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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The Grace Factory

1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer…

10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels” Phm. 1:1-12

Just to make things clearer here, the word “bowels” as used in this scripture means “heart”. Paul was therefore telling Philemon, “Receive Onesimus, for he is my own heart. He is as I am. He is a reflection of my heart.”

What powerful words, as we shall see! Paul had the heart of God, and it was this very heart that he managed to nurture, or put, in Onesimus. What an incredible accomplishment!

I live in central Tanzania, and the local people here have an animal called the “mbojo”. This animal is half lion and half man. It runs, it roars and it attacks like a lion. The “mbojo” is the most fearsome creature in all the land. It is used by its handlers to ambush and kill people. If you happen to meet the “mbojo”, you are gone. “Mbojos” are very rare, but even in this modern age they are still around.

The “mbojo” starts out as a human baby. Witchdoctors abduct a baby and take him to their lair where, over the course of many years they slowly turn him into a lion. It is not clear exactly how they manage to turn a human being into a deadly killing machine. But they have their skills, and they do. Thereafter they send him out to kill their perceived enemies.

Not everyone can turn someone into a “mbojo”. The people who do this are people who are specialised in this “art” and it is rumoured that they use powers of darkness to accomplish their mission.

There is so much to tell about the “mbojo”. But the reason I have written about the “mbojo” is to use it as an analogy of the Apostle Paul and the accomplishments of his apostlehood.

The Apostle was a man of incredible grace. It is clear from Paul’s letter to Philemon that, while in prison, Paul met Onesimus, a servant of Philemon. Onesimus was a worthless fellow and he probably had been imprisoned for his criminal activities. Paul must have preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to Onesimus. By God’s grace, Onesimus hearkened to Paul’s words.

But Paul did not just lead Onesimus through the motions of salvation. The Bible says that Paul begot Onesimus in his bonds (v. 10). That means that what happened between Paul and Onesimus was more than a casual encounter between a preacher and a sinner. On the contrary, it was something that was deeply spiritual. It must be also that Paul did some things towards Onesimus, a few of which we can be certain of. We can be certain that the following happened:

  1. Paul took Onesimus under his wing and patiently, day by day nurtured him in the gospel. His love for Onesimus was such that the young man was able to open his heart fully and allow Paul to invest the deposit of God’s grace in him.
  2. In ordinary, practical matters, Paul gave his life to Onesimus. Paul, the aged, shared his life with the young man. He did not consider his age, nor his position as an apostle as anything. On the contrary, he put all these aside in order that he might gain a worthless young man.
  3. Finally, Onesimus must have seen Paul’s great patience and humility in the way he coped with his imprisonment. Paul, full of the grace of God, bore everything that was directed against him. So much so that Paul himself writes the Philippians:

“12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Phil. 1:12-14).

So much happened through Paul’s patience and love in imprisonment. His life touched so many people. With Onesimus, Paul took the young servant and, by the grace of God that was in his life, he turned him into a man of true spiritual value. Paul, by the grace of God, did such an incredible work in Onesimus to the extent that he declares to Philemon, “Receive him, for he is as I am.”

Onesimus became as Paul! In heart, in character, in everything, Onesimus became like Paul. He became “profitable” both to Paul and to his master, Philemon. He became profitable to the church, the Body of Christ.

What an incredible achievement by Paul! This truly is the Good News!

In my lifetime, I have met preachers who preach like the Niagara, but who wouldn’t care whether you lived or died. All they are concerned about is their ‘ministry’.

But it was not so with Paul. Paul went the extra mile. Just as Christ did, Paul gave his life for men, and he birthed men in the Spirit. This is the greatest challenge that faces any preacher. Paul achieved it well.

[I am glad to introduce to my readers my spiritual father, Eliya Amas. He begot me in the Spirit and, over the course of 20 years, he has continuously given his life to me to the end that I may carry in me the heart of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love him with all my heart, and may the Lord bless him]

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