Justice For All

Justice is getting what you deserve.

So what do you deserve?

Coretta grew up in the back country of Virginia during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. She was politically angry at what she perceived as injustice against herself, her family, and her black ancestors. She’d lived for the fight of justice.

One Sunday morning I was preaching from the Biblical Book of Philemon. It’s the story of a runaway slave in ancient Rome, being sent back to his master by the Apostle Paul, and how both men should act to reflect Christ Jesus.

In my sermon I stressed the fact that Paul never urged either man to demand justice, but to show mercy. Getting what we deserve from God means eternity in the Lake of Fire, for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As sinners, eternal death is what we deserve. But God, who is rich in mercy … made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4, 5). Mercy is compassion, pity, love-in-action.

Coretta interrupted my sermon. Standing, tears rolling down her face she said, “Pastor, all my life I’ve been angrily demanding justice from politicians and people, but what I’ve really been needing is mercy. May God have mercy on me, a sinner!

No matter who you are, you will never experience justice in this world; even in America. Do you really want what you deserve? Seek ye first justice instead of righteousness. Demand what you think you deserve. Stir up strife and hatred in the name of justice. After all is said and done, you’ll be let down because true justice only comes from God who will make it certain in His day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

Desire mercy.

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Don’t Despair Over Trials and Difficulties

A few years ago my wife took up crocheting. Each night after dinner we talk or watch a movie and she spends those 3 or 4 hours before bedtime making hats, blankets, and scarves. She gives these away to friends and family, asking in return only a donation for our Bible school in Kenya.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that she can be working feverishly on a project, stop and look back through her stitches and notice a flaw either in the yarn or in her work. The only way to fix the problem is to undue everything made after that stitch. Sometimes it means pulling apart most of the blanket to get at the problem spot.

Often God has to work something out of us through trials before He can work something new into us.

The Apostle Peter wrote in the Bible:

For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue add knowledge, to knowledge add self-control, to self-control add perseverance, to perseverance add godliness, to godliness add brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness add love. For if these things are yours and abound in you, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-9).

Don’t despair over trials and difficulties God brings into your day. Consider instead what He may be working out of your life so that He may work in the virtues of Christlikeness.

The Curse of Prosperity

Before God brought the people of Israel into the land of promise, He gave them a warning through Moses. He was taking them into a land that flowed with milk and honey. There would be prosperity of food, houses, health and wealth so that they would lack nothing (Deuteronomy 8:9).

Isn’t this the dream of so many people? Most people mistakenly think that the life of material prosperity is the definition of the “American Dream.” The American Dream isn’t prosperity served on a silver platter, but the opportunity to work for all these things that Israel was actually going to receive from God.

So where’s the danger? How can prosperity be a curse? Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God … when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:11 -14).

For the Jews, prosperity became a curse because they forgot God and that He is the provider of all things.

Prosperity creates pride. It lifts up the heart of human achievement and self-sufficiency, robbing God of the thanks due Him.

Prosperity concocts ways to get more and keep it. The prosperous become self-reliant rather than trusting in God’s provision of daily bread.

Prosperity causes worry. Those who have little have little worries, but the more you have, the more you have to worry over; there is little peace for those with much.

Prosperity conceives a sinful attachment to this short-lived life and its things, turning the heart from hope in Heaven’s eternal bliss.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

God’s Plans to Prosper You

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

There is a reason why some verses come before others and chapters precede others. Context dictates meaning and you can’t talk about Jeremiah 29:11 before pitching a tent on Jeremiah 29:8-9:

Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Humanly speaking, in the day when the prosperity gospel has preoccupied our lives, we find nothing good to smile about in Jeremiah 29:8-9 but we find everything to be glad about in Jeremiah 29:11 because of words like plan, prosper, hope, peace, and not evil. While some words and concepts take us captive because of the goodness they carry, we should held captive by accurate biblical interpretation.

Jeremiah 29 crushed the false hope the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:2). Their false hope was propagated by false prophets and dreamers who lied to them, saying that God was going to free them from the captivity in two years (Jeremiah 27:9). That didn’t happen; it was 70 years. A whopping difference of 68 years! That’s how colossal false prophets cross-stitch Scripture.

The Jews desperately wanted to return to Jerusalem, but God had taken them to exile as punishment for their disobedience. Yet He promised to return them after slavery in Babylon.

The context of Jeremiah 29:11 is Israel’s mantra of enduring pain for 70 years. God expected them to stay where they were, persevere, serve king Nebuchadnezzar, and help prosper the nation that enslaved them (Jeremiah 27:6-7). His plan wasn’t to escape trials but to persevere through trials.

The promise isn’t for you, but we can learn a thing from the passage about God’s character and our Christian living. God expects us to confidently say; Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4). Because in the world we will have tribulation (John 16:33).

Social Injustice and Our Message

As Christians, our primary ministry on this earth is to share the good news of Jesus to a broken, dead, and dying world.

We can’t fix the brokenness of a society. No political party or particular candidate can create a nation of godliness. There has never been a social justice campaign resolve age-old hatred and bigotry or save an innocent life from a corrupt police officer. Protests and chants in California don’t put food in the bellies of hungry African children or achieve equality for women in the Muslim world.

Too many Christians are distracted by the symptoms of sin around us and have ignored and even rejected the cause and remedy of all that ails the human race. Sin brings separation and death. It causes the separation of husbands and wives, parents and children, black and white, rich and poor, Kenyans and Canadians. Sin kills relationships and eats away at nations. The only answer for death is life, and life is only possible through Jesus Christ, the Prince of life (Acts 3:15).

After the massacre in Las Vegas in early October, my wife sorrowed over the loss of 59 lives. I agreed and then reminded her that in all likelihood, most of the thousands at the concert that night and survived were unsaved and would end up in the Lake of Fire. That is the greatest tragedy.

Salvation in Jesus must be our message to our hurting world.

These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

God’s Great Adventure

When we got married, I asked my wife if she was ready for going with me on God’s great adventure. Over and over we watched with thrilling expectation the video of Steven Curtis Chapman singing about such a journey.

Today my wife and I are facing an enormous and frightening life and ministry challenge. There are quiet times when she asks, How will we do this? It’s not doubt, but a sea of overwhelming questions and impossible odds that leave her feeling she hasn’t a saddle to sit on, stirrups for her feet, or reins to grasp.

My answer is always the same: I don’t know, but when God calls He always provides.

We so often act as if Satan is in control. We talk about Satan blocking this program and needing to bind him from that ministry goal, but God is God; Satan is not. And if Satan is stronger and greater than your god, you don’t have the God of the Bible.

God graciously and powerfully works and provides for everything He is in. He doesn’t fail. Change demands courage, which He amply provides. If something is His will, it comes to pass in His way and perfect time. You can’t faith it or declare and decree it into being. You’re not God either! All you can do is trust Him and obey.

This is the journey of God’s Great Adventure because We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Godly Fathering – Part 1

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Pastor Isaac Mathembe and his wife recently had their third child. Baby Kimberly is like every other child born. She constantly demands attention to her hungry tummy, her dirty diaper, or her entertainment. Generally speaking, the mother gives most of that needed attention in the early months of life, but as a child grows, the role of the father must also grow.

Years ago I counseled a woman who had serious relational issues. She’d gone through relationships like a box of Kleenex and her unreasonable demands on her husband were about to cost her marriage.

Her father’s example was a man so busy earning a living to provide for the family, that she didn’t know how a godly husband interacted with a wife, or how a father acted toward his children. In her mind, the husband/father was to be absent from the house, take out the garbage once a week, and make lots of money.

God’s command to Jewish mothers and fathers, was that they both teach His word and His ways to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Every father has a God-given responsibility to the training and admonition of his child in the Lord. He is charged by God with sharing his life-wisdom, explaining the Scriptures in every situation of life, and being a personal example of godliness in his relationships at home and in the world.

The man whose focus is his job or fulfilling his own hobbies and interests is a failure as a father. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).

Love and Be Loved

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).

One of the lessons Matthew came away from his first visit to Kenya with me was that he should let his pastor sit in the front seat of the car. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion, but I accepted it reluctantly.

Yes, reluctantly. Reluctantly, because I don’t care if I sit in the front passenger seat or get squeezed with 5 other people in a back seat made for 2. To me it’s not a matter of being the important guy or the old man of the group deserving some preferred treatment. What impressed me was Matthew’s decision to prefer me over himself. He put into practice exactly what Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: give preference to one another as the demonstration of his love for me.

Christian love, the kind that God has for His people, puts the welfare of another before self. It willingly and selflessly sacrifices its own priorities, desires, plans, and comforts. This kind of God-like love requires two things. First, that if we say we love someone, we are humble enough to put his interest before our own, and second, that the one being honored is humble enough to accept the demonstration of love. It requires humility both to love and to be loved.

The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!