SHARING YOUR GIFTS IN 2023 IS DOING GOD’S WORK

In the book of Genesis, Chapter 2 and verse 15, we read from the Amplified Bible: “So the LORD God took the man [He had made] and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” Think about this, and ask yourself – why was the man not put in a cave, or in a cage, or at the bottom of a hole? In this act of placing the man in a garden to cultivate and keep and eat from the trees, God is sharing!

Later on when Adam and Eve were sent packing out of the garden, Genesis Chapter 3 and verse 17, from the Amplified Bible says: “Then to Adam the LORD God said, “Because you have listened [attentively] to the voice of your wife, and have eaten [fruit] from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’; The ground is [now] under a curse because of you; In sorrow and toil you shall eat [the fruit] of it All the days of your life.”

Even when Adam was sent out of the garden of Eden, God said “In sorrow and toil YOU SHALL EAT… from the ground”. Even when Adam and Eve sinned, they were not denied the material provision to survive. Genesis Chapter 8 and verse 22 from the Amplified Bible states this very clearly: “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”

God created humanity and shared his goodness with us; God used his abilities, gifts, skills, and talents, to create, to provide, and to invest in humanity. We are taught from the Bible that God created humanity in his image; if God shares from what he has, we too should share from what we have. We should share our gifts, and skills, and talents, and wealth – in sharing we are doing God’s work!

We all have a gift, a skill, a talent, a resource from which we can share and be a blessing; in 2023 be blessed and be a blessing, Amen!

THE POWER TO GET WEALTH IN 2023

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In the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, God said to them in Genesis 3:17-19 (New Living Translation): “…the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made…”

When God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, God reversed that Genesis curse. God led Israel to a good land, on condition that they worship him – we read about this in Deuteronomy 8:6-9. The good land for Israel was a place with abundant resources, a place where they were sure to have a good harvest for their labor, and a good reward for their industriousness. However, God did not end there.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (King James Version) says: “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”

Deuteronomy 8:18 (New Living Translation) says: “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

God brought Israel to a good land, and gave them the ‘power’ or ‘ability’ to produce wealth from the resources. Bible scholars note that this verse refers to both physical strength and mental capacity (wisdom, intelligence, leadership) to create wealth.

Today, we can pray for this power, ability, capacity to create wealth. We are not citizens of the nation of Israel, however, as Christians, we worship the God that blessed Israel, and has extended the same grace to followers of Jesus. In 2023, wherever we find ourselves, may the Lord bless us and give us the “power to get wealth”.

To God be the glory, Amen!

PRAYING FOR GOOD SUCCESS IN 2023

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At midnight on 31 December 2022, as my family welcomed the new year, we sat down and prayed about what we want in 2023. My kids prayed about school work, my wife and I prayed about family and career. Are these what God wants for us in 2023?

Deuteronomy 8:7-10 (Amplified Bible) says: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water… and springs… a land of wheat… and pomegranates… olive oil and honey… where you will eat bread without shortage…you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.”

God placed Israel in a good land with resources to live well, but God did not come down to bake the bread, to make the olive oil, to collect the honey, to set up industries and businesses to exploit the iron and the copper. The people had to develop their intelligence and skills, and work hard to exploit the resources in the land. Thus if you have made plans to build your skills and work hard to live well in 2023, you are on the right road to success. But is this all that matters?

Deuteronomy 8:11-19 (Amplified Bible) (shortened) continues: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes… otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses… and your silver and gold multiply… your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the Lord your God… And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and serve them and worship them… you will most certainly perish.”

In 2023, God wants us to live well, to avoid self-conceit and arrogance, and to worship him with sincerity. The material resources to live well are on earth, not in heaven. I pray the Lord gives you wisdom about what is available to you, and open doors to access them. I pray that when we have eaten and are satisfied, we will not be among those who prospered and perished.

May 2023 bring you good success in Jesus name, Amen!

2023 – LOOKING BACKWARDS TO LOOK FORWARD WITH CLARITY

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The end of the year and the beginning of a new year is a period of deep thinking and reflections for me. While I ensure that my children have a lot of fun and memories they will cherish for a long time, for me it is a time to take stock of my journey on planet earth, give thanks for my achievements, examine my failures, and make plans for the new year.

I ask myself – where am I going and why? Am I living just for myself, my pleasures, my ambitions? Am I working hard everyday only to put food on my table or am I serving a greater higher purpose? Where do I find purpose and strength to go serve humanity when I am teaching in the classroom, or when I am home with my family, or at Church, or with extended family, in-laws, friends, neighbors, colleagues, strangers – whether these interactions are in person or over social media?

Proverbs 16:19 (Amplified Bible) says: “A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the LORD directs his steps and establishes them.”

My purpose is influenced by my understanding of God’s purpose for humanity as taught in the Bible. There are many teachings and philosophies in our world on how best to live your life; I find the wisdom and light of the Bible absolutely outstanding. So, when I make plans for the future I commit them to God to direct my steps and establish my plans.

Looking backwards, questioning my purpose, vision, and mission – provides clarity on moving forward into the new year. Deep reflection could sometimes produce depression, I have experienced that – one way to avoid this is to see failures not as the end, but as a source of wisdom. Failures could mean I am trying to do too much, or I don’t yet have the skills and knowledge to achieve my goals, or I don’t have the right support, or that the goal is not for me, I should let it go.

As you reflect and make plans for 2023 – the LORD bless you, and keep you [protect you, sustain you, and guard you]; the LORD make His face shine upon you [with favor], and be gracious to you [surrounding you with love and kindness]; the LORD lift up His countenance (face) upon you [with divine approval], and give you peace [a tranquil heart and life] – Amen!

Happy New Year 2023!!!

JESUS WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD

The first gentile that converted to Christianity in the book of Acts was Cornelius, a Centurion (Captain) in the Roman army; he received the gospel from the mouth of Apostle Peter. Cornelius story is told on the books of Acts Chapter 10.

We read in Acts 10:34-43 (Amplified Bible) (shortened): “Opening his mouth, Peter said: “Most certainly I understand now that God is not one to show partiality… but in every nation the person who fears God and does what is right is acceptable and welcomed by Him… you know the things that have taken place throughout Judea, starting in Galilee after the baptism preached by John – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil… both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem… They also put Him to death… God raised Him [to life] on the third day… All the prophets testify about Him, that through His name everyone who believes in Him… receives forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus went about doing good – solving problems, delivering the oppressed, and calling on the leaders of the people to be fair and righteous. This is Jesus, plain and simple. The Apostles carried on his teachings and ministry; and the Christian Church has continued from where the Apostles left off – preaching Jesus to the world. Why – because Jesus did good and continues to do good. The teachings and life of Jesus changed the world by showing that love is the greatest of virtues.

On this day, 25 December 2022, that the world set aside to celebrate Jesus, may his goodness and love extend to you and your household, just as it extended to Captain Cornelius and his household two thousand years ago. I pray that you engage with and experience Jesus not as that far off baby in a manger, but in a a very real way as the living Jesus still doing good in our world today.

Merry Christmas to you all, and God bless you richly, Amen!

CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS 3 – SEIZE THE MOMENT

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Christmas is a Church tradition invented 1700 years ago by Roman Emperor Constantine. It received the blessing of the Church, when Pope Julius I chose December 25 as the official date to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The Church wanted to stop the people from celebrating Saturn, as the god who brought back the sun at mid-winter in December, to instead celebrate the God who created the sun and the seasons. Christmas was a simplistic effort to convert the Romans from worshipping Saturn to believing in Jesus.

Since the invention of Christmas, Christians have disagreed about celebrating it or not. Protestant England banned Christmas from 1647 to 1660; it was banned in Boston, USA, from 1659 to 1856. Christians in many other countries then also refused to celebrate Christmas; they considered Christmas as unholy, with excess consumption, drunkenness, and sexual infidelity.

Christians who celebrate Christmas, see an opportunity to preach Jesus. The Bible teacher Doug Batchelor in a video on YouTube titled “Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas?” encourages us to seize the moment even if we don’t celebrate Christmas. We see Jesus seize the moment in John Chapter 10 during the celebration of Hannukah, a Jewish tradition that falls around Christmas time.

We read in John 10:22-24 (The Message Bible): “They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon’s Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out.”

Hannukah celebrates the cleansing of the Temple, after the Jewish victory over Greek colonizers and their rulers like Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple. Jesus went to the Temple to preach, knowing that many people would be there. If you continue to read from verse 25 to the end of John 10, you will see that Jesus made a huge impact. Hannukah was not one of the festivals God asked the Jews to celebrate, they created it for themselves; Jesus seized the moment.

Christians will continue disagreeing on whether we should celebrate Christmas; it is a tradition, it is ok not to celebrate. Other traditions we disagree on include whether we should refer to our priests as pastors, superintendents, apostles, bishops, or popes. While we disagree on celebrating Christmas, let’s seize the moment and talk about Jesus the light of the world.

To God be the glory for creating the sun, moon, and stars, and for creating our days, nights, and seasons, Amen!

CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS 2 – SEIZING THE SEASON

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Jesus was not born on December 25, he was born in September or October. During the reign of Emperor Constantine of Rome, who converted to Christianity about 300 years after the resurrection, he seized the pagan festival of Saturnalia celebrating the Sun-god, and turned it into a celebration of Jesus. I did a study on the origins of Christmas during this season last year and it is all available on this blog. Why did Constantine seize the season and the Church went along with him?

Genesis 1:14-15 (The Living Bible) says: “Then God said, “Let bright lights appear in the sky to give light to the earth and to identify the day and the night; they shall bring about the seasons on the earth, and mark the days and years.” And so it was.”

Later on King David says in Psalm 19:1-4 (The Living Bible): “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world…”

The mid-winter celebration which the Romans dedicated, to their god Saturnalia, celebrated the return of daylight to Europe after the long nights during winter. The return of longer days meant the people were able to return to farming and spending time outdoors. It was like returning back to life after death. If we follow the Biblical teaching that the seasons were created by God to teach us about him – what does the mid-winter transition from darkness to light teach about God?

To Emperor Constantine and the Church, the mid-winter transition from darkness to light, and the joy it brought to society, resembled the ministry of Jesus in bringing light into a dark world. At home, when I set up my Christmas tree with my children, I put emphasis on the lights on the tree including the starlight, as you can see in the picture above. Christmas is a Western European Church celebration of the mid-winter season when they move from long nights to long days.

The Church all over the world adopted this Western European Church tradition, of associating Jesus with the mid-winter festival of light. To be sure, the pagan celebration of mid-winter with its eating, drinking, and sexual excesses did not end, it continued side-by-side with the Christian celebration; this has caused some Christians to reject and refuse to celebrate Christmas. To Christians who do celebrate Christmas, remember, Jesus is the reason Christians celebrate Christmas!

To God be the glory, at all times, in Jesus name, Amen!

CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS – 1

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Rupert Murdoch is one of the richest and most powerful person in the world; he owns many newspapers and TV stations; powerful politicians including presidents and prime ministers are careful not to offend Rupert Murdoch, because his newspapers and TV stations can influence voters during elections. However, Mr. Murdoch will join his ancestors in the grave someday and his empire will pass on to the next generation. When we exit this world and meet the creator, we will be judged not on our wealth, power, and influence, but by our faith!

Our faith reveals the thing or the person we trust in the most to guide our lives. I could put my faith in me, believing that all I will achieve in life depends on me alone, how hard I work, and the sacrifices I make to achieve my goals. I could put my faith in another person – parents, brother/sister, aunts/uncles, husband/wife, friends, boss/mentor, political leader – trusting that my following and loyalty to this person will bring me rewards of money, fame, and power. At some point, this person will join their ancestors, and I will also join my ancestors, and appear before the creator.

John 3:16-18 (The Message Bible) says: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son… God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came… to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence… Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

The Bible teaches that the judgement is about our relationship with Jesus. This is the most important criteria at the judgement. John 3:19-21 (The Message Bible) says: “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness… they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil… hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

Jesus is light – loving and good and joyful and peaceful and compassionate and merciful. A relationship with Jesus motivate us to be lights in the world. True faith in Jesus built on his Biblical teachings, leads us into the light and transforms us to be lights. The first call of God to us today is not about our wealth, how famous we are, or how powerful we are – it is a call on us to be lights in the world just like Jesus. This is the Christmas season and Jesus is the reason for the season – get to know him, step into his light, so you too can be a light to the world!

May God bless you richly as you celebrate Jesus this Christmas, Amen!

THE KINGDOM PURPOSE

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If humanity have spread around the world and are ruling the earth, it is because we all invest in achieving the Adamic purpose in the book of Genesis 1:28 to have children, fill the earth, and rule it. The reward for investing in the Adamic purpose is immediate – money, fame, power over others, Adamic glory here and now.

The Kingdom purpose, to be exact – the Biblical Kingdom purpose, calls on us to invest in building a heavenly nation, and not an earthly one. In Genesis Chapter 3 when Adam chose independence over obedience to God, his wife Eve was told she would have a son (Jesus) who would choose obedience over independence. The entire Old Testament showed all that God did to ensure that Jesus came in the flesh. The Kingdom purpose in the Old Testament was focused on the coming of Jesus. Now that Jesus has come and died and resurrected – what is the Kingdom purpose?

Let’s read Matthew 16:13-18 (Worsley’s New Testament) (shortened): “And when Jesus came into the parts of Cesarea… He asked his disciples… Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they answered, Some say thou art John the Baptist, others Elias, and others Jeremias… But, saith He unto them, whom do ye say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God… Jesus replied… Blessed art thou Simon… for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven… as thou art called Peter, so upon this rock, which thou hast confessed, will I build my church…”

The resources of heaven are now focused on building the Church – this is the Kingdom purpose now. The Church is a kingdom with Jesus as King; the Church is a mighty nation with peoples from every ethnic group and from every generation present and past. Peter says in 1Peter 2:4-5 “Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honored. And now you are living stones being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God.”

How are we using our gifts, talents, skills, and capabilities to build this spiritual house under God? The immediate rewards for fulfilling the Adamic purpose are money, fame, and power; in the long-term these rewards fade, decay and die. The immediate rewards for fulfilling Kingdom purpose are love, joy, and peace; in the long-term, followers of Jesus will rule and reign with him in a new heaven and a new earth. Don’t just invest in the Adamic, invest in building the Kingdom!

To God the the glory – now and always, Amen!

THE ADAMIC PURPOSE

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Music, sports, inventing tools to make work easier and faster – where do all of these come from? They are from an abundance of talents and skills found in humanity everywhere in the world and across every generation.

Humanity have the wisdom, reasoning, and gifts to create and re-create, to invent and re-invent things endlessly. People find their purpose, and in some cases create or invent a purpose based on their skills, talents, capabilities, and interests. Where do these come from? The Bible provides answers in the book of Genesis.

We read in Genesis 1:28 (Good News Translation): “[God] blessed them [Adam and Eve], and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals.”

The above is the Adamic purpose – have children, fill the earth, and rule it. Responsibility comes with resources to fulfil the responsibility. The abundance of human skills, talents, capabilities, and variety of interests – are God-given resources for humanity to fulfil its Adamic purpose. When Adam was sent out of the Garden of Eden, the Adamic purpose did not change, it just became harder to fulfil without God leading the way. We have been driving a big car at night without lights!

All that humanity have achieved, all that humans do at home, at the farm, at school, at the office, the hospital, the play ground and the sports ground – all of these work together in fulfilment of the Adamic purpose. God blessed the Adamic purpose, that is why we have the talents, skills, and capabilities to fulfil it. We have indeed multiplied, built great cities, made great music, produced men and women with exceptional talents in music, sports, science, and government.

Adamic purpose produces Adamic achievements and Adamic glory. Adamic achievements and glory, get old, fade away, decay, and die, There is another, greater, more permanent, eternal purpose, that humans can sign up for, and that is the Kingdom purpose. We will look more into this next week, stay tuned!

To God be the glory, Amen!