Can We Stop and Listen?

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!

Number 11:4-6

We have become a people that complain and grumble about everything. Times are hard, and things are falling apart everywhere. Yes, institutions are crumbling under the weight of hidden agendas, issues people will deny in public. Call it what you may, tribal or racial superiority; they are all the same in different garbs, depending on your observation point.

The Israelites behaved this way throughout their wilderness sojourn for forty years. They complained about everything at the Red Sea (Exod. 14:11-12), the waters of Marah and Elim (15:22-24), food and meat (16:2), Moses’s time on Mt. Sinai with the Lord (32:1), his leadership (Nu. 16:1-3), and their perceived lack of direction (14:1-5). What they never did was remember their cry for deliverance from Egyptian slavery, God’s grand plan for the Exodus, and what He was doing with them along the way to Canaan. Had they tuned in to Him and discerned, they would have understood and enjoyed God’s Presence and Kingship as His royal people and nation, despite the hazards.

We face chaos and dangers every day now. Fires, earthquakes, floods, COVID-19! They increase by the day and cause uncertainty and anxiety. The restrictions of the pandemic are too much to bear. Everybody complains about masking and social distancing, curfews, and bans on mass gatherings. We yearn for what we are used to in the past, and we want to rebel.  We are behaving the same way the Israelites did and incurred the wrath of God. Heaven is drawing near. Waiting becomes cumbersome, and the desire to bail out heightens when the end is drawing near.

So, hang on, my brother and sister. Stop complaining and keep on waiting for the “gentle whisper” on the mountain of God. He will recommission and direct your life to the end, as He did for Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-18}.

Encounter the Glory of God in Jesus

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”

Luke 5:8.

They knew the sea and were skillful at what they did as experienced fishermen. A whole night without a catch, they stood at the shore, mending their nets, and disappointed. Why should they pay any attention to the carpenter from Nazareth? Peter and his associates could pride themselves with their knowledge of the waters on which they had plied their trade all their lives. So, they could have said, “Why not go do some roofing or put some furniture together, Mr. Carpenter?” But Peter did not protest.

“But because you say so, I will let down the net” (5).

Peter had earlier experienced the uniqueness of the man his brother Andrew had introduced him to as the Messiah (Jn. 1:41-42). It was not a casual visit. The Lord pronounced a life-changing blessing upon Peter. 

“You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas,” which translated means Peter. 

So, Peter had a rudimentary idea about the man who instructed him to push back into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. But this meeting was different. Something supernatural was breaking before Peter, and astonished, he surrendered to the experience. 

Two boats were sinking under the weight of their catch when Peter obeyed the simple instruction from the Carpenter from Nazareth. The wonder of wonders! The glory of the Lord broke out upon the fishermen at the shores of Lake Gennesaret, and they would never be the same.

How does a mere human like Peter respond to such majesty? Sin revealed, conscience-stricken, convicted to the core! What could Simon Peter do but to bow in worship and surrender? 

“Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” (8). 

His entire life was sinking like the two boats right before him, and a novel way of living was opening to him. The Master calls. And how could he decline Christ’s life-altering invitation?

Have you encountered the majesty of God in a similar situation before? Has your ‘boat’ sunk under the weight of God’s revealing power in Christ Jesus? Have you ever encountered the glory of the Lord in your walk with Him before? Do you see your sinfulness laid bare undeniably in your daily Bible reading? Why not fall on your knees before His majesty with upraised hands to Him who sits on the throne above with all power and authority in all creation—Jesus Messiah?  

Leave your net and boat at the shore where God has met you. See His glory in the face of Jesus and come, follow Him into His kingdom. It is a new and exciting life that never ends—not here, nor yonder.  

When Fear Drives our Perspective

“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”

Job 3:25

Have you noticed that success has a way of imprisoning the heart and mind in a place where the fear of what could go wrong rules? There is an insidious tormentor that unsettles the minds of people, regardless of their financial standing. That was Job’s mindset before we met him in the first chapter of the book that bears his name. 

The man had it all together: upright in the eyes of God, a family man, wealthy, and respected in his community. What else could anybody ask for but to enjoy their blessings in peace? But, unknown to everyone, there was an uneasiness he could not shake off. His constant tormentor was a simple question on your mind today, “What if…?”

What if his children had sinned against God when they feasted in each other’s house? So, he took remedial steps before God on their behalf (Job 1:5). And finally, when disaster struck in his home and economy, Job revealed his tormentor. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25). It is a shared battle that rages in many minds.

Observe a person running around, chasing everything they think can secure their future, and you may probably detect that haunting question on their mind. It has kept many people from accepting certain job offers and business deals. Some have held back from taking the next step to a new level in their life. 

What if…?

This tormentor has kept others from eating certain foods. Ask them why they have never visited their hometown since they left for college, and they cannot give you any plausible reason. They balk when you demand the reason for not accepting or using the gifts they have received from some people. Do not look far for their explanation. Listen to their hearts pounding loudly with the same question, “What if…”

The same insidious and tormenting question defeats many unmarried people before they engage in any relationship, “What if…”

So, what are your fears today? The year is young, and the stakes have already stacked up to challenge you. Is the question, “What if…” tormenting you? Is it driving your perspective and actions into an obvious ditch? Are you sure your self-efforts can rescue you?

The Psalmist has the right counsel for you. “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves’ (Psa. 127:1-2).

Remember that and let Him give you sleep. Remove yourself from the position of builder and protector. Allow the peace of God to rule in your heart and mind through Christ Jesus! 

Be Noble In Character

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Acts 17:11

The year 2020 will end shortly, and another year will dawn on us. As Christians worldwide gather in Churches to welcome 2021, many so-called prophetic messages will come from pulpits to worshippers. Unfortunately, many people will believe what they hear without taking the time to examine their sources to validate them. Some will be laughable, while others will be ridiculous to consider. That is why it is appropriate today to sound this warning and encourage every Christian to scrutinize every message they hear for authentication and scriptural validation from the Bible. Why should anybody endanger themselves with false prophesy and half-truths to begin the year?

Social media will spew tons of information into our domain without the basic journalistic courtesy of fact-checking. Unfortunately, people believe whatever they hear without scrutiny. No wonder there is so much chaos around, and everything is falling apart in our world. We treat the books and magazines we read with the same carelessness. But worse of it all is how Christians treat the sacred word of God with the same contempt. This year, can we stop to check the sources of the messages from our pulpits and on the airwaves?

The congregation of Berea has given us a model that the Holy Spirit calls noble. “For they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). If the Berean Christians scrutinized what the great apostle Paul said by examining the Old Testament scriptures, why should we not do the same? Why should we not validate what these self-appointed apostles and prophets say with the Bible? Zerubbabel and the whole remnant examined the message the prophet Haggai brought to them to assure themselves that it came from the Lord their God before they obeyed (Haggai 1:12). They validated his message to make sure they stood on solid ground.

May we also care more and pay attention to the sources of messages we hear on 31 December night and in the coming year. For your good, please make time to review every prophecy in the light of God’s written word. The sound of the message and the oratory of the preacher should not replace sound doctrine.

Finally, I pray with Paul that the Spirit of God may enlighten your hearts for understanding (Eph. 1:18) so that you may understand what you hear and know whether it is from God before you believe and give yourself to it.

A Choice to Make

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him

1 kings 18:21

Fear drove Obadiah when he met Elijah after his long search for him. He presumed what he did not know. Elijah was not going anywhere. He was there to bring the conflict with Ahab and the people of Israel to an end. But Obadiah feared for his life, so he protested when Elijah sent him with a message to Ahab (1 Kings 18:8-14).

That is a natural response when something threatens our life. What we need at such times is an assurance to calm us down. So, Elijah gave Obadiah his word on oath (15).

It is amazing how sometimes we see the bearer of the judgment of God as the enemy rather than ourselves. Ahab called Elijah the troublemaker of Israel (17). Elijah turned the table on Ahab and accused him of being the source of all the problems of Israel. So, he challenged King Ahab and his Baal prophets to a contest on Mount Carmel. It is always good to let people know the truth about themselves and how they can free themselves from it.

God showed up on Carmel, and the people saw His glory. The new generation had not seen the glory of God as their forefathers did. So, they languished in their careless and sinful ways. Baal had become the power of the day in Israel. They had forgotten Yahweh and how He delivered their forefathers from Egypt. Now, they saw His glory on Mount Carmel, and they shouted, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (39).

Every miracle of God calls His people back to Himself (37). The God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed His glory in the fire on Mount Carmel. But Baal could not show up, despite the earnest and intense incantation by his prophets (26). Now Israel had to decide. As Elijah had said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (8:21).

It is a choice we all must make every day. God is a jealous God who demands undivided commitment. He started the Ten Commandments with these sacred words. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:2-3 Emphasis mine). That is an exclusive claim on the lives of His people. And in verse five, He said this. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God [Emphasis mine].” That reveals the heart of God for his beloved that He cannot share them with anything in our lives.

It is time to remind ourselves of these truths about our relationship with God and stop wavering between Him and the world. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is Him or the world.

So, what do you say to Him?

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A PROSEROUS NEW YEAR IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. AMEN!

A Choice to Make

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him”

1 Kings 18:21

Fear drove Obadiah when he met Elijah after his long search for him. He presumed what he did not know. Elijah was not going anywhere. He was there to bring the conflict with Ahab and the people of Israel to an end. But Obadiah feared for his life, so he protested when Elijah sent him with a message to Ahab (1 Kings 18:8-14).

That is a natural response when something threatens our life. What we need at such times is an assurance to calm us down. So, Elijah gave Obadiah his word on oath (15).

It is amazing how sometimes we see the bearer of the judgment of God as the enemy rather than ourselves. Ahab called Elijah the troublemaker of Israel (17). Elijah turned the table on Ahab and accused him of being the source of all the problems of Israel. So, he challenged King Ahab and his Baal prophets to a contest on Mount Carmel. It is always good to let people know the truth about themselves and how they can free themselves from it.

God showed up on Carmel, and the people saw His glory. The new generation had not seen the glory of God as their forefathers did. So, they languished in their careless and sinful ways. Baal had become the power of the day in Israel. They had forgotten Yahweh and how He delivered their forefathers from Egypt. Now, they saw His glory on Mount Carmel, and they shouted, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (39).

Every miracle of God calls His people back to Himself (37). The God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed His glory in the fire on Mount Carmel. But Baal could not show up, despite the earnest and intense incantation by his prophets (26). Now Israel had to decide. As Elijah had said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (8:21).

It is a choice we all must make every day. God is a jealous God who demands undivided commitment. He started the Ten Commandments with these sacred words. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:2-3 Emphasis mine). That is an exclusive claim on the lives of His people. And in verse five, He said this. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God [Emphasis mine].” That reveals the heart of God for his beloved that He cannot share them with anything in our lives.

It is time to remind ourselves of these truths about our relationship with God and stop wavering between Him and the world. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is Him or the world.

So, what do you say to Him?

Firm Steps

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand

Psalm 37:23-24

Firms steps. No one can appreciate them better than a mountaineer. One false step on the steep and treacherous slopes of a mountain and disaster would strike. That is why mountaineers gear up with special equipment and shoes for their adventure. It takes months, and sometimes, years to prepare oneself for mountains like Everest – mentally and physically. But none of that guarantees the safety of the mountaineer. Many have died from one false or unsteady step. 

Life has such uncertainties in every endeavor. We cannot guarantee the result of anything until we have braved through it. It does not matter how long and often we have done it or our mastery of it. A single miscalculation or distraction could be disastrous and life-threatening. The world has many broken lives as an example for us. They had enthusiasm and moved with zest, but their end does not testify as an example for encouragement. Take a casual look at the entertainment world and see the carnage of some of the best skilled and celebrated lives. Academia is no different. They may look spiffy and sound brilliant. Yet, many of them are the most broken and miserable of all people. I cannot go on to the business, administrative, and governmental fields. Examine them for yourself and feel the need for a firmer ground and a trusted hand to uphold your life. 

David knows this truth too well. His life testifies to the goodness of God. It reveals how God supports those who love Him. As a child, he was left out in the cold to fight lions and bears while tending the flock of his family. But God did not forget him. He made his steps firm and his hands strong for victory (1 Sam. 16:11-13; 17:34-37). God testified that He had “found a man after His own heart” (13:14).

During his service in the palace of Saul, and through the wild chase of this jealous and mentally disturbed king who was after his life, God made David’s steps firm. He kept David one step ahead of Saul. Though David stumbled in the affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, God graciously kept his servant up. When the prophet Nathan rebuked him, David repented and was forgiven (11:1-27; 12:13). 

As an aging king, David struggled through the humiliation of the conspiracy of his two sons, Absalom (15:1-18:1-17) and Adonijah’s attempt to usurp power (1 Kings 1:5-10). So, when David makes these confessions in Psalm 37, they were the deep effusions of his heart and the expression of his experience of the faithfulness of God through multiples of chaotic life situations.       

You and I need this firm and unshakable ground in Jesus to support us in this turbulent world. We need the mighty right hand of God to sustain us amid the storms of this world. 

So, let us delight in the Lord and experience the warmth of these promises in Christ Jesus. Amen!   

We Have Cause to Thank God

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever – Psalm

Psalms 118:1

On the fourth Thursday of November every year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is the preeminent and most celebrated federal holiday in that country because of what the day stands for. It is a day people express gratitude to God for His blessings and give thanks to friends and family for their love and support. It has a long history that dates back to 1621 when the Pilgrims and their Native American hosts held the first diner at Plymouth in celebration of God’s answer to the prayers for rains, after a terrible drought, and for a bountiful harvest. Though many people differ in opinions concerning this event, it does not take away its essence – thanksgiving to God. Over the years, it has taken on the character as a secular celebration; God is still the focus. Likewise, in the Bible, many people paused to give special thanks to God for His favor and blessings.

When God delivered Noah and his family from the floods, he built an altar and sacrificed burnt offerings to thank God (Gen. 8:20). Abraham built an altar at Bethel and worshipped the Lord in recognition of God’s promise to give the land of the Canaanites to his offspring (Gen.12:6-8). Isaac built an altar at Beersheba and called on the name of the Lord after striving with the Philistines over wells (Gen. 26:23-25). Jacob built an altar at Shechem in Canaan and thanked God, calling Him El-Elohe Israel – Mighty is the God of Israel – after God had blessed him with a large family and wealth; and brought him back safely from Mesopotamia (Gen.33:20). Moses and the Israelites sang a song of thanksgiving to God after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and deliverance from the Egyptian army (Exodus 15). David wrote many Psalms in celebration of God’s deliverance from many situations with King Saul and all his enemies (2Sam 22). In Psalms 103, he showed us how to thank God for His many blessings. 

In the same way, we, the members of the International Baptist Church of Dakar, have cause to thank the Lord for His many blessings through the year. We celebrate His deliverance and protection from a countless number of situations, including Covid-19. The world is moving so fast that sometimes, we hardly have time to stop to grab a bite. But one thing we cannot fail to do is to stop and say, “Thank you, Lord.” And we remember to bring ourselves and the best of our possessions as a thanksgiving offering to Him. 

So, rejoice today and celebrate the goodness of God for the bountiful blessings He has lavished on you in 2020. As you bring your best as an offering to God today, may its pleasing aroma fill the heavenly sanctuary, and may it move the Lord to declare more blessings upon you for the coming year, in Christ Jesus. Amen!

Happy Thanksgiving Sunday!    

Learning to Be Courageous

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Acts 27:22

Courage comes from what we believe is possible despite the scare of it. My belief makes me courageous. But I have found a bigger truth. I am brave when I put myself in the hands of God in every challenge. Like many people, courage dissipates when I work up my abilities to confront a situation that looms bigger than myself. But, whenever I put myself in the hands of God and His power, I can boast in the sustaining power of God. As His word says, 

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength: (Phil 4:13). 

Now, that is courage!

In the Old Testament, God often told His people to be trusting and courageous. With fear and trepidation, Joshua stepped into the leadership of Israel after the death of Moses death. Knowing the butterflies in his stomach, God assured Joshua and told him three times to be bold and dare to lead His people into the Promised Land.

“Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1: 6, 9, 18).

In other words, God told Joshua to look away from himself and look to Him. He promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses. God took the Israelites through the River Jordan at flood stage (3:14-17). When the face their first battle against Jericho, a strongly fortified city, God took appeared to Joshua as commander of the army of the Lord to lead them (5:13-15). What a confidence booster! 

Gideon struggled with confidence, but God carried him along with the tenderness of a loving Father to deliver Israel from Midian’s oppression (Judges 6: 11-24). He came to know God as Jehovah-Shalom – The Lord Is Peace (24).  

Paul encouraged the crew and passengers on the ship to take courage when a nasty storm hit and drifted them until they lost all hope (Acts 27:20). God assured him of their safety in a dream, though they would lose the ship and cargo (22-26). The promise was meaningful to Paul because he trusted the faithfulness of God (vs. 25). When you know God as Paul did, you can receive His promises as absolute truth. And courage will stand with you through every storm of life.

So, do not be afraid. Look to Jesus in your storms. Be strong and courageous, for He is with you. You may suffer some losses, but His word will never fail (vs. 26).