It’s not bad enough that Christ suffered on that hill for us. That he was beaten, mocked, chastised and killed for you and I That his justice was denied and the innocent killed for my sin That the most holy God was drowned in the sewage of your sin But he was cast away, ripped from his eternal union to take my judgement
It wasn’t bad enough that he was rejected by those he came to save That the very ones he sought to redeem cried out for his death That his very disciples betrayed, denied and deserted the Saviour But even today his message is maligned and his people twist his Gospel Like our forefathers we reject, deny and undermine his claim on us
It was bad enough that all his apostles suffered for his message That his people were called a cult and cast away from Israel But today his name is used as a curse word, a play word for children His eternal rule is ridiculed and none fears the Lion of Judah Everyone trembles at human rulers but laughs at his face
It was cruel and futile enough for the former governments to attack him But in every age and every state they rebel and renounce his claim The world of today like yesterday treats him the same if not worse They treat his message, his claim and his people the same way None considers the humble Passover lamb is the ferocious Lion of Judah
But it’s worse in his own church and among his own disciples By word, deed and testimony we betray, deny and desert him Some twist his message for their own gain, laying a claim on his people Others claim to hold out his Gospel but by their conduct deny it’s truth And the many forget his very existence, rarely seeking to live for him daily
We may look down on those who killed and tortured our Saviour We may despise the early disciples and the first church But we need to ask, are we any better today or worse? Is the risen Christ alive in our sermons, in our witness and living? Is he the Lord and Saviour, ruler and God of us and everything we possess?
Our world doesn’t mind a full weekend holiday in his name But it must consider the fate of sin as seen on that Good Friday If God didn’t spare his innocent son for the sins of the world What makes you think he’ll overlook yours that fully deserve judgement? Run to him for his Easter refuge or prepare for the judgement of eternal hell
When your breath fades And you hear the last bells When a voice whispers in your mind And deep in thought your hear a last word I wonder what will come to mind one last time
What will become of my life? Who will look after the children? What of my life plans and ambitions? What legacy do I leave behind after me? I doubt where you leave will matter that much.
Perhaps it’s what left undone The future you never got to enjoy That trip, that job, a final expedition I think it’s more how you leave that matters What awaits me across the bridge of life and death?
When I close my last what will happen? Who will receive me across the river ahead? What will become of my soul on this other side? Eternal peace and salvation or the lake of eternal fire When it comes to it how you leave will matter the most
It may seem like a millennia away But one day you’ll surely have your last The worst thing is it might come suddenly You may never have all the time and space to think So I thought I should give you this chance here and now
Let’s dream and reconsider this life Begin from the end coming backwards Have that last thought now before it’s too late Make it the most exciting thought you’ll have then To know tonight I’ll surely be with my Saviour forever
Run to him before the end comes Make him your rest and refuge today A hiding place when the worst happens Make your last thought your best thought To know he’ll be happy to receive your above
People get into their line of work for all kinds of reasons. For some it’s their talent, passion and gifting, others saw a need they wanted met while for others, well, that was all that was on offer. The dream is when they love their job and find fulfilment in it. They have a reason to wake up everyday and take risks because they believe in what they do. That’s what anyone wants for their pastor. That they love the Lord and his people which makes them ready and happy to go the extra mile.
But quite often people lose the passion that got them through the door. It happens to everyone for all kinds of reasons and it applies even to ministers of the Word. These streets are full of people who rise up early and come home late because they have to. What else would they do? They have bills to pay, children to school and families that depend on them. But we don’t stop to imagine our pastor maybe on the same category. I mean he works for God, he changes people’s lives, he offers hope and has a whole community cheering him on. Surely he must love his job and can’t wait for Sunday.
In truth, and contrary to what a lot of people think, your pastor is a normal human being. He has the same struggle sometimes to get out of bed and preach that powerful sermon. Home visits might not be what he looks forward to. But more to our topic of interest he may not be finding as much fulfilment from the job as you may think. Now we want to start with the assumption that he first got in for the right reasons, that he saw a Gospel need and realised God had given him the gifts and training fit for it. That he couldn’t wait to reach the lost and disciple others for the rest of his life.
But then a few years in things haven’t gone exactly how he thought, there’s the burden he carries for the flock, his own family in addition to the struggle with his own sin. On the other hand, perhaps things are great, the church is growing and his life is stable but he has lost that first fire to wake up everyday, take every opportunity to do his share of Kingdom business.
Worst case scenario he’s been in this rut for quite some time now and he can’t see a way out. Now some of you out there would think well maybe he should quit. But it’s more complicated than that, first what else would he do? What about his bills, family and his own reputation? You see his predicament? Now add that like the many people who don’t like their jobs he has to keep doing it for the foreseeable future. Then you’d have a lot to worry about if you are part of his congregation for his sake and the church.
Now, I know I’m painting a rather extreme picture and one that negates God’s ever present grace, encouragement from the Word, fellow ministers and the congregation. But I’m doing this because when it comes to ministry I find sometimes people don’t see things realistically. They never imagine what happens to so many people in our midst might happen or is happening to their minister as well. We think because God called him he’ll always be firely for the Gospel and passionate about pastoral work. Yet we know even the most fulfilling of jobs have bad weeks and passion can fade with time.
Supposing I’ve convinced you of the possibility of this happening then we ask what should be done. What kind of measures and strategies should we lay down in place to spring the man of God back to the horse. Perhaps a better ministry language is how can we pray, help and encourage our minister to fan the flame, see 2 Tim 1:6? We are in the right territory here and my answer is one the Gospel, second Gospel love and third prayer not in any order. You could easily say the Gospel is the answer.
When calling fails, and I don’t want to debate how extreme that sounds, what will keep one going is a constant reminder why they got in the first place. They got in because God drew them in by his Gospel, he transformed them by the power of the Gospel and gave them his passion for the lost by the calling of the Gospel. The beauty of Gospel ministry is what gets us through the door is what will keep us on the family business. The fire might dwindle and the enemy might get us doubting and despairing but when we come back to the Gospel in the scriptures the power, the strength, the energy, and the motivation is always there.
Paul writes something that I think every minister needs to keep going back to. In Romans he argues out his passion and mission statement and I think the reason he writes this powerful letter:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1.
In the Gospel we find God’s saving power and that’s what everyone including your minister needs every day. This is also the motivation he needs, to know that through his mundane work of preaching and teaching, God is working to save and sustain his people for eternity. He needs to preach to himself this Gospel everyday and we need to do the same for his sake and ours too. When is the last time you encouraged your minister by something you are reading from the Bible? He needs it and the encouragement is twofold, one for his soul and second for his ongoing ministry.
In addition, the Gospel is founded on God’s love for his people, see the popular John 3:16. The son of God invites us to love instead of judgement and the minister’s work extends that love to others. But the minister needs to know and cherish that Gospel love. To swim and bathe daily in the amazing love of God that brought an enemy to his dinner table. To remember that one died that many may live and he needs to die daily following his master’s footsteps. That’s the job, that’s the calling.
And when hardship comes whether from the congregation, his own life, his sin or from the world, that’s not a barrier it’s the price. But as those who share and benefit from this love we need to extend it to him as well. We need to bear a part of this burden ourselves. We can’t be all receiving and never giving. We need to think seriously about the welfare of our ministers both spiritually and physically.
But none of these works unless God works. The greatest motivation comes from God himself. It’s God working through his Spirit by his Word that keeps his man on the job. So above everything else we need to pray and pray some more for ministers of the Gospel. Pray that the same word they preach bears fruit in their hearts. Pray for protection from sin and scandal. Pray for his contentment and joy in the Gospel. Pray for his family that they’ll be full partners in this work. Pray for his children to believe and be proud of their dad’s work. When Calling fails, the Gospel and our prayers will keep the man of God in office.
You can be whatever you want in life Work hard and you’ll be rich and successful Find within what makes you great and special Go for that person who makes you happy It’s all about you in this me world It’s a shame the world doesn’t belong to you
What makes you happy is all that matters If they won’t join team A cut them out They should be glad to join the winning team She should be happy she’s dating you They should be glad they know you But what happens when team A fails?
You turn to blame game, it’s never your fault Something or someone is to blame not you It can never be you, you are so special Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when I need him most? You get bitter and wallow in self pity
In truth the world is first God-shaped before you Everything revolves around him and not you And he calls you to be outward looking True happiness is not me shaped he taught us It’s giving and dying for others that’s our foundation And in his footsteps we find true happiness
In a me world life very quickly crumbles We are stressed when things don’t go our way But in a God world that’s to be expected Because this world is not our home But he makes worth our failures and weaknesses Before bringing us to our real eternal home
A proper perspective is to see all in God’s eye It’s his world and all happen for his glory And what’s good for God is good for us His glory should be our greatest pursuit His will and mission on earth our life goal To live for him now before living with him forever
4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation nor will they train for war anymore.
Bearing COVID in mind, it seemed like the world only had one problem to deal with and once resolved everything else would fall into place. In truth seeing what is happening now in the world and here in Kenya this cannot be any further from the truth. To some political stability, good health care system, end of lockdown is the dream and to us jobs, economic recovery and political goodwill seems even more urgent as we gear towards general elections next year. In truth our best hope lies not in fixing the next crisis but in the hope we find in the Gospel of Jesus. And from Isaiah we are learning we need a complete makeover. A New Exodus for God’s people, a whole new creation under a better ruler in a land where unemployment, diseases, poverty and injustice is unheard-of.
We thank God that here in Kenya things seem to be going back to normal. And we rejoice now in the simple things we used to take for granted like being able to work onsite and to gather physically in church. But as we rejoice in this we now realize going back to “normal” is only a return to the many other challenges that face us as a race and this world. With this in mind, we are convinced that the hope of the Gospel is even more urgent today. And this gives us great courage and motivation to keep preaching and training others for this noble and urgent task.
For this reason, we thank God that he has entrusted to us 22 apprentices: 15 first years and 7 second years, to train for faithful Gospel ministry and walk with this year. In addition, our online Ministry Training Courses, that is MTC and Utumishi Course has attracted 35 more local Gospel workers drawn from all over the country serving in different capacities. We praise God for these 57 individuals that God has led our way to be equipped and enriched with the Gospel through in-depth study of the Word of God.
I was just thinking of the difference it would make if all these men and women were captivated fully by the true message of the Gospel and were established in the Word of God. What if they in turn went out to teach it boldly and passionately? What an impact that would have now and in the future!
But in all this we realize that our work only works when God works. So our big prayer is that as we train these men and women, God will work in them and in us to conform all of us to the nature of Christ and draw more people to the hope of the Gospel through this ministry. Click here to subscribe
It’s that moment, you’ve just finished preaching. Normally you dread this moment because you aren’t sure if that sermon was any good. You struggled to show the big idea of the passage. You are not sure if the connection from the Old Testament to the Cross made any sense. You had a few jokes that didn’t necessarily get the congregation moving but you did your best. And finally you made something of the application.
But today wasn’t like that. No, you were flowing with the passage and the Spirit was speaking. You prepared well and actually enjoyed the whole process. You could feel Paul speaking through your material. You nailed the talk, you got the message and emotion of the text right. The congregation was feeding from your sermon jubilantly and you could hear it cut through their hearts. A job well done.
But the service ends, you go home and you wonder what difference did it make? Yes it did seem to stir people’s heart and demand a response. And for a moment you saw a small spark of what some call a revival coming. But days go by and you don’t necessarily see any change. Actually people very quickly forget and your effort and good work go to waste. You wonder was it worth it? Is this job worth all the headache and sleep deprivation it causes you. After all, it will all be forgotten and barely appreciated. Such is the tragedy of good sermons. Good work gone down the drain.
But maybe the reason it feels that way sometimes is because sermons are not meant to work the way we want. Because we are not meant to work the way we think. You see like those sermons we are instruments in the hands of another. It’s not how well prepared and specific we are for the job that matters. Although that is very important. But it’s what he’s doing in us and through his Word that day that matters. Who knows what his aim for the day is? Who is he after today? Perhaps our humility is what he’s after. To help us understand it’s him who works and that without him we can do nothing, see John 15:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
But better still this understanding helps to remove the weight of transforming wicked sinners from our hands. To remind us we are but undershepherds in the service of the great shepherd and master of our souls. And what a tragedy would it be if those souls were at your mercies and the work you do? Can you even imagine the responsibility that would demand of you? The heartache and the restlessness? Thank God he’s in charge not me. Praise God he’s at work even when we don’t see!
The thing that blows my mind away is that he chooses to use those sermons. Not only the well polished but even the ones you doubt would make a difference. And sometimes long after your sermons you see a fruit here and another there. What a joy that he chooses to use you and the gift he gave you to conform his people to the likeness of his Son. That he draws men from the world to himself through your work of preaching his Gospel. How amazing and humbling that is!
I know it’s disappointing to labour hard and not see results. God knows how much I crave visible results. But perhaps our heartache results from focusing on the wrong fruit. When we misunderstand what we are called to do and what he says he’ll do.
Ours then is to honour him with everything we have. Labour hard not just for visible results but in honour of him and the gift and opportunities he’s given us. What he does with our labor is upto him because the flock belongs to him not us. And so we must continue doing our very best as preachers to honour our great Lord and Saviour but also learn to say with Luke:
10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. ‘
Every night I die on my bed The sickness of sleep overpowers me And I surrender my will to God Hoping to see the sun tomorrow I submit to my tired body And sleep like a little baby
Sometimes I wonder if this could be it What if I never woke up again But it’s happened so many times I rarely fear what might happen So I make plans for tomorrow Confident that I’ll cheat death again
It’s another night and I’m so tired A few minutes and I’m lying on my grave Deep in sleep unconcerned about tomorrow But why should I worry about tomorrow I know I’ll see the sun or so I hope It’s a faith that has kept me this far
But I know one day that night will be the last I can’t tell when and where but it’s coming But today I’ll sleep well and unconcerned Not in the bliss of ignorance or indifference But because of my trust in my God Not just for tomorrow but for all my days
Trust that when I sleep my last it won’t be the last For his word assures me of life beyond sleep Life beyond the merry or misery of tomorrow Life beyond the final grave below the ground And that he’s waiting for me on the other side To be with me and all who believe in him
So tonight I’ll sleep soundly on my bed And tomorrow I’ll wake up ready for the sun But if I succumb to sleep don’t you worry I guarantee I’ll see an even brighter sun As I’ll gaze on my Lord and Saviour In abundant, everlasting life
Many stories hail the stable boy who becomes a master and marries the princess, rising from ashes to dine with kings. It works for poor boys and girls working hard in school to dream and for those climbing the corporate ladder to beat all odds. It says the sky is the limit, every dream is valid, dare to dream and no man is limited. It’s exactly the kind of story that make great motivational speaking and draw flock all over the place. Story of the unlikely employee become boss.
Sometimes you have stories of admirable bosses who relate well with employees. Bosses and rulers who are kind and humane who listen to their subjects. And we all think if only all leaders were like that. Not proud and selfish but down to earth and approachable. First story speaks of power being attainable even by the least of us and second of it being shared or at least bringing us closer.
But the story of Christmas is one of a master come down to be one with his subjects. Not a phoenix who rises from the ashes but a prince who leaves his throne to know and save his subjects. While his people could only dream of ever living with him he comes down to be one of them in their weakness and limitation. He doesn’t lose his identity or authority but that doesn’t bar him from experiencing life with them as a common man.
He’s born through the pain of labour like any of us though by a virgin. He goes to school and causes a scare to his parents as he schools his teachers. He’s no ordinary child, God is born as a man in him. But he also experiences pain, grief, hunger, love and loss like any of us. He feels pain when injured and suffers alongside his friends.
But what makes this a great story is that he not only becomes one of us as a friend but his humanity, suffering and death was for our sake. He became one of us to save us from our mortal weakness and make us one with him if only we receive and believe in him. He left his throne so that by faith in him we might one day reign with him. But not all received him.
John the apostle tells us:
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
He was born like us so that those who receive him by faith will one day be born of him and be with him. He came down to us so that through him we might go up with him.
He was born in human weakness like common man so that we would be born in glory through his Spirit by faith in him. He showed us the way up isn’t by working really hard to climb the ladder. It was by him coming down to pick us up. The prince became a friend and more than a friend one who saves his own friends.
In Jesus we find the kind of friend we all desire. One who lays down his own life for us. But more than a friend we find a Saviour. The prince of peace come to dwell with man and save him from slavery to sin, this broken world and it’s harsh ruler the devil.
John continues saying:
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
He came that first Christmas and died on the cross to save his people, those who believe in him from their sins, see Matthew 1:21. And he will come again to bring us all who believe into his heavenly home. If only we would listen to him and obey his command!
Christmas my friends is more than an end of year holiday. It’s more than rest, family and being kind to strangers, it’s about the Lord who became a friend that by faith in him we would be saved.
Saved from ourselves, from the circle of life every year with sin and corruption, saved from poor leadership, pain and death. Christmas speaks of a child king who became one of us so that by faith in him we might become one with him. He was born a son of man that we would become sons of God. Born to earth that we might be born in heaven through faith in him. This is my hope and joy this Christmas. What is yours?
Do you want to just go round the sun again facing the same challenges of your sin and this world, complaining and dying in desperation? You could try hope in your self drive and ambition but we know that is limited. You might wish things will become better next year but we’ve been there before. Or you could surrender yourself to this child who became the king of the world to obey him as your Lord and Saviour. To be saved from your sins and live the rest of your life with the hope of eternal life.
My prayer is you’ll choose the latter so that like us who believe you’ll live and face next year with the hope of eternal life. Let me know if you want to talk more about this friend and king and the hope he gives us who believe. To know him as your Lord and Saviour and live with the sure hope of eternal heavenly life with him. He was born on earth so that by believing in him you might be born in heaven.
When you are ill and feeling like this could be what carries you under what drives you is hope. Hope that the medication the doctor prescribed will do the job. Hope that your body is strong enough to fight the pathogens. Hope that tomorrow you’ll wake up feeling much better.
But hope is not only a valuable currency when you are lying sick in your bed. Hope drives the world around. Did you know that there’s a thousand death traps that could kill you anyday? From your bedroom to your workplace and yet we wake up every day and match on like nothing could go wrong. Why? The bliss of ignorance? Perhaps for some of us. Don’t care attitude? I suppose for a number. But mostly it’s because hope tells us it’s okay. That it’ll be well.
I know I’m exaggerating but just think about it. What made you work so hard in your studies back in school? What makes you give that extra hour in the office? Why do you try so hard with that relationship? There could be many reasons but I bet one of the main ones is hope. Hope that things will get better in future. That you’ll succed in life if you put the extra effort today. You’ll get into that college, get that job, that girl will marry you…
Listen to what famous people have said about hope:
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
The problem is when what we’d hope for doesn’t pay off and unfortunately that happens a lot. When hard work doesn’t always means a better job and pay. When giving more in a relationship doesn’t reap more love. When the boss doesn’t even realise just how hard you work. It’s the cause of many a depressed souls, many drug addicts and has even killed a good number.
But someone will say such tragedies only happens when we give up hope. Realise how twisted that sounds, you get in trouble because of hope and hope is what will take you out of it. Hope that it’ll be better next time if you tried a bit harder this time or if you are a bit smart this time it’ll work out and the same story continues. Hope motivates us to go the extra mile but when it fails it may cost us our lives.
But what if our hope was placed in something or someone that could never fail? A hope that guarantees results not just as a cliche to make us work hard and for longer hours now. But hope that guarantees what it promises and delivers when’s it’s called upon. That would be worth everything. Wouldn’t it? That my friends is my hope this Christmas.
I’m talking about the hope of Christians based on what God said on his Word. You see God made a promise thousands of years ago that he would send his son to be ruler and rescuer of his people and he fulfilled that promise by sending Jesus to save his people from their sins, see Matthew 1:21. In this God proved he can be trusted and so his promise of the future informs our hope for today and tomorrow.
Hope that this same Jesus will come again to rescue us from this broken world, from it’s corruption, sickness and death. And bring us to that heavenly mountain to dwell with God in peace and gladness forever. Hear how John puts it when Jesus showed him a small peek through the window of this new world:
…4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.(H) There will be no more death’[b](I) or mourning or crying or pain,(J) for the old order of things has passed away.”
This hope is sure because God has kept his word by sending Jesus to be born among men and to die to save us from our sins. This same Jesus was raised from the dead and is preparing this home for us now. So our hope is not only better than limited success, better pay or a working relationship. It’s sure and that’s the currency that drives the Christian and the work of the Gospel.
This hope drives us out of bed into the world. It takes us through sickness and health, it informs our success and failure and gives us great joy even when circumstances are difficult. It’s not just a wish that things will get better. It’s a guarantee that the future eternal holds so much more for a believer that they can easily give up this life for Jesus and the Gospel now. And they can do that with great joy because of the reward of our hope. This is my hope and joy this Christmas