Prayer as exercise of our faith in God

Just tell God what you feel, open and pour your heart to Him. Say it all. Be honest with him, He is our Father who art in heaven!” I have found myself telling several people this statement in the last few weeks.

prayer114Praying is talking to our God through his son, Jesus Christ, and through the help of Holy Spirit. Nothing that is more fulfilling than knowing there is a father somewhere, who is ready to listen to us when we call him in truth and in spirit. The good thing about our father, we can come to him even though our coldness and guilt screams otherwise!

In the beginning of this week, I have come across an incredibly small book by Michael Reeves, Enjoy your Prayer Life, that I read in one sitting. The fourteen small chapters here leaves one with full understanding of prayers!

Reeves quotes John Calvin in defining prayer, the chief exercise of faith. He further explains that prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. Every time we pray, we should always remember how faithless we are, and how faithful our God is!

Our prayer life reveals how much we really want communion with God and how much we really depend on him. Too sad that many of us Christians are too busy with our own things and just set few minutes to commune with God.

Micheal Reeves says, “Being a Christian is first and foremost all about receiving, asking and depending. It’s when you don’t feel needy (and so you don’t pray much) that you lose your grip on reality and think or act in an unchristian manner.

As we grow up as Christians, we should feel not more self-sufficient but ever more needy. Thus, we need to pray more and always enjoy the care of a powerful father.

The saddest thing is that we can do prayer and get it wrong! Failure to recognize that we are all sinners can be one of obstacles to our effective prayers. This reminds me of the Pharisees, who thought they were fine and had nothing to repent! Woe unto them…Jesus said! (Matthew 23)

All we need is to be honest as we talk with our father. Reeves puts it this way, “Since the spirit knows our weaknesses, we can be real with our father, accepting how babyish we are in our faith, and simply stammer out what’s on our hearts

The way to grow in our relationship with God is being honest with him – telling him how we feel and think, our fears, struggles, unbelief, anxiety…name them, and more so remind him of his Word. True intimacy, Reeve says, only develops with honesty.

In my reading of Psalms, I realized that it is composed of prayers and hymns of people who expressed their joys and sorrows, successes and failures, hopes and regrets. We also need to approach God through prayers just as the Psalmist. At times, Psalmist interrupts their own petitions to speak of the Lord’s faithfulness and kindness.man-praying

In conclusion, focusing in God persistently will elicit more earnest and hearty prayer. Let’s cry for help from God, and not try to be impressive.

Let’s enjoy what Jesus has always enjoyed!

By Kenneth Irungu

iServe Africa Apprentice 2015/16

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Read your Bible for All Its Worth

Today in the morning after waking up, a common song I used to sing in Sunday school lingered in my mind;

Read your Bible,
Pray every day, Pray every day.
Read Your Bible,
Pray every day, if you wan’t to grow…!

The thoughts of the song came as a reflection of the many things I had read in the last few weeks on a must read book for all, reading Bible 4How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

I know that we all read the Bible, but we wonder why we read the same Word but we get a hundred and one interpretations of the texts. These interpretations has led to birth of many religious cults and denominations!

I am therefore compelled to share few insights I got from this book;

First, the authors in their first two chapters of this book, “Introduction: The need to interpret” and “The Basic tool: A good translation,” makes it clear that every reader is an interpreter. Am sure that you are also trying to interpret my message here!

Additionally, the authors reminds us that the translation of the Bible, whichever translation we use, is our beginning point but is in fact the end result of much scholarly work. A fact that many do not recognize and especially with the ongoing discussions in social media today on a certain Bible translation.

The authors also introduces two key words to all Bible readers, Exegesis and Hermeneutics. The authors note that the Word of God was first written to “those” living in period of between 1600 years, then to us living today.

In emphasis, Gordon and Stuart tells us that God’s Word to us is to be found first in his Word to them and thus the need to understand what was said to them, Then and There (Exegesis) and need to learn to hear the same Word in the Here and Now (Hermeneutics).

The book puts an emphasis that a text cannot mean what it never meant to its initial audience or readers. Though there is much difference between first century and the twenty first century, the meaning of the Bible text is one and remains the same.

Preacher3The duo in the subsequent chapters stresses on reading the Bible texts carefully and putting them in the right historical and literary context. Context, as they articulates, majors with time and culture of the author and the purpose of the book and its parts.

To help us understand the Bible context, we need to read Bible dictionaries, commentaries and handbooks.

I was stunned by realizing that, “To make a text mean something God did not intend is to abuse the text, not to use it!” After reading this, I paused and repented for many times that I have abused the text rather than using it. I saw the need of being faithful to the Bible texts.

Interestingly, the book emphasizes the need of reading the books of the Bible in one reading or sitting, if it is possible. This helps us as readers to form informed reconstruction of situation the author is speaking to in the book. During this sitting, one is able to easily identify the authors attitude, the recipient, specific things mentioned and book’s divisions.

In addition, Gordon and Stuart points out several errors of interpretation when reading the Bible that has led to major divisions in the church today. Among them are allegorizing, decontextualizing, selectivity, moralizing, personalizing among many others.

bible reading 3For the Old Testament narratives and prophecies, we should always think of how everything recorded reveal something about God’s own character.

In conclusion, the duo advises that one should not start Bible study with use of a commentary. They counsel us, “You go to commentary after you have done your work. Commentary helps you answer questions you raise during your study

I urge all of us to read our Bibles for all its worth, for the Word of God is living and active, Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)

By: Kenneth Irungu

iServe Africa Apprentice 2015/16

DO NOT GET BLINDED BY YOUR RELIGION

On Wednesday, last week, I went to a funeral service of one of my grandfathers and during the service, I was surprised by what I saw. It is bad to talk of a funeral here, our culture demands so, but the things done in the funeral service opened my eyes about ‘Religion!’Religion

First, the service was held inside the church building. For reason best known to them, certain denominations do not permit a dead body to be taken to the church. Again, the funeral was colorfully presided over by high ranking religious priests, a bishop who led a team of three other pastors.

What astonished me during the funeral was what the Bishop did to the coffin. The coffin, which was placed at the in front of the church, had some candles burning on it, perhaps signifying something on us being the ‘Light to the world,’ I guess! The Bishop poured an oil first to all of us who had attended the funeral and thereafter poured the oil to the coffin revolving around it for more than ten times. Some incense giving out some smoke was also burnt around the coffin!

As if that was not enough, six people who were fellow brethren of the deceased stood three on each side of the coffin throughout the service. To make them rest, they exchanged with fellow colleagues from time to time with others seated during the service that took more than four hours.

Do I sound as if I do not respect the funeral service, no I do! What worried me all this time was why this was to be done, and already the man had died. Too many religious activities as if this would change his destiny if he died a sinner.

The above story exists only for one purpose. Not to condemn the funeral ceremony, after all, it is fully accepted by members of the denomination, but it exists to point out this fact; Religion can blind many of us hence making us fail to experience that our relationship with God is what matters, and also the Supremacy of Christ.

The truth of the matter is that if we live in immorality and deep in sin, religion will never rescue us! I know how much our grandparents feel good if even at old age we stick to our ‘church’ or our denomination. I know how many of my elder colleagues in church faced the wrath of the society for changing the ‘church’ we fellowship at home!

I remember the advice of one woman who told me that after getting more education, I will be tempted to change ‘my church’ which she termed as evil! Oh, for sure, religion or even denomination is a veil that is blinding many to see the fullness of Christ and his love for us!

Just as Paul says, it is only in Christ Jesus where the veil from the devil, be it of religion, is removed!

It is sad that many people are too religious but less of Christ. We are zealous of our denominations and church beliefs but not zealous in loving Jesus Christ. Most of us have finished most (if not all) religious ceremonies that our denominations stand for! And we think we are safe?

religion 2Others have gone to the extent of changing their lifestyles and even mode of dressing to respect their religious beliefs. Others have been restricted to specific colors and others even to specific songs, type of food among many other things.

As I was looking for meaning of religion, I was startled by this:

The English word “religion” is etymologically derived from the Latin word religo, meaning to “bind up.” Religion binds people up in rules and regulations or in ritualistic patterns of devotion.

Some of the passages in the Bible that proves that fact that God hates religion, and all of its procedures and programs; rituals and regulations include;

        “I have had enough of burnt offerings…Bring your worthless offerings no longer…I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts; they have become a burden to Me… So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you… I will not listen…” (Isaiah 1:10-15)

“I hate, I reject your festivals; nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies…take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-24)

Jesus in Matthew 23 was on the necks of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and their dependent upon the religious system of works to appease God, weighed them heavily to people and yet themselves would not be able to follow them.

A commentary on verse 15 of Matthew 23 says that “The Pharisees’ converts were attracted to religion, not to God.” Too sad for sure, doing things to appease religious leaders and not to appease God! Jesus also criticizes religious leaders in Luke 11:37-54.

In conclusion, it is good for us to note that “Religion is man searching for God. Christianity is God searching for man.” Jesus dying for us on the cross made the latter possible! It is impossible for us to work our way into a relationship with God. We must be born into it. The second birth. The spiritual birth.

Religion is not the answer. Religion is the problem. Let us always remember that true Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. In fact, religion is the biggest roadblock to seeking a relationship with God. Right relationship with God cannot be found through religion, this can only be found in Jesus Christ!
religion 6

We do not need Religion, We need Jesus!

By: KENNETH IRUNGU

iServe Africa Apprentice

YOUR PASTOR IS NOT A SUPERHUMAN!

Few weeks ago, all the local dailies in the nation prominently covered a ‘Man of God’ who was involved in a road accident scandal that left one person dead and another seriously injured.

I do not want to comment on this matter, it is already ongoing in court, lest I find myself in a hot soup and taken to court for sub judice. But as a trained journalist, i know why the great prominence given to the Pastor by media coverage meant in shaping public opinion or setting public agenda, about Pastors and ‘Men of God’!Pastor

The WHO factor was key in the story…A pastor! A Man of God! The fact that he was a Pastor elicited discussions making it a news story! Media houses set the agenda by placing the story as the banner headlines in the newspapers, making it the top story and giving it much airtime in the News bulletins in both Television and in Radio.

I remember last year when one of the Investigative Journalists in the country exposed one of the theatrical services of a certain Pastors, or do I say a Word Peddler, it became a hot debate to many for many weeks. To him he wondered and had this to say during an interview thereafter, “Why should a whole National TV in a country with pressing needs that require media coverage concentrate on a High school (Form 2) dropout for hours?”

In the recent past, we have read stories in our newspapers and seen in our screens numerous clips and camera shots of Pastors caught pant down in lodgings with ladies who are not their wives. In fact, in one occasion or another, we have helped disseminate this information to many of our friends.

I personally get maddened by the clips and stories exposing these pastors and treating them inhumanly. To be sincere, I am always sympathetic with them. A friend once told me that many of us do sin, just as they do, only that we are lucky and have never been caught!

These exposures of Pastors reminds me of the sinful woman caught in the act of adultery by teachers of the Law and the Pharisees and brought to Jesus as recorded in John 8: 1-11 (and its parallels in other gospels). The accusers of the woman were themselves sinners, and Jesus knew it. He allowed the righteous to stone her, interestingly, none condemned her! All, starting with the older ones, had fallen short of the glory of God!

Every time I see a Pastor exposed, one question that I usually grapple with is,

Are Pastors or ‘Men of God’ Superhuman?’

Though the responsibility of the Pastors to the society is immense and of high regard, we need to realize that this does not make them sin proof! They are all prone to sin just like me and you. They have emotions and desires just like we are! Pastors have feelings just like we all have.

Instead of condemning them, Pastors who has fallen should remind us of horribleness of sin! It should help us look inward again at our life and say just like the Psalmist, “Search me, O God.” (Ps 139:22)

When you approach your Pastor to share with him or her concerning your education, your financial crisis, crumbling relationship or marriage with your spouse, your disappointments in life…name them…do you ever ask yourself, whom do the Pastor share with similar problems? Just remember this, they also have their issues and thus need your prayers too.

Ron Edmonson[i], a Pastor and church planter says that pastors are held more responsible in the eyes of God for how they lead in the church, but they aren’t any better-or more equipped-at living a victorious Christian life than any other Christian.Preacher6

It is sad that we live in a society that regards pastors as saints. Only few of us take our time and pray with them or even pay them a visit at their homes. We usually expect them to be perfect in all and with all.

In his blog, Pastor Eric McKiddie[ii] of Chapel Hill Bible Church says that it is important for churchgoers to understand that pastors are not a special class. They are normal people in the following four ways that he gives that I am really thinking about aloud;

  • Pastors face the same temptations as everyone else.
  • Pastors have the same spiritual requirements as everyone else.
  • Pastors know more about the Bible than they can apply.
  • Just like you, Pastors can’t grow outside of community.

As I pen off, I challenge all of us who are shepherds of God’s flock, as either pastors or preachers to live the Word. We need not to preach water and take wine! Paul challenged the Jews in Romans 2: 21- …you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery…?

I remind you this again; your pastor is not a superhuman. He or she is a normal person, Susceptible to sin just as you are. Please take your time and pray with him or her!

By: Kenneth Irungu

iServe Africa Apprentice

Preacher7

Links you can read:

[i] Truths about pastors who disappoint their flocks http://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/persoanl-character/20847-8-%20Truths-about-pastors-who-disappoint-their-flocks.html

[ii] 4 Things you should know about your Pastor’s Spiritual life http://www.christianity.com/church/church-life/4-things-you-should-know-about-your-pastor-s-spiritual-life.html