Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Know that you are a beloved daughter of God


All women in God's kingdom ought to know this indestructible truth, namely that they are beloved daughters of Yahweh. To your heavenly Father, favoured one, you are forever a season of summer fruits and never a twig of dampened November. In his eyes you are a full grown flower, a delicate lilly, a colourful bright dress and a radiant star. It is him who puts his words in your mouth and covers you in the shadow of his hands declaring merrily and happily to all his hosts that 'you are his adorable heiress.'

Wake yourself O daughters of Yahweh, you who have drunk from the hands of a lack of self-worth and ugliness. You who have seized to lift your head because of shame, wake up from your slumber. Cease from your famine in understanding your own preciousness and prettiness. Awake, for your Father is at hand to console you, yea, to welcome you infinitely more readily than any man ever could.

Cease your weeping. I understand that your tears have their origins in the pain that runs through the fibres of your very being. You have been betrayed, the words were all lies. O how keenly you did try to reinvigorate your-self, but all to no avail. You are a broken vessel, a mere piece of scattered clay. This is what the world has done to you, man has left you on your blemished knees. O now remove your hands from your covered face, hide not like Eve but like a little girl, yes a little princess, crawl on your father's lap and weep your tears there. After a while, after a little time, sleep on his chest and begin to feel the enormity of his love for you.

When you have awakened after he has rested your soul, he has left on his table a refreshing cup of grace. He would have you drink it fully, leaving no traces left for there is more for tomorrow. Come now and drink, erase the miseries of your past, wipe out the guilt of your transgressions and have the Spirit that allows you to forgive those who have done you wrong do his reconciling work.

O pretty girl, if your Father has taken the time to clothe the flower of the fields, how will he not take more time to cloth you and ensure that your beauty surpasses that of the flowers? He is the only artist worthy enough to paint you accurately. I am not worthy for I am a man with my own sins, but his Christ, your older brother is the artist qualified to paint you. And now come into his room, he has painted you. Do you see your complexion, do you notice that he has blotted out all of your darkening lines, he has replaced them with the light of the morning. See, see the amazing love for you and shall you now scoff at it by rejecting such unfathomable love. O do not be a Jezebel. Be a Mary. Be the face of innocence and purity. Accept it on the grounds that He has decided, yea elected you to be such a fine specimen. It his him who beautifies you.

Remember how God spoke of Israel when he passed by her and saw her wallowing in her own blood. Before he cast upon her an eye of mercy, no eyes before pitied her. All launched stones at her and joined in with her cursed refrain of ugliness and worthlessness. But God came by her and bid her to live. He came by her and made her flourish like a plant of the field. He entered into a covenant with her and clothed her with embroidered cloth. In gentle love he wrapped her in fine linen. She was adorned and grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Israel became a queen and her renown went forth among the nations because of her beauty, for it was perfect through the splendour that God bestowed on her.

But Israel forgot her king and lingered on her own beauty defiling herself again. But with you daughters of the new covenant I have a better hope. A surer beauty that grows from grace to grace and perfected at once in Christ Jesus, your eternal husband. I have a better hope because of him who has promised. I would do you a great insult if I was to attribute your perseverance to your own feminine strength. That is a pressure you were not made to bear. All the strains is on Christ, yea your cross of deliverance and final perfections is all placed on the back of Christ. He carries it for you and of him we have no need to worry for he is the ultimate hero of God. It was him who slain that humanity hating beast and death. It was him who propelled all your sins into the abyss of eternal fire. He has won the victory and your perseverance is not a difficult task for him to perform as to make you and I worry. Nay, it is in his hands, therefore worry has no more hold. Now dear daughter, loved and cherished, enamored and adorned, fragranced with Christ sweet ever pleasing righteousness, lie and rest in his greener pasture. Know that you are a beloved daughter of Yahweh, the glorious King and majestic God of all the universe. 

K.Oni

I knew a sad boy

I once knew a sad boy who asked his father this question. "Is it right father for people to mourn the loss of a girl they loved even though she is still alive? Because in hearing that she is now married, I hardened my heart in order to keep back the tears. But every time I go by the harbor to sit at the mouth of the river, nature warms my soul breathing a softness to my character which makes me think favorably about her. When this feeling is upon me I harden myself and leave my spot of comfort and engage in some disinterested flirting. But I have come to realise through mother's words that I loved her more than I knew, and I must let my sadness come to the horizon, to spill through my eyes for a day or so and then I shall find my feelings over. But I fear father, that as you still mourn for the loss of Billy that I shall mourn forever concerning her."

K.Oni

Making Room for Atheism


Our church exists “to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” That is our mission. “All things” means business, industry, education, media, sports, arts, leisure, government, and all the details of our lives.

Ideally this means God should be recognized and trusted as supreme by every person he has made. But the Bible teaches plainly that there will never be a time before Jesus comes back when all people will honor him as supreme (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

So how do we express a passion for God’s supremacy in a pluralistic world where most people do not recognize God as an important part of their lives, let alone an important part of government or education or business or industry or art or recreation or entertainment?

Answer: We express a passion for the supremacy of God...

1) by maintaining a conviction at all times that God is ever-present and gives all things their most important meaning. He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Governor of all things. We must keep in our minds the truth that all things exist to reveal something of God’s infinite perfections. The full meaning of everything, from shoestrings to space shuttles, is the way they relate to God.

2) by trusting God in every circumstance to use his creative, sustaining, governing wisdom and power to work all things together for the good of all who love him. This is faith in the future grace of all that God promises to be for us in Jesus.

3) by making life choices that reveal the supreme worth of God above what the world values supremely. “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). So we will choose to die rather than lose sweet fellowship with God. This will show his supremacy over all that life offers.

4) by speaking to people of God’s supreme worth in creative and persuasive ways, and by telling people how they can be reconciled to God through Christ, so that they can enjoy God’s supremacy as protection and help, rather than fear it as judgment.

5) by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order — not because pluralism is his ultimate ideal, but because in a fallen world, legal coercion will not produce the kingdom of God. Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths), not because commitment to God’s supremacy is unimportant, but because it must be voluntary, or it is worthless. We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism. “If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight” (John 18:36). The fact that God establishes his kingdom through the supernatural miracle of faith, not firearms, means that Christians in this age will not endorse coercive governments — Christian or secular.

This is why we resist the coercive secularization implied in some laws that repress Christian activity in public places. It is not that we want to establish Christianity as the law of the land. That is intrinsically impossible, because of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is rather because repression of free exercise of religion and persuasion is as wrong against Christians as it is against secularists.

We believe this tolerance is rooted in the very nature of the gospel of Christ. In one sense, tolerance is pragmatic: freedom and democracy seem to be the best political order humans have conceived.

But for Christians it is not purely pragmatic: the spiritual, relational nature of God’s kingdom is the ground of our endorsement of pluralism, until Christ comes with rights and authority that we do not have.

By John Piper
Originally published in A Godward Life (Multnomah, 1997)

Monday, 29 April 2013

Book review: Getting your husband to talk to you


If you wish that your husband will talk to you – or talk to you more often- or talk to you on a deeper level then this book is for you. What it offers are principles and techniques that the authors claim has worked time and time again in getting husbands who typically don’t talk – or don’t talk much – to begin sharing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions with their wife.

In one of the stories told about a wife's complaint to Bob (one of the authors) that her husband won't talk, she challenged Bob to see if he could get her husband to talk and then remarked that “It won't do any good.” Bob decided to take her up on her dare to see if he could get the woman's husband to talk. Bob met up with the woman's husband and to his surprise the man began to talk and for the next thirty minutes Bob realised that he had said less than a dozen words. Wondering why the guy's wife had made such accusation that he wouldn't talk, Bob mused that perhaps maybe there aren't any men who cant talk. Maybe there are only some men who have never been listened to.

The book is full of these kind of stories, advice which the author have given and as a result bore real fruit.

The authors offer seven reasons why men won't talk to their wives and I'll list just a few. Buy the book when it comes out to read the rest and the reasons why the authors have chosen these seven reasons why men won't talk to their wives. The reasons below are not listed in numerical order as it is in the book:

1. Men don’t talk because they are afraid of their thoughts and ideas will be criticized and rejected.
2. men don’t talk because they do not believe they are as verbally skilled as their wives.
3. Men don’t talk because they don’t want to appear emotionally weak.
4. Men don’t talk because they don’t believe that they will be listened to.

This book emphasises the necessity for a wife to have a listening ear. A wife needs to take the advice James gave to his community when he wrote, “my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Every one should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” This is because words are little pieces of a woman's soul and women would rather talk just to talk but men will talk if they are already doing something else. A wife who has a silent husband at home will need to understand this and perhaps join her husband in doing activities that he likes to do.

As well as listening, asking the right questions is instrumental in getting one's husband to talk. Always start with questions people are comfortable to talk about. A good practical advice I believe that is commendable for all situations.

The next quotation comes with an 18+ warning. 'Many wives have long desired for their husbands to understand the vital place of foreplay in preparing them to engage in sexual intimacy. One of the most common complaints wives have is, “he is so eager to reach the main event for him that he doesn't take the time to bring me along with him”. In a similar manner, your husband requires conversational foreplay in order to respond to your desire for a deeper discussion.'

Ask him questions that he is comfortable with. Do not be eager to 'reach the main event' of heart to heart conversation. Take the time to bring him along. This is an advice I personally will heed to when conversing with men in relation to discipleship and mentoring.

Bob and Cheryl Moeller suggest seven questions that can reach his heart. I will list a few. 1. What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job? 2. Who is the one person you admire most and why? 3. What’s the best compliment anyone ever paid you?

This book does not shy away from addressing heart issues like sin. A women is not always to be blamed for her husband's silence and likewise a wife needs to examine her own heart so that she is not harboring bitterness towards her husband due to his emotional neglect of her communicative needs. Bitterness writes the married couple 'is a settled decision not to forgive, and it builds enormous walls in relationships.' If your husband senses that you still hold things against him and won't forgive him of his past mistakes then he is going to keep silent or not want to talk to you. 'Bitter roots produce bitter fruits in a marriage.'

On a more lighter note, 'make food and men will arrive. We have often jokingly (actually not so jokingly) tell single women interested in attracting a man that one of the most effective strategies involves just one word: food. “make it and they will come.”

At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions to talk through which indicates that this book is available for small-group use.

I am not a husband and not a wife so what did I gain from reading this book and why did I continue to read it? First of all this book is beneficial to both genders in two ways. 1. Most of the advice offered are suitable for both genders and it is rooted in scripture and experience. 2. One day if the Lord wills, I too will become a husband unless my portion is that of Christ and Paul of which I am content with. O to be like Christ in every way and of that apostle who was born at an untimely hour. As a husband I will understand the necessity of opening my heart to my dear sweet Christ saturated wife and of the greatness my conversation nourishes her feminine want for dialogue. I will spot quickly the faults in me of why I am neglecting her and spot the lame faults in her which have created a barrier in me. Also in addition, I can offer advice to husbands in keeping them accountable whether they are neglecting this vital duty of communication with their God ordained wives.

If you have a silent husband or if you are single and want to understand issues in marriage to do with communication, I beseech you to buy this book when it comes out. It offers godly advice and does not shy away in dealing with sin. It offers the gospel.


K.Oni

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Hope is the anchor of the soul


Hope is the anchor of the soul

How is hope the anchor of the soul?

I shall tell you by way of a story.

Hope by definition is believing things that are yet unseen, things which are promised, rooted on unshakable grounds but are yet to come. By way of story I shall use Jesus Christ as an example.

Jesus Christ was soon to die for that was the reason why he came. At one time, towards the end of his ministry he set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem. He was resolved, knowing that he was condemned to die by his loving Father and his treacherous enemies. When the night came, yea, that awful black night, Judas approached that garden filled with the tears of the Son of God. Judas saw Jesus, and having Satan as the king of his wretched life, he drew near to the stable Christ and kissed him with his disingenuous lips. He kissed him and thus effectively crucified him. Christ, knowing Judas to be a devil from the start yet called him a friend. What a love! This is heavenly love for day after day Christ had fellowship with Judas and no days were contaminated with bitterness for Christ knew no sin. Finally they took Christ away, they scourged him, walloped him and at last crucified him. But our dear bruised Christ had a hope, he had a hope in God his pater (father) that he was able to deliver what was promised to him. It is said that for the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God. As it is written in proverbs 10:8 'the hope of the righteous brings joy.' Christ hope brought him much joy and it was I say the reason why he was able to endure. 

Hope anchored his soul to stay on that cursed cross. Love sustained him. Dear saint do you have this hope in your soul? Do you have contained within you that hope of the righteous? Can you endure whatever flame may blow your way because you possess hope? If you have not then turn your eyes to heaven and pray until you receive from him who gives good gifts, the hope of Christ. Ask and ask away. Knock until the door is open. Say to him that will he let you perish without this hope, if so then how can my life be to his praise and glory. Tell him that you will to dance in his salvation and without this hope my faith will only look like Job in all of his miseries. 

I pray for you to have this heavenly hope. For it is this hope which is Christ himself who has entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. There your Christ dwells. 

K.Oni

No pleasure for Christ for those who are out of Christ


It is true that there is no pleasure in music for those who cannot 

hear and there is no awe of the grand canyon for those who cannot 

see; likewise there is no love, joy, gladness for Christ for those who

have no knowledge of the glory of God as seen in the face of Jesus 

Christ in their hearts. 


K.ONI

A prayer for my soul - Let these dead bones live


Can these dead bones live? O God, in the church there are many dead bones - I wish it were not true but it is. Can they live, can they live - yes they can for you God is able to make them live. So we prophesy over them Sovereign Lord, we prophesy over them to come alive, that there be an awakening in your church which then spreads to the streets, to the community, to the nations that people all across Bristol will flood into churches that are yours, singing praises to you God and thanking you for the cross. I can pray this prayer for Christ said to one of the seven churches, that 'you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains', he said. I thank you for those awakened, who are engaged in spreading the renown of Christ in the land, doing good works which gives glory to you God our Father. O cause many more to follow in that Calvary footstep, dying to our wills, dying to self and bearing fruit. Let us not seek the applause of the world, we desire a better noble affirmation and word of Christ when he shall say, ‘well done my faithful servant, enter into my everlasting joy’. 

K.Oni

Miscellanies 75: DO NOT FORGET GOD


Oh my soul, do not be quick to forget the great deeds of the Lord, do not hasten to seek counsel elsewhere when he works not according to our time. Let us wait for him. Even when we see the enemies in front of our eyes, and they plunder and take us to Egypt. In our captivity our eyes shall be closed and daily found on our knees, mourning in prayer waiting for his steadfast counsel, for he is our shepherd and we know that without doubt that he is good. He will not leave us to burn in the fire, and even though we burn, he remembers us and has prepared for us a home. For it is written the just shall live by faith. 

K.Oni

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Are these false teachers?

I wonder if you consider these people to be false teachers of the gospel? Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum and Paul Crouch.

Don't worry I didn't group these names together but Shai Linne, a Christian rapper did in one of his songs from his album called false teachers. You can listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4WevY-GPU

There's been all kinds of reaction and one of the son of the women mentioned by Shai Linne as being a false teacher responded to Linne's accusation of calling his mother a heretic. Click the link to read Paula White's son open letter to Shai Linne. http://wadeoradio.com/paul-white-ministries-responds-to-shai-linnes-fale-teacher-song/

Proverbs 18:17 tells us that the one who stakes his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. This is an advice that all who are friends with wisdom do well to heed.

Shai Linne responded to Bradley's (Paula White's son) letter. Read here: http://wadeoradio.com/shai-linne-responds-to-paula-white-ministries-open-letter/


Would you name anyone has being a false teacher today? Do you even care. 

Theology matters folk and what you (we) teach can either glorify God or be blasphemy to his name. 

Paul gave a charge to Timothy that we will do well to follow. Paul said, 'Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for in so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,' 1 Tim 4:16. 

Women of the Bible: Delilah


The life of Delilah as one Christian writer puts it indicates that for beauty, personal charm, mental ability, self-command, nerve, she was quite a wonderful woman, a woman to be admired for some qualities which she exhibits, even while she is to be utterly disapproved.

She is to be outright disapproved because she was a 'mistress of the art of feigning love in spite of being quite untouched at heart.' The words of Solomon in the book of proverbs of the necessity of one inclining one's ears to wisdom and being attentive to understanding was almost missing from what we know of Samson's life in regards to an ungodly woman's course. The lips of a forbidden woman Solomon tells us drips honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end it is bitter as wormwood, or to bring the phrase more home to us, it is as bitter as eating a piece of log found amidst dogs faeces.

We know from the narrative (Judges 16) that Samson fell prey to Delilah's smooth words, her enticing lips and goddess like beauty were all exercised to the end of her desires which is money. Before we dive deep into Delilah's ungodly ways and the way she slew the anointed of God, let us paint a picture of Samson for it was because of his remarkable weakness for a woman's charm that Delilah is forever etched in the pages of Scripture.

Samson is the hero of God but can hardly be portrayed as an example to follow. Before his conception, he was to be set apart to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Divine instructions were given to his parents that no razor should come upon his head.The strength of Israel’s salvation was to be rooted in Samson's hair. If Israel was to be saved by Samson's hand then obedience was necessary on the part of his parents and eventually of Samson himself.

Samson had one fundamental sin. He could not rebuff a woman's charm. He was a man that opened himself to the lust of his heart. His election to embrace a woman was dictated by his eyes. If she was beautiful, if his eyes agreed so does his heart, despite all the counsels that bids him that such ways will lead him astray. Seeing a daughter of the Philistines in Timnah, Samson was immediately awed by her, so much so that he commanded his parents to go and fetch her to make him his wife. Parental guidance sought to avert him from such a path, but Samson settled that 'she was right in his eyes' and thus was resolved to adopt for no other. He was to have his uncircumcised bride and by uncircumcised we mean that she was not an Israelite. Even in Gaza Samson used a harlot in order to satisfy his desires. Such was the ways of the man that it is not surprising that his end should come at the hands of a forbidden woman.

We are first introduced to Delilah as a woman that Samson loved who lived in the Valley of Sorek. I suspect that she was a friend of the Philistines and known by them, for after they noticed that Samson's heart had been captured by Delilah, they came at once to her as the individual who could execute successfully their evil plans. In loving Delilah Samson ushered in his death. Her honey dripping lips will finally bring about his ruination.

Delilah loved money; and for a pretense in displaying love as to having true affections, she is willing to play the actress. “Seduce him,” asked the Philistines “and find out where his great strength lies and we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver”. This was a far greater price than what Judas sold his Christ for but both had the same treacherous heart, namely a love for money. To bring down one man who so foolishly was already eating breadcrumbs from her hands was a worthy sacrifice for her reward which will forever give her a life of luxury. Resolved to betray Samson, Delilah inaugurated her script.

At first she said plainly, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one can subdue you.” Samson played the part and three times consecutively he kept hidden from her the secret of his strength. Feeling that Samson had not fallen yet completely to her to reveal his secret, she unleashed her choicest bait. She pretended writes one author that she had been neglected and trifled with by an unrequiting love. From her enticing lips she said, “How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” What a hypocritical women that she dared say to Samson that 'how can you say that you love me when your heart is not with me.' What a serpent! Is her heart with Samson? Nay, it is for money, it is for gain; and for the treasures of this world she is willing to kill a man. Indeed, although Samson was not slain by her hands yet his death was all to obvious when he 'told her all his heart.'

At this revelation she called up the Philistines whom she had kept hidden in an inner chamber to take away their spoil of war. Before the Philistines took him away, she made Samson sleep on her knees and tormented him. What a wicked woman! Wicked Delilah, O wicked Delilah blessed with beauty and charm only to use it for destruction. And is this not the heart of many women today. Their feminine beauty is but an asset to trap a man. Outwardly they profess to be angels but inwardly their heart is no different to the devil's.

Men be careful of a pressing women for Delilah too pressed Samson until his soul was vexed to death. Be wise in your choice, for a woman can so weaken you that you even give up your Christ for her. For there are many sad testimonies of a once believer who threw the faith into the trash in order to pursue a woman that he loved. And of course such women may have nothing of Delilah's character; and according to general morals these women may be very good, and thus shame only need be proclaimed upon that once believing man who threw it all away in order to kiss the lips of a woman.

A man ought to pour out his heart to his wife but be sure O man that she is made of trusting materials. Give all that is in your heart to a gossiping woman and you shall find the deep things of your heart scattered throughout the land; but say them to a trustworthy wife and she shall keep them locked up in her chamber until the day of her death.

When Delilah had sleeping Samson on her knees, Samson lost his hair, and with them lost God in him. 'Lust, severing from God the source of strength, makes the strongest powerless; only by waiting on the Lord, we, like Samson, renew the strength which was lost by self-indulgence and self-reliance.'

Delilah knew no remorse. Her job was accomplished and I imagine that Samson will not remain in her thoughts only on the cool evening musings that this poor Nazarite was the reason for her gain. But I must stay my pen and not condemn Delilah too severely for he who is without sin let them launch the first stone.

The evil of lust and perhaps the covetousness of riches is not too far from all of our hearts. David fell from his throne by committing adultery and Solomon, well Solomon had many wives and concubine which eventually led him astray from the living God. Samson is to be pitied and like God we ought to have mercy on each man or woman who have been led astray by the Delilah's of this world when they groan in repentance. And as a warming to women, restrain from the path of Delilah, do not sell love for money, do not play the part of the harlot. Do not use your feminine appeal to serve sinful ends but rather use it to glorify God.

K.Oni


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Do you worry about your soul


Are you a person that worries about your soul? And do you care that you are getting old. 
Do you ever wonder why you are here – or do you believe you will forever live among the fields of gold.
Little child this is not the time to cry, so save your tears for when you start to see your friends die, 
And when that girl no longer sings your lullaby,
Are you a person that worries about your soul? 
Do you believe in life after death, or do you believe in death after life, 
Are you the kind to sing under the rain, or the kind to stay inside when the sun shines, 
Whatever you may be, do you worry about your soul? 
Do you even know what it is, do you know where it is. 
I can tell you for a little smile, that your soul cannot be so sold for all that this world is worth and more, 
I am sure you have tried to sell it once, for something you yourself don’t even know, 
Your soul is the reason why you live, but slowly without God's Spirit it is hard to breathe.   
Do you worry about your own soul? 

K.Oni


Psalm 84: An exposition


In the rule of the old dispensation, God's dwelling place, his choice of manifestation was in the tabernacle, in the temple built by human hands. The psalmist fathomed that the LORD of host was to be found there, therefore this whole Psalm consists of his longing and praises for those whose dwellings are in the house of Yahweh.

My prayer for the church under the new covenant, where the temple has been violently rend asunder and God may now be found in their midst wherever and whenever the sheep gathers, is that such longings and obsession be established for Yahweh’s presence may exhaust their souls.

How exceedingly the psalmist loved the dwelling place of Yahweh is a love which we must all admire. Vs. 1 How lovely is your dwelling place. The word lovely signifies that the psalmist views God's dwelling place as a place of beauty that appeals to the heart and mind as well as to the eye. Where God dwells expresses the psalmist elsewhere is a most lovely and refreshing of all places. There my heart is glad and comforted and God gives them drink from the river of his delights. The location of worship, namely God’s dwelling place, which is the abode where God decided to make his earthly footstool is the best place for this psalmist to abide. He longs for this habitation so much so that Vs. 2 his soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD. Here we are witnessing a heart that truly seeks the presence. The psalmist wants God so immeasurably that he begins to faint because he is exhausted with delay. He mourns his lot that he must wait until the day of worship, that he must wait until the Sabbath or for the appointed feast, and for the end of his miserable exile. But his reverent soul is thirsty now, his eyes are ravenously eager to feast upon the beauty of the Lord. His desires are deep and insatiable that his heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

That my dear reader is the psalmist whole nature. His body and spirit sing exceedingly, they sing delightfully in a harmonious chorus, they sing excitedly for joy in the living God. Communion my dear mortal with the LORD of host is the psalmist source of pleasure. A reflection on Yahweh sends his soul into a universe of delight. Will you not too dear Christian bring your soul and flesh to sing for joy to the living God? Have you no comprehension on how awesome he is and how incalculably majestic? How beautiful? How holy and how lovely? One does not anticipate one who was born blind to marvel at the harmony of the colours of the rainbow, but one does expect poets to make the rainbow their choice of discourse when discussing signs of heavenly beauty. They ought to be quick and can never be swift enough to praise the colourful beauty of the rainbow. Likewise, the saint can never arise early enough or sleep late enough to praise the colours of God’s surpassing beauty and excellencies.

Vs. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Our God's holiness is not the kind that will not allow nature to lodge in his dwelling place. For such is the loveliness of God's courts and welcoming aroma that the sparrow and the swallow find it a safe place to dwell and lay their young. These animals know instinctively that this is the warmest place for their children to hatch and grow. Under this divine light thinks the swallow that her young will receive the comforting love of the divine being, who clothes them and grants them their daily food. The psalmist fantasises that his lot was like the sparrow, namely to make his home there in God’s dwelling place undisturbed. But his worship has been tampered with because he is a wandering exile. The psalmist longs, yea eagerly desires to be reunited to the courts of Yahweh.

Vs. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! The psalmist here had in mind those blessed priests and Levites whose occupation was forever to sing praises to Yahweh. We are told in 2Ch 5:11-14 that the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever," the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

Can you see why the psalmist observed them blessed? Who would not be blessed if the presence of God was their daily sight as he does his work? O God let the church be filled with your glory; bring the cloud so that the minister may not be able to stand to minister and your people will be awed by your presence.
In the rule of the old covenant, the privileges of those who may constantly dwell in the house of God were limited to a few. All of Israel could not enjoy such daily felicity. But there was another way where the same blessedness (in regards to being considered blessed) as the priest and Levites enjoyed was open equally to all, namely those who put their strength in God; whose hearts are the highway to Zion. Isaiah tells us that those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. This is indeed a blessed disposition! It is these who shall descend the hills of Zion without feeling the weariness of the journey. Their joy shall rise from one degree to another. As the Psalmist will later write, they go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. Their hearts are the highways to Zion, namely that in their souls is contained great affections, exceeding merriment, vivid remembrance of the path to Zion. No man who have not this desire, this aptitude for worship can in no degree know the way to Zion, nay he shall have no desire to tread upon the holy hill. But those whose hearts have longed, and fainted, who are in desperate need to have their zeal for worship quenched, recognize and remember the paths in which they must take to Zion, God's tabernacle.

This pilgrim's walk towards their beloved destination and the journey is sweetened by company. A man may go alone to worship God but when it is accompanied with brothers and sisters who share the same desire for worship, it is doubly sweetened. There is a holiness in their journey, a shifting of atmosphere in their treading. Vs. 6 For as they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs. This is to purport that as they journey through the valley of Baca they make it a most lovely habitat. It is as if they bid farewell to death and usher in life. Dead flowers begin to rise, dry grounds begin to overflow with water. Birds who have longed abandoned this valley return; and the sky which has permanently judged it unworthy of its rain and sunshine commence to smile upon it once again. All this occurs because those who have embalmed the gospel on their feet and the praises of God in their hearts have walked by it and brought life to it. Such is the life given Spirit of Jehovah. Hence the saying of our Lord, ‘You are the light of the world.’

The joy of God in the soul wipes away all tears, likewise the light of Christ dispels all darkness. Are you currently in the Valley of Baca, a place where you have no happiness and comfort? Do you have much sorrow and troubles? Fear not little one and pace towards a minister or a brother who has much joy for worship in their soul and bid them to pray for you. Bid them to tell you about the coming sunshine of heaven which will soon guzzle the darkness of this earth away. Inform them to linger on the goodness of the gospel, communicate to them, and yea transmit to them to say much about God's love for you and how Christ will wipe away all tears. O may the early mercy of God fill your dryness with pools of joy. May you rise from your valley of Baca and rest on Christ green pasture.

The pilgrim’s journey is filled with praise; and as the days give entrance to the night of their reception, their praises rise higher and higher. Their conversation is sweetened, their hearts heightened, Vs. 7 they go from strength to strength as each one knows that soon they shall be found in the temple of God, and thus each one appears before God in Zion.  O what a moment when that travelling saint arrives! He sees with eyes of faith a Father surrounded by numerous angels glad that his son his present to worship him and the believer falls flat on his face with a heart full of gladness and awe. What a ceremony takes place. Imagine the reception that awaited Christ when he anew stepped on that heavenly shore. One can see the Father sprint from his throne to embrace his resurrected Son. Christ must have been embarrassed with the many kisses that met him, nevertheless the Father rejoiced and thus called for an eternal feast. How much the Father’s eyes must had stared upon that empty throne when His Son was on earth that He who was always by his side was no longer there for a brief period. Yet the Father was glad, and that exceedingly that His precious Son was here below to do his will. And how glad ought we to be that Christ made it possible for God’s dwelling place to be in our hearts.

The Psalmist laying down his reflections and fondness of those who have the privileges to go to the LORD's dwelling place, now glanced up to the heavens to propose a petition. Vs. 8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give hear O God of Jacob! It is as if the psalmist is saying, look upon my miserable conditions, see how my soul faints, give ears to my petitions, let me once again go through the Valley of Baca and rest upon your alters. Please Jehovah hear my cry, feel my desperation and keep your covenant with Israel by returning them to their promised land where they can enjoy your full fellowship in the temple. This is the psalmist cry, this is what he wants the Lord of host to hear. For he himself is an exile and cannot enjoy God as those whose luxury is to remain in God's temple.

Vs. 84:9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! God is the undisputed shield of Israel, he is the reason that Israel are still in existence today and he is the sole reason that they will remain so until all his promises towards that blessed race is fulfilled. Deu 33:29 says, happy are you, O Israel! who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph. And in Genesis 15:1, the LORD himself said to Abraham in a vision: "fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." God is the incontestable shield of Israel. Thus one can render this verse to say, Behold our God, O God. But some may not find this convincing and argue that the psalmist has in mind the king of Israel or perhaps Israel as a whole to mean the shield. The case for this interpretation continues on the linear road that it makes not much sense for God to behold himself. The text reads awkwardly if that is the case and besides the next words in the verse directs God's gaze at the anointed one, therefore concluding that Israel’s king or Israel in general is what the psalmist has in view.  But I contest that this text could also be rendered, Behold, you are our shield, O God; therefore look on the face of your anointed. What the psalmist calls for is a favourable gaze, a sympathetic stare that arouses God to rise from his mighty throne to deliver Israel and its king.

The reason for this petition, this heartfelt cry for favour is so that God's people or rather this particular psalmist may spend a day in the courts of the lord as the psalmist himself declares Vs. 10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.  The lowest job in the kingdom of our Lord is better than the grandest job outside of it. I would rather wash the feet of the saints for all eternity in that golden city than to be found the king of hell. Let me have the ugliest clothes in the Kingdom than be adorn with the finest robes of the richest earthly king. Gladly I will forsake all comforts if I can rest my head on a rock in Christ's kingdom. Such is the difference in blessedness or rather the infinite degree of betterness in Christ’s Kingdom compared to the most fashionable kingdoms elsewhere. It is why our good Lord can say, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Vs. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. No good things does he withhold, that is nothing which can benefit the soul of the saint to forever marvel and declare the praises of God does he withhold. God is the generous giver. He is goodness itself. No being can out-give God. And we read in the letter to the Ephesians that, blessed be the God our Father who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavenly place. And what spiritual blessings as he not blessed you with dear saint? It is nothing at all. It is all yours in Christ Jesus. He is your sun and shield. He is your shield from sin and he is your sun of righteousness which blots out all your sins and replaces it with everlasting righteousness. He bestowed favour on you when you did not ask it. For in as much as you are a Christian, born again, it was a favour that you did not request. It was first given to you and as all good child, you only thanked him afterwards. Although we may perceive that it was our asking that made us born again, (this is a good thing to ask for) yet those who are mature in the faith upon reflection will know that their choosing, their divine election was done and sealed before the foundation of the world. If you do not agree with me then you must take your dispute with the scriptures. Ephesians 1: 4 reads, ‘even as he chose in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.’

Vs. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! These are fitting words to end this psalm. For the psalmist has given testimony of the blessedness of those who are favoured to engage in God’s services by dwelling in his dwelling place, and also of the blessedness of those who find their strength in him and finally of the blessedness of those who trusts in him.

Let us be those who have a heart as this psalmist, who eagerly yearned to be found in the sanctuary of God so that our hearts may bath in that which it was made, namely to praise and worship God by enjoying him forever.

K.Oni

To find your smile

My life consists in 
Going to places
Where I can bring your Smile. 

AND

I am going to places
Where I can find your smile

K.Oni

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Miscellanies 74: This sweet church


I remember this sweet church, one of the first places where I received such nourishment from heaven, where my eyes flickered in ecstasy and at times all I could see was mist when my eyes opened after a deep communion with God. Returning to this sanctified community, I felt the love of the people. In seeing their faces, my heart warmed, with my soul inclining me that I must return here often, for the worship filled the depths of me, feeling the presence of the Spirit as I was deprived of in the past weeks. Also I met again a friend whom I was sure would have forgotten me but she remembered me and I had forgotten her.  

K.Oni

My sonata


My Love, 
Your eyes green like fluorescent grass on a tropical day.
Your hair curly and almost golden, 
Your sketch, utterly feminine, nutritioned in the Spirit’s joy. 
Your constitution quintessential.
My dear Love, 
The thesis of all my sonata, 
My fabulous rain. 
My loving sweet bride. 

K.Oni

Monday, 22 April 2013

Psalm 21: An exposition


This is a psalm full of praises to the Lord. The psalmist heart is captivated by the goodness of Yahweh, namely how God has blessed him and saved him.

David who penned this psalm begins with a thanksgiving; and the consequent verses all the way to vs. 5 details how God has blessed the psalter. Vs. 1 O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! Those who read the Psalm in their numerical order will notice that this psalm is a companion to the preceding psalm. The blessings asked for in the prior psalm are granted here, such as the granting of the king's heart's desire. David rejoices in God's great favour granted towards him; and what makes him marvel extremely, is the pleasure that God vs. 6 has made him most blessed forever. The means by which God makes glad forever the heart of David is with the joy of his presence. Is this not our inheritance my dear saints? Should not all our prayers end with this petition, namely for God to come and make us glad with the joy of his presence? What are you asking for to make you happy? If it is not God himself, then you have greatly erred. In his presence is fullness of joy. Only the divine face can infinitely chase away all your sorrows and make you glad ceaselessly.

After given thanks to God for such marvellous favour, David reassures his own soul of the benefits of his own trusts in the LORD, namely that vs. 7 through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. As long as God's love abounds for the king, his boundaries shall not be overthrown. God will keep all opposing powers away, he shall never let them destroy his beloved. The steadfast love of the Most High is the saint's consolation. In the hours of despair and misery, the saint must make this love his dwelling; for his healing will arise quickly and overflow. God's steadfast love is an ever present opportunity to rejoice and mock at all of the enemy’s inflicting blows. Nothing at all can separate thee from God's infinite love. It is eternal. Death cannot rent it asunder, eternity will never diminish it, and time will never dispense with it. As long as God continues to exist, the saints have this surety, namely this unmovable ground in the steadfast love of the Most High God.

Vs. 9-12 groups the enemies of the saints in a pitiful condition. Although the psalmist is speaking of God's enemies, yet anyone who opposes God is automatically an enemy of the saints i.e. the devil. The devil is not so much against the redeemed congregation as he is against God. And because the ekklesia is the masterpiece of God's work, the devil concentrates all of his energy in destroying it as to thwart the plans and work of God. But what a silly devil. What folly drives this immoral spirit? Perhaps the decadent spirit knows of his own impending doom, thus he strives to continue in his wicked ways, not comprehending the ways of renunciation. His anger ambitions him, his loathing fuels him, but when all is said and done, God will appear the victor, therefore the saints have nothing to fear except him who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell . For all the tears of the saints, yea, all the tears inflicted upon them by that scrupulous beast and all his host will be wiped away. None shall remain in that jar where God contains the weeping’s of his beloved. God's hand will recompense his saints by finding out all their enemies and make them as a blazed oven, swallowing them up in his wrath, consuming them with fire. No child of the wicked shall remain, they shall have no opportunity to breed for God will speedily appoint them their eternal portion. It is an awful condition to be found an enemy of God, for he is Almighty. No plans will succeed against him, therefore o foolish soul, cease from devising mischief against the Lord and his anointed ones, lay down your evil plans.

The Psalm finishes where it began, namely declaring praises to God and offering him thanksgiving. This is a practice we must all ensue. When we come to the end of our prayers let us not forget to thank God and exalt him. Vs. 13 Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. 

K.Oni



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What does it mean to be led to the cross?


What does it mean to be led to the cross?

It means that you have acknowledged your own brokenness and sinfulness and helplessness. You have relinquished any hope in your own good works of making you ever beautiful and acceptable to God your Father. You have seen the hideousness of sin and want no more to do with it. You have an open eyes knowing that it is no good to gain the world while you forfeit your soul. You are now walking up redemption's hill willing to count everything as loss. You want life, you crave forgiveness, you desire a righteousness not your own, an everlasting inheritance, a deep long hug from your father, acceptance, mercy, hope and love.

At the cross you fall on your knees, your precious Christ, the heavenly lamb taking all your sins and shame away. Eyes filled with gratitude knowing that on the cursed tree all your guilt was laid. And best of all, you see a willing Messiah, a king with no bitterness but with a heart full of gladness, happy that his bleeding blood on you can fall to wash away your filth so that you can be beautiful, pure, holy, and all those things which ravishes the heart of His Father.

You yourselves have been led to the cross, you will do well to lead others there too. Let us pray that many will walk up redemption's hill.

K.Oni

Book review: An introduction to Messianic Judaism


To love Jesus is to love him in the fullness of his divinity and humanity, and being a Jew is fundamental to his humanity. As Paul said, "Remember Yeshua the Messiah, raised from the dead, descend from David. This is my gospel."  

According to the authors, Introduction to Messianic Judaism is written primarily for rabbis and pastors, informed laity, undergraduate students, and seminarians in the messianic Jewish, mainstream Jewish, and gentile Christian world.

I am part of the Christian gentile world interested in the Messianic Jewish community, because after all, Christianity arose from a Messianic Jewish milieu. An understanding of Messianic Judaism can only help a gentile Christian understand their own faith better. 

This book comprises of a series of essays from a Messianic Jewish standpoint with the aim of bridging the gap between the Jewish people and the church, so that the church can better understand its origin and identity; and also that the Jewish people can embrace their messiah without forsaking their lives and calling as a Jew and continue their national duty before God.

Messianic Judaism is defined as a movement of Jewish congregations and congregation-like groupings committed to Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, renewed and applied in the context of the New covenant. This definition is different from the popular view that believes that a Messianic Jew refers to any Jewish believer in Yeshua.

What difference does this definition make for a gentile Christian? It makes all the difference because instead of encouraging Jews who embrace Jesus to discard their old Jewish practice, we are to encourage them because, ‘it is God’s desire for Jewish people not to assimilate, but to continue to be Jewish,’ p47. This does not mean that there are two churches because the faith that unites the Messianic Jewish community and gentile Christian Church is the faith in Yeshua. Therefore, 'together the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church constitute the ekklesia, the one Body of Messiah, a community of Jews and Gentiles who in their ongoing distinction and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.' p34

For further understanding on this relationship between Messianic Jews and the Gentile Christian world, one can turn to chapter 12,  where Daniel C. Juster, the executive director of Tikkun International, an international network of Messianic Jewish synagogues and emissaries describes the Messianic Jewish community’s relationship with their Gentile Christian Family. Dan Juster takes issue with the view of Christian supersessionism, the view that the church replaces Israel as God’s people. This view creates tension for Messianic Jews as they relate to the Gentile Christian world, therefore the best way to understand the Jewish Messianic movement’s perspective on their relationship with their Gentile Christian family is by the terms of interdependence and mutual blessing. This view is more acceptable to Jews today and more biblical, because it maintains God’s irrevocable covenant relationship with the Jewish people. Although there is one ekklesia, yet it exists in two distinguishable expressions.

There are other chapters of interest such as Messianic Jews and the Jewish world, and Messianic Jews and the land of Israel. Chapter 8 titled, Messianic Judaism and women presents Rachel Wolf’s first person perspective on women in the messianic Jewish community. Chapters 14 to 27 deals specifically with the Church and Messianic Judaism. 

Overall this book is a magnificent starting course that introduces the reader to the world of Messianic Judaism, highlighting what the main discussions are, and presenting sound biblical reasons why Messianic Jews should embrace their Jewish heritage.  

Buy introduction to Messianic Judaism: http://zondervan.com/9780310330639

K.Oni

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Mystery of Iniquity


It has been called the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. Of course, I’m referring to the classical problem of the existence of evil. Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill have argued that the existence of evil demonstrates that God is either not omnipotent or not good and loving — the reasoning being that if evil exists apart from the sovereign power of God, then by resistless logic, God cannot be deemed omnipotent. On the other hand, if God does have the power to prevent evil but fails to do it, then this would reflect upon His character, indicating that He is neither good nor loving. Because of the persistence of this problem, the church has seen countless attempts at what is called theodicy. The term theodicy involves the combining of two Greek words: the word for God,theos, and the word for justification, dikaios. Hence, a theodicy is an attempt to justify God for the existence of evil (as seen, for instance, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost). Such theodicies have covered the gauntlet between a simple explanation that evil comes as a direct result of human free will or to more complex philosophical attempts such as that offered by the philosopher Leibniz. In his theodicy, which was satired by Voltaire’s Candide, Leibniz distinguished among three types of evil: natural evil, metaphysical evil, and moral evil. In this three-fold schema, Leibniz argued that moral evil is an inevitable and necessary consequence of finitude, which is a metaphysical lack of complete being. Because every creature falls short of infinite being, that shortfall must necessarily yield defects such as we see in moral evil. The problem with this theodicy is that it fails to take into account the biblical ideal of evil. If evil is a metaphysical necessity for creatures, then obviously Adam and Eve had to have been evil before the fall and would have to continue to be evil even after glorification in heaven. 
To this date, I have yet to find a satisfying explanation for what theologians call the mystery of iniquity. Please don’t send me letters giving your explanations, usually focusing on some dimension of human free will. I’m afraid that many people fail to feel the serious weight of this burden of explanation. The simple presence of free will is not enough to explain the origin of evil, in as much as we still must ask how a good being would be inclined freely to choose evil. The inclination for the will to act in an immoral manner is already a signal of sin.
One of the most important approaches to the problem of evil is that set forth originally by Augustine and then later by Aquinas, in which they argued that evil has no independent being. Evil cannot be defined as a thing or as a substance or as some kind of being. Rather, evil is always defined as an action, an action that fails to meet a standard of goodness. In this regard, evil has been defined in terms of its being either a negation (negatio) of the good, or a privation (privatio) of the good. In both cases, the very definition of evil depends upon a prior understanding of the good. In this regard, as Augustine argued, evil is parasitic — that is, it depends upon the good for its very definition. We think of sin as something that is unrighteous, involving disobedience, immorality, and the like. All of these definitions depend upon the positive substance of the good for their very definition. Augustine argues that though Christians face the difficulty of explaining the presence of evil in the universe, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before one can even have a problem of evil, one must first have an antecedent existence of the good. Those who complain about the problem of evil now also have the problem of defining the existence of the good. Without God there is no ultimate standard for the good. 
In contemporary days, this problem has been resolved by simply denying both evil and good. Such a problem, however, faces enormous difficulties, particularly when one suffers at the hands of someone who inflicts evil upon them. It is easy for us to deny the existence of evil until we ourselves are victims of someone’s wicked action. 
However, though we end our quest to answer the origin of evil, one thing is certain: since God is both omnipotent and good, we must conclude that in His omnipotence and goodness there must be a place for the existence of evil. We know that God Himself never does that which is evil. Nevertheless, He also ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Though He does not do evil and does not create evil, He does ordain that evil exists. If it does exist, and if God is sovereign, then obviously He must have been able to prevent its existence. If He allowed evil to enter into this universe, it could only be by His sovereign decision. Since His sovereign decisions always follow the perfection of His being, we must conclude that His decision to allow evil to exist is a good decision. 
Again, we must be careful here. We must never say that evil is good, or that good is evil. But that is not the same thing as saying, “It is good that there is evil.” Again, I repeat, it is good that there is evil, else evil could not exist. Even this theodicy does not explain the “how” of the entrance of evil into the world. It only reflects upon the “why” of the reality of evil. One thing we know for sure is that evil does exist. It exists, if nowhere else, in us and in our behavior. We know that the force of evil is extraordinary and brings great pain and suffering into the world. We also know that God is sovereign over it and in His sovereignty will not allow evil to have the last word. Evil always and ever serves the ultimate best interest of God Himself. It is God in His goodness and in His sovereignty who has ordained the final conquest over evil and its riddance from His universe. In this redemption we find our rest and our joy — and until that time, we live in a fallen world.

Alone


Lonely and sad, 
From family and friends apart.
All things above, here and below
No place for me to bond.
I wander here and wander there 
Alone without a mate 
Even trees without a feeling 
Shun my very being. 

K.Oni

Shalom, Syria and me

Peace protest Between the lines of rhetoric covering everything from Thatcher’s hairstyles to her music playlist to her controversial ideology this week, you might have missed that political wars of a very different nature continue to rage on around the globe.
 
Squashed under the reams of photos spanning the Iron Lady’s 11 years in power lurks the minor news story that North Korea have a ballistic missile with a 2,000-mile range fuelled and ready to launch. A test in the next few days is imminent.
 
Slightly closer to home, the civil war erupting in Syria sends cold shivers down my spine any time another clip of its news crops up on the radio. When I saw that Sunday marked the 19th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, I couldn’t help but immediately equate it to the dire situation in Syria and the seeming inertia from the international political community. With the civilian death toll rising daily and intense fighting that appears intent on blazing its country to ashes, it appears to be happening all over again; and I feel totally helpless.
 
Without wanting to sound too much like an entrant to a Miss World competition, what I’d really like is world peace. As over-simplistic and ideological that sounds, it is a genuine desire. 
 
Peace on earth – it’s become something so ethereal and removed, we can forget that it also applies to us. And this is where things start to become uncomfortable. Jesus makes it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that murder is not just a physical act but something that can also happen in our hearts when we hold hatred against someone else. I suspect Martin Luther King was drawing on Jesus’s words when he said: “Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” The radical path to becoming a peacemaker begins with examining the violence in my own being towards myself, others and even God because this is where war begins. 
 
Then, of course, we really start to see how difficult peace is because – actually –  people have hurt me and it’s hard to forgive when the pain is still raw; people have taken things away from me that I wanted and it feels too hard to release them. Peace isn’t always a warm feeling of tranquility in our bodies – it can be something that pulls at every part of us. Peace and what it requires, hurts. It strips us back to a place of humility where we have to lay down our pride if we are to move forwards in our relationships. Sometimes it can feel that one of the most difficult asks of the Christian walk is “to settle our relationships with one another” and “drop our differences” (2 Corinthians 5). Yet this is the route to that striking Old Testament word shalom which is “to live in right relations with God, oneself, one’s neighbours and the whole of creation” (Global Dictionary of Theology).
 
Among the titles prophesied about Jesus before his birth, it is not insignificant that one of them was Prince of Peace. Born into an occupied nation as the underdog and a subsequent refugee, he would have known the earthly grittiness of conflict. His very incarnation was an act of reconciliation; his life and death shattering the no-man’s land between God and humankind.
 
As overwhelming and depressing as the statistics coming out of Syria are, we must not lose interest. Let’s keep as engaged as we can; read the newspapers, ask difficult questions, donate to the DEC appeal, and pray unceasingly for mercy to prevail, lives to be saved and the country to be restored. We might not all strap £2,000 around our waist to hand out to the refugees in the camps as Gill Newman did, but we could help her to fill 1,000 school bags to ensure that the displaced children of Syria can continue with their all important education.
 
We won’t all be involved in diplomatic efforts to curtail the violence and pave the way for a ceasefire; but taking the great reconciler as our inspiration, we will play our part in bringing peace on earth by ushering it in, and out of our own hearts.

Katherine Maxwell-Cook, freelance writer and multimedia co-ordinator & writer at the Evangelical Alliance