Saturday, 27 July 2013

Welby vs Wonga

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, didn’t make the headlines yesterday because he spoke out against the payday loan companies; it was his unexpected approach that captured people’s attention. I hope it captures our imaginations too; not just when it comes to the big issues of the day, but for each of us as we go about our day-to-day life.
 
There is growing pressure for something to be done about companies like Wonga, and rightly so. It is a scandal that they can prey on the vulnerable in the way they do. It’s shocking that legislation has been so slow to catch up. It’s heartbreaking to see the impact – thousands more people becoming trapped by poverty.
 
Welby’s war against Wonga had a surprising twist. His plan is for the Church to become a more central player in the money lending business by expanding the Church of England’s credit unions. He told the boss of Wonga, “We’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence; we’re trying to compete you out of existence.” Fighting talk. But this isn’t about waving fists, this is about offering solutions.
 
But hang on a minute. What does the Bible have to say about this? In the Old Testament money lending – if interest is charged – is frowned upon (e.g. Exodus 22:25). In the New Testament, we read that Jesus goes further, don’t expect loans to be repaid, give freely (Luke 6: 30-35). And doesn’t the whole idea of churches running loan schemes get a little too close to the well-known ‘angry Jesus’ story where he overturned the tables of the temple money changers (Matthew 21:12,13)?
 
Citing ‘proof-texts’ is always a dangerous business. We need to zoom-out and as we do this we see that this is an idea that has Jesus written all over it. It’s about working within the economic system of the day in a way that benefits the vulnerable. It’s about taking sides with those trapped in poverty. It’s about being “as shrewd as snakes and as innocents as doves” (Matthew 10:16). After all, this idea is not about generating income for the Church; credit unions are owned by their members – this is about ensuring that people don’t get rich by exploiting the poor.
 
There’s a lot we can learn from this approach – it’s not about standing on the side lines waving our fists and criticising, it’s about entering the playing field and being the change we want to see. (That’s not to say that there isn’t a time for fist waving; take, for example,Andy Walton’s successful Twitter campaign that persuaded Bolton Wanderers Football Club to turn their back on a sponsorship deal with another payday loan company, QuickQuid.)
 
When Daniel found himself exiled in Babylon, he found himself in a society where many of the values, beliefs and behaviours were not only unfamiliar, but stood against what he believed acceptable. Sound familiar? In exile, Daniel didn’t stand on the sidelines, he entered the playing field and he sought to make a positive difference. But there were times he knew, that as a follower of God, he had to stand his ground. For example, he refused to eat the food and wine from the king’s table (probably because it wasn’t kosher). We can learn a lot from how Daniel made his stand – he did so respectfully and he didn’t force others to conform to his ideals. The result was that people saw that living God’s way was the best way to live.
 
In a society that is increasingly disconnecting from its biblical roots, we’ll all find ourselves confronted with situations that, as a follower of God, make us angry. But perhaps we would do well to follow the example of Daniel and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
 
Instead of standing on the sidelines waving our fists we should enter the fray and shine like lights. It’s less about forcing change, and more about offering a better way, providing evidence that God’s way might just be the best way after all.
 
Postscript:
No sooner had I sent this FNT to the editor, the news broke that the Church of England had indirectly invested in Wonga. This unfortunate revelation does not change anything that I have written. This morning the Archbishop has been responding comprehensively.  But it does go to show how we must be on our guard so we don't get so caught up in the systems around us that we loose our distinctiveness and become part of the problem.
 
Phil Green is programmes manager at the Evangelical Alliance.   

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Miscellanies 85: A righteousness not my own

I have never ever claimed to have a righteousness of my own, nor to possess any goodness to commend myself to men let alone to God. I understand more than anybody else the pitifulness of my heart and the misery of my condition. If anybody think that I am at all good, I concede that it is all in their imaginations, and they think of me as they ought not to. I still have with me those sins  from my youth which I have yet to loose from my heart. I must confess that I have not dealt violently with them as I ought, for if I had, then some of those vile things would not be found in me now. But they are, and how I lament my own powerlessness. I can say that all of those deadly sins are in me, and I wish that they were not but they are. And here is where the devil sees it a delighting thing to torment me with my horrible past and depraved present. But in all of his accusations, I do say unto him that I do indeed have no righteousness of my own. Nay, I have not. And I am deeply sorry for bringing shame to the name of Christ but this I know, namely that I do possess a righteousness that is entirely not my own. This righteousness makes me worthy before God and fits me for worship regardless of my condition. You may accuse all you want Satan, but I am still very much the child of God in so much that I have been justified. Indeed God counts me righteous and it is in this goodness and kindness and identity which I live, that prevents me from going into utter despair due to my own lingering sins. Indeed, my heart is free from its fetters of guilt because of the cross of Christ. It is there that I try to daily come in order to be soaked in the blood of Christ and to feel the weight of the death he died for me. And then I do go by the empty tomb and assure my soul that I am indeed accepted and counted righteous. Yea, counted eternally righteous.

K.Oni

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Miscellanies 84: A sinning saint is of no earthly use

A sinning saint is of no earthly use like a bird without wings is of no flying good. What we mean by this is that a sinning Christian remains as a light hidden underneath a bushel, and as a tasteless salt.

Ask any converted Christian who willingly indulge in sin about their productivity or communion with God and general happiness. I am sure the majority will say, 'O ken, they played the flute and I could not dance. And whenever I do it is always with a forced smile.'

A sinning saint therefore is a miserable Christian in his heart because surely the Spirit cannot be happy with such a child who has become a rebel. The Spirit being who he is must be grieved by such a one for he cannot rejoice on his behalf. But the quick tongue Christian might say, 'but ken are we not all sinners? And is it not true that in this life we shall never cease from sinning. Because if it is not this sin then it is that sin.'

O child, tell me this. Has Christ the power to save us from sin in this age? For you see, the individuals I am talking about are those who willingly, after being instructed about their wrongs by the Spirit or anyone else that knows God, continue in their sins, never ever coming to repentance. And I am also speaking of those who are currently hopeless about their sinning state. Although they feel the depths of their awful deeds, yet deep down, right down in their guts, they unnaturally enjoy that which they should hate, and feel as if they shall never forsake it, as to let it go as the frigtening girl her teddy bear.

As long as this is their condition, then truly they are of no earthly use. I do not mean to say this harshly but to serve as an awakening unto self-reflection. A sinning Christian is of no earthly use, as a dead female dog to her puppies.

Of course God can use our sins to accomplish his own ends, which glorifies him as he did with the sins of those terrible soldiers that nailed his Son to that cursed tree. He used their wickedness to grant his people redemption and salvation. Likewise, a struggle with a particular sin may be God's instrument to do something in your life although he wishes you to forsake it and cling unto him instead.

God can use our sins for his glory, and when by grace the sinning saint comes back to his senses and kisses holiness by embracing the gospel and the forgiveness and righteousness that comes through it, the Christian will now consider grace all the more sweeter and love God all the more as well.

But these are only my musings, the words of a fallible boy. I may be wrong as the fool who says that there is no God, but Christ is always right especially when he says, 'You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.'

But there is hope for you in God who can turn your ashes into gold. Cling unto him. Forsake sin and be useful about in the world. Christ can make you salty again. O yes he can.

K.Oni

Miscellanies 83

I dare say that when God drew the plans of salvation, that there was only one on God's eternal mind who was to have the pre-eminent role, namely his Son, at which the devil in time scoffed and rebelled, thus recieving as his prize, the darkest portion of hell.

K.Oni

Fallen by the wayside

Many of us have fallen by the wayside. That is that after starting well, having much excitement for the things of God's kingdom, that all that excitement has somehow faded. The main reason why this is so, I can say is because of lingering sins or bitter cicumstances.

Being not so determine to cut of the head of our serpent, namely our sins, we had let it breed in the silent corner of our heart. That now, after the honeymoon with the Holy Spirit is over and we are not so much in that state of presence, we have looked back like Lot's wife and found our-self slowly turn into dust. Yea, back to the ashes of our old pitiful self.

This is a common thing to happen among those who are saints from what I have experienced, that after a while of walking with the Lord, their feet becomes weary. The pressures of life weighs in on them and those old temptations seeks them out, and many fall and indulge a little while until their faith becomes merely an uttereance of the tongue that arises from a dissapointment deep within their poor miserable hearts.

Knowing that they do that which they ought to forsake, and knowing that this sin does much injury to their soul yet they cannot forsake it. They say, dear Lord there is twenty four hours in a day and it is hard to keep clean in all of it.

Also what keeps them from advancing is the weight of guilt and dissapointment, that they have so failed the expectations of men and even more shun the grace of God.

One thing to be commended in these saints, with me being the worst of offenders is that they really do hate their sins. But we can sigh at them that they do not hate it enough. I wish I did. I wish they did and thus they have slipped into the normal customs of the world, still having much evangelical spirit in their hearts but without the zeal. To put it in another way, those fallen by the wayside have simply lost their first love.

They have ceased to carry about them that constant spirit of prayer, they have not much joy in picking up their bible to read it as that which was the only activity they once thorougly enjoyed. Much have changed in them, and there is only one way for their revival, namely to believe again, afresh that old gospel which caused their hearts to burn for Christ.

O have you fallen by the wayside. Do you feel yourself just a little off from the narrow way. Has your sins caused you to lie down among the fields of the world, and your circumstances caused you to loose hope of that celestial city. O fret not child, and step by step, yes by little steps of faith, come again to the narrow path with beaming joy for Jesus still loves you. He loves you more as you are, only come and dine with him.

And I know that this you cannot do of yourselves unless heaven opens to grant you effectual grace. And to that end I pray, that Father, those whom especially it seems that their faith is soon to crumble, that their garments is but ashes and sackcloth, due to their sins and awful circumstances, I pray that you lift their weary feet back to that road of delight and happiness. Do it Father for your glory, do it for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Whilst She strolls on nature's realm

The lilies blush at her kiss
The faintest touch warms the butterflies cone
Earth and sky bow in jubilant awe
Encouraging the rain to shower a dance.
Music plays her favourite song
Light displays her flashiest glow
And seeds arise growing gloss
Whilst She strolls on nature's realm.

K.Oni

My dear sweet pound

My dear sweet pound
How I need thee in my arms
To bring me things that makes me smile
To take me places where I can dance.
I love you more than any mortal form
You are the substance my working eye seeks.
For thee I travel and cry, sigh when your comfort is out of my sight.
But you are a weedy little thing,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
Yet you command my every deed
Without thee I shall soon become a seed.
My dear sweet pound, the loviliest of all nickel-brass,
When on heaven's shore I reach
Standing beneath the judges bench,
To ask for that which was his own
To thee will I say has bought me whole.

By K.Oni

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Miscellanies 82: My sins are my own

I make no excuses for my sins. I am entirely guilty of them and I am to be damned for it. I know in my heart that I am not a good person, for therein is contain all those maladies that makes me ill with sinful actions. I know I am to be entirely at fault with my bitterness, laziness, lust, anger, self-seeking and deceitfulness. There is no one else at fault although others may have had a part to play, yet I am entirely guilty of them. If I am to know true mercy and grace, then I beg you not to take my sins away from me. Do not blame them on some past or on some other things; those things played a role and some very vital but they are still my sins. My conscience knows that they are mine and I have long ceased to find excuses other than to accept that I am not a very good person. I will not justify my sins. Now, in having my sins as my own, in knowing that I am really not a good person, and altogether a wretch making me a fitting candidate for the burning lakes of hell; in knowing all this, grace and mercy is all the more sweeter. That God should not count these things against me but lay them on Christ makes me infinitely happy and joyful. I am the wrongdoer and yet I am forgiven and loved.My sins are mine therefore I am commanded to repent and believe. 

K.Oni

The fairest princess there ever was

A frog once asked me who I thought the prettiest elegant creature was. I said a princess of course. Nothing as fair as her innocent heart. The frog then said that 'if I a trusting boy should be, a kiss from you, a princess will have.' I closed my eyes and stretched out my lips, only to open them to see the fairest princess there ever was. 

K.Oni

Friday, 5 July 2013

Poems: No clue

I loved one who had a clue
Because I hung around her like a glue
Then one day she suddenly flew
To a place that I had no clue. 

K.Oni

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Women of the Bible: Abigail


1Sa 25:18  Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. 

How a woman who was very beautiful and discerning came to be married to a man who was harsh and badly behaved, or as his name signifies a 'fool', magnificently escapes me. It is often true in love that there is more irrationality than sense. But a man with much money and power, even though a fool is at times providently blessed with a beautiful and discerning wife. Or we can say that such a union was perhaps due to family ties, namely wealth marrying into wealth, or the rich man having so much fortune was able to tempt her father into giving her away with him becoming rich in the transaction. Such was the sorry lot for Abigail, that the man to whom her father dispensed her too, was not one who was trained in the school of wisdom, nor in sobriety, although he owned much worldly shrewdness to make him the successful man that he was.

Abigail is introduced to us to contrast her with the bankrupt character of her husband. She was very beautiful and discerning. This is also to say that she was a woman of great principle, and God-fearing as we would later discover in her plea to David to forsake his anger towards her household. Abigail is the archetype that we are presented with in the book of proverbs on the happy wife. She is the excellent wife. The frame more precious than jewel and one who rises while it is yet night to provide food for her household. In Abigail's case, she provides delivery from death. What a godly woman, what a rarity, kind and sublime in every way, and as we shall later see, also full of humility as that to which we are all exalted to follow.

Proverbs 14:1 communicates that the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. This almost became true with Abigail due to Nabal's foolishness, but Abigail's quick decisiveness remedied the situation. Her husband's own hands almost destroyed every living thing in their household by arousing David's anger when foolishly Nabal returned evil for good. He belittled David and railed at his messengers when they had only done good towards him. Thus, David strapped on his sword like every zealous man overtaken with anger and sought to utterly wipe out Nabal and all his household from the face of the earth.

Abigail caught wind of this coming disaster by being informed by one of the young men in their household. This young man told Abigail because he knew what we already knew, namely that Abigail was a wise and discerning wife. If anyone can salvage the situation, the young man must have thought then it must be Abigail. Circumstances always tug out the best and worst in a soul, or we can say that situations which happens upon us often serves to display what lies deep in our heart. And what lay deep in Abigail's soul was prudence, yes, wisdom which must have been cultivated during her years of marriage despite being married to a fool. Wealth had not injured her wisdom. She did not condescend to her husband's ways but maintain that vital principle of discipline in the areas of discernment and wisdom.

She at last constructed a plan of deliverance and the manner in which she executes it ought to cause us to arise and praise the God in whom all her faith depended. Notice that the text says that she took haste. This was no hour to linger and engage in womanly trifles or sit inactive waiting for man to deliver. Nay, she was a woman of substance and took the action of salvation into her own evely hands. She prepared an offering to appease David and the portion she commanded was that of great liberality. All these things she kept from her foolish husband. O this is another trait to be adored, let every woman who loves the Lord be generous in their given. Let them keep away wise decisions from foolish men for they will be scorned at last if revealed. Speak to them in parables if needs be like our Lord Jesus did to the stiffened of his generation that had no ears to ear.

After commanding her young men to go, she assured them that, after, she would come also and meet with David. And in meeting with David there is much caveat the women from this generation can peruse. She saw David and immediately fell at his feet and said words which were utterly destitute of any selfishness. Even though the guilt is entirely to be put upon the hard neck of her husband, yet she took it on herself and entreated David to grant her a listening ear. She rightly confesses that her husband was a fool. This is not to cast a mean eye upon her husband as to forsake that instruction for wives to respect their husbands, but it is to speak the plain truth, namely that her husband is a fool and that folly is with him. Perhaps some might say that she went too far in saying that her husband was a worthless fellow but I shall let you judge in the bosom of your own hearts. Christ often spoke the truth about the conditions of people's heart, he called the Pharisees a hypocrite, he denounced his generation as unable to discern the times, and was not afraid to label the evil man as being evil. Likewise we must not be afraid to speak clearly of the lazy man or of our times which has clearly exchanged the truth of God for the lie. And although many of us are worthless, especially me, when it comes to things pertaining to eternal life or holiness, yet we must not beat ourselves but exalt in the towering fact that Christ has made us worthy.

Were you a sinner, are you a Nabal, then there is heavenly grace for you.

Returning this pen back to Abigail, we must say that words alone cannot praise adequately her noble deeds and high character of heart. For David was entirely impressed with her plea and understood that she was an instrument used by the Lord to keep him from such a guilty act of murder. Abigail had affirmed that God will make a sure house for David. What a remarkable faith, namely that she was entirely sure that the promises of God made to David will come to pass. What a sweetened bright candle that flourishes in the darkness. What a woman found in Israel. What an Abigail and I pray that many women in our churches today may follow after her likeness.

A good woman knows that to plea with a godly man, one must include God in the conversation and remind him of the ways of God and that the man should act accordingly. Such a talk will persuade the godly man if he is in error to forsake his ways and so it was with David. David was clearly blinded in his rage and Abigail had been God's voice, yea God's beautiful hand and feet, or we can say here, mouth, to stop David in his blood thirsty tracks. Abigail ended her plea by asking David that he should remember her when God has dealt well with him. And David did. For when Nabal was instructed of this discourse had between David and Abigail, he was as the scriptures say, 'became as a stone and his heart died within him.' This I believe came about due to the awakening of his conscience to his wrong and more so, to the terror that would have collapsed upon him. And about ten days later he died because God struck him. Omnipotent hands finally rose to grant him his judgement. O how this is deserving of us all were it not for grace. O Lord, I do pray, lift your hands of mercy against the Nabal's of this world, rise not yet in judgement until they come unto repentance. But I say, that you are God of heaven and you do that which pleases your soul.

Abigail had secured peace for her household and through her wisdom and discernment she had spared the lives of many. She providentially had been the instrument to prevent the anointed of the Lord in committing a wicked act. God used her to stop the feet of David. And through this encounter with God's anointed she became his wife after David learnt of the demise of Nabal. He remembered her when God has dealt well with him.

And when she is approached to be the wife of the future King of Israel by David's servants, her mannerisms are to be exalted. She bowed with all humility and submission and uttered that she is merely a 'handmaid to wash the feet of the servants of my lord'. This was no easy utterance; for a woman of her status would have been accustomed to being looked after for she was the wife of a rich man, even though he was a fool. She did after all possessed five young women who were hers to be directed as she pleased. And to now wash the feet of the servants of David would have been a mean thing, but she cared not for position or status but was altogether ready to do the lowliest job.
O Abigail, what a woman to be celebrated. Would you be so humble ladies as to put yourself forward to wash the feet of your husband's friends or of your father's friends? Would you have such hearts to descend so low, leaving your heaven for earth?

Many woman today I say may benefit by taking on Abigail's characteristics by being discerning and full of humility. And although external beauty is a gift given by God that makes one appear aesthetically beautiful before all eyes, yet it was not external beauty that saved the day, no. It was those inward qualities, those fruits from heaven which can be the possession of all women if they would let the Spirit be their teacher and guidance.

K.Oni