Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Premarital Myths!

Many have lofty dreams and expectations about marriage. Unfortunately many of them are just what they are, dreams! Let's look at some of them:

1. Choice of mate is accidental
This is a myth because we actually attract what we desire. Our thoughts, beliefs, dressing is a pull factor that attracts or repel people from us. While God may actually have led you to the man or woman, making a decision to marry the person was by choice.

2. Marriage is an advanced care centre
This is a myth because marriage is neither a clinic nor a ward for the wounded! Those who seek healing from previous relationships, bad experiences, unfortunate family settings need to seek and find healing before they enter into marriage. Emotional maturity is an essential ingredient in marriage.

3. My mate will love me regardless because love is unconditional
This is a myth because ONLY God's love appears unconditional but even that has conditions. See Deuteronomy 28! There are always unwritten codes in human love. It was for a reason he decided to marry you and vice versa. A man who today is in the upper echelon of a Christian movement had as one of his reasons for divorcing his wife, "She added weight". A man I counselled said to me, "I wanted just one child, she wanted 2 and I compromised, now she has 3 and wants more because she wants a son!"Guess who fathered the children? Him! Many would leave mates who draw unto perdition, many would bid farewell to mates who enter into depression or addiction. Whether the reason is spiritual or physical, be prepared to honour the reasons why you came together as man and wife.

4. Marriage is uneven and seldom work
This is a myth because God meant for marriage to be even and to work. But man and woman must recognise their individual strengths and weaknesses and honour the similarities and differences of either gender. The evenness of marriage lies largely in the beauty of recognising and blossoming within our role and calling. Not recognising and remaining in our role is why even those who side-step God's rule and come together to role play as woman and woman or man and man can't make it work.

5. Everybody should be married and in a monogamous relationship
This is a myth because neither marriage nor monogamy is an ingredient for heavenly visa. While marriage is encouraged not everyone will marry or have a desire to be married and those who are married should respect this choice and/or reality. Monogamy is the ideal but many Christians who give up on waiting on God would sign into polygamy and the man they sign up with may very well be a Christian. Many Christians today grew out of polygamous homes.

6. Anyone who is not married is a "youth"
This is a sad myth. Each time I visit churches and hear announcements or prayers related to singles, the word "youth" soon accompany it. Singlehood and youthhood does not go together, they are not synonymous! I once heard a deacon say, "As long as you are single, you are a girl!" That day the Holy Spirit ministered to me that his heart is not right. Some years down the line, he became a pastor (and I thought God must have worked on making his heart right) but today he has separated from his lovely wife. Marriage does not confer adulthood on everyone. While many desire to marry, not all will sign into marriage and not signing up would and does not make them less of an adult.

7. Marrying according to God's will will make you happy
This is a myth because God did not promise us a problem free life. Isaiah 43:2 say, "When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee." When not if. That a man or woman is God's will for you does not mean you won't have challenges, it only means God will always provide a way of escape. God fashioned Eve for Adam, yet not managing his relationship with her well created a grave consequence, yet their marriage survived because they held on to one another. Being happy is a choice that has responsibilities attached to it.

8. If we are Christians and we get married in church, we won't divorce 
This is a myth because marrying in church is not an adhesive that has the ability to hold you together. Remaining together requires faith in God, respect for the institution of marriage and of course respect and love for one another. While I would have loved to say that all the Christians I know have remained married, this unfortunately is not the case. Statistics show that there are more Christians getting divorced and I daresay this has more to do with the fantasy we have built around marriage. Marriage is between two people and staying married is the responsibility of both hearts that must focus on working to ensure their love valve continue to beat together as one.

9. Marriage is a cure for loneliness 
This is a myth because loneliness is not an acquired sickness that only the acquirer can cure! I know a woman who swallowed this myth but being married to a doctor who is married to his clinic made her regurgitate. I know a man who is married to a top business executive, she resides on the plane and orders beautiful flowers to be delivered to the man who is forced to learn a new kind of singleness that comes in marriage. If loneliness is killing you now, you may just become dead when that which lurks in marriage hits you.

10. Sexual satisfaction and children are immediate fringe benefits  
This is a spot-on myth. If you married as a virgin, you'd have to live with how your mate viewed what you spent your entire life saving for him/her. If you tasted the forbidden fruit ahead of the marital vows, you may find yourself comparing this sexual experience with previous. If you both are new to sex, thoughts of what you may be missing out may fill your mind subconsciously. And the children? Look around you, for some the cry of a child is heard in less than 9 months for others 34 months or as it was in the case of a man of God, 34 years! Be prepared to enjoy the beauty of finding someone whose life mission is to love you! That joy must transcend whether you see the person daily or have living fruits to show for the union.

What other myths are you aware of? Let's share and debunk them!!! 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Worship Jesus the King

I was invited to minister on the 7th of December, 2013 at the monthly Women Breakfast Meeting of Woodcliff Community Reformed Church in North Bergen, New Jersey. Here is the transcript of my message. I pray it ministers to you as it did me and them.

I’m honoured to be in your presence today and I pray that you’d see less of me but more of God as we spend time discussing His Word. I bring greetings from my family and sisters at FRC Fort Lee and RCCG The King’s Court in Hackensack, they were to come with me today but other events took precedence. Today we will be reminding ourselves of how to study the Bible as we weave the beautiful story of Jesus Christ around the theme of Worship.

Let us pray. Father, I thank you for this opportunity to learn at your feet and grow thereby. As we enter into your Word, may we receive new life and understanding through which we will grow in the light of your Word in Jesus name.

How many of us do personal Bible Study or what some call quiet time or time alone with God or time with Jesus? We need to. It is required of us and I am happy to let us know it can be simple and enriching. So what do we need? First a willing spirit to know Him more and yield to being taught by Him. Secondly, time and space to be alone. Thirdly, resources e.g. The Bible, Bible Guide, Jotter, Pen and if you are not new to study, a concordance.

How do we go about it? First you plan (if using a guide just determine the best location and time for what you plan to do. If not using a guide, you need a topic or what others have written about the topic of your choice). Then pray then proceed then pray again. By the close of your study, you need to meditate on what you have read, connect what you have read to you and those close to you, make a decision to live by what you have read and pray. I need someone to share her short study prayer with us. Thanks for sharing; for those who are new just understand that prayer is talk with God. This prayer can also be used as guide:

Dear Lord, as I try to learn about you and your commandments, may I seek the truth in all things. May I look upon the Bible as the authority that comes from you. May my heart be receptive to your truth, and may I have the courage to change my life when I am shown the truth. May I be honest and sincere in this study, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

Today our theme is Worship Jesus the King and our reference is Luke 2 and Matthew 1:18-2:23. As part of proceeding we need to read. May I ask us to read three verses each? For the purpose of this study, we’ll look at 4 salient points:

  1. The Prophetic Birth of Jesus
  2. The Call to Worship
  3. Worthy Worship for the King
  4. Invitation to Worship

If you are studying the Word of God with a guide, just prayerfully follow the guide. If without a guide, you can look up these themes via the concordance where you’d be directed to what to read or research ahead for what other credible resources have written.

The Prophetic Birth of Jesus
So how was the Birth of Jesus foretold? Let’s all read Daniel 9:24-25
God said the prophecy would begin “from the going forth (the issuing) of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem...” At the time God gave Daniel this prophecy, Israel was a slave nation under Babylon; however, God had foretold that the enslavement would last 70 years. This 70-year period was coming to a close; non-Jewish history records that the Medo-Persian emperor Artaxerxes issued such a decree on March 14, 445 B.C. Therefore, precisely 173,880 days from this day should bring us to some significant event in Jesus’ life which presented Him to the nation Israel as their Messiah.

If you study the book of Nehemiah, you will find the account of the Jewish pilgrimage to rebuild Jerusalem following King Artaxerxes’ decree. The prophet Nehemiah assumed charge of this rebuilding effort, which was carried out in such extreme hardship and danger that the builders carried swords with them as they built the walls. Thus was fulfilled precisely the prophecy in verse 25b, “ shall be built again with city square and moat, but in troublous times.” Nehemiah 4:17. God also foretold to Daniel the exact day on which Messiah was to announce Himself as King. The learned Magi knew of Daniel's prophecy and of his reputation of reliability in such matters. They knew the story recorded in Daniel, where their own Zoroastrian brethren had not been able to interpret the King's dream, but Daniel's God had revealed it to this Jewish prophet, and Daniel had used this information to save the lives of the Magi! To the Zoroastrians, Daniel was a phenomenal individual, one whom they had greatly respected in every generation of Magi since Daniel. Therefore, just prior to Jesus’ birth, they must have been buzzing with anticipation, because they knew they were living within the lifetime (approximately 30-40 years) of the completion of the specified time period. They knew that, if someone were to announce Himself as Messiah in just 30 years, he would have to be born then. So the Magi were actually looking for a sign. The Holy Spirit was also not leaving anything to chance, and was prompting their minds to anticipate and properly understand what they were about to observe.

The Call to Worship
Who were called to worship?
Astrologers! (Matthew 12:1) Star-seekers “from the east” probably Persia where the Jews were exiled many years earlier. Due to Daniel’s influence, these men were familiar with the Scripture’s predictions about a great leader who would be born in Bethlehem. They understood the times, seasons and believed the prophecy of Jesus’ birth. In the eyes of you and I, these were unworthy men; why should they be called to worship when they were not Christians. Let’s see what Luke 19:10 says: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” These seekers were busy in their career; they weren’t loafers, they weren’t lazy, they were focused on the aim of deriving meaning and wisdom from studying the stars. Today God still calls out to those who diligently seek the truth. Hebrews 11:6 says But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

So they were called to seek and directed to worship and adore Him. They did not seek to share, deny or usurp his power like Herod. How? They accepted what God showed them by means of a star that is different from all the stars they have studied so attentively. But how did they differentiate this star and knew it carried Messianic prophetic significance? Remember that the birth was foretold, not only in Daniel 9:24-25 but also Isaiah 9:6. They knew the times and understood the sign (Isaiah 7:14). Today God keeps calling those who are lost but not all those who are called yield. The Magi paid such attention to detail as is expected of us today, Amos 3:7 says, Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Though they went first to King Herod, the enemy who feigned interest to worship the King, their desire to worship in spirit and in truth made God reveal Herod’s real intention to them.

Worthy Worship for the King
What is worship and how did the Magi give worthy worship to the King?
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “Worship is first and foremost a verb, an action” (p.970). This is revealing because so many equate worship with either a place (usually a building) or a feeling. The underlying concept of worship in Scripture is that of service and homage consisting of both an attitude of deep respect and adoration to the one revered. Worship includes and involves highly regarding and then serving the one revered. Worship was laborious until Jesus came. A consecrated priest had to make sacrifice in a condoned off place sealed by a veil called Holy of Holies once a year and that was on the Day of Atonement, which the Jews still celebrate as Yom Kippur. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant with a cover on which sat the cherubim, which is referred to as the Mercy Seat. But following Jesus birth and ministry, He gave himself as a living sacrifice and the mode of worship changed. This change was shown to us following his birth by the Magi and again and again throughout his life. When Jesus said it is finished at death, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle split into two symbolizing the fact that we could now approach God directly since He paid the capital price with His own life Matthew 27:51. His blood replaced the sacrificial offering in the tabernacle. John 15:1-7 talks about the true vine… We can only worship God through Jesus Christ.

Worship is an internal decision that creates an attitude, which is acted outwardly. The Magi acted on what they heard from God by seeking Jesus. Matthew 6:33 say, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all other things would be added to you. As they sought, their knowledge, wisdom and understanding increased. Would they have sought Jesus if they didn’t believe He is King? No. What was their act of worship? They knelt and bowed; they fell on their faces, in humility and in reverence then they presented their gifts in gratitude and thanksgiving. Matthew 2:11 says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” The wise men are so called because they yielded to the call and acted to worship baby Jesus by making the journey bearing significant gifts, which suggests that they were being prompted by Daniel's prophecy, and fully understood the prophetic and religious implications of Jesus’ birth, ministry and death. Consider the gifts they presented to Jesus:

  1. Gold - Daniel said in 9:25 that the coming Messiah would be a “prince”. This term denotes royalty. The most valuable metal of the time was the perfect gift for a king.
  2. Frankincense - God said in Exodus 30:34-36 that frankincense was to be prepared for the “purpose of sacrificial fumigation”. Jesus Christ was killed on Calvary as the Perfect Sacrifice, which would be acceptable to God to take away the sins of all who would accept it. Did Daniel's prophecy reveal this sacrificial aspect? Yes! In 9:26, God revealed that Messiah would be “cut off” meaning sacrificially killed. The priests also used frankincense during the regular service in the Temple; as such this gift could also point to Jesus Christ as a priest, whose office is known for service rather than being served (Matthew 20:28) and the ultimate High Priest, an office, which He assumed after His ascension into Heaven.
  3. Myrrh - The Jews used Myrrh as a burial spice for embalming and to mask the odor of decay. John 19:39-40. This gift foreshadows Jesus’ divine mission of giving His life to bring salvation to mankind.

But their worship did not end there, as they left the King of kings they defended him by not returning to the enemy. They also continued to talk about their experience, which we can call witnessing – Matthew 28:19-20 enjoined us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. The Magi who were also referred to as shepherds made their experience a matter of public confession and praise. They returned, glorifying and praising God, in concurrence with the holy angels. If others would not regard the report they made to them, God would accept the thanksgivings they offered to Him. They praised God for what they had heard from the angel, and for what they had seen, the babe in the manger, as it had been spoken to them. They thanked God that they had seen Jesus Christ, though in the depth of his humiliation.

Invitation to Worship
How well do we defend the King in our life?
True Worship rests in believing and accepting that Jesus is Holy. My dear sisters, we can’t afford to believe or accept Him with pride but with the spirit of submission, obedience and reverence. The Magi worshipped. Today, there is a demand placed on us to worship and adore him. Worship is all about who Jesus is and Christmas is all about Jesus. Seeing what the Magi did, can we say that we are worshipping God the way we should? We need to note that, it is not only sin that can separate us from God; our levity in worshipping Him can also create a bridge between the King and us. Remember Cain. Do we join others to say Happy Holidays or we defend our King in worship by retaining the true meaning of Christmas – proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ and worshipping the King in spirit and in truth.

The Magi did not think themselves older than a baby; they sought with purity of heart. They did not consider themselves experts; they humbled themselves and acknowledged their limitations. They may have done something wrong – sinned, by going to Herod first but they came to a point of realization and knew not to return to that sin. They accepted the grace of being led to find Jesus by the divine act of God, the grace of salvation, which offered them genuine peace, security and joy. They found all these when they found Jesus.

To truly rejoice at this Christmas time, one must view the event through the eyes of faith, like Mary and Joseph, the shepherds of old, the Magi from the east, and a handful of others. We must look beyond appearances, and see the reality. Appearance made it seem like Jesus was conceived in fornication but reality is that the birth of Jesus was via divine conception.  We must understand the event in terms of the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures and in the light of the revelations given at the time of His birth.

Some are neutral towards Jesus, interested in their own goals of giving and receiving of gifts and unconcerned with the miraculous story of Christ’s birth. Others are hostile toward the name of Jesus and all it represents. A few will truly worship Him this season. I pray that like the wise men, you will fall on your face before the King and adore Him with all your heart. Set aside all the busyness and festivities of the season and make time to honor Him with your life and words. Let the beautiful story of Christ’s birth motivate you to worship the One who died so that you might have eternal life. The wisest thing the Magi did was worship; will you worship the sovereign God.

Sing: All Hail the Power of Jesus name…

Sisters, our circumstances does not change the fact that we were created to worship and worship is His due. When I lost my mother recently, I wondered why it was necessary to continue to devote time to praying because I had prayed so much yet God’s will overruled mine in the area of keeping my mother alive. Her absence in body caused me so much pain such that instead of words I had and still have tears. But one thing is certain, how I feel does not change the fact that worship is due to The Redeemer and my being has not being able to stop worshipping The King. In spite of where we are on the journey of faith, He demands our worship. If you would like to give your life to Jesus or rededicate your life to His worship, please stand where you are and place your right hand on your chest as we pray together – Dear Lord, we come humbly to you afresh, we ask for your forgiveness and your love. Please blot out our transgressions and renew our fellowship with you. Take over the affairs of our lives so that we may reign here on earth and there with you in eternity. Help us to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more closely day by day. Guide us to grow in you. In Jesus name we have prayed. (If you made that commitment, please endeavor to see any of the ministers or leaders for guidance on walking in faith.)

As we close, may we bow our heads for prayer:

Dear God, we thank you for the grace to learn and grow. As we continue our faith journey, help us to worship and defend you as truly as we should. In doing so, help us to draw others to you so we can expand the community of those who can share the joy and beauty of salvation. I pray that God’s love would continually be available to us as we grow in the area of doing His will. Thank you for all the beautiful women gathered here; you know ours hearts, you see our pain, help us to believe in your Word and truly accept your loving arms and live daily knowing that your grace is sufficient for us. In Jesus name I pray.

Thank you and God bless.