I heard her first cry and it was beautiful I’ve never been happier hearing one cry The agony and the tension was overcome By that beautiful and confused cry Finally she had arrived to make a home with us
Strange how the waiting season vanishes so quickly In the middle of waiting it seems like forever But then it happens and the agony is gone The wounds and the scars witness the miracle And they become marks of joy unending
With every grace and blessing God gives comes true joy Not in the removal of total pain and suffering But in the assurance that we have one who looks after us One who sees beyond what we see And truly cares for us more than we ever will know
Sad that sometimes we still doubt him Even after he’s answered our greatest longings Odd that future longings can make us forget his commitment To think now he doesn’t care when he’s been so consistent Tragic that we might even get bitter with him
We praise you Lord for your unending love and grace For this precious blessing you’ve bestowed on us Thank you for hearing our prayers and the ones we didn’t know to make For your kindness and your gracious sovereign hand Teach us to see that hand and hold more tightly
Though the future is unknown we know we are safe with you We are never happier and safer than in your able, loving hands Lord, teach our feeble hearts to trust and seek refuge in you Turn our countless doubts and worries to trust Give us the joy of a little child who trusts their Father
We are living in times when scandal among Christian leaders is making headlines almost alongside politicians and celebrities. It’s like we are just waiting for the next man of God to fall which is sad and ungodly. But perhaps we need to ask ourselves when our own scandal might befall us. You see as much as we receive such news with wonder and disbelief we know it doesn’t happen overnight. No one sets out to be an abusive leader, a greedy televangelist or to be a pastor known all over for sexual scandal. Actually I would assume they do the very best to fight it or hide it. Just as none of us wants to succumb to our temptations or be known for it.
But as we pray for our leaders and earnestly seek God to shield them from sin and scandal we might also need to apply this prayer to our own lives. You see as much as our scandal won’t make headlines still it’ll dishonour God, bring disrepute to the Christian family and cause us much grief if we are genuine believers. We need to pray for ourselves but our prayer shouldn’t just be, dear Lord shield me from sin and scandal, Amen.
First, we need to ask God to bring to light those things of which we are prone to fall into. We need to ask, which idols most beckon our hearts for worship? When we are alone and in private which sites seem to call us to click? When we are left with unsupervised money what lies come to our ear? And when we are in positions of leadership how do we treat others? Might we be blamed for what we see in our superiors? To kick off this reflection I want to suggest 3 things we need to know about sin especially habitual sin to inform our prayers and fuel our war with sin.
Habitual Sin begins by Luring us in
I bet many who fell for abusive leadership didn’t even realise how firm their hand was. They just thought they make a strong case and people followed them unanimously. They never realised no one seemed to oppose them or they didn’t let anyone in who could oppose them. Or do you think the man caught up in sexual scandal went out seeking such a reputation? They started with a bit of flirting, a private meeting here, just a lift there, an innocent compliment and before they knew it they were deep in scandal.
What about the money trap? You start by an innocent need with unsupervised money which you vow to return. You tell yourself you are harming no one and you need it. Then it’s for a project that will take a few months and you think I’ll use it and then return it. Sin has a way to lure us in and before we know it we’ve done the unthinkable.
Think about Cain and his brother. It started off with a bit of jealousy, grew into anger and finally it led to murder. God warned Cain, Sin is crouching at your door with it’s desire toward you but you must rule over it, see Gen 4:7. He warns all of us with that sin that so easily seems to captive us if we would only listen. If you want to kill sin start by indentifying it, look out for its triggers and what it promises. Bring it to the Lord before it’s too late. Come and ask for the strength to kill its desire. The allure of sin is where the battle begins and where it needs to be won.
Habitual Sin Thrives in Privacy Like a thief in the night sin has a courage that seems to thrive in private places. It’s like all over sudden this harmless man transforms when he’s alone. As evil lurks in the dark sin lurks in the secret places. It breeds in privacy and hatches in the dark corners. Or who steals from the money bag when everyone is looking? Who clicks that site when his family is having dinner? It’s the secret unsupervised places and times that sin enjoys.
For this reason the first line of defence with sin ought to be confession and accountability. Bring the temptation to the light and the roaring lion becomes a little cat. Still it can’t be ignored but the environment is different to fight it. When I have confessed a temptation to a brother I often find that though I’m exposed my sin is also exposed. Being vulnerable is said to make you weak but actually in the right company it makes you strong to fight sin. It’s when we hide sin that it’ll have its day with us. We’ll look strong but deep inside we know just how weak we are.
Think about Judas. All those years of taking from Jesus money bag in secret before he sold out his Saviour. What if he told Peter or John his temptation? He may have lost the treasurer’s job but I bet we would be reading of his powerful ministry in the book of Acts. Confessing our sin and seeking accountability gives us the weapons we need to slay the sin monster.
Habitual Sin is Stubborn One of the things I long for in the new creation is saying the battle with sin is finished. You know why ? Because on this other side it’s never finished. Haven’t you found yourself stuck in a sin you thought you overcome years ago? You prayed many times for God to help you overcome your anger and for sometime it seemed like you won the battle only for the war to sneak in on you. Or maybe it’s that site you used to frequent. You overcome it, got a more healthy, practical and spiritual rythm then one weekend while you are tired and alone there you go. Sin can feel like it has more lives than a cat. Worse it seems to have the ability to resurrect.
Think about Saul with his rage and jealousy. How many times does he seem to forgive David and turn away from his plotting? You think now that David has spared his life he’ll let him be. Unfortunately sin doesn’t say goodbye that easily. Just because you overcome it last time doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Don’t get me wrong sin can be overcome and will be overcome but I’m saying we need to watch out lest we deceive ourselves with early victory. The battle with sin will be won when we see Jesus in glory. We might win several fronts on this side but we should never let our guard down.
Conclusion We started this line of thought with stories of Christian leaders making headlines. But I hope by now you’ve realised we are all together in a bigger fight with sin especially with habitual sin. As that African proverb goes, don’t laugh at a boat being tossed forth by winds in the sea for your brother might be in it. Worse with the waves of sin we are all in this boat. We need to pray for our leaders and the church as whole. We need to watch out for the sin that so easily entangles. As John Owen said, we need to be killing sin before it kills us.
The power of the Gospel is clearly revealed when a man who lived an evil life turns around to follow Jesus. This is why we love apostle Paul’s story. We love hearing those kinds of testimonies that say I was a completely different person before I met Jesus. I was a drunkard, a murderer, a corrupt police officer, a prostitute, and a womanizer. These are the people we call in open-air meetings to show what the Gospel can do.
But what about those who were generally considered to be good people? Those of us who were good boys and girls? Was the Gospel less effective? I meet many people who find it hard to share their stories of conversion because it doesn’t seem as eventful. People already thought they were born again. I bet there are unbelieving friends in our lives who we have not shared the Gospel with because we can’t see what difference it’ll make. They are already good people and better than most Christians. We probably think God will reconsider them and be moved by their “goodness”. But is that right?
The Bible says All Men are Wicked
The Bible has a different view of such people. It still calls them sinners desperately in need of the Gospel. And not only them even the little innocent children we call angels. It says all men, and that means all men, are wicked, see Romans 3:10-12. That the hearts of unregenerate men manufacture evil even from the best of us, see Mark 7:20-23. Can you believe that? What’s wrong with the Bible? Do you mean the Mother Teresas of this world have not done enough to earn salvation? What about that guy who never hurt anyone and always provided for his family? That man who rescued many homeless children. That woman who served his family wholeheartedly while living with an abusive husband? She too won’t be reconsidered? She too is evil?
The truth is at first many people seem good when looking from a human perspective. The reason we struggle to share the story of that good fellow who became a Christian is that we don’t see his heart. We cannot see how he too should be classified with other wretched sinners. But if we did a moral scan of his heart we would see his self-centeredness, his pride, anger, evil thoughts, and pure hypocrisy. The problem is we value people by what they’ve done outwardly and judge them as good. We use the litmus test of our society not what God sees and says in his word. Because of this many cannot accept that God will send good people to hell. They might be convinced the corrupt politician deserves it but not the philanthropist who rejected the Gospel. Surely God cannot judge them the same way.
What about Good Christians?
It is worse when Christians believe this lie. When we think that now that we have believed especially after we were already good people we no longer need the Gospel. When we convince ourselves to be okay and only think of the Gospel in light of the obviously wicked men out there. I’m always amazed at how lacking we can be in our self-awareness. Many people honestly don’t think they need the Gospel. But the man who cannot see how short they fall before the grace of God is a man who doesn’t know himself and doesn’t know God. It should be the case that as we read the word we see our own sin even more profoundly and the need for the Gospel more clearly. I think more Christians should come out of a Gospel sharing broken by their sin however small it seems to the public eye and overjoyed by the mercy of God who died to save sinners like us.
The tragedy of good men is that they are gods to themselves. They judge themselves and render themselves worthy in front of their own eyes. They are self-righteous men who don’t believe they need salvation. When the Gospel is preached they think about other men seeing that they don’t need such a desperate rescue. They prepare sermons for others, they do discipleship with others in mind and when the call to service comes they think you should speak to another as they are doing well already. If our Gospel sharing doesn’t have these people in mind in a country that is largely Christian then we’ll have missed the dark forest for the obvious bad tree. Good men need the Gospel like everyone else and we need to work even harder to show them this need.
Need for Self Introspection
In a world full of distractions and voices that tell us exactly what we need to hear it’s hard to do a regular self-evaluation of our lives, our motivations and the reality of the world within us. We can very easily come to believe in a better version of ourselves than we really are. The stories people tell us about ourselves especially if we are in positions of public ministry become the stories we believe about ourselves. Soon we start believing the lie that we have arrived, that God is lucky to have us on his side, and when we read the Bible we don’t hear the Spirit convicting us of our respectable sins. We become blind to who we are and what we need. We forget that we still have sin within us and the sanctifying Gospel is still our greatest need.
I pray that the day will never come when I outgrow my need for the Saviour and his Gospel message. I would rather I have too much Gospel, a constant reminder of my shortcomings than to fall on the pulpit of a good name. Can you imagine what a tragedy that would be? That my tomb reads here lies a good man only for my name to miss in the book of life? What a tragedy this will be? To build a profile with the world and yet miss the darkness of sin within. To stumble on respectable sins with the applause of public ministry. May the Lord help us because it’s very easy to miss this. May he quicken us to agree with John Newton that we are great sinners but Jesus is a great Saviour. Only then will we keep the word of God closer to our hearts and working in our lives not just being a tool for our ministry.
We love stories that leave us wanting to read more. It’s the suprises, the tension within and that desire to see how it’ll all end up that keeps us following. If you forwarded the movie and opened the last chapter of the book you’d get the end but miss the experience. Every chapter counts in the books that make for great a masterpiece. Every turn of events even when we don’t get it at the time builds the tension for a great narrative.
Why is it then that we like our stories to be flat? To get all our prayers answered the way we want, when we want and how we want them. To move from point A to Z on a straight line. Most importantly why do we want to write our own stories when we are but characters in the grand master’s narrative? I think our lives would be easier if we let him finish the story for us. We would be happier if we didn’t keep interrupting and voicing our opinions.
But the problem is we want to be the author of our own fate. We are okay if the grand author does things the way we want. But the moment he starts going against our wishes, the moment he starts taking twist and turns we start getting angry. We start questioning his commitment to us, we doubt his sovereign hand and take matters to our hands. Strange that sometimes we can be asking God to take charge when we are completely unwilling for him to suprise us.
It’s scary to give up control of our lives. To let another be the author of our story and that of our loved ones. We feel responsible and that only we truly care in this selfish age. Problem is we know there’s so much beyond us. Even when we try our best we find that there are things we can’t change. We wish luck would be on our side but that doesn’t always happen. We get lucky this time but next time we face the music of this fallen world.
But instead of depending on lucky days the Bible calls us to entrust ourselves fully to another. To trust our Lord who doesn’t need to be lucky because he’s already in charge. But more than that he’s the one who tells those who believe to trust that he’ll never leave us nor forsake us, see Hebrews 13:5-6. He’s the one who can truly and safely bring us to the last page of our book. The question is whether we will trust him. We can either learn to surrender to him at all times or we’ll be forced to come to the reality of our inability after we’ve brought ourselves great despair.
May the Lord help us that we would let him write our story as he should. May he teach us the humility and calmness to accept the tension he weaves through our narrative. That he grant us the ability to trust him in the middle of the storm. Trust him when the darkness of the tunnel looks long and the twists and turns leave us confused. To help us that in our helplessness we’ll remember we can trust in him.
It was disgusting to watch that incident at Forest road. The way that boda boda gang treated that lady goes against what’s human, what’s African and most importantly what’s Christian. That men can result to sexual harassment in response to accidental wrong is unthinkable. The video alone is enough to leave you traumatized, imagine what’s happening to that lady. Only the Lord can heal such a wound.
But while this incident should call for decisive action on the perpetrators I think we also need to do serious soul searching as a society. Where are we headed if one cannot walk safely on our roads? And it’s not just because of such violence, it’s literally hard to walk or drive on our roads with boda boda coming from every side with no regard to law or common decency. Where are we headed if hooliganism and gender based violence becomes order of the day? If the social fibre is broken then the hard law should be imposed lest sin imprisons us all as a country.
But we need to ask, who are these children we are bringing up with no respect for human dignity? Who are their role models? What are we passing on? Are we doing anything to counter negative influences? For a country that boasts Christian majority how come we have so little Christian semblance? Are we even a society or just accidental acquitances with no regard for the other person? If the Gospel doesn’t tell me to value the other person at least as I do myself what do I have? I think we need serious work to rebuild our society as Kenyans and especially as Christians. We seriously need the Gospel to work in our people and change one man at a time. If not now then for the future before it’s worse and out of our hands.
We also need to be careful with the seeds we are sowing today. With the comments we make and the divisions we are causing. If we’ll go to any lengths to pursue what we deem right with no regard to human law or dignity then we’ve lost any humanness in us. Worse if we are Christian and the only person that concerns us is ourselves and those in our gang then we’ve lost the faith. I think this incidence is but a tip of a society that has killed any sense of common good and interest of others. We are a society that celebrates self, idolizes our brand and will crush anyone who tries to come between us and our idols. It’s a shame that we even proudly share this in the public space. And when chicken come to roost we’ll not believe what we have become.
This incident made me ask some serious questions. I thought blaming boda boda guys isn’t enough though this a menace that demands immediate action. But I also think the problem is broader and one that involves all of us. For a son, a brother, cousin, husband, future father, neighbor and citizen I wondered what I’m I doing to pursue the good of others not just my own and those that concern me? Can people feel safe when they pass me by the road? How do I look at the opposite gender? What comments do I make and what signals do I send? For the many I walk with in the Christian faith, what values I’m I teaching and modelling? Is the Gospel of my confession true in my lifestyle? Unless we take this issue personally, see it right to its roots and commit to change one man at a time and society as a whole, things will only get worse.
My prayer as a Christian is the Lord Jesus would comform me and the men among us to his nature. That like with him others would be safe and happy around us. May he remake us like the Philippians 2 model man who seeks not his own interests first but those of others even at his own expense. May he kill the sense of pride that says I’m right and my rights come first. May he help us not only prioritise our burdens but carry those of others.
I have sought to end this in prayer because I know how sinful and selfish I am. Though I know what the Bible calls me to do, selfishness wouldn't let me. Until we die to self like he did we will always put ourselves first at the expense of others. Only the man who follows Jesus is safe to walk by. Only such men will raise children with true biblical values. Only such men will make a safe society for women and other men. And it is only that true and practical Gospel that can save us.
If we keep looking over our past Imagining what would have been Wondering if we are missing out Longing for what this body craves Soon we’ll forget the chains of the old slave master We’ve got to burn that bridge so we never look back
If we keep playing with the fire Entertaining that old man of sin Feeding him when he beckons us Calling it a small slip into old habits Soon those habits will become our lives We’ve got to kill that old man and do it daily
How easily we forget the pains of slavery It fades in our minds and says it wasn’t that bad There were good things in Egypt we tell ourselves Looking back on that bridge life doesn’t look so bad But we should have burnt it when we closed over We should never make peace with the old man of sin
We will never see what awaits us if we keep looking back If our gaze is on the old life the new one will fade away We will make sin into an idol of worship We will trade off our priceless salvation But soon we’ll realise how mistaken we are Burn that bridge down and turn your gaze ahead
Look to the one who freed you from slavery Look at the peace and joy he gives you in him See what fellowship we enjoy with him Walk this new bridge of life everlasting Walk the path that brings you closer to him Let you attention be on what he says in his word
Lord help us to kill the love of sinning Give us your love for righteousness Cause us to use our energy and time for you To build bridges for the kingdom that lasts To demolish ties with Satan and the world And walk the narrow path that leads to life
Lord I have fought you since I came to this earth Like a restless beast I’ve desired to go my own way Lured by the world and the desires of the flesh Driven by the whims of the enemy I fought But now I know my freedom is in your chains
I pray Lord that you’d hold me tightly on your grip I no longer trust my freedom and clamour for it Before I thought I knew what I wanted I thought independence would be my freedom But I’m never safe and free like when I’m with you Put your chain on me and never let go
How strange that even now I try to escape That after your liberation I desire to be enslaved again I truly don’t know what is good for me Left on my own I would totally ruin myself Lord though I fight you still I would desire your rule
Give me the liberty of obedience to your word Teach my heart the joy of submission to your will Cause my heart to rejoice in your lordship Let your will be done become the song of my heart Not in words and songs only but in all I do
Put your chain on me and make me your slave For though many desire liberty I have found mine in you True liberty from self, this world, the flesh and the devil I know I can only truly serve one master So let that be you my Lord and Saviour Jesus Put your chain around me and seal me as yours forever
We should watch the things that put us to tears The anticipation that gives us sleepless nights The dreams that catch us in broad daylight They are our greatest worries or treasures These indeed are our truest convictions
The headlines that captivate us the most The things we admire and get jealous over That which makes our knees to weaken They say a lot about what we value in life And our faith must start by captivating such
These are the songs we sing to our hearts The teachings that our minds attend Our hands cling to such than anything else But such treasures or idols must first bow Bow to the one who must own our hearts
Whatever holds our hearts owns our convictions In there belongs true love, beauty and treasure But also the idols of money, sex and power The things we want and what we fear most If Jesus be Lord of all he must conquer here
Lord help me to bow down my joys and fears To let you be my greatest love and treasure Help me to cast down my precious idols Own my fears and liberate me to serve you Be the Lord of my heart and with it everything
So often when we talk about prayer we think material things and don’t get me wrong there’s a place for that. We pray about jobs, financial needs and health matters. It’s a beautiful declaration of our dependence to our heavenly Father. We should pray for material things.
But it’s striking that we would see our need and helplessness in this and not in our need for discipleship. How often do we turn in prayer to ask God’s help to be like his son? When we read his commands do we ask him to help us obey them? As we fight sin do we ask him for help? As we pursue love for neighbor and godliness in our lives do we ask Jesus to create that in us?
Apart from me you can do nothing
Jesus speaking in John 15:5 that passage we love to quote says something striking in light of our own discipleship.
John 15:5-6 NIV 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
That last line of verse 5 is very important because it means whatever Jesus is asking his disciples here before his imminent death at the cross is something they actually can’t do. Yes you heard me right, on their own, whatever he says here they can’t do it.
Let’s see, in the previous chapters he’s asked them to follow his example; to wash each others feet in chapter 13. To love and serve others. By effect this means being willing to die to self to serve others. In chapter 14, they are not to fear but to believe in him who will walk with them and prepare for them a home in heaven. Every fear calls for a faith response. You could say fearing itself is an act of unbelief.
Here in chapter 15 he’s asking for fruit in their lives. He’s saying the branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned. Do you know what he’s saying strictly speaking? If you don’t bear fruit be ready for hell fire. Later he will tell them to be ready to be hated by the world like they hated and persecuted Jesus. Friends I hope I don’t need to convince you further that if you try this by your own might you’ll have a stressful time. It cannot be done.
That sentence, apart from me you can do nothing becomes very important. It means if we are to become true disciples who follow Jesus and bear fruit we need his help. If there’s any hope to obey and serve King Jesus we need his helping hand. So many times he echoes that in this section. That we can ask the Father for help and he’ll help us. The problem is we don’t ask.
But that’s the point friends, try approaching discipleship with your might and grit and see how far you go. It can’t be done. You can’t even do it yourself however committed you are leave alone discipling others.
Have you asked for his help?
So I ask again when is the last time you prayed for your own discipleship? Yes you can ask the Lord for all the material things you need. But have you lately asked the Lord for his help to love others? When was the last time you told Jesus, this sexual sin is becoming a serious thing, help me Jesus. Have you told Jesus you’d love to serve him but you find it hard to love and serve other people? Do you see how you’ve been setting yourself up for failure?
What do you think is missing in your own discipleship? What do you admire and perhaps even feel jealous about others? I know I would love to be more prayerful. But do you know what I realised recently? I had not before asked the Lord to do that for me. To come and say, Lord help me to pray more to you.
Perhaps you’d love to be more committed to his Word. To be like those people who read the Bible cover to cover every year. But have you asked Jesus to help you in this. Maybe you’d love to serve the church more, give more to mission work. A question for you, have you asked for the Father’s help?
Until we understand those words, that apart from him we can do nothing we’ll always try do something in vain. Alternatively, we’ll give up and conclude I’m just not a prayerful man. We might even theologise it that it’s for the Charismatics.
We’ll end up saying I’m not disciplined enough to read the Bible consistently. We can even argue and show why it’s actually not that effective. But before we get there we need to remember discipleship wasn’t meant for the disciplined and strong willed. It’s actually for those weak in spirit. It’s for those who tell the Father, I can’t do it Lord. Help me dear Father!
Respond to his commands with a prayer
Friends before you drown yourself with sorrow or harden your heart to the Saviour’s call ask for his help. Add to your prayers this prayer: Lord make me what you want me to be. Lord, bear in me the fruit you desire. Conform this selfish heart to love and serve others. Make your will what I crave for. Teach this heart to delight in your commands. Help me Lord to be like your son. Help me to obey him. Help me to say his will not mine be done. Learn to pray back what the word commands you before you get on with it.
I think it’ll be a good practice to pray every time we read his word or are convicted about a specific area of discipleship. That’s a good practice in all things but we need to make it true for our personal discipleship. To read Jesus commands and tell him honestly, fulfill that in me or it’s not going to happen.
He says love your neighbor. Tell him how selfish you are and ask for his help. He says we should commit to his mission, remind him how self centered we are and how we need his help. If discipleship will work, if change will ever happen it’ll take Jesus to accomplish it in us. Apart from him we can do nothing.
When I walked in darkness it was my imagination that led me I saw things dimly but got used to this world of darkness I heard others whisper around me and knew I wasn’t alone We were in this together and somehow that brought comfort
So we walked trying to figure out the way But the more we stayed shut in the more we got used to this Soon we knew how to live without light We had become like bats and were okay with that
You’d have been struck hearing us plan the future We had forgotten our greatest need for light And we were content figuring life on our own I dare say we now hated the light and rejoiced in darkness
When the flashlight lit the room our eyes couldn’t bear it We were used to the darkness, how were we to handle such light? But more importantly how were we to live in this new world? Before we knew what we wanted but now everything had changed
If he didn’t hold my hand I doubt I would have come out Many are those who chose to shut their eyes ignoring the light So often I find myself going back to that habit Choosing the darkness instead of his marvelous light
Now I am a child of the light but I live in a world of darkness Lord if you didn’t hold my hand I would quickly shut my eyes Teach my heart to love the light of the Gospel To walk this new life with the torch of your Word
Hold my hand Lord for my heart is prone to wander and hide The old man of darkness keeps knocking at my door I would have him totally destroyed yet he seems to resurrect daily Grant me the grace and strength to also kill him daily
I long for that day when the darkness will be no more When my eyes will close and never see that old man again I crave for the world above where your light rules the day Lord, keep my gaze on that day when I see your light forever