On my way to heaven-Facing death with Christ (Book Review)

Is it really possible to face the final stages of our earthly lives with confidence and without fear?

That is a very difficult and unsettling question to try and think about, but still worth a thought.

Death is not a very pleasant topic in any culture. And dying is not anything you want to think about, let alone prepare for! It is only talked about in funerals and written on eulogies but not beyond there.

Mark Ashton however brings in a christian perspective into the whole topic of death and dying in his little book ‘On my way to heaven’ by talking about his own last few months battling inoperable gallbladder cancer. Mark was the Vicar of St Andrew the Great in Cambridge for 23 years and in Dec 2008 he was diagnosed with cancer, after which the oncologist estimated that he had six to nine months to live.

The realization that he was dying, rather than depress him made him much more enthusiastic about sharing the Gospel in the following fifteen months that he lived. This came from meditation on the truth of what dying meant to him:

  • In dying the opportunity to fall into sin was slowly diminishing and in his death he knew that he would have no ability to sin again whatsoever. For him, the hope of eternally being with Christ was greater than the desperate needs of our contemporaries of relief of physical pain and extension of physical life at all costs and a flock into ‘healing services’.
  • The time to finally be with the Lord was here. Death meant facing the resurrection of Christ. It meant being exclusively in the the only one relationship that matters eternally.

It is in this true hope that Mark lived on and endured though painfully to his dying day. As Mark contemplated about eulogies, he wrote that having realistic eulogies represents an honest picture of a person’s life. It is in including a person’s failures and follies, their bad moods and intolerance, their moments of harshness and unkindness among others that Christ is glorified, because we all die as great sinners saved by the great grace of God.

1st Peter 1:3-5 ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’. That is the hope that Mark has talked about all through this book!

I recommend this little easy to read book to everyone who desires to get to heaven in the hope that reading it will ease a little bit-if not all-anxiety to face death regardless of when or how it comes confident in Christ.

You can find the above and other books by Mark Ashton and other great writers in https://iserveafricabookstore.wordpress.com/

Njeri Maina

 

 

Three Lessons I have learnt about God from Partnership Development

Three Lessons about God from PD

  • Partnership Development was one of the most strange concepts (at least at that time) introduced to me two years ago while I got oriented into thinking about life in mission 24/7. Is it Biblical? How exactly as a fresh graduate do I go about it? Where and who are these partners? What do I do with the pride in my heart that raises red alarms every time I think of presenting myself to someone as being in need? These and very many other worries lingered my mind two years ago (and honestly some times some still do). And that marked the beginning of thinking seriously about Partnership Development.

So what exactly is Partnership Development?
PD is deliberately seeking out for like-minded Christians who together with, there is active involvement in christian service in support of each other. PD to an individual may mean;
• Talking to different Christians concerning your desire and plan on how to get involved in ministry and inviting them to pray with and for you.
• Talking to trusted friends who will be concerned about your welfare as you serve. These maybe people who will visit you or allow you vacation once in a while to make sure you are well taken care of.
• Deliberately seeking out news from christian ministries and mission agencies on their needs and using our God given resources to meet them-can be offering professional help, finances or material things that the individuals or ministries need among other resources.
• Seeking out on the prayer needs of Christians in ministry and organisational needs and praying for them.
• Etc

So here are three major lessons I have learnt about God from my PD experience;
It is never about me or the money!
Partnership Development is never and should never be centered on me or the money or the resources! The great commission that Christ left to his disciples and to every other christian since then was/is to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey Christ. The great Commission is not centered around me, but rather centered in all people hearing the Gospel of Christ. It is God-initiated (by sending His Son Jesus to die for us) and is God-ran. So as Christians seek to work together in serving the Lord, it should be clear that the goal is to have as many people as God allows to be convicted of sin and receive Christ as the Savior of the world from sin. Therefore this means that it is not about a strategic plan that a few people sit down to write that we are working out, but rather it is God’s ordained plan to use Christians to reach out as He works out His plan! Hudson Taylor wrote ‘God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.’ Paul in his encouragement to the Corinthian church to excel in giving wrote ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’.2nd Cor 8:9. God through Jesus has made all who believe in Him rich. Rich in a heart to give in response to the great sacrifice that Jesus showed at the cross. It is very easy for Christians to narrow down partnership development to just having their needs met and to others just having to meet God’s obligation of giving to support ministry and forget that at the first place, it is God in His Sovereignty who works out every thing as He wills.
In my first year in apprenticeship with iServe Africa I had a friend (who remained anonymous till date) who would always top up my phone with airtime every month. When this became consistent and remained anonymous I really felt ashamed for being too narrow minded and forgetting that Gospel ministry is a work of God. I realized that I would not exactly merit my efforts for the generosity shown to me or think that I deserved it.
Doing PD is a means of grace to humble Christians to depend on the Provider-God.
One of the reasons perhaps that really makes us work hard in our studies or at work is to meet our needs, and never have to ask for help to meet them. Independence is a source of pride to almost everyone. It makes us feel that we are enjoying the fruits of our labor; we sowed, and now reaping. But it is not always the case in Gospel ministry, at least not in the sense of the world. Thinking about the Gospel, we never ever deserved to have Jesus, a sinless man take up our place on the cross so that we can have eternal life. The only way to please God, is through faith, and not our works. This then helps us really appreciate God’s goodness through Christ and seek out to be fruitful not because our work merits our salvation but because without the works there is no proof of our new life.
I really struggled to present myself to people as one in need. I struggled to ask people be in partnership with me as we did Gospel work together. It had never occurred to me that I was very proud and selfish to not want to involve people in God’s mission. Meeting some very happy to support friends to support me came as an encouragement to endure in the mortification of my very proud heart and understand PD as a means of grace. I was also able to know and appreciate that God is the sole provider, who does so through His people. Partnership Development humbles the person seeking support and reminds them of the grace of Christ (counters the thoughts of ‘why should I ask for support and not work on my own and earn a living like everyone else?’) and humbles the sender in countering the thoughts of ‘why should I put aside my hard earned resources for a course without any assurance of visible material return’.
• PD is such a mirror of God our Father, as a relational God.
God is Triune (God our Father, God the Spirit and God the Son) and that means He already exists in community. Besides that, God reached out to mankind in reconciliation by giving His Son Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sins, and whoever believes in Him is reconciled back to God. What would make us think that He exists in community yet would love us to exist and serve Him as independent individuals? Partnership Development then is one of the ways that Christians show their oneness in serving the Lord. That would only mean that the opposite (failure to involve others in christian service) is negating the character of God. Having been made in the image of God calls for a life in imitation of Him through belief in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So in wanting to go into missions, financing oneself, taking care of oneself, praying for oneself etc there reflects the heart problem of selfishness and denying other Christians a chance to serve the Lord together, and therefore denying a chance for relationships.
I am convinced that Gospel work is a work of many hands and hearts, and so Partnership Development is a lifetime concept in Gospel work not only for missionaries abroad as we may think but for every christian. The Lord has designed it that way to His very glory.

Happy Fathers Day….Happy Fathers Day?

So Fathers’ Day is here……

This Sunday, the 19th of June is Fathers’ day. It comes barely a month after Mothers’ day. The celebration of the two days has taken Kenya by storm and now people get all over the internet appreciating their mothers/fathers-never mind that the older generation of our parents barely know about, leave alone use social media! If anyone is able to notice a six inch tall adult amongst really small children, then they are able to notice the difference in enthusiasm between Mothers’ day celebrations and Fathers’ day celebrations.

On Mothers’ day, almost everyone appears to have a mother, whether alive or passed on. And messages of acknowledgement (for those who are alive) and tributes (for those who have passed on)  fill the air. Churches have Mothers’ day specials, gifts and flowers are very much in demand during the season.

On Fathers’ day however, it is not uncommon to see wishful messages such as ‘I wish I met you dad’, or even some appreciating their mothers for playing both parents. Reasons such as alcoholism and many others may be reasons to sympathise or not sympathise with the fathers/men.

So why the pride in mothers and ‘not as much pride’ for fathers?

  • There is such a high rate of absent fathers in children’s upbringing if the following statistics are anything to go by. One out of every three (33%) children in America and nearly two-in-three (64%) African American children live in homes where the father is absent, according to a study in 2011. http://www.kenyaforum.net/2013/09/08/single-motherhood-in-kenya/
  • Its no longer a big issue to be raised up by a single child, or to raise up children single handedly. With the casualness of separation, divorce and upcoming formerly unheard of practices in Africa like prenuptials, single-parenthood is more often planned than not. Six of every 10 Kenyan women are likely to be single mothers by the time they reach 45, one of the highest rates for single-parent families in Africa http://mobile.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/-/1950774/1958704/-/format/xhtml/-/r02vx8/-/index.html
  • The rise of feminism and girl child empowerment has almost come at the expense of the boy child. So generally, the boy child is left to learn things the tough way, after all, ‘mwanaume ni effort’! We seem to have forgotten that children, teenagers and youths are a perfect image of the society. Neglect of the boy child breeds a wanting generation of masculinity. Gender based mentor-ship is no longer a thing to consider while raising up children, after all, the priorities now are all about dreaming and following the dreams and ambitions.

What can be done?

  • This fathers’ day, and every other day it is important to honor our fathers as much as we honor our mothers. Eph 6: 1-2, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the Land”. The Lord has instructed us to honor our parents, whether we feel like they deserve it or not, whether they have been good to us or not. The instruction is to honor them (father and mother). If we are to be used in healing the families already in crisis then it will mean that there is need to stop sidelining one parent over the other. The praises/laments on Fathers’ day will exhibit so much to the readers and viewers on how much we love and honor our fathers.
  • Girl child empowerment, boy child empowerment also! There are still some oppressive practices among some Kenyan communities that the girl child needs to be saved from. But that doesn’t mean that the society sidelines the boy. A society is made up of both genders. So both genders need to get enlightened about the pros and cons of a practice.
  • A little investment in time and presence with our fathers may come a long way in celebrating them other than putting up messages on Facebook that a fifty year old will most probably not get to read. I love an initiative that some churches have picked to organise for mentor-ship retreats of older men and younger men where the two groups spend time together just bonding!

And finally……..

For those who this weekend have no one to remember as a father, for those who the mention of the word ‘father’ only brings back bad memories, for those who have really really loving fathers but who for sure know fall short of expectations at times, there is a Father who is above all Fathers, and who is immeasurably loving to all people and who has shown us the perfect example of unconditional love. Rom 8:14-17, For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

It is great to know that there is a Father who has adopted us from a life of filthiness to a life of hope. From being outcasts to belonging in a family, through sending his Son Jesus Chris to die for us, and therefore destroy the wall of hostility of sin and race to a family of His own. There are high chances that our earthly fathers (and mothers too) will get below expectations as parents (and ourselves as well whether as parents or as children) but we have a heavenly Father who has in store for us an imperishable inheritance, together with Jesus Christ when He finally gets back.

Happy Fathers’ Day

Abba Father

 

Pen and Paper….

I have always felt that every time I qualify something to be a habit I want to develop or what I would also call a discipline, I tend to start feeling a war against it from within. This is despite formerly doing it very excitedly in an informal way. I am yet to understand whatever goes on in the mind/heart for such a turn of interest…….

For quite sometime now (not a few days/weeks definitely) I have tried to journal at least once in a week. (If you are wondering about my failure or success in developing the habit, that is a story for another day). Writing is such an art that just like any other requires much practice. You only get good at it while you keep doing it.

And so my most recent readings have been on Biographies as I tried to do some research during my ministry apprenticeship time. And it just hit me, how would I be reading about men and women who lived in the 7th century had they not left some traces of their lives and thoughts? How would the authors of biographies of men and women who lived so many generations before their existence be able to write books? How would we get to know of the struggles and highlights of men and women who went before us? Most of these biographies have quotes. Real quotes, that the men in history wrote in their own hands.

And I also got to think of the Bible, and its compiling. These were records written way before the compiling of the Bible. Think of the New Testament, how would we know about Paul the apostle and his missions hadn’t there been many letters left behind?

Now what I am trying to say is……weak ink is better than none! Writing ignites our minds, it ignites our thoughts, it jogs our minds! It is such a means of passing on information, as well as recording for future reference. Its a resource to literature!

In an age of hashtags and massive social media outlets, everything can be reduced to just posting rarely thought about updates and comments that only qualify to keep the online audience entertained. There is so much to feed on and very little if any that is well chewed, digested and taken out as constructive writing.

And so with that said, its a reminder to myself to keep developing a habit of pen and paper for myself or for others.Pen-and-Paper

Psalm 2-Kiss the Son (Behold Jesus)

Psalm 2

Kiss the Son (Behold Jesus)Kissing the Son

This is a Psalm introducing David as the Anointed king of Israel. David, having been a man of war and leading Israel to win in so many wars right from when he was just a very young boy and with only a sling and a stone leading Israel to fighting the Philistines and to conquer the mighty Goliath, had some people burn with envy and jealous (1st Sam 17). Saul, his predecessor as king of Israel wasn’t spared either-he was dying of jealousy. And so is the situation described in vs 1-2. The Gentiles (the nations) who were often Israel’s enemies weren’t pleased with him. Their kings rage was ‘let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us….’.

Even then, the Lord’s Sovereignty in setting a king for himself upon his people is very certain. Its ‘His king…’. No wonder, being against the king is being against God himself. But the rage against God’s anointed is to carry on for long. Its in the Lord’s Sovereignty that the enemies of Zion fight against it but the Lord will ultimately silence them and have His king remain on the throne of Zion.

The Lord speaks to the psalmist of a Son, the Lord’s Son! There all these speculations, could David have been God’s Son? Thankfully, in God’s provision the Bible explains itself, and we get to see vs 7 quoted in Heb 1:5, confirming Christ as the ruler/king who was to come through the Davidic empire and rule forever more! Incredible! Through Nathan’s message to David (2nd Sam 7:16) God had promised to establish David’s throne forever.

And so Jesus appears now as the Anointed one, and not only ruling Israel but also ruling nations (gentiles). There is a promise that through Christ, all the earth and all nations will be the Lord’s inheritance. This is yet again confirmed in Rev 21:26 when nations will gather to behold the Lamb of God, who is the Son-Jesus. It is noticeable that the focus changes from being a one nation kingdom to being all nations kingdom, Jews and gentiles alike.

Therefore, due to the above there is a caution to submit to the Son of God, because as the righteous will be with him eternally, those who don’t submit to him will perish in the way of his wrath. This means eternal separation from the Lord.

And so now, the instruction is to kiss the Son of God-Jesus, to be in reverence of him and to have his joy within us. For he is both a rewarding Lord, and a punishing God to those who are against him!

Take away from Psalm 2;

  • The Lord is Sovereign, He sets His king for His people.
  • Jesus is the Son of God through whom all nations are reconciled back to God.
  • Human being’s part is to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling, as they behold His glory.
  • Perishing awaits those who go against the Lord, by assuming His Son.

 

Njeri Maina

Psalm 1; Blessed is the man….

Tree along the riverPsalm 1

 

Blessed is the man….

It is so beautiful to be at the river side and enjoy the view of the vegetation along it. The trees seem to be evergreen, even when the rest of the trees on dry ground wither due to lack of enough moisture in the soil. Theirs is an ever present source of water form the river. This also means that the trees always bear fruit in their season.

And such is the picture there is in Psalm 1.

Happy is the man who doesnt involve himself in immoral ways of life. ‘Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…’ There is proggression from walk-stand-sit amongst the wicked, the sinners or the scoffers to mean, that whatever relationship there should be between sin and the man is none. There is a way in a sense a little gossip, or a little mischief here and there, or a small coarse joke towards a neighbour or a little pride or a little envy….spices up the day in man’s own judgement. It is naturally pleasurable to be in sin!

There is an instruction however to an otherwise lifestyle that defines a happy and blessed man. It involves delight (pleasure) and meditation in the Law of God. In the psalmists times that would have meant the Law of Moses, and in our time this takes us to the Word of God and the law of Christ that came to us through Christ’s death on the cross. It is only through Jesus that a man beholds righteousness. Man will naturally delight in sin, and there has to be an external ‘woo’ to instead find pleasure in the law of God.

The righteous man, just like the tree along the river yields fruit and prospers in all that he does. He yields fruit in obeying the Word of God, in exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit and teaching it to others. His steps are ordered by the cross upon his shoulders as he follows Christ. He prospers in benefiting the others by loving his neighbour and laying down his life for others (1st John 3:16). The bar of righteousness is way too high for human beings, that even in their best efforts its like filthy rags before God. And therefore a delight in being in Christ who stands to silence the accuser-the devil-of all our sinfulness.

Woe to the wicked (those without Christ) for theirs is a temporary reign and they will be swept away from the face of the earth like chaff that the wind drives away, and they will not stand in judgement, nor fellowship with the righteous ones on judgement day. It is better and more desirable for man to be amongst the righteous (thanks be to Christ) than to be in the way of the wicked.

…..TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER…..

……….EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER………..

Having been brought up in a Christian family, I learnt or rather heard of praying from as early as I can begin to remember my childhood experiences. I loyal fully attended Sunday school classes (thanks to my mother who could never allow a Sunday to pass by without taking us to church). From the Lord’s Prayer to the words of grace, I knew them all since my childhood. I even suspect that even if I were to get into amnesia I would probably still remember them. In the recent past I have had a desire to understand prayer better, and even as I write this, I am first of all writing to myself then to you.

Caption this; you meet a stranger in a PSV from Nairobi to Marallal and strike a conversation that translates into a friendship. You really get excited over him, especially when during the conversation you find out that this friend is such a great man of influence (he is just the MAN you should have in your contact list) and he is able to offer a solution to that one thing that has bothered you for quite some time now. And so being an opportunist (and charismatic perhaps) you don’t allow a chance to pass by but present your problem (and surprisingly find out that indeed he has helped so many people with that kind of problem and he really seems to have foreseen it in you). You are amazed at his humility and simplicity and get vulnerable to him and from henceforth, you become friends. But sooner than later, you begin getting bored and stop communicating to him (even though he keeps on contacting you). You turn to be a snub to him, and you completely forget how much he helped you……. Does that sound familiar to anyone? It does to me (sadly).

There are good questions to ask every time we hear of prayer, or think of praying. Why am I praying? What am I praying for? How long should a prayer be? Can I pray enough? Do styles matter in prayer (shouting, walking around, sitting down, kneeling etc)? Do I have to pray alone? Is prayer all sufficient? Well I know the list of questions could be endless, and I may not answer all of them, however am quite certain a couple of the questions will get answered.

It’s quite obvious that we get to pray more often when in distress (and well, as finite beings perhaps this isn’t uncommon), and it wasn’t different in king Hezekiah’s reign in Israel either. The Assyrian king was here, intimidating them and the Southern kingdom had already been taken away into exile by the Babylonians. Let’s have a look at the King’s prayer in Isaiah 37:14-38 and what we can pick from it concerning prayer;

  • Adoration; even in time of distress the nature of God doesn’t change. “Oh Lord Almighty…..you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth…..” God is Sovereign and regardless of our situations we should never be little-Him. No wonder in the Lord’s Prayer our Savior taught us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven, hallow be thy name…..”
  • Pouring out our hearts to God; in distress we are often faced with many options to take, among them telling our friends, getting upfront to head-on confrontation with the ‘enemy’, blogging or even face booking about it, etc. Hezekiah’s reaction was to go before the Lord in prayer. It is in the Lord that he trusted in.
  • God speaks through the Word, and we respond through prayer; Isaiah was the prophet of the Lord then and God spoke to His people through him. When Isaiah brings the message to Hezekiah, Hezekiah speaks to God through praying. This is in contrast to a common belief that prayer is listening to God…… God speaks to us through His Word, and we respond in prayer. God, (in His Sovereignty) humbles us by letting us know that we can communicate to Him by praying. Our prayers don’t work out things per se, but God in His plan puts the prayer in our hearts and works out things. Every outcome is for His sake vs. 35.

We pray because God has instructed us to pray. I so often fall into the temptation of the guy up there who forgets of the goodness of the Lord (in delivering me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light through Jesus Christ) and push my Bible away and throw prayer time out of the window, but the King and Master who has called us friends is reminding us just yet again, that we need to keep communicating with Him.

It is on that note that I remember this classic hymn;

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.

A parting shot?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ‘Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’.

Mary Njeri,

iServe Africa.