The Value Of Admonishing Our Children

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:4

I want to talk about the word “admonition” in this scripture. It is fair, though, to also say something about the word “nurture” since it is also mentioned here.

Another word for “nurture” would be foster or develop. When it comes to fostering our children in the ways of the Lord, it is the life of Christ that we carry in us that will help to foster our children in the knowledge of Christ. Christian parents are like an incubator. They incubate their children – in the ways of the Lord. And there is no way you can do this unless you allow them to see Christ through the example of your life.

The second word, “admonition”, talks of warning. We are to warn our children in the ways of the Lord. In other words, we are to speak to our children about God.

It is a good thing to speak to our children about God. Let me give an example to illustrate this. My children, just like all children, love watching TV till the late hours of night. (Actually, we do not have TV, it is the videos they love watching.)

I don’t like it that my children love staying in front of the TV screen until midnight. I have talked to them severally regarding this but, apparently, my talk show has not borne much fruit. They will give this and that excuse and right after, I wake up at night to find them all quietly sitted watching a movie or whatever. If it was those early days they wouldn’t dare do it since I would shut that TV down and send them to bed with a boot to their backsides. But now they have gotten older, and I cannot discipline them in such a manner. Moreover, my going easy with them is my way of showing my appreciation to them for not being such a big headache to me in their teenage years.

Anyways, one Sunday, one of our pastors was preaching in church and he decided to direct his sermon to the youth. He read from Hebrews 12 and talked to them about the value of parental chastening. He told them that parents do it out of love. And he said, “If your parent ever stopped talking to you, or if they ever got tired of admonishing you, that would be the end of you.”

That evening, I was working on my laptop in my room when, at 10 p.m., I heard the lights going off in the sitting room, and I heard doors closing as my children went to their bedrooms. I had forgotten all about the sermon, and I was surprised to see my children going to bed so early? They had recently began watching an exciting new series and every day I would wake up at night to find them glued to the TV screen.

It was then that I recalled the sermon that we had heard that morning. I realized then that my children had quietly taken the pastor’s words to heart, and I was seeing the fruits.

I believe it is good to speak to your children about the Lord. God’s Word is powerful. One day, the words that you speak to them will bear fruit. It might be sooner, or it might take time. But whatever the time-frame, God will respect His Word that you have lovingly planted in your child’s life.

Much of the trouble that we witness coming from children nowadays stems from the fact that parents do not see the importance of “admonishing” their children in the ways of the Lord. In such a scenario, how can you blame the child who has never even heard the name “Jesus” mentioned in his/her home?

Let us be encouraged to talk to our children the words of life. And may we learn to put them in an environment where they will keep hearing these words.

[Three generations of “admonition of the Lord”]

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A Heart For God’s People

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Phil. 4:10-18

Ever heard of aliens? Well, there is no such thing as an alien. At least, that is my belief. But there is a new kind of ‘alien’ that we are going to learn about today.

During our recent regional CTMI conference (www.ctmi.org) in Dar es Salaam, the speaker, Brother Miki, quoting from 1 Peter 2:9 said, “A new race of people arose in the world when Jesus died and rose from the grave. A new race of people, saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It is called the Christian race.”

I was sitting there and my mind was moving super-fast. I began thinking, This was a race that is not white, black, Asiatic, nor Arabic. You won’t find this race among all the races in the world. It will never be found there. It is a race of people that is alien to this world. It is indeed, as the scriptures say, a “peculiar people”.

It is in this light that we can appreciate Paul’s words in the scripture above. It is also in this light that I personally find it hard to count myself as a part of this peculiar race. How could I attempt to compare myself with this man who did something so unbelievably extraordinary?

And what is it, pray, that the Apostle Paul did that was so extraordinary?

The portion of scripture that answers this question is in verse 17:

“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”

Once you understand what Paul is saying here, you will understand that this was a man who was truly in a class of his own, spiritually speaking. In simple words, the apostle here is saying that he wanted the Philippians to give; but not for the reasons that many of us would be thinking of.

Paul had only one reason to want the Philippians to continue giving. The reason he rejoiced for their giving, he says, was because

“I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (v. 17)

The reason I say I am not in Paul’s league is because  whenever I have a need I always think of the shortest way to have that need met. And if a brother or sister comes to my aid, I will tell them, “God bless you”. But more often than not my “God bless you” is my selfish way of saying, “Thank God the need has been met” rather than a sincere desire to see the brother or sister blessed in the Spirit.

But God’s sacrificial love is revealed in the Apostle’s life in two ways here. In the first place, even though Paul had needs, he did not think of himself in time of receiving. On the contrary, he thought about the giver. He rejoiced, not on his account, but on their account. He rejoiced, not because he was receiving, but because they would be receiving!

Secondly, the Apostle Paul desired spiritual blessings for God’s people. He rejoiced because he knew that as they gave materially, they would be receiving spiritually.

Today many preachers will tell you to give in order that you might receive a material reward in return. I heard one preacher say, “If you do not pay your tithes, you will not be fed!” Fed, presumably by God. Wow!!

Today, the Name of God is blasphemed all over the world because of preachers of the gospel who do not have a heavenly agenda. A preacher who only has an earthly agenda is the most dangerous living thing alive. Seriously. This man or woman will take God’s people down the road of destruction for he or she will show them only how to prosper materially. Moreover, all he or she is thinking is how he can gain from them. He does not have their spiritual interests at heart.

But the Apostle Paul had the spiritual interests of God’s people at heart. And it is here, in this scripture, that God’s heart for His people is revealed: it is a heart that desires for us to get hold of the heavenly vision, and a heavenly reward, not an earthly one.

God’s Unsearchable Love

I once overheard an old man say, “Heaven is our home”.

The following clip is of a plane in distress as it approaches LAX, in the U.S. No doubt, God wanted these people safely home. And “home” here was not Los Angeles;  home was heaven. And so He, who holds sway over every affair both in heaven and on the earth, intervened on these passengers’ behalf – and on behalf, possibly, of many other people on the ground.

I wonder whether we value God’s perspective  concerning our lives as He does?

Little Things Matter

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jn. 15:12-13

42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:42

[The inspiration for this post came from a sermon given by a very good friend of mine]

I know this might appear like a vain attempt on my part to reach for the stars, and I know it will most certainly sound surreal to my friends and readers. But I will go ahead and make this astonishing claim: that I have met the most beautiful woman in the world. Yes, among the many blessings that God has bestowed upon me, worldly speaking, is that He has granted me to set my eyes on the most physically beautiful woman in the world. For those willing to believe, yes, I have. In the flesh, I mean. And up close and personal, if you will. Now, just to set the record straight, I know it is said that beauty resides in the beholder’s eyes, but with this woman (who I will call D) it is not a matter of the beholder or the non-beholder. It is, simply, that she is the most beautiful woman in the world, period.

But, even a die-hard believer in this blogger might be tempted to stop believing me when I make my second claim, which is that this woman also has the most beautiful heart I have ever seen. How I arrived at the conclusion of the latter is the subject of this post. (The fact of D’s physical beauty, as I indicated, is not up for debate here).

Here is how it all unfolded.

A number of years back I visited the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to attend the annual Church Team Ministries International (www.ctmi.org) conference. It was my first time to go ‘abroad’ (meaning outside of our two other East African countries of Kenya and Uganda). I met the most wonderful people on this island and I saw firsthand how hearts that have been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ truly look like. But I had to overcome my personal fears first.

When I arrived there I was taken to one of the elders’ homes where, to my horror, I found many other visitors from different parts of the world also accommodated. Coming from one of the more backward parts of Africa, you can imagine I was not exactly the most inviting sight to see. By the time I arrived in Mauritius after a 4- hour flight, my hair had reverted to its original African state of uncombedness and, even though I had tried my best to really scrub myself, an abrupt landing into a more ‘developed’ environment brought into sharp focus every mis-detail about my physical appearance. Moreover, I was completely uneducated in the art of etiquette and, in a desperate attempt to make an impact, I quickly bungled the few chances I had and I ended up making one wrong impact after another, especially with my mouth. For starters, I called our host’s wife “Mama”, thinking I was being social and polite. But in Mauritius you don’t call women “Mama”, and I later learned that it was simply because everyone in that house was full of the grace of God that I was not immediately tossed out.

But it was a girl who was in that house that really made the difference with me. D took everything to another level, so to speak. But before we get to that part, I cannot help but mention again her incredible beauty. Despite the large number of people there, you couldn’t help noticing her, simply out of the fact that she was the most beautiful young lady anyone could ever have set their eyes upon. The minute I saw her I remember thinking, “This cannot be real. She must be a model.” There are simply no words to describe D’s beauty.

Anyways, the very first evening I arrived, after I made my debacle with the “mama”, D walked up to me and warmly greeted me with a hug and a kiss on my cheek. To this day, I cannot forget her smile as she came towards me. I thought she was greeting me as a formality and I remember wondering whether the next morning she would find the grace to even say hi to a half-moron-looking fellow like me.

But it was what D did next that completely blew me away. During the course of my stay in that house, D literally owned me. She made me her personal responsibility. Every day she would come from work and she would make a beeline for me where she would come up and hug and kiss me. After which she would sit by my side and take her time making small talk. One of the questions that I recall she would ask each time was, “Zakaria, how was your day?”

And I remember thinking: It is me who should be asking her how her day at the office was! It always struck me how energetic and joyful she seemed after a day at the office, a time when most people are so tired they have no energy left to do anything physical, let alone deal with people.

Even when I was transferred to a different residence and we were separated with D, she doggedly followed up on me. We would meet in church on Sundays and she would shower me with her peculiar love and kindness.

Later on, long after I had left Mauritius, D wrote me an email in which she confided to me that, at the time I was in Maurtius she was undergoing a particularly tough phase at her workplace and that soon after I left she had had to give up her job. The realization came to me that, at the very time she was sacrificing her life for me, she was going through hell herself!

My heart broke. To think that it was I who should have been comforting her at the very moment she was comforting me!

But God is incredibly faithful. All that is behind her now. Today, D is a happily married young lady, with an incredibly happy and fulfilling family life.

I remember writing her and telling her about the little things that she did for me while I was in Mauritius. She wrote back, saying, “Yes, sometimes the small things we do without knowing can impact people’s lives”.

Indeed. Jesus gave us the opportunity to use even the little things in life to show forth His love. Remember Jesus spoke highly about giving someone a cup of cold water. There is nothing remarkable about a cup of cold water; but it means the world to a thirsty soul.

There are many little things that we can do with the love of God in our hearts, and these things can bring a difference in people’s lives. Say “hi’ to people. Stop and help (there is much of that on our streets). Visit your neighbor. Visit the sick and elderly. Call back, write back. Go out of your way. Purpose to be a blessing to someone. Above all, don’t think only about yourself.

Loving God’s Son

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you… 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:53-66

The gospel of the cross can only be accepted and carried out by those who have a true love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I once watched an Irish movie called “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In that movie, a wealthy nobleman dies leaving a will wherein he gives instructions for his priceless collection of paintings to be auctioned off. But in the will is a hidden clause that states: Whoever buys the nobleman’s son’s portrait (which has been done by a local artist) will inherit all the nobleman’s wealth, including the massive collection of expensive paintings. His son is already deceased.

The whole world wants these paintings, and art collectors and the elite and moneyed gather from every corner of the world to view and buy the art collection. The first item to be auctioned off is the portrait of the nobleman’s son, a dull and unremarkable piece of art. No one wants to buy the painting; indeed, no one takes any notice of its submission and even as the auctioneer tries to get their attention on it, everyone is busy clamoring for the auction to “get underway”!

The painting is finally bought at a very cheap price by the rich man’s gardener. This was a man who was extremely loyal to his master and who had always admired the young boy. And that purchase brings the auction to an abrupt and unexpected end for, as the auctioneer reads from the will, the nobleman had stated that whoever would buy his son’s portrait would inherit all his wealth, including the paintings.

Benumbed and clueless as to what had taken place, the visitors shuffle away empty-handed.

That is a picture of the church today. Everyone wants all the goodies that God has to offer – the blessings, the healings, the dancing and celebrations, the amens and hallelujahs – but few are willing to love the Lord Jesus Christ to the extent of dying with Him. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no life in these things; the life is in the partaking of the death of the cross. Our calling, therefore, is clearly set forth in both these scriptures which we ought to meditate upon before “believing” anything else:

Philippians 1:29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

and 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”.

According to the Bible, few believers are willing to deny themselves (Mat. 7:14). Denying oneself means forgoing one’s (worldly) rights and being content and happy therein. Denying oneself means taking up our cross daily and following Christ.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to die; to die the death of the cross where the flesh with its worldly lusts, have been crucified.

It is to not love the glitz and glory of this world, which today has been comfortably allowed to settle in church. Rather, it is to have our sights set upon the unseen treasures of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to become lowly and humble:

Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16)

Dead Or Half- Dead? – Part 1

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

The reason for the title of this post you will find in Part 2. But first…

My heart goes out to this rich young man. Such a wonderful man, and so zealous for God!

Did you ever notice that this man is one of the very few people of whom scripture states that the Lord loved? Not that Jesus does not love everyone else; but it is notable that scripture could take the trouble to write that the Lord loved this person. I believe the reason Jesus loved this man was because of his zeal for God. This rich young man, who had kept all of God’s commandments since his youth, not breaking any one of them and who had come running to Jesus and who, upon reaching Him he had knelt at His feet… What a heart! I haven’t read in the gospels of many people who did that.

But I also believe there is another more important reason for scripture to write that Jesus loved this man. The reason is, I believe, that God wants us to know how He loves us, or what His love is all about. If someone told me they loved me and then took off their very expensive watch and gave it to me, I would understand that. That is love to me. But, as is so clearly made out here, when God loves us, He does not love us in that way. On the contrary, He calls us to deny ourselves; actually, to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and follow Christ.

That is why the greatest gift that God can give us is a revelation, or a spiritual understanding of, the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross we find true love, the love that never questions why.

I heard – actually, there is a video of this on Youtube – one of the major preachers of the prosperity gospel say: “I define prosperity as every arena of life… prospering in your spirit, prospering in your soul, prospering in your physical body – that’s healthy; prospering in your relationships, prospering on your job and prospering in your finances.”

It just might be coincidence, but it so happens that this preacher is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. If this preacher were to meet Jesus, Jesus would tell him, “Go sell your private jet, your multi-million dollar houses and your expensive cars and suits and give that money to the poor. After you’ve done that, come, take up the cross, and follow me!”

But, on top of all that he owns, this preacher is currently making plans to purchase a 65-million dollar private jet. Which translates into the fact that he has never met Jesus in his life. A tough conclusion, but true.

When Jesus loved this young man that we read of in the above scripture, he did not tell him, “Friend, I love you so much, which is why I have given you all that wealth. Hoard it well and enjoy it to the full, for that is my blessing to you.”

No, Jesus did not say that. On the contrary, Jesus told him to go sell all that he had and to give the proceeds to the poor and to come follow Him. And nowhere in its entirety does scripture deviate from this stance. For that is how Christ loves us and that is how He calls each one of us. He loves us to the end that we might deny the flesh and its worldly lusts and become like Him. The time for the worldly spirit of wantonly living life as “King’s Kids” is no more. Now is a time to give up our comfort zones and to go share the real life of God with Jesus. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:29:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

[Below: “Sell all you have and give to the poor then come, take up your cross and follow Me!” Love doesn’t ask why]

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Photo credit: Carol Lanthier

The Family

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Col. 3:18-4:1

We should be extremely wary of the flesh, especially in relation to our families. You notice in this scripture that Paul is not talking about relationships within the church, but within the family. And here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that even a servant is a part of the family.

The reason for this need for vigilance is because it is the easiest thing for us to cast ourselves into a mould, where things become ‘normalised’ and we are no longer running the race we have been called to. The whole concept of salvation, including our relationships, is a daily race, and a gritty one. It is a race of the Spirit vs the flesh. But it is with the family that God is most concerned and it is with the family that this race must begin.

My son is a slow learner, and much of the time (at least, according to my estimations) he does things contrary to the instructions I give him.  I am well aware that there was some delay during his delivery and this was what caused his condition. But this knowledge does nothing to calm my high-strung calibre and much of the time, the things that my son does have me clawing up the wall, literally.

And so it was that one day I was watering my garden and I asked him to carefully move the hose for me between the young plants. Instead of picking the part of the hose I had shown him, he picked the wrong one and in the process he ended up breaking one or two of my precious plants.

To talk of a sonic boom here would hardly do credit to the bellow I let out. If you ever saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”, well, the Beast’s roars there are a downgraded version of what occurred that afternoon. My son stood still as I went on the warpath and blasted him into Neverland.

But the Lord is good and I thank Him for His mercy towards me. After my son had left the crime scene, the Lord quietly came to me and showed me the rot that was in my heart. As I lay on my bed that the evening, I called my son.

“Joe”, I said, “I want you to forgive me for what I did to you this evening. I am truly sorry and please know that I love you.”

I was sorely tempted to add, “But please, please try harder at doing things right”; but with all the effort I had I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Notice the Bible says, both in Colossians above and in Ephesians 6:4, that fathers should not provoke their children to anger. The Bible here is not talking of the small children that we in our selfishness are wont to spoil. Rather, when children reach a certain age, when they are in their teens, it is the time that their independence begins to assert itself, and it is here that parents need to be very careful to not to stamp out that independence. It is this independence, nurtured in the love of God, that will lead your child on to maturity.

There are any number of scenarios with regard to our lack of vigilance. It is the easiest thing, for example, for the wife or husband to enter into an adulterous relationship with another person, not for any other reason than that they have not been vigilant in their relationship to their spouse. But it requires a daily death to the flesh for that relationship to stay renewed in the Spirit.

The same goes for every other relationship within the family. The parents need to die for their children; and the children, likewise, for their parents. The servant needs the death of the cross to work in him for him to serve his master as he would serve Christ; likewise, the man and woman of the house towards their servant. If the work of the cross is not in them, they can easily look down on or mistreat their servants.

It is the easiest thing for the pastor to run about pastoring everyone else except his family. He never spends time with his wife or children! It is no wonder, therefore, that many pastors today stand accused of having adulterous affairs with other women, because they were unable to pay the price needed to take time with their wives.

It is the easiest thing for the mother to be busy, oh! inviting over and welcoming all those beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – but never having a thought for her children. And the children become rebellious and she wonders why!

It is the easiest thing, as I said, for us to allow the flesh in its various forms to take over control of our families. It is the easiest thing for us to become selfish and to look only to our own interests: the father, to his own pride; the child, his/her own independence, etc. But the Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 says:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”

It talks about the devil there, but it might as well be talking of our flesh. The flesh is always lying in wait for us, ready at any moment to step in and take control the minute we lose our vigilance. That is why we need to be very vigilant in our relations with our family members.

The church setting is meant to overflow with the love and selfless sacrifice of Christ. And it has to begin with the family. As one of my friends used to say, you cannot jump to No.2 before you are done with No.1. The family is the Number One place where we are required to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ.

[My family. The highest responsibility I have is both to my wife and children, to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Eph. 6:4]

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