How to Quarantine to the Glory of God

How to Quarantine to the Glory of God

By the age of five Fanny Crosby lost all of her sight. She later grew up to be one of the most prolific hymn writers of the 19th century. She is known for writing songs filled with deep hope such as Blessed Assurance, Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour and Jesus is Tenderly Calling You home.

Upon hearing of people sharing sympathy for her early loss of sight she famously replied,

“If I had it my way I would have been blind from birth, for when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Saviour.”

Fanny Crosby

For many Christians a time in extended, indefinite quarantine carries some measure of anxiety, fear, and frustration, but like Fanny I feel that for many this is also an period in which we can share a sense of joy for what God is doing and will do with this unique time in many of our lives.

We too can use limitations on our lives for the glory of God.

1. Look carefully at how you walk

Paul the apostle instructs Christians in Ephesus to look carefully at how they walk. In a time where many of us will have more time than we anticipated months ago, this is an opportunity to ‘audit’ our time.

What would we be doing now if we weren’t given time off work? Would we be working heartily to the glory of God? Would we be on mission or ‘asleep on duty’?

This extended period of time indoors gives us a chance to answer and think through some of these questions. To assess and take stock of how we are living as exiles in a fallen world. To assess whether we live with the knowledge that Christ provides for our every need, or whether we live selfishly and in self-reliance.

To those of us who are prone to being ‘too busy to do ___’ what will our excuse be now? To those of us are prone to laziness what excuse will we have now?

We all should question too why it takes a crisis to come to our doorsteps before we have a deep passion for heaven. God is still God and what he says is true. We truly do live in a fallen world, do we have too much passion for this fallen world or do we, at all times, remember we are exiles and lives with our eyes fixed on the next world?

How true this is

Equally, we should use quarantines to look carefully at what our hearts gravitate toward. It is easy to see times like these as an extended holiday. It would take no effort to spend this time on our passions (James 4:3) be it looking to catch up on our Netflix series, scrolling through our social media feeds, and filling our Amazon baskets.

We should be careful to observe whether these are our tendencies and examine, in light of scripture and community, whether they are sinful or not.

Philippians 2:3

2. Walk as the wise in light of eternity and truth

Quarantines opens up amazing opportunities for extended periods of time in prayer, bible study, and reading good Christian books. For those with families, there will be more time with schools closing to do family devotions and fellowship as a family.

For those who are single this is a unique time to be able to serve others with unique needs be it the elderly, parents looking for babysitters, or colleagues. Churches will be in need of those who can help with logistics, church visits or admin. There is much we all can be doing.

Where church may move online, the temptation to spend an extra 30 minutes in bed will only grow stronger. We should make every effort to be alert and ready for the service, singing boldly, praying attentively and listening to the preaching of the word with every effort to respond in the same way we would if we weren’t at home. Check out this video from Greg Gilbert which shares the sentiment we SHOULD feel about online services.

For those who are instructed to work from home, this time can easily be a time to work without the fervour and vigour we would if we had eyes on us. But Christians do not work for the approval of men but rather unto God for it is from him we receive our reward (Colossians 3:23). We see work as a gift from him and as part of the human design. The wise in this time will keep this in mind. The wise will use this as an opportunity for Christian witness. Lord help us all to be wise in this time.

In our communities, there are ‘at risk’ neighbours (you may be one) who would be helped by Christian brothers and sisters be it delivering groceries and meals, spending time with them and or simply texting or calling them to let them know they are in your prayers. For Christian brothers and sisters where we may be far physically due to quarantines, but our blood bought union in Christ is unchanging. In such a time we can try make use of modern technology yet eagerly awaiting the time we can meet in person.

One of the elders of my church in East Asia said that his greatest fear was not people are in danger but rather than the congregation had been disbanded over the city (and world for that matter) and that now, more than ever brothers and sisters faced obstacles in attending church and fellowshipping with each other. Sheep on the far from the flock are easy pickings for the wolves. Church members who are MIA are the same.

Like sheep, Christians survive and thrive in community not in isolation.

This is a reminder for us to press into community rather than away from it. But not just to press in, in terms of awareness but in caring for each other spiritually. In a season like this prayerlessness, bible reading, and other disciplines may actually go down not up. We should endeavour to care (and be cared for) by other church members in such a way. Prioritising people’s spiritual health over careers, hobbies, financial targets, you name it, is paramount always but especially in times like this.

Keeping our mind’s active during this time will only be beneficial, home workouts, walks around the area (if you can), and setting times to do certain task keep the mind from sinking into idleness and boredom.

Home workouts are helpful for keeping the mind alive!

Idle hands may be a phrase taken from the world, but it carries biblical roots, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9). None of us should be bored, in a such a period, as there is much we can be doing.

3. Meditating on truth in an age of confusion

While the world around us is slowing down and falling into deeper disarray, it is a timely reminder for us all of how futile our lives are. The days are evil indeed here and always have been. The COVID-19 virus is only another prompt for us to be reminded that our biggest enemy – namely sin and death – were defeated by Jesus and are being worked out by us daily fighting sin in our lives.

So, while as Christians, we currently live as exiles in a world filled with viruses, death, financial turmoil, closures and chaos we will dwell in the house of Lord forever and ever where there will be no tears and no trauma. This is the source of hope and the reason we can quarantine to the glory of God.

Image result for pilgrims progress
Pilgrim’s progress was at one time the most published book of all time. A beautiful reminder of Collosians 3:2

It is also a reminder for those of us who grew up in the west of the realities of the believers living in places like the Middle East and East Asia. For many, while quarantines are a new challenge, meeting together in the face of danger, restrictions on church gatherings, and the day to day resistance put in place by governments is the norm. This is a time where we can feel this pain to and endeavour to keep such churches in prayer.

For many churches the virus doesn’t spell a return to comfort but more persecution and trouble.
Coronavirus: Should Christians Be Scared?

Coronavirus: Should Christians Be Scared?

I’m writing this from Shanghai into the 6th week of city-wide quarantine. To add some context Shanghai has nearly 30 million people. This is just under half the population of the United Kingdom. A quarantine of this magnitude has never been seen before in human history. In itself it is an experiment.

Having said this, today, as I write this (13th of March) no new cases have been reported. Less than 700 people have been infected and 300 of them have recovered with the rest still in hospital. There have been 3 fatalities.

Right now, the virus is in Europe where numbers seem to be increasing at a rapid rate. I fear Europeans are in far graver danger than I am in China.

I say this because of the precautions and measures that have been taken and are able to be taken in a single party communist nation compared to democratic, multiparty governments.

In China schools, restaurants, businesses were shut down overnight without resistance or votes. Mandatory wearing of masks was a decision that was implemented overnight.

Due to the nature of China, people are far more compliant with rules. Often if I went to one of the few restaurants or coffee shops open, I would be one of many foreigners with no Chinese citizens in sight. Naturally, actions like this have played a huge role in minimising the ability of the virus to spread.

The actions I have mentioned can’t be implanted at home and even if they were, they would be met with far more resistance. People would go and visit their friends (something banned and enforced in china), go to restaurants in droves, and turn their noses up at the idea of wearing a mask (already rumours of “they don’t work” are prevalent”)

Overconfidence

Overconfidence seems to be the prevalent response.

“I’m young”

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper”

“If you drink saltwater it kills the virus”

Already governments are inhibiting the movement of people affecting their day to day lives and for good reason. Christians and unbelievers in China have died from the virus.

While you may be young, fit and without underlying health problems. See if you can answer the following WITHOUT saying no.

1. Do you know any medical or health workers?

In China the number of health workers who have contracted the virus is sad and disheartening. The Doctor who is said to have discovered the virus, died from the virus. His wife, parents and recently new-born son all contracted the virus as well.

2. Do you know any taxi drivers or public transport workers?

3. Do you know anyone with sickle cell, obesity, and or asthma?

These are at risk groups that can be “under 50”.

Overplaying the severity?

Equally, widespread panic is being seen.

Panic buying of essentials is a thing.

Anxiety attacks are on the rise

Hysteria is not uncommon. One evening, my neighbours were screaming hysterically due to the extreme stress of staying indoors for so long.

In China the quarantine has been a catalyst for a rise in domestic violence and mental breakdown cases. There is a reason solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments given to prisoners.

But equally, in reality should this be a surprise to Christians in a fallen world the is under the power of the prince of the air? (Ephesians 2, Genesis 3). Should we really be scared like the world?

A woman wearing full COVID-19 protection

With all of this said how should a Christian respond to this now pandemic?

1. Prayer

In the face of fear Christians pray. Jesus before going to the cross prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 25). Paul and Silas in prison ‘prayed and sand hymns’ (Acts 16). Daniel in response to a change in the law ‘prayed’ (Daniel 6). Christians in the face of danger, in the face of fear pray. If like me sometimes you wonder how to pray appropriately in a time like this you are not alone.

Luke 11 shows the disciples too were unsure how to pray. The format of the Lord’s prayer is to Adore God for WHO he is, confess our sins, fears, burdens, thank him for his provision and Supplicate him with our requests (this is commonly known as ACTS). Confessing our fears in times like this is imperative as it is a reminder to us of our need for deeper reliance on God and trust in who he says he is, and what he says he will accomplish.

Sometimes this is a simple Mark 9:23-25 cry of “help my unbelief”. Study this passage and see how Jesus’s response was careful measured and comforting.

Prayer is an opportunity for us to give our supplications to the Lord and prepare to receive his answer in faith and not grumbling. Christians in China who prayed for relief and subsequently died, did not die for lack of faith, but for it was ordained by God that they should dwell with him now.

Viruses, pandemics and the like are fertile ground for bad theology to go around. Christian, DO NOT buy into it.

2.  Fight for reliance through means of grace

To have too much desire to stay on earth may show a lack of desire for heaven and a misunderstanding of the futility of this world. To have too much desire to go to heaven may shows a misunderstanding of what it means to be an instrument in the hands of the redeemer and a lack of passion to be used by God for HIS purposes.

To be too optimistic in this time would be to be insensitive and foolish, to be hopeless would be to forget our unfading hope.

With all of this being said, the Christian life is a fight. From the moment of conversion, we fight for the righteousness that we are. Fighting for righteousness looks like against sin and fighting for obedience. It is extreme and cosmic warfare. It is not for the faint hearted. The ones who are defeated historically are the ones who never fought at all (namely sin in their lives).

The Coronavirus is just an aspect of this fight.

Times like these are reminders of how our lives should look, a daily looking to God in scripture, prayer and other means of grace because our fear are quelled in him and our needs are provided by him.

3. Use the COVID-19 to explain and share the hope you have.

The Coronavirus has been provided me personally with infinite Gospel sharing opportunities. This has been and will be a time where believers around the world can share with friends, family and close ones the reason for the hope we have in a challenging time and a chance to share our assurance that God is who he says he is.

In your workplace, university and community there will be people who are struggling with fear, anxiety and overconfidence in science. Graciously, be a comforting neighbour, sympathising with their fears (or challenging their overconfidence), and maybe God will open an avenue for you to share the reason for your hope.

In the West with the high number of elderly people and people with obesity this is an opportunity for Christians to really make an impact in terms of caring for our neighbours in more practical ways.

Are there members of your church who would be helped by you delivering their shopping? Could you even go further and cook these meals for them?

Is your friend going to be bored during this time? Would sending/gifting them a book help?

Could you help clean your church building early on Saturday morning in preparation for the service? Could you help by cleaning it after?

Practically there are infinite ways that the COVID-19 virus has opened up doors and avenues to love people practically.

4. Practical Wisdom

Wisdom may dictate that you should not attend Church on Sunday. Wisdom may dictate that you refuse to go into work if instructed. Wisdom may dictate that you ‘hyper’ quarantine limiting interactions with members of your family.

But here are a few practical pointers to consider.

Christians do not act out of self-preservation but love

  • Romans 15 talks of the strong, protecting the weak. All our decisions should be made from this heart posture. As such it Is also possible to persevere in attending church etc in order to serve the weak or be served. If you are young it may even be wiser for you to stay at home and protect those older and with underlying health conditions. Such a decision would be made out of love and not self-preservation.

Christians should encourage others to prepare and respond to trouble not to worry about it  

  • Jesus constantly reminded his followers that the day of his death, their biggest fear, was coming and it ultimately came. In John 16 one of his final words he warns that they will face ‘tribulation’ but not to ‘fear as he has overcome the world.’ The greatest fear any of us should have is a life without Christ. This isn’t true if you have repented and believed and thus ultimately as we face ‘tribulation’ we can do so knowing that biggest issues, our sin, has been dealt with.  

Christians ultimately trust God whatever he ordains

  • In conclusion, Christians are able to turn and say to God that “whatever my God ordains is right and that he is good.” In the end we should be able to thank God for all he has done and is doing and will do even in a challenging time like this. It may harder to praise God in times of turmoil but he is unchanging and as such so should our trust in him.

Like all decisions, we should make them prayerfully, biblically, under the guidance of church elders and in the community and network of believers. But hopefully this adds colour and direction to any thoughts one may have.

Akwasi

Ghana’s Independence Day and Racism

Ghana’s Independence Day and Racism

Today marks Ghana’s Independence Day. As a Ghanaian (both my parents are Ashanti), who was brought up in the U.K., who doesn’t speak Twi (to my own disgust); independence day is one of the happier days of the year. It is  an opportunity for me as a member of the diaspora to ‘reconnect’ with the Motherland.

Ashanti Kente Cloth

Often, I sing along with the anthem (which I do know I have my grandmother to thank for that) when it pops up on one of my various social media feeds. This year a line in the anthem, which I had sung many times, struck a major chord with me.

“…And help us to resist oppressors’ rule, with all our will and might evermore…”

Final line of the Ghanaian anthem

While growing up in the U.K. it is unfathomable to think of the amount of racism that my grandparents (1st generations), my mother and uncle (2nd generation) and my sister and I (3rd generation) would have and do face. It is tragic to think of and has carried long term pain (Physical abuse, spitting, verbal abuse to name but a few). The country of my birth has often caused internal conflict as to discerning where my ‘allegiance’ should lie.

The Queen dancing with Kwame Nkrumah

Racism is a heinous sin (As a definition I will use ‘being prejudiced based on ethnicity’). But it is part of the system of sin of which satan is prince of (Ephesians 2:2). Sin is in all the world.

If you are a Christian reading this, you at some stage were part of the system of sin. You, like myself, was a rebel to God. Racism is sad not just because it is deeply painful but because it goes against all that God says about people created in his image. Recognising that while sin affects people differently (for instance, the effects of lust have more potential to cause pain to women than men), it is something under which all of us do stand condemned AND contribute to if we are not fighting against. There is no neutral ground. Switching sides only comes through one way (Jesus Christ). After that there is no going back. (Read Ephesians 2, better yet the whole letter)

And the truth with sin is, that it one day it will all be judged. For those who are covered by the work of Jesus they are saved from sin and hell (Romans 6:23). This is always a sobering reminder for us believers who face the pain of the world often at the hands of unbelievers.

Furthermore, because racism is sin, it cannot be helped through education, proximity or any other means. It can only be mortified through the holy spirit. Though the means above are often used as just that means not the end.

Thinking in this way has helped transform what is a cause of deep personal pain into something with far deeper cosmic ramifications. So while there is a time to mourn sin there is a time to also dry my eyes and recognise the freedom of self-forgetfulness (Tim Keller – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/book-review-the-freedom-of-self-forgetfulness/)

One of the reasons I’ve likely been slow to speak on my own personal racism is because I’ve not wanted to add complications to what already is a complex issue. Black people have differing views on race and rightly so, part of the difficulties of racial oppression is becoming a monolith.

Speaking on publicly on racism being in the heart of a black man is bound to upset some brothers and sisters out there (You may be one).

It is also bound to cause sinful pride in the hearts of white racists who have weaponised this opinion and used it to downplay the pain of racism directed towards black people (You may be one).

I have no intention to heap more pain on people or for me to used to score points. But through remembering the gospel, I recognise, that I must fight against prejudice in myself that I was born with (Psalm 51:5). If not I am a willing participant for the plans of the deceiver.

The victim of a household robbery understands the pain of someone taking what is is not theirs. This, however, is not an excuse for watching movies illegally, or not paying for parking spots, gym memberships or public transport. So while the effects of sin differ, who they are committed against does not. This I think is why humility is a often shown as a key cornerstone of Christian sanctification. It reminds us that our performance is not against others, but before a Holy God.

Though the racism I had in my heart was rarely verbalised or rarely could it be described as hatred, being confronted with the gospel taught me two things.

A) I didn’t love white people as myself which is the biblical standard.

B) Before a holy God I once again stood condemned for disliking those who were created in his image. I was actively participating as a hypocrite and rebel to my new status as a Christian (Colossians 3)

Recognising the best way I could help end the cycle of racism, that has been ever so painful, is not through reading up on Ghanaian, African and Black history (though I will continue to do so as I love it, Malcolm X’s auto-biography is still in my top 5), nor through having white friends (while this too has been a true blessing in the past few years of which I’m so happy for) but through the gospel. In it working in my life in my heart and proclaiming it through my speech and conduct.

More life to Kwame Nkrumah. Thank you for your bravery and sacrifices.
The Chinese cVirus and why I’m not coming home even if offered the opportunity…

The Chinese cVirus and why I’m not coming home even if offered the opportunity…

My plan this year was to blog weekly. Unfortunately due to being away this has only started today. Equally I had hoped to start on a more positive note but nonetheless here we go…

A lot of people have gotten in contact with me as to how I feel about the coronavirus and whether like hundreds of Brits I will be taking up the opportunity to return to the U.K. I hope in this short post to articulate why I’m choosing not to, and the reason I have for the hope I have.

First, I live in Shanghai. The coronavirus originates in the city of Wuhan. The virus could not have come at a worst time. Wuhan is a city bigger than London with roughly 11million people. Over 5 million of these citizens left just before the virus was announced due to Chinese New Year. Many of these citizens went to other parts of China. Many also travelled internationally (many to the U.K.). There are as I write this around 33 official cases in Shanghai a city of 27 million. The word on the ground from many Chinese citizens is that this number has been vastly under reported. Given the timing the cases will increase exponentially over the next few weeks. Masks in many shops have sold out. You know they’re in stock when you see people queuing outside to get them. The shops and roads are empty due to the New Year but also the virus. Due to the nature of the Chinese government, unlike other nations there will most likely be a proclivity to deal with this virus domestically before looking internationally.

However, I do feel safer here than in think I would if the same had occurred in London, I say that because I see the measures the Chinese government is putting in place. Not wearing a mask is now a punishable crime. Every elevator reeks of chlorine. Temperature checks are frequent. The holiday period has been extended as to keep people further isolated. Deliveries to front doors have stopped in order to reduce human to human contact. I say all of this to add balance to what will later be said. The virus is serious, it is deadly, it is likely to be around the world in a matter of weeks. Already it is more serious than SARS (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/29/coronavirus-cases-in-china-overtake-sars-and-impact-could-be-more-severe.html) but equally the Chinese government is making fantastic steps that would unlikely be taken by western governments due to bureaucracy.

As a Christian, my hope is placed in the hope of Jesus’s return. I fight to see and believe this every day. I fight this in the sins that I fight perpetually which tempt me to believe this world has more joy to offer than Christ. I fight this now daily in my belief that this world has more to offer than situations like this. Since the fall God’s perfect creation has been corrupted. We (Man) have contributed to this and deserve punishment. Christ has offered an avenue to be reconciled to God, only through a response in repentance and faith can we not only be ‘evacuated’ of this world but live to serve God as his holiness deserves.

With this being said I think biblical wisdom must be applied to this situation. The bible is sufficient for equipping the godly man and woman for every good work. It is clear that this virus is serious yet as a believer who’s hope is placed not in this world but the next, a believer who now has many Chinese Christian brothers and sisters who unlike me don’t have the liberty and freedom to leave the country even if they wanted to, I think it is wise to remain in China. Not only due to wanting to stand with my brothers and sisters but also due to my trust in the Lord that regardless of whatever trial he brings he will keep my soul in this life as long as it is required and in the next life for eternity. China has tested me emotionally, mentally and physically. If I’m honest this doesn’t feel like the worst challenge at all.

This week we have all been reminded of the preciousness of life. Kobe Bryant’s death upset me deeply. I too value my life, but fear more the one who is able to crush my soul (namely being God, refer to Matthew 10:28). Thus while I desire to preserve my earthly body I know my spiritual health is tied to Christ’s life, death and resurrection. My obedience and belief to me now matters far more than anything (I fail to act this out often but this is my core belief). I will only leave my house to meet other believers and attend church (which has decided to remain open showing the perseverance of God’s people in the face of every worldly difficulty even the ones we can’t see). So for the most part all the virus means for me is extended periods of time indoors and minimised contact with loved ones. This virus will most likely pass, a cure is likely to be found for it. I think it’s important for me and others to keep that in mind especially now.

My university has been very supportive and offered international students the right to defer for the semester punishment free. The semester has also been suspended for the time being showing they too like the rest of China are taking the next few weeks and months seriously. I do have a goal and desire to graduate in summer. As long as this remains an option in Jesus name I will do so.

My only request for prayer is for boldness for other Christians in China and myself to persevere in hope, persevere in evangelism and persevere in obedience. The biggest battle in all our lives (yours included) is sin. To be distracted of this belief in a time like this would be giving in to a sinful temptation.

The Anger Problem You Need To Fight.

The Anger Problem You Need To Fight.

This article will be short, snappy and informative. Its intention isn’t to be engaging, but rather to deliver a weighty amount of truth concisely and directly. My hope and prayers are that after reading it you will take time to think, study and pray about anger and take active steps to tackle it where it is apparent in your life of which I am sure it is.

Anger is done by all of you. It’s not a part of you that is sectioned off and hidden. Anger has the ability to completely dominate your thoughts, behaviour, desires and beliefs. To say ‘I was just a bit angry’ is a fallacy in that your whole body, mind and soul was affected even if for a moment and even if on a minor scale.

Anger can burn hot or it can burn cold and can be everything in between. While you may not scream and shout the cold and freezing effects of your anger may burn stronger than the raging and foaming mouth of a lunatic. Anger is intriguing as it affects every single one of us. Even those who deny its reality in their lives. The difference may be the scale with small minor irritations (a frown, on side and large-scale physiological responses (increased heart rate, clenched fists, violent outbursts etc) on the other hand it may be small scale but deep reactions (bitterness, long period thought cycles, re-running the justifying your rightness and highlighting the opposing parties stupidity/foolishness/selfishness/whatever I would never do _____ etc etc.

Anger is body, soul and minds responses to what it feels is wrong. Where one feels no anger, one feels nothing is wrong with the world. It’s for this reason that anger affects us all. We all feel some things are wrong with the world in one way or another. Some of these thoughts and feeling are justified. Others are not. This is why one can feel angry at a traffic jam even when it has nothing to do with them or they are not the cause of it. To be angry is to be human as to be angry is to have a conscience. Our inbuilt nature that processes what is right and what is wrong. However, like the fall, our anger (underpinned by our ‘judgement system’) has become distorted. As such we can get angry at things, we shouldn’t feel anger over (such as traffic jams). This is not to say that we are incapable of being ‘angry’ over the right things, but rather a point of caution that we must be aware of in order to be ‘righteously angry.’ To not be angry is to see nothing wrong with the world which in a fallen world is a crime in itself

God is angry. The best anger is the best love. God’s anger fell on Jesus even though it was meant to fall on you. God’s anger disarms the power of sin in that he shows mercy to us by sending us the power to defeat sin. God’s anger will deliver us from the pain of others sins. His anger will be poured out on those who chose not to repent. God’s anger serves as a reminder to run the good race and fight the good fight.

Christians have the power to process anger like (see notes below) God, resulting in mercy and forgiveness where injustice has occurred and repentance and deeper faith where we recognise our anger has been unrighteously served (Being angry that we haven’t received the level of respect we think we deserve(entitlement), being upset for not getting what we think we deserve (entitlement again) etc)

The Gospel helps us tackle anger. Like all things the Gospel gives us hope in the area of our lives. Our anger can be reformed not because we have the ability to change but because God has the ability to change you.

Christians can do this by A) seeking more grace from the Lord in our anger and B) Taking our anger apart and putting it back together again.

  1. What is my situation
  2. How do I react?
  3. What are my motives?
  4. What are the consequences?
  5. What is true?
  6. How do I turn to God for help?
  7. How could I respond constructively in this situation?
  8. What are the consequences of faith and obedience?

The little frustrations are often the hardest cases. Not because they are so hard to get over but because they are so commonplace. Someone being inefficient. Poor phone signal. A hard to discern accent over the phone. Late trains. All these commonplace reasons to be angry often lead to complaining. Major sins are only minor sins grown up. Complaining has the same DNA as rage. Everyday anger is a major problem as it leads us to treat others are subhuman/inefficient/ semi being and by that very attitude, we act like a superhuman. This is what God calls pride. Our everyday anger is often about convenience and ease. These two things often being idols in our lives.

Anger at self is commonplace. Anger at self leads to acting in the role of an implacable God of which you set the standards to meet (and fail) OR the aggrieved victim( I’ve failed MYSELF. I’ve brought shame upon MYSELF. The person I should be is… The person the world should see is…) Questions to dismantle this anger include…

  1. What ladder are you climbing? (Are you the judge who’s opinion matters most? Do other people serve are judges?)
  2. Whose ladder are you climbing?
  3. Who can pick you up when you fall?

Anger at God is understandable but unjustifiable as he is God all the time. That’s all I’ll say on this one but just know you are not alone in this one (Jonah is a textbook example)

For more help…

Passages to study

  • James
  • The life of Jesus in the Gospel’s
  • The book of Kings (Idolatry is exposed and broken down really well)

Books to Read (Personal Recommendations)

  • Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation and Bitterness – David Powlison
  • How to Change – Paul Tripp

*I deliberated over the use of this word I prayerfully hope you take time to understand what I mean by this. Like God does not mean after regeneration you will process anger perfectly.)

Me Myself and I

Me Myself and I

Beyoncé’s hit song ‘Me Myself and I’ musically is a masterpiece. From the looped guitar riff to the bass guitar runs and I’ve not even made a start on the vocals…

But the song’s lyrics very early on presented me with a predicament. How does one guard themselves against self-deception? A quick look at scripture, church history and our world today shows we live in a world that vies for our attention and opinions constantly. If you are reading this the likelihood is your social media that brought you here. It can almost feel like living with the radio on. All the time. With the stations changing constantly. As a Christian how do we faithfully turn the volume down?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A ‘tactic’ that we are often told to employ when we feel the encapsulating noise of the radio is to force the volume down. We throw the radio out of the window (but it still plays). We try to break it but soon find out it is unbreakable. We try and put stickers over the speakers but the voices are still clear. Like Beyoncé said ‘My Myself and I it’s all I got in the end it’s what I found out… I know I’ll never disappoint myself.’ While watching Love Island this summer I was intrigued at the constant emphasis to ‘go with your gut…’ (Curtis knows that one went wrong lol)

 ‘You’re born alone you’ll die alone’, ‘There’s no bunk beds in the grave,’ ‘Don’t let anyone change you,’ are all phrases that help us turn the volume down by reminding us of our responsibilities. But my friend Victor once told me ‘Where one belief will save you at a certain stage of life in another it will kill you.’ Backing yourself and yourself only puts you in a position of ultra-determination of your life. Changing the motto to ‘Me Myself and God’ also is not the solution. While it shouts piety, in truth it’s rooted in a deep misunderstanding and often is where self-deception begins. 

Self-deception starts with listening to yourself more. 

Self-deception is the belief in a false idea where opportunities to pursue truth have been neglected, turned down or rejected. While speaking to a Mormon I was intrigued at the deep beliefs he had. His faith in Mormon beliefs was unshakable. Often my faith can feel flabby and prone to wandering. But a theme that I picked up on was the tragedy of listening to yourself and voices and messages and people that affirm you and yourself and those who agree with you. The truth is self-deceived Christians don’t know that they are deceived.

Photo by Riya Kumari on Pexels.com

Christians should run to the strong tower that guards us when we feel the noise is too much (Proverbs 18:10). Note it is the tower that defends us, guards us and keeps us. Not us. And in that strong tower, the Lord often instructs us to go out again into the noise and join with others to amplify his station which broadcasts the good news (Matthew 28:16-20). The God that teaches us that we are to lean into other believers in times of trouble wants us to fellowship with other believers (Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Jude 23). It is God that reveals to us that in our original nature we are wrong about him (Ephesians 2, Romans 5, Romans 1). We are in rebellion to the perfect one(Romans 5:3) and as such prove ourselves to be foolish (Romans 1:22, Proverbs 28:26). The poor in spirit who recognise their lack of holiness and lack of wisdom are the ones he pours out his spirit and wisdom (Matthew 5:3, James 1:5,14). To be a Christian, you have to repent and accept that you were in rebellion to God and as such foolish. Every time you confess your sins while saying the Lord’s prayer you ask for forgiveness, for being wrong. Our desires can change as our hearts have transformed from those of stone to those of flesh(Ezekiel 36:26). But what does this mean? Isn’t flesh a negative word in the bible? So does this constant examination still apply in the life of the regenerate? 

Yes (Self-deceived people don’t know they are deceived) 

Depression is something I have waged war with since I was 10 years old. But even as one who struggles with this many who also share this struggle know deep down at the heart of depression is a heart that listens to itself far too much. In my seasons with depression, I have often seen the world for what it truly is. Broken, fallen, and sinful. However, the station playing the good news of hope was muffled for one reason or another.

Frequently when I have faced seasons of spiritual depression people have, with very good intentions, told me subtly or explicitly to listen to myself more. Far too often depression is believed to be as a result of low self-confidence (In most cases this isn’t true but that’s a separate conversation) the world tells us we need to manufacture confidence in ourselves. Achieve more, do more, be seen more, it shouts.   

‘Focus on yourself’ , ‘Put yourself first’ and the like a such, as said above, at times are ‘salvific’, but in seasons of depression it is a rabbit hole that can in tragic cases lead to death (RIP Jarrid Wilson and other CHRISTIANS who have died in ‘sin’ yet will rise in Christ because of His finished work). 

The issue when I struggled with depression wasn’t that I listened to myself too much. The issue was that my beliefs were misordered. Through biblical counselling, I was taught the importance of looking up and out rather than in and in. Upwards to the hope that God alone can give. Out to a world in which I should serve rather than be served. In times of struggle, we can often look to people to our into us, serve us, accommodate for us yet the word commands us to live lives, not for ourselves and count others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Your voice was, is and will always be the first in line when it comes to your decision making. It’s the loudest. The clearest. The most frequent. While my war has often been with depression every Christian’s war is with pride. Pride that is overt in the form of boasting or pride that comes from false humility believing us to be more deserving of what we have (Click here for more https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-kill-my-pride). A pride that places ourselves at the centre of our lives. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). A pride that denies the true response of ‘Lord let this cup pass but if not your will be done.’ (Matthew 26) A pride that ignores the call in Lord’s prayer of may your will be done. (Matthew 6). This advice is in direct opposition to the philosophy of the world. Why would you not put your voice first in line if you’re not at the centre of your world? As mentioned the belief that it’s ‘Me Myself And God’ while it sounds pious fails. Often scriptural promises are given to Christians as a collective. Christians need teachers to teach them how to study God’s word (Proverbs 4:2, 1 Tim 4:14). Christians need other Christians to exhort them. This comes often comes in all shapes and sizes. 

No (Christian freedom) 

Christians are called to persevere and hold fast to the true anchor. So this means holding on to the fact that regenerate people have a new nature fundamentally. A new heart means the ability for a clear conscience. Christians disagree on a lot. Imagine being a church member in Hong Kong right now. Where the Christian church is comprised of police officers, gov officials and protestors on two opposing sides. Christians in America, the U.K and the like feel the same. Civil war feels imminent. Yet Christian freedom is essential to the gospel. Christian freedom prevents the slippery road to legalism which in itself threatens the gospel by adding our subclauses. Christian freedom allows us to love unconditionally. As such because of our blood-bought freedom when we make certain decisions we can make them free of the constraints of doubt or constant external affirmation. A Christian mind, to quote Alaister Begg is not a mind trained to only think on Christian things but to think of everything through a Christian lens. So while often advice in the world has strands of truth, Christians should and must filter everything through the lens of the gospel to prevent following what ‘sounds right’ or is ‘partially right. ’

Because our voices are the loudest our mistakes, failures, and decisions are not usually because we listened to someone else. Rather it’s often because we trusted ourselves too much! Advice and counsel should primarily come through our friends and family. However, God often uses all sorts of people to speak truth to us. The old church member can be advised and encouraged in the world by the new convert. The newly converted apostle Paul rightly exhorted the apostle peter. The man who saw Christ in all his glory at the transfiguration. Pride says I will only listen to my friends and those who I feel comfortable enough to challenge. Humility recognises good counsel and truth comes from an array of sources, sometimes even from people we dislike. So while this is separate to the belief in ‘betting on yourself’ it is challenging the idea of trusting in yourself. To trust in Christ means to eliminate trust in self. This isn’t just in regards to sexual purity as it is often presented but also thoughts and fundamental beliefs that we hold to no matter how strongly we believe in them. Our trust in self is the root of self-deception. Our personal opinions alter over time. By virtue of change it means that we accept that we got things wrong or mistook our former opinions to be true. Whats not to say thats the case now. (As in right now, like now now on something you ‘know you’re right on’)

And so the point is that aim of the Christian is not to put our hands over our ears but rather to filter the voice. Not through a lens of what ‘sounds right’ but through a Godly lens of the word, biblical fellowship, and prayer. Listening to yourself ‘sounds right’ but misses out on the truth that often we don’t know ourselves as much as we know. We have hearts that no man can understand and as such our desires must be on the constant filter mode. We should constantly be adjusting the frequency of what voices we take in knowing that ultimately the perfect frequency is the one of God of which vertebrates through our friends, family and neighbours who come in all different shapes and sizes. 

How to Lament 101

How to Lament 101

Last month I had a breakdown. Physically, Emotionally and Mentally I felt broken and disillusioned with my life. As many who are reading this will know I am currently living in a country in East Asia.

I found myself crying uncontrollably. Weeping with no tears coming out. Screaming inaudibly. Paralysed with fear and crippled with inactivity I felt a strong comfort that I could end this now…

I truly believe God was the only thing that kept me ‘sane’

For a number of reasons, I felt completely disillusioned with being out here. I was utterly consumed with my life and how futile it had become. I live in a building with 39 floors. Next door to my building is 10 others of the same height. Next, to my complex are 100s upon 100s of similar sized manages. To enter Uni, I scan my face (Much like Edna’s famous iris scanner in Incredibles), and then the gate opens.

On a daily basis, I had no peace in my heart that my life was secure. I was convinced, over time, that I wouldn’t return back to the U.K. alive. I had no peace in my mind that others around me were safe either. I excessively checked in on a number of people to make sure they were okay. I excessively noticed every stare and picture. I couldn’t even tell myself that they weren’t looking at me, when the truth was, they were. Being black and male in the country I am currently in makes me stick out like a thumb. I’m above average height and much darker than those around me. 91% of people in the country I am in are of one ethnicity. Ethic minorities here themselves are rare. Black men even rarer.

My consuming thoughts on myself dragged my eyes from what was truly above. Dragged my mind from thinking on things above. Naturally, my behaviour followed suit and I was led into unrepentant prayerlessness, scriptural study and reliance on God. I distracted myself by working hard. I went to Uni from 9-9 but the peace I required couldn’t be found in distraction but only in God. My days could be ruined by a child pointing at me or noticing someone discreetly trying to take a picture of me. With such things being out of my control I felt a strong need to control what I could.

I feel more strongly than ever that Christians need to be a part of a biblically healthy church. If not for my church I say this without caution, I truly believe I could have taken my life. Having men and women who faced much worse forms of persecution take me in and fill me with hope through the word. Disciple me. Care for me. Share my burdens. I was reminded of the need not to ‘pray my situation away.’ Doing so would be returning to the U.K. but instead praying for strength for above to endure all that was going on around me. We do at times in life need to renege on decisions taking. I felt strongly this wasn’t one. Learning how to lament was something that I had never felt a need to do. Learning how to lament was something I needed to learn.

In the bible, there is a whole book dedicated to lamenting (Lamentations). Nearly 70% of the 150 Psalms are ones of lament. Lamenting and crying to the Lord for help in seasons of trouble is not lack of faith but true faith. Faith that regardless of the situations I will not grumble to men, I will not look to sin to fill my feeling of angst (former friends of mine in this area include masturbation, laziness and self-pity, ones I’ve noticed in my friends include overworking themselves to distract from painful experiences, turning to gossip, and disobedience in church attendance, all of which are for JUST reasons, pain is hard thing to navigate), but instead I will turn to the Lord in the ways he has commanded me to.

Through my struggle I learnt to…

Cast my anxieties onto him knowing he cares(1 Peter 5:7).

Not allow excessive anxiousness (Read last blog post on why fear in and of itself is not a bad thing) knowing he will provide all I need in more (Matthew 6).

Trust that regardless of what happens where I am, whether I lose my visa, whether I am questioned, whether I am imprisoned, I can trust that God is a God that never lies. (Numbers 23:19) That I am facing no persecution worse than Jesus did (His suffering was unrighteous mine isn’t) and that in suffering now, and in doing so well I am fulfilling the gospel (Romans 8:17, 1 Peter 4:15-16).

Learning to lament and admit your weakness is hard, but it is truly biblical.

Here are a few places to turn to help you start.

  1. Admit your need to pray and don’t disobey clear biblical instruction to do so.
    As someone who wasn’t raised in a praying household, prayer is not something that comes easy to me. Often, I have only prayed when I felt like it, preferring to study my word. However biblically Christians are directly commanded to pray and to pray often. Christians are commanded to pray through times of suffering. To pray always. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” Admit you disobedience and turn to God when anxious and afraid.
  2. Pray through scripture.
    Learning to pray through scripture transformed my prayer life. Instead of my prayers becoming ‘restricted’ as I thought they may be. They became tangible, honest and imaginative. Click here to watch a short video on how and why you should.
  3. Seek others
    For many, this can be hard. But within a healthy biblical church, there will be others, in particular, older men and women who have experienced anxiety in a variety of ways. They may still be struggling with it but in discussing your pain with them you kill the feeling of isolation that often accompanies anxiety. Praying through scripture (in particular the Psalms) shows believer how emotive the Christian life can and should be in particular seasons. This world is truly fallen and broken. Soberness about the realities of life should humble us and turn us to the Lord.
  4. Repeat.
    Results aren’t instant. It is likely I will not shake off the anxiety I feel with being here. But through God, I feel equipped, hopeful, and able to endure this season regardless of what may come. Perseverance is not a beautiful image. Sweat, blood and tears are all things Jesus himself endured. He suffered from hematohidrosis, a medical condition in which anxiety causes sweating blood (Luke 22:44). To receive a peace that surpasses all understanding may require perseverance, petition and endurance in prayer and faithfulness. For others, it may be bestowed instantly. God is sovereign in this area. But in the area of prayer, we bear the responsibility to do so and to do so biblically.

Grace, Peace and Love,

Akwasi

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear is good. Fear is what makes you look twice when you cross the road. Fear is what drives you to re-read essays, fear is what makes you go to the doctors for a health check. However, we can all think of one situation where our healthy fears and anxieties crossed this healthy threshold and began controlling us. And uncontrolled fear is where the article is centred.

Xenophobia (The fear of the unknown) is a common example of a fear gone wrong. A fear that in and of itself is healthy and understandable. Knowing what is coming in situations allows us as humans to plan, make strategic decisions and minimise potential dangers. However, as we see in cases such as immigration people’s fears that start off as healthy grow into ravaging beasts that cease control of their minds giving loose to puppies of destruction often named Irrational, Delusional, and Selfish.

Many of our fears are rooted in real life situations that genuinely hurt us or affected us negatively. I think back to the school of friends I know who failed tests in Year 9. Often, they themselves refer back to these moments as to where they turned their educational careers around. Their fear of not applying themselves is a healthy fear that they still carry, and they allow to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, cases like these should also carry a large yellow warning sign. Often this fear (fear of failure) can drive them to unhealthy anxiety, fear of feeling worthless if good grades aren’t attained, and attaching their worth to their grades and the like. Having a healthy control of our fears is imperative.

Take the young teenage boy who is cheated on by his first love. His fear of being hurt like that again is justified, even should be advised. Relationships have a tendency to hurt us if we don’t establish healthy physical, spiritual and emotional barriers in place. Nonetheless, he too has a responsibility to manage his fears. Fear cannot allow him to view a whole sex in the same light. Fear cannot allow him to become selfish and self-absorbed on his ‘happiness’ or ‘self-growth.’ He cannot afford to allow his fear of being hurt to control his future relationships negatively by shutting down at the sniff of instability. He cannot afford to let fear control him. Doing so will prevent him from living a life as he is called too by scripture.

As someone who has struggled with self-confidence in many stages of my life looking to address my fears wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do nor felt the need to. I had seen the effects of an unhealthy focus on past traumas and the like. There is a fine line between expressing trauma to help one understand and cope with present realities and constantly reliving past situations starving yourself of the oxygen of hope.

Sin is deceiving. Sin blindsides us most of all in the areas of our fears. Fear blinded Eve in the garden (Fear of missing out or FOMO) (Gen 3:5). Fear led to Saul disliking David. Fear of man led to Peter denying Jesus. Our fears can often be repacked by the devil as noble acts. All the men and listed above either believed their actions were noble or denied they would allow such a fear to control them. And thus, is a key point to take away. Identifying, knowing and dealing with your fears biblically is imperative in one’s mortification of indwelling sin.

Through the work of the spirit attacking unhealthy fears that distort correct views of God, ourselves and others are crucial. Without assigning truths to our fears we live in false delusions of our righteousness and correct decisions, many of which have been driven by our fears. We have to be aware of our propensity to let our fears snowball out of control. Often the fear of not getting what we desire leads to us either sinning to get it or sinning when we don’t get it.

Read part 2 on how the gospel plays a transforming role in how we address our fears and anxieties.

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

I write this today as realised its ‘Uncle Phil Day’

My dad left on the day of my first-grade graduation. I remember his car rolling out the drive and down the road with eager anticipation of seeing him tomorrow. As the minutes, rolled into days, and the days into months and the months into years many questions came and went. How will I learn to shave? Youtube. Who will I go to for male advice? My Uncle. Who will teach me to be a man? Myself. But one question has always lingered and I suspect will always linger. Why doesn’t he want me?

Separations and Divorce cases are complicated, but for many, like me, who have little to no communication with their birth parents the pain of this human abandonment is a lingering pain that is like a perpetual wound. Opening and closing. More and more callous with each wound. More and more battle-hardened by each reminder. Many deal with this pain in different ways. The world offers many solutions. Alcohol, Sex, Toxic independence, Toxic Co-dependency, Unhealthy work habits, food, Money, Isolation, Wanderlust all are traditional cures to the pain that human abandonment can cause.

Often our feelings of isolation play out in different ways in our personalities. I’m usually (My time away from home has mellowed me slightly) extremely extroverted. I find joy in spending time with others. Being surrounded by others in the past helped me mute the feelings of not being enough and feeling worthless. My sister is the opposite. Introverted and shy she finds pleasure in her own room with a small tight-knit group of people. Untrusting, beady-eyed and careful.

While in some areas of our lives God sanctifies us quickly in others he chooses to do so slowly. This painful acceptance and the long procedure is designed and fashioned to help us be transformed into his image. The pain is by no means meaningless. Humans have always been designed to live in a community it is after all to the man that God said it was not good for him to be alone. However, as time has gone on I have grown to realise that no amount of friends. No circle wide enough will fill the void of pain that I feel. The importance of turning our pain to God is a clear theme throughout the holy scriptures. The Psalmists teach us to lament to the God of our salvation (Psalm 51, 88 etc), Christ teaches us to cast our burdens onto him (Matthew 11:28-30). The apostles teach us to turn to him and pray to him in our anxiousness(1 Peter 5:7). Why?

As pain is fashioned and designed and solved by one being and one being alone and that is Christ. Turning your eyes to him in your pain. Facing him in the fire and knowing he has never abandoned you is where true faith and obedience is shown. Believing that this is a road you are on alone is a lie that many of us love to believe. Timothy was notably ‘fatherless.’ Many biblical fathers are fathers many of us would rather not have. Feelings of abandonment in Christ are purely that, feelings, as the reality is our union with Christ which is unbreakable and permanent.

Accept the realities of being abandoned in this world but never forget the truth of the union in this world and in the next. Thank God for his sovereign election and take joy in the means of grace God provides in the church through older men.

Older men have been a true blessing to me. Especially in my time here. Men who have taken me under their wing. Check in on on my pain and care for my needs even though they have earthly sons and daughters of their own. This is the blessing that God has provided to me through his gift of the church.

Blessings peace and love,

Akwasi

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

Shame, Shame, Shame

Everyone has to tackle shame in one way or another but the gospel truly deals with our shame in a way that the world can not.

Mary Willson’s workshop on shame and discussing this issue this with a few spiritually older and mature men was especially helpful in forming and working through the importance of processing shame in a biblical and gospel centred fashion.

My biggest struggle with sin comes in the form of dealing with the shame of failing or ‘losing face’. This always involves falling short of a standard sometimes biblical but often man centred. At times this has led me to deep deep despair. Even of life itself at times. Sometimes this would even promote further cyclical failings as I tried, unsuccessfully, to right my wrongs on my terms and not biblical terms (Sometimes the best thing you can do is do nothing). Many of us place and create standards for ourselves but often these can be “unrealistic and crippling” in the words of Mary Willson.

Mary discussed how her ‘unrealistic model’ was aiming to be the person who could ‘remember everyone’s names’ with ease. For me, it was being the friend you could always call on. Moving abroad forces you to face your shortcomings in one way or another usually quicker than if you had been in your comfort zone. For me failing to answer a friend’s phone call felt like a major major failure. Even when one would call me in the middle of the night (time difference issues) I would answer in fear of losing face. Failing to live up to my own standard created in me false justifications. Failing to answer meant I could mean missing a distress call, a sickness alert, a death. Failing to answer meant failing to care for those nearest and dearest which meant failing to love my neighbour as myself.

As you can see, man-centred, unrealistic standards, often lead to quiet idols which we start to equate with our level of piousness. For me, this led to increasing fear and isolation and me feeling isolated when I subconsciously pinned my standards onto others and they failed to meet my created standard.

The gospel answers this call to shame. Our feelings of shame point to the cross. They point to how we truly are fragile beings. Reset by David Murray reminded me of this principle again. We cannot do anything and everything. We have limitations. We are designed to sleep, eat and rest. Total reliability cannot be expected of any of us.

I will leave you with 5 bible focused ways that may help you deal with shame. But the real answer to all feelings of shame (self-inflicted or man inflicted) is the same. The gospel.

  1. Come out of hiding – Bring what we want to hide into the light starting with God and ending with those that are relevant (Close friends and mentors and sometimes medical professionals. To me this looked like talking to old friends and speaking with elders at my church and wise older men)
  2. Put your feelings of shame to work – Identify the feelings of your shame – Are they God honouring or self-created unrealistic standards? Have you failed on an exam you worked hard on? Or do you feel shame for lying to others about the poor grade?
  3. If your shame comes from failing biblically, repent and trust in God’s full acceptance of you in Christ – God is scandalously patient with us. He initiates salvation. He finishes it. We play no part in it, yet often we act as if it is our responsibility to work for it and not work it out with his spirit working through us (Phil 2:12-13). This requires, constant daily, work. Focus on the means of grace.
  4. If your shame comes from failing in the eyes of others turn that shame away from man centred approval and towards God – God has a way of turning our man felt shame away from man’s criticism towards God’s word. Fix and deal with any effects of your shame primarily vertically with God but then horizontally with others. In the words of an elder at my church, he told me of how often ‘time is needed’ when he has broken his wife’s trust. While it is uncomfortable being reminded of the effects of your sin, use this to fix your eyes again on how gracious God is in forgiving and reconciling you to himself. This should trump any feelings of guilt/lack of reconciliation with others.
  5. Set Christ as your model for honour – ‘https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+34%3A4-5&version=ESV’
The Culture Shock Diaries #002

The Culture Shock Diaries #002

When Will You Come for Your Daughters and Sons?

Kim Burrell
When – Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Lalah Hathaway

One of the biggest lessons my time in China has taught me has been the meaning of living as an exile”. An exile is “one removed from his or her homeland for a reason.

As a Christian while the Glory of God is on display to us all around us (Romans 1:20), so too are reminders of how fallen and decrepit and broken this world is. Death, illness and hope deferred are all daily reminders of the sadness that a life on earth is accompanied with.

And this is why Solomon reminds us that is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Good times are signs of God’s glory. Bad times are signs of our perpetual thirst for his grace. A thirst that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns. But the question that is left is what about now?

Life as an exile on earth is first a recognition of where home lies (Heaven), and then a desire to live appropriately for the given season. Moving from the U.K. to China for me meant leaving behind friends, family, comforts, dreams and many more things. It meant leaving behind everything that I knew and that was precious to me. But it also afforded me an opportunity. A chance to strip away everything my faith had relied on before, and be met face to face with myself and my depravity and thus my ever increasing need for a saviour (This is coming in #003).

Being black in Asia carries extreme perpetual reminders of how far from home (England) I am. I don’t have an oven, I’m stared at perpetually, I can’t read everything I see (Which for a know-it-all can be quite distressing). At times I have found it much easier to sit indoors than face the fanfare, pictures, and whispers that may come from me taking a stroll around the block. But this, while a painful lesson to learn like all afflictions, it points to much bigger narrative.

Daniel is the clearest biblical display of what being a model exile looks like. For lack of time I can’t go into his story today but the bible project has a great video him which you can check out here.

The ‘pain’ of exile in China has reminded me of the real pain that I should feel about being removed from heaven. At times, I have let this feeling of isolation speak to me too me too much. I have desired at times to go home on my own terms. I have also gone the other way, desiring to feel my void of emptiness my the pleasures of the world and through human relationships. But like all idols they crack under the pressure of a weight they were not meant to carry. I have had to learn to rely on God more than I have ever ‘needed’ (I say needed as I have always needed him).

David Murray’s Reset has been of great help to me. I initially started reading it to help a friend who mentioned they had anxiety. Unfortunately for me and my ego I realised it was I who was in desperate need of the book instead. He talks about how he was hospitalised through stress, not once but twice. I will talk on this book much more once I have finished reading it but for all my fellow exiles what is important to remember that in all our trails and afflictions on earth (2 Cor 1:3-7), we are truly called respond like Job.

A) He knows where we are ‘But he knows the way that I take’ (Job 23:10a)

B) He knows what he is doing ‘When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’ (Job 23:10b)

How married can you be?

How married can you be?

 

He met her when he was 16. After first glance, he knew she was the one for him. She had bright eyes, she had smooth skin, she was soft spoken. He liked the way she treasured God above all else. She experienced similar feelings. He had a chiselled jaw, he was funny, and he had a heart that cherished God and his Word. All the things she had imagined in a life partner.

 

10 years later they are in Paris. In front of the Eiffel tower, he slows down. She looks behind. He goes down on one knee. A ring is produced. A kiss seals the deal.

 

20 years after they first met they’re both 36. Together they overcame the ‘one year hump.’ A miscarriage they battled through together. Parental support? Six feet deep. Breast cancer had come and gone. But through all their issues, they remembered their vows. He remembered the wife of his youth. Daily, she was reminded that he tried to love her as Christ loved the church. Insecurity and lies from the deceiver always loomed over the horizon for them. But God had kept them as he had promised to. ‘What therefore God has joined together let no man separate’ (Mark 10:9) was the caption to the wedding kiss picture that featured on the mantle piece, above the fireplace.

 

Tired he sits in his car. Work, troublesome teens, and an aching back have taken its toll on the now 45-year-old man. He knows what waits for him inside is not going to fill him with happiness. A wife on the bottle is not what he pictured all those years ago. Previously he has walked into wet soaked bed sheets, broken glass on the floor and pyramids of bottles at the door. The times where the neighbours would knock to say his wife has fallen drunk in the street had passed. Now he fears her committing suicide in a drunken haze. Recently she seemed to have forgotten the part where she promised to ‘love and cherish him.’ He prays and cries out to God to give him strength while he locks his car.

 

Are they more or less married?

 

Impossible question? Poorly defined? The truth is that marriage is an unbreakable position, from a Christian perspective, only sexual immorality can break it. Sin makes us question the relationship we have with God. Sin prevents us from seeing God clearly (Matthew 5:8). Sin is the issue. But it doesn’t change the facts of the relationship we have with him. He saves Christians by grace and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). He keeps Christians until the final day (Philippians 1:6). Christians love him because he first loved them. (1 John 4:19). He saves Christians while they are enemies to him (Romans 5:10). Those he justifies he glorifies (Romans 8:30). When a Christian becomes born again the promised Holy Spirit enters him or her (Ephesians 1:13-14).

 

“You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”

 

When a Christian becomes born again, the heart that is ‘wicked above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9), is removed, yanked out, and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Much like the married couple saying their vows all those years ago, as Christians, God took us into an irreversible realm when he placed his spirit in us. For a Christians to lose their salvation God would have to take back the gift he gave us (Ephesians 2:8-9). He would have to remove the mark, take back the Holy Spirit, cancel his deposit, revoke the guarantee, overlook the inheritance and lessen his glory. The bible and scripture are clear. A Born again Christian cannot lose their salvation. The prodigal son is kept on return.

 

However, many often challenge this truth. ‘What about those who continue to bask and live in sin?’ ‘What happens to those Christians who stop following Jesus?’ ‘What happens to those who walk away from Jesus?’ These are often questions that believers have when it comes to this topic. But we must accept the realities in this situation. Not all that wear the badge of ‘Christian’ live up to the definition of Christian that scripture provides. A Christian isn’t one who attends Church. Or one who was baptised at birth. A Christian is one who fully accepts Jesus as the only Saviour for their sins and thus possesses the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). So when confronted with the questions aforementioned maybe its wise to consider this question. ‘Were they really saved in the first place?’ John said in his 1st Epistle ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.’

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Our hope for the married couple will always be that they reconcile and remember their vows. That he holds fast to look after her in sickness and in health. And she works to love him as the bible commands. But the reality is that the vows they took all those years ago are not changed by their present circumstances. The same way that Christians do not ‘lose their salvation’ due to isolated acts of sin. Marriage in a Christian sense is sealed by vows. To perpetually break them would indicate maybe one didn’t mean them when he or she said them. God for God secures salvation. He is not a man or woman, he will not turn back the good work he has started in you as he is working for his glory not yours.