought. To my surprise! This was actually the first Apologetic book I read and it turned out to be a very good one for a number of reasons.

First, I liked how Keller uses such simple language to explain this difficult topic that many tend to shy away from including myself. I found myself go from one chapter to another which is unlike me with many books. He uses very simple language that is very easy to understand which makes it a very encouraging read. His vast wealth of experience also helped me to be able to know how to answer some of the hard questions. The book felt like a conversation flowing very well from one argument to another. He uses some of the questions that different people have asked him and answers them in this book.

Secondly, the structure of the book is very clear. He has divided it into two big parts: “the leap of doubt and the reason for faith.” He deals with questions/doubts of faith in the first part and gives the answer/reason for the Christian Faith in the second part. Keller first begins by humbly admitting some of the historical mistakes/injustices that Christians have made. In his chapter “the church is responsible for such injustices”, he says, “Violence done in the name of Christianity is a terrible reality and must be addressed and redressed.”  He does not defend the church in its wrong-doing but helps the reader understand the right approach to Christianity from the Bible which he does much in the second part where he says: “Christians are people who let the reality of Jesus change everything about who they are, how they see and how they live”. It does not mean that Christians do not do wrong or commit sin but rather that they are called to make every effort to strive to live a holy life that is pleasing to the Lord. In doing so, he was able to battle with some of the big questions about God that some atheists have asked.

The church that Keller leads is in New York, one of biggest cities in the world with diverse people and who are well educated. A common aspect with such a literate society is that people are curious to know it all hence leading to lots of questions. Most of us, especially in our context, may not know how to engage with people when asked questions like “why do you believe in what you believe?” This could be because we think it unspiritual to question the things of God and as we have been brought up to think; questioning authority is rude, what they say is final! Yet David in most of his psalms asked questions when he was devastated and Peter in 1 Peter 3:15 says: “… always be prepared to make defence to anyone who asks of you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. This is exactly what and how Keller does in his book, with gentleness and respect for other religions. However, Keller challenges his readers not to make others feel more sinful than they are, while they sound self-righteous, insensitive and harsh rather than humble, sensitive, loving and understanding as Christ is.

So what exactly does he address in the first part of the book? He examines the beliefs beneath the doubts/objections that people have in this day and culture concerning the Christian faith for example, ”How can God allow suffering?, “The church is responsible for so much injustice”, “how can a loving God send people to hell?” and the common claim by atheists “ there can’t be just one true religion?” Most of the time we never think about such questions but Keller grapples with them not to make us doubt our faith but rather to help us know the reason for God. This was really a good challenge for me and I think it will be for all Christians to want to get deeper in their faith and to ask ourselves those hard questions. Keller challenges believers to wrestle with their personal and culture’s objections of faith which will help them to hold their faith position with both greater clarity and greater humility. One thing that stood out for me is the fact that most people who doubt God is because of their background or their interaction with Christians.  In this first chapter, Keller also talks about other religions and their belief and how Christianity is different from them.

In the second part of the book, he gives reason for the Christian hope. Keller argues for where the Christian understanding comes from, he looks at what is wrong with man and how his wrongness/sinfulness can be fixed. In one of the chapters, he says to those who do not believe in the existence of God that “It is dishonest to live as if he is there and yet fail to acknowledge the one who has given you all these gifts.” That we all want to be acknowledged for what we have done or we acknowledge people when they work well and yet we want to deny God with all the clues we have of His existence.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this book. I highly recommend it to all Christians especially those who struggle with the existence of God hoping that it will shed light to their doubts and give them reason to trust God as the ultimate creator. Though one has be careful when reading this kind of  book not to think it is the book/knowledge that will change their hearts hence the need for prayer and studying of God’s word for transformation. Also one has to been keen not to find themselves in unhelpful debate hence we should aim to say the good news of Jesus in clarity and joy trusting the Spirit will convict the hard hearts. It will also be very helpful to Christians who would want to be involved in such apologetic discourse.

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The virtue of stability (in life, in ministry, in Christ)

There is a time for transition. In fact there is a lot of transition in life and in Christian life and ministry in particular. However, it is not completely true to say that ‘all of life is transition’. We function best as humans when we have times when we are settled in one place or at least clear of our direction and what our work is rather than just in constant flux and indecision. The Apostle Paul was always on the move but he did know his task very clearly (Acts 20), and if you read the book of Acts carefully you find that he was often settled somewhere for a few weeks, months or even years. So here is something in praise of non-transition…
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Stable

We live in a culture where stability, stick-ability and consistency are not really seen as virtues but disabilities. We told that it’s good to be flexible, agile, constantly shifting, morphing, evolving, jumping from one thing to another. Everyone offers us change – politicians, internet providers, management gurus. To stick with one thing, to be the same person yesterday, today and tomorrow is strange, boring, old-fashioned, impractical and probably deadly. Change becomes the new constant, flux and flex the new buzz words.

That culture affects us personally and as churches. And there are some things about willingness to change (reformation?) that are hugely positive. But there are negative aspects to this kind of constant instability. Is it good for customers and companies if employees change jobs every year? Is it good for children if their parent switch their schools as often as their Facebook profile photo? Is it good for pastors to change churches every two years? If I am ‘re-branding myself’ who really am I?

And then we might notice how in business, politics and social networks, my word is no longer my bond, because I’ll almost certainly change my mind or circumstances will change – I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what I originally said I would do. If I say I’ll come to your event that commitment is contingent. It is …unless things change …unless something (better) comes up. This shadow of instability starts to fall over even the most serious promises like marriage vows. The idea of committing to a person or a church or an organisation or a job for any serious length of time sounds strange to the Z generation. Surely better to simply ‘Like’ with the ever-present option of ‘Unliking’. And when I’m actually in church I might find that even here there is a chasing after one gimmick and church growth strategy after another, one conference or best-seller or speaker, blown about by every wind.

I’ve been struck recently by 2 Corinthians 1:12-22. Paul starts by talking about the consistency of his life (v12-17) which moves into him talking about the consistency of his words (v17-19) which moves into him talking about the consistency and sufficiency of Christ Himself and identity in Him (v19-22).

Life (v12-17). Paul is one person all the time – ‘simplicity and godly sincerity’ – he is straightforward. ‘Earthly wisdom’ says “Don’t commit, move with the times, stay flexible and unattached, be a cultural chameleon, have a different face for different people, work people, manipulate.” In contrast the grace of God says, “be consistent, be one thing, be who you are in Christ, a child of God.” Earthly culture is continually changing plans and going back on commitments and promises as better things come up. Paul was accused of that (v17) and he is desperate to clear himself of the charge – “I don’t say Yes, Yes and No, No at the same time – I don’t have my cursor hovering over the “Unlike” or “Edit” icons – I do what I say.” In a culture where we see so much vacillating (and maybe this is a particularly intense problem for those of us in the younger generation) this is a challenge to simplicity, stability and stickability in life.

Words (v17-19). Paul has already started talking about his words in general and now in verse 18 he starts talking about ‘the word (logos) of us’, meaning his message, his preaching. It seems Paul didn’t jump around from one topical series to another following whatever was trending in the culture. As he lived a singular life he had a singular message – ‘the Son of God, Jesus Christ’ (v19). If you went to listen to Paul preaching you could guarantee 100% that you would hear about Jesus Christ. (Can that be said of our preaching ministry?)  Why did Paul and his co-workers keep on preaching Christ? Verse 20: “For all the promises of God find their yes in him”. The Bible is not a promise box – it is a book of promises that find their fulfilment in him. Not a whole bunch of disconnected promises but a load of lines all converging on one Person. So Paul, Silas, Timothy, didn’t open the Scriptures and preach promises of overflowing barns and vineyards and success and riches and the good life – they preached the fulfilment of the promises: the Christ who is good, who is the riches, who is life. So there was a stability to their ministry and it’s focus.

Christ (v19-20). I all comes down to the stability of Christ himself. When the mountains and sky have fled away he will be there in all his eternal, unchangeable, dazzling glory. All the promises of God have been fulfilled in him and he has died and risen and will never die. And wonderfully God has ‘established’ (lit. made firm) us ‘in Christ’. Our lives are hidden in the most stable thing in all eternity. Not only that we have been ‘anointed’, ‘sealed’, ‘given the Spirit’ as a ‘guarantee’ – all words expressing the same reality of the Spirit’s closing us into the security of Christ, words of great firmness and comfort about our true identity.

Now if you have an identity like that you don’t have to be constantly vacillating, trying to please everyone, trying to be a cultural chameleon, trying to get an ‘edge’ or ‘leverage’. You have that stability in Christ to be one thing and preach one thing and stick at that.

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A call to spiritual reformation

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When we’re thinking about reformation we can easily focus exclusively on the ministry of the Word and forget the desperate need for prayer – or rather the desperate need for God expressed through prayer. In one of the best books available on the subject of prayer, Don Carson shows us how Word and Prayer go inseparably together. iServe Africa apprentice Ann Mwari reviews this must-read book.

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his prayers

D.A. Carson writes “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” with the aim of working through several of Paul’s prayers so as to help us hear God speak to us today and find strength and direction to improve our praying, both for God’s glory and for our good.

The writer begins by highlighting the urgent need of the Church – the need to have a deeper knowledge of God. He argues that one of the foundational steps in knowing God and one of the basic demonstrations that we know God, is prayer  – spiritual, persistent, biblically-minded prayer. In chapter one, the writer cites some of his Personal Lessons from the School of Prayer. This is followed by The Framework of Prayer in chapter two, focusing on 2nd Thessalonians 1:3-12. The writer gives Paul’s framework, majorly thankfulness for signs of grace and confidence in the prospect of vindication. In chapter three he highlights some worthy petitions made by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians 1:1-12.

In chapter 4 the writer brings out the aspect of Praying for Others, which is followed by A Passion for People in chapter 5 (1st Thesssalonians 3:9-13). The writer then gives the content of A Challenging Prayer in chapter 6, based on Colossians 1:9-14. In chapter seven and eight he gives some real life Excuses for Not Praying and helps with Overcoming the Hurdles (Phil. 1:9-11) respectively.

Chapter 9 of the book explains the mystery of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, highlighting the need to pray to him with the view of His sovereign yet very personal nature. This is extended in Chapter 10 (Praying to a Sovereign God) with much focus on Ephesians 1:15-23. In chapter 11, Carson helps us understand how to Pray for Power based on Ephesians 3:14-21. Surprisingly (compared to what we might think we need power for), this power is meant to help us grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ. Finally, he highlights on how to Pray for Ministry focusing on Romans 15:14-33.

These detailed yet clear explanations of some of Paul’s prayers have been helpful to me on understanding how to pray biblically. Besides explaining how to use the Scriptures to pray, the writer has also highlighted some excuses we use for not praying and given a few remedies for this lethargy. This is very helpful for the Church today, where most of us can talk about prayer and even read books on prayer yet still fail to pray.

This book contributes to meeting the need to grow into a deeper knowledge of God through a Biblical life of prayer. Therefore, I recommend it to every Christian, for growth in the knowledge of God and consequently in prayer.

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Building a RAFT: transitioning well

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I don’t know if it’s a good idea to write this post when I’m going through transition myself… Or maybe it’s the perfect time to remind myself of these things… Anyway, here goes…

 

When Duncan Olumbe led an excellent session for us at the September ministry training course on transition, there was one thing that he mentioned but didn’t have time to go into detail on: building a RAFT.

The idea of building a RAFT comes from the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds but it’s applicable to anyone moving on, whether adults or children, mzungus or East Africans. The basic plan is Reconciliation-Affirmation-Farewells-ThinkDestination. It’s not only practical and proven but it also fits well with the pattern and teaching of the apostle Paul, someone who certainly knew what it was to go through a lot of transitions.

Reconciliation

Deal with conflict before you leave. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. We can easily sweep conflict under the carpet. Particularly when we are leaving it’s very tempting not to bother dealing with unresolved issues. But 2 Corinthians is a letter that testifies to the great desire of the apostle Paul for reconciliation.

Over the years things had become increasingly tense between Paul and the Corinthians. There were misunderstandings and hurts (2 Cor. 1:17), there were painful visits and painful letters (2 Cor. 2:1; 7:8). He could easily have given up on them and walked away but Paul’s whole letter (which we call Second Corinthians) is a heartfelt attempt to bring about reconciliation in advance of his third visit so that it will not be another painful one (2 Cor. 7:2; 13:10). He finishes in 2 Cor. 13:11 with a bunch of quick fire exhortations: a) rejoice (joy and bitterness cannot co-exist); b) aim at restoration (literally to ‘mend what is broken’); c) agree with one another (share the mind of Christ); d) make peace (take the initiative to concede, cease fire and instead cultivate, live and speak peace), finishing off his sentence with the great empowering promise that ‘the God of love and peace will be with you.’

Above all this, the most important thing that Paul does in seeking reconciliation is to affirm his love for the Corinthians…

Affirmation

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul affirms his love for the Corinthians in the strongest possible language. “I do not love you? God knows I do!” (2 Cor. 11:11). He explains that the reason he wrote the hard letters that he did was out of “the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Cor. 2:4). He says that if you could look at his heart you’d find the Corinthians engraved on it (2 Cor. 3:2). He is desperately concerned for their spiritual life – if they are going well he is overjoyed, if they are drifting away he is gutted. He has the concern of a betrother (2 Cor. 11:2) and the love of a father (2 Cor. 12:14-15). The whole letter is dripping with love.

We talked the other day in a second year class at iServe Africa about this passage and the different ways in which we can affirm love for one another. And we saw that there are a lot of cultural aspects to this. Paul commends a ‘holy kiss’ (2 Cor. 13:12) whereas we might have other non-verbal means of affirmation more appropriate in our cultures – e.g. giving and receiving of gifts or preparation and eating of food (we affirm love for our mother by eating a big plate of her food) or visiting and receiving a visit. Then there are indirect verbal ways of affirming one another – e.g. taking greetings from someone to someone else or publicly praising someone to someone else or associating ourselves with someone in affirmation of their ministry (you see Paul doing all these often at the end of his letters e.g. Romans 16).

But on top of all these is the (counter-cultural) example of the Apostle Paul to actually directly verbally affirm love for one another. Someone in our discussion at iServe pointed out that it is usually the congregation who affirm their love for their pastor not the other way around. But here the Apostle is saying directly and repeatedly (in writing) to the Corinthians that he loves them. [Note to self: remember to write emails, cards, messages.]

Farewells

Paul’s letters always end well – with a grace-filled prayer of gospel blessing – e.g. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)

Closure is important. When you write an email it is good to sign off in appropriate way. If there is no greeting and sign off then we wonder whether you’ve hit ‘send’ by mistake and there was more to come or it simply comes across a bit cold. A relationship without a farewell is a bit like that.

As Duncan told us, leave time for goodbyes. Don’t be packing and heading to the airport thinking of those you didn’t make time to meet up with. List those you need to say goodbye to and plan how you’ll do it. You won’t do it perfectly. You will miss some people. You will find there is sometimes a mismatch between how important someone is to you and how important you are to them. Some goodbyes will be awkward. Sometimes they’ll be painful. But they’re worth doing well. The classic goodbye in Scripture is Paul’s to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20). He reminds them of his pattern of gospel ministry, he charges them and warns them, he commits them to God and the word of his grace, there are floods of tears, physical contact, all very un-British! Not all goodbyes need to be that dramatic but there does need to be closure and a right sort of sadness.

I remember a meeting many years ago where someone asked the great New Testament scholar Earl Ellis why there was so much crying at Paul’s farewell in Acts 20 (“that they would not see his face again”) when surely all of them believed in eternal life and the resurrection and were confident of meeting again. Earl paused and then told us about his meeting with an old Christian friend some months before and they were both very aware that this friend would soon die and that they would not see each other again in this life and there was a right grieving of that loss.

Think Destination

The final log of the raft is turning your thoughts towards where you a transitioning to. This might include getting information (internet, reading, talking to people), a pre-travel orientation, moderating expectations (not too low or too high), and making practical arrangements (not just for travelling there but for the first few days – picking form the airport, accommodation, making calls, getting cash).

Paul was certainly very clear where he was headed (or at least clear of his intentions). He set his face to go (like Jesus) to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22). On another occasion he planned to go to Rome and then on to Spain with clear intentions of gospel work in both places. He didn’t live in the past but in the present and future (Phil. 3:12-14). He may not have know the details of what was going to happen to him in the cities he visited (Acts 20:22-23) but he had certainly moderated his expectations – great opportunities to ‘finish the task’ along with ‘prison and hardships’ (Acts 20:23-24).

One other practical take away from Paul’s example – as he thinks destination he writes ahead to prepare people for his coming. That is what the letter of 2 Corinthians and Romans and Philemon are for – emotionally and theologically and practically preparing people to receive him.

 

Of course God is sovereign in all this. Paul’s story shows us that sometimes (often) his transitions went hugely differently to how he expected or intended. He was torn away from people without a proper goodbye (1 Thessalonians). He was prevented from entering some places. He finally turned up at Rome as a prisoner. At one point everyone deserted him. But at least, by God’s grace, he did the reconciliation-affirmation-farewell-think thing as well as he could. And in all things he had that great confidence that can be ours too: that God goes with us, that his grace is sufficient in our weakness (felt more strongly in transition), that he rules over shipwrecks and visas, that he will get us where he wants us and eventually bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom.

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The truth is out there

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It was very good to have pastor-scholars Gary Cymbaluk and Kip’ Chelashaw with us last week to teach our second year class. Kip’ shared with us A Biblical theology on the person and work of Christ and it was great to see many beautiful ways in which Christmas and Easter tie together the different threads of the Bible story. Then Gary shared with us on Objective Truth – why we need to orientate ourselves to ‘true North’, reality outside of us.

Perhaps one of the most striking things Gary shared with us was this:

“Things are not true because they are in the Bible; they are in the Bible because they are true.”

This might sound odd but it fits with the end of John’s Gospel:

“Jesus did many other things as well.” (John 21:25)

In other words there are loads of things that happened, true genuine historical things, which are not recorded in the Bible. The truth, reality, is bigger than what is contained in the Bible, even though the Bible is the only book which tells us how to understand that bigger reality and how to be saved from its darkness.

The Reformers, 500 years ago, believed:

“the authority of Holy Scripture rested purely on the fact that it reports upon real acts of God in revelation… The authority of Holy Scripture then rests not upon the form of its recording [that it is written in a book] but upon… the reality of the revealed facts attested in writing.” (Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics as quoted by D K Mckim).

Everything in the Bible is true but it’s not that being written in the Bible magically confers on things the attribute ‘true’. Rather the reason that things are in the Bible is because they are true – the acts of God in history.

“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.” (John 21:24 cf. 20:30)

The Bible is legal testimony – it points to concrete reality, often as an eye witness. As Gary helped us see, the truth is out there. There is such a thing as objective reality, what Francis Shaeffer called ‘True Truth’ which is there whether or not you believe it, whether or not I believe it, it is just there. And the Bible witnesses to that reality.

So what? Here are a few consequences:

  • We are not supposed to be like the Pharisees who got fixed on searching the Scriptures as an end in itself. We are supposed to search the Scriptures to find the reality of Christ and come to him to have life (John 5:39-40; 20:30-31).
  • Christians should be people committed to truth wherever it comes from. Science (exploring reality) is good. History (examining sources from the past) is important. When we make claims or share things on social media we, more than anyone, should be concerned to check out whether they are true.
  • We should rediscover the historicity of the gospel. The message of the apostles was not about some fuzzy feelings they were having it was ‘News’ that something had happened – a man had been crucified and he had risen again. This was not a self-help philosophy it was public truth (Acts 26:26).
  • Let’s think carefully about whether we ourselves really believe that the things in the Bible are public truth or whether we have quietly bought into the view that this is ‘my spirituality’, ‘my truth’. Do we really care whether these things actually happened or not? Have we forgotten that the Scriptures are describing reality and started to treat them as writings that ‘work for me’ or that ‘I believe because I know I’m supposed to believe this stuff because it’s the Word of God’? When challenged by unbelievers do we respond with ‘In my opinion’ or ‘Me I think’ or do we stand firm on this being Reality for everyone whether they like it or not.
  • As we look with sadness at how the contemporary Godless world is embracing an aggressive form of relativism and self-definition where ‘I create my own reality’ and ‘Don’t you tell me that my reality is wrong’, we need to be careful that we don’t do the very same thing in our own spirituality. Many false teachers in the church will tell us, ‘Create your own reality and define yourself by speaking out positive words about yourself’. Many motivational speakers will tell us, ‘Don’t let anyone say anything negative into your life’. As the old Bible teacher Dick Lucas has said many times, biblical spirituality which is always about facing up to hard reality not living in a fantasy world. Biblical faith is not faith in faith. Our faith is supposed to be a trust in solid historical truth – Jesus crucified and risen.
  • We need to embrace the great Reformation rediscovery that hope it outside ourselves. Identity is not something we find by looking within. Wisdom is not in us but in Christ. Good is not in us but in Christ. Salvation is not found by looking inside for the still small voice or by trusting in our good works or even in our feelings of assurance. Salvation is about having our eyes opened to reality – seeing the crucified, risen, exalted God-man – and finding in him an objective status – ‘Righteous’ – an alien righteousness, from outside.

 

Some more resources from second year class over the last couple of weeks:

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The prayer of a man heading into pastoral ministry

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We always praise God when iServe Africa apprentices head into the corporate market place as servant leaders or into school teaching committed to discipling or into medicine as a mission field or into godly marriages that picture Christ and his Church. One of the rediscoveries of the Reformers 500 years ago was that all these can be places of ‘full time Christian ministry’. 

But be also praise God when some decide to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). There is a huge need for godly Bible teachers, a huge need for gospel-hearted pastors for God’s flock, a huge need for kingdom-minded quality workers in the harvest field. So it’s exciting when we receive a letter like the one below from a young man who has decided to head towards a life ministering the gospel of Jesus. But even more encouraging than his desire to go into pastoral ministry is the heart that you see below – the heart we all need – that turns from self to Christ, lives in the light of eternity, prays Your kingdom come, Your will be done.

The prayer of a Christian going to pastoral ministry

I am the son of a small poor village, the son of separated parents trying to make ends meet and have a better future. I am a graduate from a good university and with good grades. But I don’t see myself pursuing my career unless as a means to serve Jesus better with the gifts he has given me.

I believe God has given me, as a member of his church, teaching gifts. I have had the privilege of extensive training that has helped me get a better understanding of his Word, know Jesus more, be clear in my understanding of the Gospel and enjoy serving his people with the Gospel. I know now that I am more than a son of a farmer; I am one of the sons of God, born to him by faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus.

I’m not sure how the near future may turn out for me. Who knows, I might live long and serve Jesus for a long time. Praise God if he grants this. On the other hand I might not have a long life or a successful ministry for that matter. I know I can expect suffering and that actually that suffering may give me more joy in the hope of God’s glory and delight in knowing Jesus who will one day bring the perfect world. That life of joy in suffering might be a good testimony for others. Praise God if that happens.

Whatever my life may turn out to be I know one thing for sure: this I am convinced of, that Jesus has won me eternal salvation and no one should trade this for anything else. I will live for him now, use that which he has given me to serve him, teach others about him as I seek to know and walk with him myself.

I may seem to be talking like a man of great faith yet that is not really the case; it is just that I have found that when you live under the instruction of God’s Word and see his amazing eternal promises, see what Jesus has achieved, then you will want more than anything his reign and to live for him now in this world ahead of the glorious new creation where he will reign forever. A man who believes this truth, the truth of God’s Word, will have the resolution to live in service to this King, want to know Him more and serve Him with his life according to the portion of their gift from our King to His church.

I want to be this kind of man who hears, believes and responds to the amazing call of our king, Jesus. May the Lord be glorified with this one life and bring fruit for his work through the gospel. And may the joy of serving King Jesus not fade no matter how the near future turns out to be. May the hope of God’s eternal glory always remain in front of me when the enemy of my soul tempts me with earthly temporal  and vain pleasures or scares me with earthly pain and even death.

This is my prayer.

Anonymous Brother

 


 

Resources on finding your life work:

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Jinsi ya: Public prayer

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Leading a congregation of God’s people in prayer is a privilege but not an easy thing. Here are a few resources and then a few more tips.

10 tips for leading corporate prayer from the front:

  1. Written – it’s not a biblical law that you have to write out your prayers but it is a good idea: a) it means that you’ll remember all the things you need to pray for and not get nervous and tongue-tied; b) it means you can structure your thoughts and think through the phrasing so you pray prayers that are theologically sound and make sense (it’s very easy to start speaking heresy or nonsense when you’re up front and off the cuff); c) it means you can keep it short and to the point (it’s very easy to waffle and wander and repeat yourself when you are extemporary) – one side of A4 paper will be 4-5 minutes which is fine. Even if you don’t write, at least prepare.
  2. Biblical – use Bible arguments in prayer: appealing to his mercy, calling him to defend his glory/name, claiming the Lord’s promises (check they are actually promises that apply to us).  BCP prayers are a good model: 1) address God using an attribute that it relevant to what you are about to pray for; 2) ask God; 3) on the basis of Jesus’ work on the Cross.  You may find it helpful (but it is not essential) to structure your prayers on a Bible prayer (an incomplete list below). Another approach, which can be very helpful, is to pray along the lines of what was preached last week at church. We want to be praying the Word. But [warning!!] this is not the place for preaching – keep it short and prayerful.
  3. Look outward – it can be helpful to mention particular needs of the church family but in the public worship service it’s good to have an emphasis on the needs of the world, our nation, our leaders (1 Tim. 2) and the national church. It can be good for us also to pray by name for other Christ preaching churches which might not be in our denomination but are brothers in Christ and fellow workers. It helps to remind us all that there is only one harvest field and one Lord.
  4. Specific but not over-specific – it’s good to pray for particular places, events and situations. Let’s mention for particular people and things coming up in the nation and in the life of the church – missions. But [warning!!] we don’t need to tell God exactly how to sort those situations out.
  5. Check the details – check with the pastors for news of those who are ill and with those in touch with mission partners for up-to-date information on missionaries. Check whether it is ok to give details of illnesses or names or countries before you pray for them in public (i.e. be sensitive to confidentiality and security issues).
  6. Pray for the praying – both individually and together with all those involved in the meeting in the vestry half an hour before kick off.
  7. Pray the prayers – rather than spending much time telling us what we are going to pray for, just go for it and pray to the Lord our God. And when you pray them don’t just say them, pray them.
  8. Slow down – make your delivery slow enough so we can all follow and pray along with you.  Short pauses can be really helpful.
  9. Amens – one of the great things about corporate-led prayer is that one person is speaking but we are all praying along with you and then we all agree with an ‘Amen’ at the end to express that this is our prayer too (1 Cor. 14:16). So let us know at the beginning how you would like us to respond at the end of the prayers. To keep us with you try dividing the prayers into three or four portions (with different themes) and closing each with a similar appeal through Jesus which is followed by a strong corporate “Amen” or “Hear our prayer”.
  10. Pray for the praying – all the way through the process. Prayer is a spiritual activity. Pray before you prepare that the Spirit would guide you to the prayers the Father wants to answer. Pray that they would be helpful to God’s people. Write before the worship service meet together with all those involved to pray through all the different parts of the service, not least the praying.

Some biblical prayers for inspiration: 

1 Kings 8:57-60; Nehemiah 1; 9; Psalm 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 16, 18, 46, 47, 51, 62, 63, 65, 67; Isaiah 37:14-20; 63:7-64:12; Jeremiah 32:17-25; Lamentations 3:19-26; Daniel 2:20-23; 4:34-35; 9:4-19; Matt. 9:38; 1 Cor 1:4-9; 2 Cor 1:3-4; Eph 1:16-23; 3:14-19; Phil 1:3-11; Col 1:3-14; 1 Thess 3:12-12; 2 Thess 2:16-17; Phil 1:3-6,9-11.