Take Care of It

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? (Joshua 7:10).

I love the Lord! 

Hear Him address Joshua, lying prostrate before Him: 

“Stand up! What are you doing down on your face” (Joshua 7:10)?

Can you imagine Joshua’s shock? 

“Boy! Since when did God become so direct and harsh”, Joshua may have said, as he dragged himself up from the ground. Could he possibly have imagined what was coming next?

“Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep… I will not be with you anymore” (11-12).

Has God dealt with you in this way before? I can hear Joshua petitioning the Lord to show mercy. “No, LORD. Please don’t go there! Remember what your servant Moses pleaded with you at Sanai?” 

‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here (Ex. 33:15). 

“So how can you desert us at the start of this glorious campaign, LORD,” Joshua might have said. 

“Hush! Let me finish, Joshua,” God might have insisted.

Can you imagine Joshua’s ego at this point? Merciful God that He is, He clarified Himself to His servant, now red-faced, with knees knocking. 

“I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (Joshua 7:12).

“Who is it, LORD? I promise you I will not rest until I have removed the defilement from the camp, as you have instructed.” 

“Yes! That is my son, and that’s why I love you! Now let’s get to work.” 

Friend! This is the attitude God wants from us when He points to the sin in our life, home, office, business, friendship, or any other association.

In the same manner God spoke to Joshua, the Holy Spirit tells us to: 

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and… run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:1-2 KJV).

What is your response?

May the Lord strengthen your resolve to remove anything that defiles your life and those things that restrain your walk with Jesus (Dan. 1:8). And may His favor fall upon you everywhere you go and in whatever you do, in Jesus’ matchless name, amen!

Who Cares But Jesus

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem
– Isaiah 53:3

For Meditation

It was steaming on this fateful day, as Mr. Domar sat in the shade of a tree, waiting for a local bus to the main bus terminal—one of the best times to reminisce. Domar was returning to Accra after his niece’s wedding.

Quite an accomplished man from a humble background, he had worked his way through school. He became an orphan before completing secondary education. He was intelligent too!

A great job in a government trading company as a messenger opened to him, and he worked his way to a managerial position. So, he lived with no cares.

The extended family became his responsibility. He did everything to educate the young ones for a better future. As a result, he assumed prominence and respect in the family, as everyone looked to him for help.

Problems come in unsuspected ways and can destroy every good thing one has built over the years. Mr. Domar fell victim to a well-crafted trap on the job that led to his dismissal without benefits. Life became hard. The queue to his house dwindled to zero, and the auctioneer became his best friend. Brother Job can better tell the story.

Praise God for salvation! Domar gave his life to Christ, and life healed well. By His grace, God had carried the four Domar children through university and into good jobs. Life was getting better, and soon, public transport would again be a thing of the past. Or so he thought. His children will buy him a car soon, he mused, as he sat under the tree.

Yes, soon, and life may improve a bit, like in the old days.

Suddenly, there’s a crowd around the little bench under the tree. What happened? Mr. Domar was sitting there only a few minutes ago.

Sadly, the trip to the main bus terminal would never happen. Instead, the stiff body of Mr. Domar lies in an ambulance, speeding to a nearby hospital mortuary – the hard-working Mr. Domar, a victim of a heart attack.

His children will never forget the sad story of their father—a life sacrificed on the extended family altar. No one cares much but for them. Thank God they had all settled well before his ultimate trip to glory.

Your story may be that of Mr. Domar. The difference is that you are alive. To everyone else, you expired a long time ago. Memories of the days they all ate at your table do not evoke any sympathy for you. You have become like our friend Job, and those who come around you are only like his three friends.

But God has a different story for you. Jesus Christ—cares for you. He has experienced your situation before (Isa. 53:3). He feels your pain and rejection and will comfort you (Heb. 4:15-16). So, as you celebrate His triumphal entry to Jerusalem today, look to Him who can empathize with you and bring comfort to your soul. You are in His excellent hands.

Happy Palm Sunday

The Acceptable Offering

Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4)

For Meditation

The story of the offerings of Cain and Abel is interesting. The Bible tells us about the two brothers who engaged in two distinct professions. Cain, the older brother, worked the soil, and Abel, the younger one, was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2). Both brothers brought their offerings to the Lord. Cain “brought some of the fruits of the soil” (3). Abel also brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (4).  

“The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, He did not look with favor” (5). 

The question that has stirred extreme controversy is: Why did God accept the offering of Abel and not that of Cain? They both brought to God what they had (2 Corinthians 8:12). So why did one receive favor, but the other did not?

Many have postulated that it was because Abel offered a blood sacrifice, while Cain did not. Those who support this argument maintain that in the Old Testament, blood sacrifice was the right offering that pleased God. Taken that way, it becomes clear why Cain did not receive favor from the Lord. But that claim has no direct scriptural support. 

In the Levitical sacrificial worship, God instituted the grain offering (Lev. 6:14) alongside the other blood offerings. In Exodus 23:19, the law required worshipers to: 

“Bring the best of the firstfruits of [their] soil to the house of the Lord.” 

So, what was wrong with the fruit of the soil Cain offered to the Lord? Why did the Lord disfavor his offering?

On the same side of the argument for bloody sacrifice, Mackintosh maintains that Hebrews 11:4 “sets the whole subject before us most distinctly and comprehensively” [C.H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy, pg. 38]. 

“By faith, Abel brought a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous when God spoke well of his offerings” (Heb. 11:4). 

The implication here is that because God commended Abel as righteous, the offerings the two brothers presented were for the removal of their sins and into right standing with God. It implies further that Abel, who brought the blood offering, was the one who got it right with God. 

For, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

Good argument, but the problem with this interpretation is that there is no mention of the sin offering in the Genesis scripture. The Book of Hebrews has become the only source of reference. But even there, the writer does not make an emphatic statement on the subject of sin offering. For, God declared Abraham righteous not because he offered a blood sacrifice, but by believing God.

Warren Wiersbe also argues in His commentary on: “God had revealed to Adam and his descendants the true way of worship, and Abel obeyed God by faith” [Hebrews (Be Confident, pg. 807]. Again, that is inference from Genesis 3:21, and as Lawrence O. Richards writes, it is “Scripture’s first word of forgiveness won by the shedding of blood.” [The Bible Reader’s Companion, pg. 27]. The text does not speak about God instructing Adam on the way of worship, as Wiersbe claims. The faith of Abel then becomes the central issue. The question then is, how did Abel exercise faith in God by his offering?

Abel’s offering was exceptional. He selected it from the firstborns of his flock, and the Lord regarded it with favor (Genesis 4:4).

This scripture is central to our understanding of why the Lord favored Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:4b) and not that of Cain (5). It speaks to the primary way to please God, without which, He takes no pleasure in whatever a person does. Since Hebrews 11:4 reveals that Abel’s offering was faith-driven, there should be no further argument in the matter of Genesis 4:4 other than to understand that God looked with favor on Abel’s offering because Abel approached Him by faith. Abel trusted God. Therefore, he came to Him with his offering in a way that pleased Him—by faith.

Trusting God implies confidence that He exists. It is a bold statement that we accept everything about Him and His word. That is faith. Anyone who approaches God with this mindset is deliberate in manner and measure—respectable, with the heart, with love, and with generosity. That’s why the Holy Spirit showed us how profuse Abel was with his offering—fat portions from the firstborns of his flock. It reveals the willingness of Abel and his joy at the opportunity to give to God. In the law, the Lord required the people to offer the fat portions of the sacrifice to Him (Lev. 9:19, 24; 10:15). It showed their faith in Him. 

“If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12).

God is the only one who knows our hearts. He is able, therefore, to judge in this matter of Cain and Abel. His judgment is perfect, and here, it reveals the willingness of Abel and the lack of it in Cain. The same applies when we come to offer to Him.

The text tells us that Abel offered from the firstborns of his flock (Genesis 4:4). Now, that is crucial. Giving away the firstborn is difficult if confidence in the beneficiary is absent. Our natural tendency is to give to others only when we have satisfied ourselves. That’s why leftovers are easy to give away.

The Holy Spirit offers no description of Cain’s offering. The reason is simple to find. There was nothing commendable about it! The language of Genesis 4:3 instead suggests it was plain and casual. There seems to be no sense of awe and reverence in Cain’s presentation. It sounds like an offering coming from an unwilling person—just a religious act to fulfill all righteousness. Most revealing of all, Cain’s response to God’s intervention (Genesis 4:6-16) demonstrates his lack of faith, without which he couldn’t please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Giving must come with faith if it is to please God. The motive must be correct and deliberate. It should come from the heart. Finally, it must be generous.

That is the difference between the Cain and Abel saga. It is the difference that determines whether God will look favorably on your offering. Fortunately, a change of heart and attitude is possible, as the Lord told Cain (Genesis 4:7).

Reminiscing With Rahab

Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down

Joshua 2:17-18

Memories! They are troves of helpful treasure from our past. They provide excellent leads into the heart of wisdom for renewing of our minds in the word of God, if only a person considers them carefully without the pollution of bitterness. Memories have a way of clearing the cobwebs of life and revealing the answers to our ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of yesterday. By them, we can gain deep insights and take steps for a fresh start or redirected course. But if reviewed under the magnifying glass of regret, bitterness, and revenge, memories could destroy a life for good. 

Lent is a journey to the heart of Calvary, filled with memories of the Savior’s passion. The redeemed travel on it for strength and encouragement to help them on the upward journey into eternity. The memories of our Savior’s life and suffering come into the review scope to guide the Pilgrim’s way. 

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:2).

Now is the time for deep spiritual evaluation: How did we get here? How far have we traveled? Have we made progress? Are we growing into His likeness, not comparing ourselves to other people? What adjustments do we have to make? Are you aiming at finishing the race well at all?

Perhaps we can review our progress with Rahab today. Yes, you heard right. I mean Rahab, the strategically positioned lady of the night on the ancient city wall of Jericho. And if you feel uncomfortable with the comparison to her, maybe you have not come to terms with grace. For that is who you were, my friend, but for the crimson flow on Calvary, where Christ Jesus died for us.

Looking back, Rahab remembers the day it all changed for her. Not expecting any disruption in her routine, she had adorned herself in her best silky apparel, beautifully made up, and with carefully manicured nails. Nothing distinguished the two men from any other customers she had welcomed into her parlor for her ignominious trade. However, they were not after her body. They were about the business of the Most High God. She immediately sensed their uniqueness and identity. Because of their people, Jericho was on lockdown (Joshua 2:9; 6:1).

Rahab recalls her inner struggles before that meeting. Disgusted with her life, she wanted a way out of her trade. But who will give a prostitute another chance? How many times has she not she wept after a stinky customer left her consulting room? But who could rescue her? 

She was a prostitute, but not a fool. Rahab could recognize an opportunity of a lifetime come her way and the urgency of it. She quickly cut a deal with the men. “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her (Joshua 2:14). A scarlet cord hung from her window became the symbol of their agreement. And her family came along too. Not bad for a woman labeled “every man’s helper.”

There is no disappointment in Christ. The men held the end of the bargain and rescued Rahab from destruction. More than that. She gained a place in the family line of the Messiah King (Matthew 1:5). And as she reminisces today, how glad is she! How amazing is grace to her, and sweet the sound of it! That is why she is forever thankful.

How about you? Do the memories of your sordid past inspire you to greater holiness and righteous living? Do you have anything in your life to let go so you can run the race well—any weight of sin that easily beset you to bring to the Lord was away? 

That is the essence of Lent. Renew yourself in Christ as you walk with Him to Calvary and beyond.

His Name Was Zacchaeus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

They scorned his name in his town, despite his wealth. As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus made money helping Rome extract heavy taxes from his people; that alienated him from them. His diminutive size didn’t help either. He got pushed around in crowds. On this Thursday morning, something puzzled him. Zacchaeus had no peace in his heart. He had never given serious thought to his sinful life, but this morning, he felt the weight of it.

Suddenly, the noise of a rushing crowd.

“What could that be?”

He heard the name of Jesus.

“This is the man I need to see. If only I could talk to him.”

Unable to make his way to Jesus, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and perched in a sycamore-fig tree, making sure no one saw him.

“Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay in your house today” (Lk. 19:5).

“How did He know my name and my hideout?”

He hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus to his home (6). His curiosity had earned him the privilege of playing host to the Messiah.

 “What! How could Jesus go into the house of a sinner like Zacchaeus,” the people derided? 

Poor human beings! How judgmental and accusative, while we sit uneasily on our messy seats!

“Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”, Zacchaeus shocked the people into a hush (v.8). What a man!

There is not a soul that genuinely receives the grace of God through Jesus and remains the same. His presence transforms the soul, and His grace brings it in conformity to His nature through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Perspective and attitudinal changes are their results. Zacchaeus started the day a wretched soul, but ended it as a transformed believer.

Do you know a Zacchaeus in your neighborhood? Have you noticed their curiosity? Don’t you see how your co-worker eavesdrops on your conversation with your Christian friends but looks away when you notice? Can’t you feel the emptiness consuming them? Why not bring them to Jesus, that they may experience the transforming power of His grace and the assurance of eternal life in Him.

Isn’t that your commission (Matt. 28:19-20)?  

The beloved of God

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”

Galatians 2:20

As Christians, we are the beloved of God. My Big Brother is the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ—our Savior and Lord.

In Him, we have gained this position as the beloved children of God. Our Father in heaven, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, loves us beyond measure. The evidence is the Cross of Calvary—the altar on which Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption. What love can surpass His?

What is our responsibility, given this exalted relationship? How must we respond to such amazing grace?

Our best response is to take a cue from our Big Brother and learn from Him. We must learn from how He lived here on earth: His self-emptying, servant attitude, humility, and the learning of obedience, even to death, death on the cross. And there is more.

We must learn from His self-giving, prayer life, constant communion with the Father, seeking His will at all times. He did just what He heard the Father say, sought the Father’s glory alone as the goal of His life, and deflected every attention away from Himself to the Father. These, too, we must do as the beloved of God through Christ Jesus.

We can do all these through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us. We should remember that we don’t own ourselves anymore. God has bought us at a price, “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pt. 1:19).  

As Paul said, 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

This scripture must be our worldview. And I pray our Lord to help us live by faith in Him, the way He lived on earth for the glory of the Father. Amen.

I challenge you to join me in this determination as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We can help ourselves love the Lord with our very lives. And to love one another as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31).

Love that Begets Love

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again”

John 1)_17

In the early morning of Wednesday, the seventh of March, in the year of our Lord, twenty-twelve, they wheeled two sisters into surgery in a hospital in Dallas, Texas, USA. One was urgently in need of a kidney replacement. She had witnessed how life had become almost unbearable on dialysis. Only her faith and tenacity, through amazing grace, kept her alive. The other had two perfectly functioning kidneys and was in good health. She observed her sister suffer over time, and her heart went out to her. She was tough on her ailing sister, who sometimes seemed unreasonable. However, it was all motivated by love, and that is how it is.

When we love somebody, we stay close, trying to understand and advise, even if persistence, risks being viewed as, pestering. All because we hate to see people fall or fail. That is a characteristic of love, and it is godly.

Donation time came, and all the family tested. And guess who the perfect donor was? The tough sister! Yes, Carina! Without hesitation, she accepted the challenge. She welcomed the opportunity to “lay down her life” for Christine by giving her a second chance on life.

The scrutiny by health officials found no hesitation in the mind of Carina, nor could they detect any coercion from the family in her decision. She had yielded her heart to the noble cause of donating a life-saving organ, one of her kidneys, to save the life of her sister.

Sometimes, we talk big, promise big, claim big, and even swear big. But when the time comes for action, we flounder. It reminds me of Peter’s denial of Jesus (Mk. 14:29, 39). Maybe he had had too much food and wine at dinner. For, when the time came to stand with his Lord, Peter denied Him three times (14:66-72).

Carina did not fail Christine. Amid the anguished soul of a mother witnessing her two daughters going into surgery together, love filled the room. An anxious father in faraway Dakar, and their equally stressed siblings in the USA, the two sisters went in, smiling at each other, and knowing in their hearts, what was sending them under the surgeon’s knife—love.

O, the goodness, and kindness of God that never fails! He, who is love and is the definition of love, honored the demonstration of genuine love by Carina for Christine. And He glorified Himself. Within a short time after the transplant, the kidney of Carina had found a new home in Christine and produced urine. Isn’t God good? Why wouldn’t Christine love Carina? More so, why wouldn’t God love Carina for her selfless display of love for a sister in need?

That is what Jesus did for us on Calvary. He laid down His life for the salvation of we who so desperately needed blood transfusion (1Jn. 3:16). By that selfless act on the cross, Jesus endeared Himself to God the Father (John 10: 17). He commands us to love one another, as Carina did for Christine for the world to know we are His disciples (Jn. 13:34, 35).

Can you give your all, even your life, to let a dying world know that Jesus laid down His life to save and give us new life in Himself? (Jn. 3:16)

Refreshed by Heaven’s Dew

“May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine”

Genesis 37:28

God’s victorious prophet on the run?

Sullen-faced and fatigued, and body drenched with profuse perspiration, Elijah was running from wicked Jezebel, who had threatened his life. Nobody escaped her fury. And Elijah would not be the first. She was breathing fire over the loss of all her trusted lieutenants in a confrontation she thought they would win. Unfortunately, Baal could not show up (1 Kings 18:29). But the God of heaven did, and extraordinarily (38).

Elijah hoped the defeat of Baal would hush Jezebel. But no! She was not that kind of woman. Jezebel lived and breathed fire. Every confrontation was her delight, and she picked this one cleverly.

 “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (19:2).

And Elijah ran for his life (v.3).

How true it is for us all. After all that God has revealed to us by His mighty power in Christ Jesus, and through us, we run when threatened. How soon we forget, and how vulnerable at the height of success!

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (vv.4-5).

How interesting and comical! The man who was running from death, asking God to kill him?

Thank God He hears the cry of our hearts and not our mouths.

“Lord save me, for I’m tired, burned out, and afraid for my life,” his heart might have prayed.

God opened the treasury of His bounty and poured heaven’s dew on His battle-weary and frightened prophet, refreshing, and strengthening him for the real journey of his life—the long journey to the Mountain of God (vv.6-9).

Is that your story today – tired and afraid, beaten down, and trodden by many cares and burdens of this wicked world?

Thank God for heaven’s dew that graciously refreshes His battle-weary children when we are completely down and out. Let it renew you in His word. Embrace the kindness of friends and family to strengthen and refocus you in the race before you. Run it well with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength for the reward before you.

May the Lord give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness to refresh and to make you fruitful. And may you stand in the power and authority of our Christ and prevail against everything that revolts against you. Amen!

Your Life Testimony in Heaven

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him – Genesis 5 :24.

Genesis 5:24

I sat there as they paraded down the high street of heaven. What a luminous congregation of saints they were! One by one, they filed by. I wanted to ask:

  • Abel, what was in his sacrifice that pleased God so much that it made Cain that jealous, 
  • Enoch, how his walk pleased the Lord so much that He took him away,
  • Noah, how he survived the forty days in the ark with all those animals, 
  • Abraham, how we felt when he raised the knife to slay Isaac,
  • Isaac, how he felt when his father was tying him up on Mt. Moriah,
  • Jacob, how it felt when his uncle Laban deceived him,
  • Rebekah, why she schemed with Jacob to get the blessing of Esau,
  • Moses, how he felt when God denied him entry into Canaan, 
  • Aaron, why he capitulated to the pressure from the people to make them the golden calf, 
  • Joshua, why he did not disciple a successor as Moses had done with him,
  • Gideon, why he could not believe God without a sign,
  •  Samuel, why his children became like Eli’s children,
  • Job, how he endured the unthinkable suffering without breaking, 
  • David, the inside story with his affair with Bathsheba – what was he thinking,
  • Solomon, why, with all his wisdom, he disobeyed God by marrying women from heathen nations, 
  • Jeremiah, how he loved his people so much that he wept over their sins,
  • Ezekiel, how he survived lying on his side for so many days, bearing the sins of Israel and Judah,
  • Daniel, how he maintained his integrity in the heathen culture,
  • Peter, why he wanted to know about John’s fate,
  • James & John, why they wanted to call fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who would not welcome Jesus, 
  • Nicodemus, why he went under cover of night to Jesus – what did he fear,
  • Zacchaeus, how he felt when Jesus stopped, looked up, and called him by name, 
  • Paul, how he was able to maintain his passion and zeal for the Lord,

I don’t have space to continue with Stephen, Phillip, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Lydia, Pricilla, Aquila, Apollos, James, Jude, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley.

And I know you have your questions for all of them. 

But what question will somebody want to ask you in heaven? What does it speak about your life here on earth? Might now be the time to prayerfully reflect on it?