What is the Gospel?: Intro

Sunday, October 2, 2011

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16)(NIV).

The Gospel. If you are a Christian, this is no doubt what you claim to believe. You are not a Christian yet, you must have heard this word going around for sure. This is a message I will take the next few posts studying. Welcome to the first Soul Grain blog series. I have to start this one with a smile :-) because you will read things you will not like. You might be offended or even hurt. But always check what I say against the Word of God (which is the Bible). Also, remember, this is a message about love but it is not all lovey-dovey (never ever thought I'd ever use such a phrase in my life). This message offended the Pharisees and they hated Jesus because of it. The apostles were killed because they preached it. In our day and age, we have many freedoms and (depending on where you live) you are unlikely to die for the Gospel. This is all the more reason not to water it down but to speak it as it is. 

We will break down this dangerous but life giving message over the coming weeks in about five posts. I will try and post weekly so keep checking for updates. In the mean time, check out the video below (G.O.S.P.E.L by Propaganda) to get a summary of what we will later dive deeper into.

You know the drill. Share by all means. P.S: Sorry for the long absence, I hope all my readers have not deserted me. I have also started a new blog which will be updated weekly so please check out: soulgrain-reflectingon.blogspot.com.

You have no idea how much I love you guys,

Going Once? Going Twice? Gone!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What price tag would you put on a Chinese vase? It’s only good for holding flowers at best right? What about a postage stamp? Not exactly a staple product. In this day and age, you can live without one. What are you willing to pay for a painting? Art is very tricky but how much would you actually cough up? What do you think you are worth?

‘For you were bought with a price…’ (1 Cor 6:20a)
An auction is a process of buying and selling goods by offering them up for bids and taking bids. The person who values a specific item the most (the highest bidder) receives it. All the participants would have assessed the item on sale and would decide how much they are willing to pay for it beforehand. The man who manages bids coming in is known as the auctioneer. Some interesting auction records include an 18th Century Chinese vase sold for £53.1 million, a Ten Rupee Mahatma Gandhi postage stamp went for a minor $205 000 and a Picasso was sold for just $106.5 million. Picture the auctioneer, after the final bid comes in, saying ‘Going once? Going twice? Gone! Sold; to the gentleman in the electric pink shirt with lime green poker dots! Congratulations sir.’ 

With every experience in your life; every interaction; every event; you are involved in an auction. The item on sale is your life. Ironically, you are the auctioneer and every participant in your life is bidding after having evaluated how much you are worth. You have the hammer and decide each time who wins the sale. People might tell you that you are not worth much. They might say that you will never do anything significant with your life. Maybe some guy put a price tag written ‘sex’ for a girl. Your boss might have tagged you, ‘slave’. You may have been told you are ugly. Oddly, we accept most tags, slam the hammer and sell ourselves for the cheapest bids.
The highest bidder knows more about you than anyone else. He has carefully assessed your worth. He has already proved you are worth so much that He paid the price before you were born and before you even considered His bid. That bidder is God. He is Jesus Christ. He found you worthy of His life. He put in a bid that makes the ridiculous records above look less than pocket change. He did not have to, but he took your well-earned punishment.
Every day, people compete against His bid. It is up to you to decide who you will listen to in that moment. Will you value yourself as Christ values you or the man/woman with the sweet smile? Will you consider yourself worth the life of the Son of God or drunkard? Is your price tag written ‘Perfectly loved by God’ or ‘Good for nothing’? ‘Sinner saved by grace’ or ‘nobody’. If the former is true, then your only response is to “…Honour God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20b). You are not your own. You either belong to people and their perceptions of your value or you are God’s. Remember, when you slam the hammer on yourself, it will be too late. Going once? Going twice?
Tweet, share, email, text, send a smoke signal, do what it takes to get this out there if you conferJ!
Yours in the service of the King,

A Little Grace

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One of the most powerful gifts and integral parts of Christianity, centered right at the root of the faith is grace. We read of it in the bible, hear sermons on it and are encouraged to practice giving it to others just as the Lord gave and continually gives it to us. The sad thing is that a few of us actually practice it .God saves us regardless of our past sins; regardless of anything that we were before we met Him; and regardless of anything that we might become while in His kingdom. His grace is always offered to us. When I thought of this I was challenged to write this note and to explore how little we practice grace in our Christian community.

We hold on so much to self-growth and our individual relationships with God, never truly getting over the stage where the grace of God stops being only about us as individuals but also becomes about other people, both in the kingdom and out of the kingdom. It is so sad to think that after being set free by God and after such a high debt has been paid on our behalf we in turn cannot find it in us to do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters. We call ourselves Christian and proclaim God’s love and forgiveness through Christ yet we are the first people to speak soul destructing words when a sister falls pregnant, or when a brother starts drinking. We are the first ones to judge when we see a brother going into a club or anything that is a physically visible sin or ‘immoral in society’ so to say. Where is our grace?

The bible teaches, So watch yourselves, If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. We have to ask these questions: are we really living up to this mandate? Do we encourage each other to rise up and stand firm in the Gospel after our failures or do we judge one another and condemn each other without grace? How many people actually reach out to a fellow brother or sister once they have fallen to sin? Better yet, when seeing that your fellow brother or sister struggles with a certain sin? Instead we sit alone behind our walls saying that we are praising God. Only concerned about our faith and nothing else. The situation is so bad that people hide themselves, struggling with sin due to fear of being judged, fear of what people at church might say and yet we are given this wonderful gift called grace.

But then Law came in, to expand and increase the trespass. But where sin increased and abounded, grace has surpassed it and increased the more and super abounded Romans 5: 20.

Why is it so hard to find a church or Christian environment where people are free to reveal their struggles, free to express and testify to the power and mercy of God through the struggles they have faced in life and/or free to receive God’s forgiveness in what they are still struggling with in their lives without the ooohs! and the aahs! of judgment, awe and pity? When will we finally embrace one another as the true community of God in understanding each other’s transgressions and helping each other to stay strong in the Lord?

Let us always remember that God gave us grace and continues to give us grace. We are not better than anyone but all sinners who have been cleansed by God through Christ. Let us embrace our identity both inside and outside our communities. This is the only way to help each other from falling: practicing grace. It may not be easy to admit that we lack this discipline, but the Lord is faithful and in prayer and in fully admitting our shortfalls he can help us to do what is right. So begin a new walk today, a walk that embraces the grace we are given in the kingdom. Let us start being a shoulder to lean on, someone to talk to, a praying partner, for both our Christian and non- Christian brothers and /or sisters. Think about the good that it could to, after all what do we have to lose? But believe me we have a lot to gain, freedom and unity in the kingdom and all because of practicing just a little grace.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Peggy S

Senseless Trust

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Once upon a time, an over achieving man wanted to conquer the highest summit in the land. He decided in is heart that he would climb this mountain in record time and that he would push himself to the limit to achieve his goal. For days he climbed until, one day, his ambition pushed him to climb for a longer time than usual and he passed a planned pit stop. Before he knew it, it was dark and he was getting real cold and hanging uncomfortably on a cliff. His concentration slipped for a second and he fell a few metres but managed to use his climbing hammer to hit a rock and hung on. Now scared, he clung to his equipment and sent out a prayer. Out of nowhere, he heard the voice of God calmly saying, ‘Let go.’

‘For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.’ (1 Cor1:22-23) 

This week, I’ve learned it is not always easy to trust God. Being in control or wanting to know how things work is human nature. I have often tried to understand and make sense of the things of God and came short. I have done things and came to conclusions which I often assume are what God wants; not because God has spoken but because it made sense at the time that that is what God would want. Often, what God is really saying, sounded foolish. It did not make a lot of sense. I know another man who thought as I did. The patriarch of the Jewish faith and our great faith ancestor: Abraham.

God’s promise to Abraham did not make sense. Think about it. At age 75 (his wife being about 65), God calls Abraham and tells him he will have innumerable descendants. He was told to leave all that he knew and go to a place he has not seen. His father must have been like, “Really? You are going to some unknown land that some unseen God will show you and have many kids?Bakuloyilewena!”(Okay, so maybe he did not speak Xhosa but it wasn’t English either so there.) It did not make sense. Abraham did not always trust God either. In Gen 16, he makes a plan with his wife to make his promise happen. He was aging, and what God said to him sounded foolish. This resulted in the birth of Ismael and also animosity not only between Sarah and Hagar, but also, millennia later and even today, the descendants of Ismael and Isaac, all because he did not trust God. 

As our theme scripture shows, God uses what seems foolish in order to shame the thinkers and the religious. The fact that Messiah came as a normal, poor man and not a political king did not make sense to the religious people of those times. Jesus saving those who believed from the wrath of God by dying on the cross and then coming back to life did not make sense to the intellectual Greeks of Paul’s day. This is true even today because many say they will believe when they see a sign or don’t believe because it all sounds stupid. “But to those who called, both religious and intellectual, it is Christ the power and wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:24 paraphrased)

The man in our opening story froze overnight. He was later found, hanging just a metre away from the ground. It did not make sense to let go, but God knows what He is doing. He knows what He is doing even in your life. He has been doing for ages and has a perfect track record. Trust Him, even when it does not make sense. Indeed, trust Him especially when it does not make sense.

You know the drill. If you like, share it and follow!

Yours in Christ


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“For the wages of sin is death…” Rom 6:23 (NKJ)
What a way to kick things off don’t you think? No nice story or fun fact in this article. Fear might have struck your heart when you read that. Maybe even doubt. These are the kind of scriptures we wish we could avoid, but there it is. I dwell on this point because the same feeling might come over you when you’ve just messed up. Fear, doubt and guilt can take you prisoner in that post-sin moment.
In these times, we tend to forget what follows this verse. You know, the part that says, “… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. We also forget the verse that precedes it which lets us know that we have, “been set free from sin”. Why do we forget? I think our focus is often shifted towards our faults. We do not feel this ‘freedom’, especially if we are trapped in habitual sin. Sin that we do over and over again often makes us feel unworthy; like we have gone too far; like there is no hope. The very cycle of sin puts us into a cycle of guilt, shame, anger and uselessness which is designed, ironically, to keep us in the cycle itself.
But you see; God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9) and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom8:1). He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5) and nothing can separate us from His Love (Rom 8:38-39). What is the problem then? Our eyes are always on the fall and we ignore what made us trip. It’s like we are in a race (pun intended) with the best running shoes; but our laces are untied. We run; we fall; we pick ourselves up and promise never to fall again; run; fall; and so it goes. It goes on until we just give up and expect to fall. Instead of taking the time to kneel down and check our shoelaces we focus on the pain, the injury, the ground. Check your shoelaces. What is making you trip?
"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Mat 18:7-9) (ESV)
When we suffer from habitual sins or addictions; the biblical starting point is repentance. This should be followed by a removal of everything that causes us to sin. In the above verse, Christ deliberately uses a hand, a foot and an eye to make His point. (Think about it, he could have said pinkie toe and ponytail). The hand, the foot and the eye are probably our most useful body parts. The illustration is meant to show you that you need to make some painful decisions and remove some important and useful things in your life for the sake of your relationship with God. Addicted to drinking? Get rid of the friends that you can’t say no to. Addicted to sex/masturbation/porn? Maybe it’s time to get a phone with no internet access.
Do not wallow in guilt. Start cutting out and tearing off. Kneel down and tie your shoelaces.
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Yours in Christ,

Melt Down The Saints

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oliver Cromwell (1599 –1658) was an English military and political leader who overthrew the monarchy and temporarily turned England into a Republican Commonwealth.He also ruled as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. Sometime during his reign there was a shortage of currency in the British Empire. On his order, representatives carefully searched the nation in hopes of finding silver to meet the demand. After a month, the team returned with their report saying, "We have searched the Empire in vain seeking to find silver. To our dismay, we found none anywhere except in the cathedrals where the statues of the saints are made of choice silver."  Upon hearing this, Oliver Cromwell profoundly answered, "Alright then, let's melt down the saints and put them into circulation."  

‘And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your soul; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.’ (2 Cor 12:15) 

It is so easy for us to seek our own comforts in every area of our life. This often spills over to our walk and even evangelism. We are forever waiting for ‘the right moment’. We want to learn more about the gospel before we share it. We are afraid of what people will think and even of offending them. We need to start having the heart of Christ for the lost. The heart that lead Paul to give his all to people who did not fully appreciate what he has done for them. For the gospel to spread, we need to go through some fire. We need to be melted down first and then put into circulation. 

‘Melt down the saints, and put them in circulation’. Cromwell said this in the 1600’s, but God has been calling for this for millennia. This is a call to Christians to get out of their comfort zones. We are not supposed to shove our beliefs down the throats of others, but the word is very clear that we must ‘preach’ the gospel. If people make fun of us, we must take it. If we are treated as outcasts, bear it. If people are offended, let it not be because of your personality (Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, to seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved – 1 Cor 10:32-33), but the word must go out. In words and not just actions because Rom 8:14 says, ‘How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in whom they have not HEARD? And how shall they HEAR without a preacher? (Emphasis added). Beware of falling into extremes. Do not speak down and judgementally to people. Do not keep quiet thinking that that’s what love is.

Second, we must go into circulation. We must be light in all areas of society. In Acts 8:2-4 we learn that the saints were scattered due to persecution (ironically lead by Paul) and they preached the gospel where ever they went. Christians need to realise that godly men and women are needed in all spheres of society. We need to represent the kingdom everywhere from medicine to business; from science to the arts; from the suburbs to the informal settlements. We must go into circulation. As long as salt remains in its container in the cupboard, it is useless. It needs to be spread all over different dishes at all times to add flavour.

Get out of your comfort zone. Invite someone to church. Intentionally tell someone what you believe. Listen to people and let them tell you what they believe and start a conversation. More importantly, do not be afraid of judgement, ridicule, laughs etc. Saints before us have gone through much worse. In this day and age and depending on the country you live, you will most likely not have a list like Paul’s (2 Cor 11:23-28). Do not assume that God calls everyone to be pastors but He does call everyone to be ministers (Mat 28:18-20). Find the place that God has called you to minister in. And always remember: Love God, Love People, and Live Life.

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With Love

The King's Speech

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The movie, ‘The King’s Speech’, is a captivating true story about King George VI who unexpectedly becomes King after his brother’s abdication (look it up) from the throne. He now needs to overcome a debilitating stammer and address his people at a time of impending war against the Nazi. His speech therapist, Lionel Logue, employs very unorthodox methods to help the king find his voice. Upon the climax of the movie, King George (also known as Bertie) is in front of a microphone, nervous, as he is about to speak to the nation. The only person in the room with him is Lionel who tells him, ‘Tell it to me as you would a friend’ and then leads him through the speech.
The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. (John 14:26) MSG
In real life, Christians are all like Bertie. We have this important speech we need to make to the nation in a time of spiritual warfare. We need to preach the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:18). However, like Bertie, many of us have a debilitating speech impediment. Ours however is more serious than a stammer. Our speech impediment is fear. We need a speech therapist. We need a friend. Bertie had Lionel. We have the Holy Spirit.
Just like Lionel, the Holy Spirit trains us daily to overcome our speech impediment. We only need to be intentional about overcoming it. It will take hard work and we will have to let go of some things which keep us from fulfilling our duty. Be intentional when discussing the word with other Christians and that will help making speaking to pre-believers easier.
More importantly, like Lionel was in the room alone with Bertie at the time when he needed him the most, the Holy Spirit is there whenever you share the gospel. He is saying, ‘Tell it to me as you would a friend’. He is leading you through the speech. He is telling you what to say. He encourages you all the way.
Rabbit hole alert! Our main weapon against our speech impediment is Love. ‘There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear’ (1 John 4:18) MSG. When you love people, you will quickly overcome fear and you will be preaching the gospel from the roof tops on stereo in no time. Sharing our faith is not about convincing people of anything. It is about telling them about God’s amazing love and grace for imperfect beings like us.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my regular readers and those who follow the blog. Please share this on Facebook and Twitter if you like it.
Much Love