Values of a LIFE Community- Walk with me

Pastor Eric’s Sermon, of Sun 9th March at Syokimau, on the Practise of Friendship

Pst. Aluma's blog

Values of a LIFE community 2: Walk with me
I’m amazed by how the ‘Jesus of the African society’ has become such a personal and intimate matter. I especially love the way our grand mothers and fathers who have known the Lord for many years see a different Jesus from the way my generation sees Him. While for many in my generation, Jesus is still an idea to believe in, a personality spoken about in Christian circles or a form of power to be studied and searched for to enjoy life, Jesus remains an ideology for many in my generation.
but for our older folks- Jesus is simply a friend. As they have gone through life, times and seasons have happened and as they have matured, some may not even have the right theology but wait till you here them pray, (……..) It’s like Jesus is right there physically and…

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The Practice of Interdependence

I recently read a story of a woman who had been dead for over 5 years before she was foundThis bizzare incident happened in Oakland County, just outside of Detroit, Michigan. The CNN report on 8th of this month says,

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan.

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself. One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy.

At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid.

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes.

Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the back seat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least five years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

The report indicates that she had family elsewhere but the closest was an estranged sister.

This year we are nurturing LIFE communities. As we studied the book of Ephesians we have seen that, foundationally, LIFE communities are

  • Communities of Christ: Founded by Christ, bearing Christ’s authority, intentional and purposeful
  • Inclusive, out of many God made one body.
  • They have come to life from the dead, they are agents of hope

We have also seen in the, February sermons, that these communities that we seek to nurture have values. We sampled some of the core values and principles as follows:

  • We are blessed to be a blessing
  • We belong to a new family of God: We care for each other
  • We are communities of Grace
  • We are united through Christ

This month we have so far explored two practices of LIFE communities

Today we look at the practice of Interdependence. The story of the woman can easily happen in the city of Nairobi. We live in neighbourhoods where we can keep mostly to ourselves. Our pursuit of independence is subtle yet very strong. We work long hours to make sufficient so that we would not need anyone’s help or be a burden to anyone. We leave in the dark and come back in the dark. We shop in the large all inclusive shopping malls; gone are the times we could meet at the market and catch up. We have migrated in search for education and employment that we can be so far from family or extended relatives. Visits are limited to only a handful of times in a year. A call from home can easily get frowned upon because most often they come to us when they are in need: money, illness or death.

I look at the flat where we live. We see each other but we do not know each other. I have never been invited to any of the homes there. I will also be honest that I have not felt free to invite anyone to my home. We do not know what each other engages in. I once heard of a lady who categorically told neighbours that she does not need anyone and should not be expected to participate in the neighbourhood meetings. She wanted to be left to herself. We sure hope that she will never need anyone.

The truth is we from time to time will need someone else. In some cases those that we need will be strangers. You have heard stories of people who fall sick in the middle of town and 

Interdependence

God sends a helper to respond to the need.

God designed the LIFE community as a response to humanity’s drive for independence. We are designed to be interdependent. God designed us to need specific relationships to thrive with Himself as primary relationship. Man has sought to be independent from God with disastrous results. There are two other relationships that God created us to explore and grow. These are with other humans and with creation.

  • God’s Plan

He begins a plan early on in creation to restore the primary relationship. This is climaxed when he sent his son as an atonement for our sins, creating a path back to restoration. This was because we can only thrive when connected to God. Apart from God we are described as dead.

Following this, God purposed that man will live in a New Community called the church. This is also commonly known as the Family of God. God’s purposes are fulfilled in this community that we have come to call a LIFE community. A community brought from death to LIFE through divine power.

Ubuntu

In the African setting we had some understanding of interdependence. We call it ‘ubuntu’; “I am because we are, and we are because I am.” We have seen from Ephesians 4 that God, not only chooses for us to unite but he, also gives gifts to members of the church for the benefit of the church. He intentionally chose not to give one person all the gifts he or she needs. It is such that everyone has received something that someone else needs. Others also have something that we need. The church does not lack in any gift.

Hebrews 10:23-25

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish Christians. This was a community that God had chosen as an example to the world. They were to be a blessing to others. However, they many times got sucked into ‘the here and now’, forgetting the principal relationships with God, other people and creation. Paul was therefore reminding them of what was important. The principal relationship with Christ is one they should hold on to without wavering. We must practice dependence on God. We need him.

He goes on to identify the need for others in the same family as we are. We must also put consideration on our relationship with them for the purpose of care and growth. Spurring them on to be the best they can be. Paul also recognised the lie in isolation. This is a tactic of the enemy. Once you are isolated you wither and do not thrive. You also become prey to his attacks.

All the while as we practice interdependence we should know that we have a purpose that is far beyond this life. When we meet together, here is a sample of what we can engage in as seen in Acts 2:42-47

  • Growth Together.
  • Care for one another
  • Fellowship Together
  • Worship Together
  • Reach Out Together

 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Check this against yourself:

  • Are you in a small group of Christians who share similar beliefs and values?
  • Do you meet together regularly (Physically)?
  • Do you spend time together in God’s word and in prayer?
  • Do you share meals together?
  • Do you share material possesions?
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Values of a LIFE Community IV: Upholding the Family Institution

Values of a LIFE Community IV-Pastor Bob Kikuyu

Upholding the Institution of the Family:

I have been teaching this year’s LIFE Skills class at Embakasi, a class that we run every year at this time for those who have just completed secondary school. Last week by the end of the class there were fewer people than at the beginning. And the reason is because I touched on family as I spoke about God as Father. Many of them had negative associations related to their own fathers. One of them broke down and eventually left the class. She later told me in my office how her own father deserted them in poverty. He began another family a few years ago and when she called him late last year, he told her not to refer to him as father. That is a telling blow to a young woman whose life can forever be scarred by that, save for the grace of God.

FamilyThe family has been referred to as the micro-unit of society. Because it is most fundamental, when it breaks down, society begins to break down as well. When it is nurtured, society thrives. For that reason it must be valued as an institution in a LIFE Community. Turn with me to what God’s word in Eph 5: 22 – 6: 9. We must value the institution of family because:

The Church itself is a Family

Something happened for me at Life spring Chapel about 4 years into my tenure here. A missing connection with the youth seemed to fall into place. Before, there seemed to be a distance that I seemed unable to bridge. But when we finally connected it was a strong connection. I became a father. After four years they seemed to be comfortable that I may be around for a while. And they began to open up to me. The church itself is a family. The need for leadership, the need for trust and the need for peace and unity as we said last week is important for this family. The need for stable families is important for this family. When the church has a core of stable families, it provides a shape that becomes significant and meaningful for those who are looking for that connection. It is a family where we are all brothers and sisters under God our Father as Eph 4:4 says. That image though must be built on other positive pictures – the biological families in our church family.

The Sub-relationships that Form the Family

The family then has many sub-relationships that are to be valued at their level.

1. The Husband – Wife Relationship

You must have read in the papers this week about a man who was given a non-custodial jail term of three years for assaulting his wife. It emerged that this has been happening over the years. By the time of the story, the 40 plus year old woman had had enough and was back at her father’s home. Over 20 years of living together – but was it really a marriage. Paul points out the things that will be helpful.

a. Wives submit to Husbands as part of God’s order in Creation (5:22 – 24)

God has ordered this relationship and has given the man headship over the woman. It is in this order that the woman submits to the husband. There are many things that submit may mean for you and I will not attempt to do that for you. But there are also things that submit does not mean.

Submit does not mean losing your individuality as a wife: You are made unique in God’s eyes. There are gifts and talents that He has given you for a purpose in this world. There are connections with people that He brings your way. There is a vision that He wants you to pursue. Submit does not mean that your husband dictates these things that have been given to you by God, such that you stop being you and become transformed to the image your husband wants. No, you must keep the image God created you to reflect of Him.

Submit does not mean losing your integrity as a woman: And integrity here does not mean bad behaviour. It just means a dignity that is befitting you. There are great women who have been so abused by their men, emotionally and physically to the point where they have such a low self-esteem. They are broken psychologically and physically. You must not take a beating from any man and certainly not your husband. You must not stand and be abused to the point where even your children loathe you. Learned or not, you must not allow yourself to be reduced to believing you are nothing. In the Lords eyes and in the eyes of someone you mean much. You are valuable. Submission does not mean allowing that to be taken away from you.

b. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church (v 25 – 27)

What do you do when the key thing on your Job Description is to be ready to die for another person. Christ came and died for the church to make her pure so that she could be presented worthy before God the Father, taking all her faults and bearing with them. Many men cannot bear the faults of their wives to cover them from the mother in law and sisters in law. When they discuss your wife, you join in by saying, “In fact …” And so many men crucify their wives instead of dying for them. I do not know what a love ready to die for means but I know what it is not.

Loving your wives is not being held hostage to Love: The fact that a number of wars in the world have been caused by a man fighting for a woman’s love is testimony to this mystery in men. As a husband you must do things to visibly demonstrate your love for your wives. But you cannot be held hostage by your wife or indeed any woman saying to you, “If you love me you must do X for me”. Grow up men. That is not sacrificial love. That is sacrificing your heart and that heart is not your. It is God’s heart and he wants you to do things, everything, so that you please Him above all else. No matter how much you love your wife, she must not make you act in a way that is contrary to your beliefs and values.

Loving your wives is not abdicating your Leadership Role: (Share the story of the hen-pecked men). In the home you are the appointed leader according the order of creation. There are many men who have for one reason or another just stopped leading their homes. They say that it is hard because bibi amekuwa ngumu. There are times men when you need to kaa ngumu. But maybe the reason we give up as men is because we lack vision and have nothing to kaa ngumu for. We have no plan. Yes in order to lead you must know where you are going and help to give leadership to that move.

2. The Parent – Child relationship

I once remember a friend of mine who is now a high-ranking government official talk about how he grew up. He said they as children grew up like weeds. They were just left to survive without nurture and care from their parents. Sadly despite being a believer has suffered divorce with some children in turmoil. Part of these adulthood challenges stem from his childhood and that lack of parental nurture and discipline. These are the two things that Paul seems to suggest from Ephesians.

a. Children need to be nurtured.

Parents have a responsibility to ensure that it happens, not letting them grow up like weeds. Nurture has to be intentional and yes, even visionary. You cannot nurture what you do not envision. What is it that you hope your child would look like? What are the components in that confederation that you would want to see? However we must always be careful not to raise up professionals because we hope to have a certain qualifications in the home. We can only nurture the basics that will enable them to be professionals in whichever area the Lord calls them.

Children need to be disciplined. I am sure the ongoing parenting class is in the process of learning that children need boundaries. This is the essence of discipline. Yet this is an area where parents struggle much, partly because they are not agreed to how to discipline their children. And as scripture says, it cannot be irrational. This is especially for fathers. You are encouraged not to deal harshly with your children. Ch 6:4 says to us, “Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”. Do not break them. Nurture them.

b. Children need to nurture their future

(Read 6: 1 – 3). I am convinced that when Paul was writing this to the church in Ephesus, he was not referring to children such as those in the Sunday School. Seeing that Jewish culture is similar to African culture, children often went through the Bar Mitzvah for the male and Bat Mitzvah for the female at about the age of 13. Even though not fully adult, the responsibility of the adult was expected of them from that age. This is pretty much like in traditional Africa where at about the same age one became a young adult with adult responsibilities and privileges. The essence of what I am saying is that this instruction was for mature responsible children. Even as they began their own life and families, they had a responsibility to honour their parents, to respect them, to listen to their advice, and to ensure that their needs were taken care of. This needs to be a value for a LIFE community like ours. When a child regardless of his adult age does this, the promise is for a long life. Part of it too is that your children see what it is like to honour parents and they will do it for you too. But what it does is that this blessing translates into a blessing for the LIFE community… and generations down the line it continues to be felt.

Conclusion

This week I sat in my office with a gentleman who was part of our Youth Group at Parklands Baptist Church. He had been brought up in Majengo, which was popular for prostitutes. And so as to escape the men and the violence they brought home, this dear friend escaped to play in the St John’s Church nearby. The church became a refuge. He later joined Parklands Baptist where they were a family, from all walks of life. He found another refuge here. This family helped to reshape his thinking about family and indeed even about God. He is well employed now and also married with a family. More than that, from where he is based in Europe, he comes back every year with teams and resources that he has raised to give a chance to children who are now where he was before. I like one of the things he was insisting on. He wants to see the kids connect with the church. I think what he was not seeking is that maybe if they are part of the church, they may see a different family that will change their lives. Ask some of the youth of Lifespring. Because it has been family for them, their lives have been changed. That is why I suggest it is a value for LIFE Communities.

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Values of a LIFE Community III: Unity

Values of a LIFE Community III-Pastor Bob Kikuyu

Working towards Unity

Introduction

Many years ago, I attended one of the most disturbing church services I have been to. There have been few that have rivalled that one if any. This was my aunt’s church who we were visiting with upcountry. So come Sunday we went to church and approached the church compound. However it was a little confusing to note that there was a group of people outside the church, and there was worship going on. But then I realised that in the church building there was also worship going on at the same time. We joined the group that was sat outside. But by the time we got to the preaching, it dawned on me that we were in a rival church. This was because there was preaching going in as it was going on outside. And I was in the rebellious church judging from the fact that we were the ones outside.

DivisionThe world is full of fighting and division. This may be for religious, political, or economic reasons. And the church is the one place that you would hope to find peace and tranquillity. Yet it is not always so. The church has been infiltrated by economic, political and even tribal fronts that have caused and continue to cause friction and division. This is not the way the church should be. That is not what Christ died for. On the contrary, His death was to put to death our divisions and make us one in Him. Turn with me to Eph 2: 11 – 22.

 Christ Values the Unity of the Church

During the trial of the late Nelson Mandela in April of 1964, that great son of the continent spoke about his passion for the cause of equality in South Africa. He said,

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela talked of this as an ideal. Nelson Mandela was prepared to die for this. But Jesus’ purpose was more than an ideal. He recognised that only the highest sacrifice would do – that of giving His life. There is a sense in which he died for the unity of the church. V 14 – 17 says,

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

That is how much Christ values the unity of the church. He wanted the most distinct divide in that time to be removed, that Jews and Gentiles would be one in Christ. It was something detestable for their culture but something dear for Christ. It was something he was not only ready to die for but committed to die for. And unity continues to be His prayer in John 17. He prays in v 20 – 23,

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

For Christ, the unity of the church also has a goal – it is a witness to the world.

Believers must value the Unity of the Church

When we get to heaven, there will be many interesting side discussions. Amongst many others, I will be interested in asking two people what happened and how did it end? Phil 4: 2 – 3 has those people. Paul writes,

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Yes, even the most spiritual of you in the church can have such conflict that it affects the entire church. Is it that these conflicts will not arise? No. Yet if we value the unity of the church, we will be intentional in how we deal with conflict in the church. Just like Paul seems to suggest here, this what needs to happen.

We need to plead with those who are in conflict to agree with each other. We cannot afford to be bystanders when there is conflict in the church. We cannot see it as their problem and be afraid of getting into the mess. Sooner or later their problem becomes our problem and probably much worse then. We must also be proactive in trying to bring people to agree with each other. It is not enough to just plead with people to agree with each other. Worse still we must not be found adding fuel to the fire. We must not be found taking sides. If we are to take sides it must be to push the person whose side you are on towards the other so that they can be agreed. As Paul says, “help these women …”. We must help people to come together and be agreed. It must be a quick reaction yet not lacking in wisdom Eph 4: 3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. Unity is work and requires effort. It is the reason the title of this sermon is Working towards Unity. God expects us to be those who pursue peace and hence unity. And in there is a blessing, for as Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

Conclusion

Sometimes we lose the importance in understanding what it means when the bible says we are one body. (Read v 19 – 22). When we are one body, we are not just a kind of entity. We are the body of Christ. We are His dwelling place. And what pain it must be for Him when His body is fighting itself. It is not only ineffective. It is not only painful. And what joy it gives Him when His body is united. It is effective, it is complete, and it is a witness to the world.

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Values of a LIFE Community II: ’twas grace that brought us thus far…

Values of a LIFE Community II-Pastor Bob Kikuyu

He had been involved in ministry for a while and had built a reputation for being reliable and dependable. Not only that, but he was also very skilled and passionate in what he did. He became the backbone of the team who looked up to him for leadership even though he was not the leader of the team.

Then he broke the news to us, that the girl he was dating was pregnant. The leadership of the church attended to the matter with the stipulated provision. Some of it was hard but had to be done. Some of the rigidity made a few members resentful of the church leadership. But the leadership of the church committed to being there even though they looked bad. The leadership of the church continued to extend a hand of fellowship and care even when it seemed they were cruel.

After two years of not being involved in the ministry or its leadership, the young man was invited back to the ministry, restored back to service, and a few years later rose to be the leader of the very ministry in the church.

By GraceThis is a scenario that has been replicated in many churches, many fellowships,

and many Christian Unions. But the ending is not that familiar. The ending in many

places has ranged from the two being brought to the front of the congregation

for public confession, followed by a public rebuke, and then being stripped of any

responsibilities they had. In the rather extreme circumstances, which are not too

uncommon, the members have been excommunicated from the fellowship with a

warning for people not to have any association with them, and sometimes they are

according to a bible verse, “released to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that

the soul might be saved”.

At a recent meeting, one of our elders said the reason he chose to join Lifespring

was because he saw a demonstration of the first scenario rather than the latter –

where a member was kept in the fellowship and allowed to experience the love of

that community even in those difficult circumstances and finally restored again to

fellowship and ministry. That would be one of my reasons for joining a church.

This month I am leading you through a series – Values of a LIFE Community, where

we try to define what values are found where the LIFE of Christ is at the centre of

a community. We began last week by saying the foundation of values for a LIFE

community are Being Blessed and Belonging. When you know you are blessed you

know you are a person of worth and hence attach value to yourself. This then gives

you a positive mentality upon which your values are built and along which you seek

people to share those values with. And when you sense you Belong, there is security

and stability that comes with the individual and the community. When you belong

you have a base from and on which values are tried, tested, proved and approved.

Values that are contrary to the community you belong to are challenged. Belonging

enables values to be taught and reinforced.

Today I begin by sharing one of the values of a LIFE Community from the book of

Ephesians. And this is the value of grace. Grace in its biblical definition has been

said to be God’s unmerited favour shown to us through the person and the work

of Christ. But grace then on the basis of God’s unmerited favour also becomes a

value that is expressed in the church as a way of living out the LIFE of Christ. So why

should grace rank as a value of a LIFE Community?

Read Eph 2: 1 – 10.

 

A Gracious Community recognises where it has come from (1 – 3)

When I worked in Uganda in the early 90’s, it was still the time of Tukutendereza.

This was the revival that spread throughout East Africa, regenerating the church in

a way that has not been seen in the recent years. It raised hard-core believers who

did not entertain a speck of sin. One of the defining marks of the movement, at least

in Uganda, was the “Walking in the Light” sessions. I attended one of those. For me

hearing the stories of what people did was incredible. At one point I felt people were

trying to outdo each other in how bad they were. At a certain point I realised that

my testimony was very boring unless I cooked something dramatic. And yes I also

felt that they were indeed prime candidates for salvation.

 

Yet we all needed to get saved, none more than the other. V 3 says, “All of us also

lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and

following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of God’s

wrath”. All means all, regardless of how good or bad you were. Yet when a

community loses sight of the fact that all of us were sinners and the objects of God’s

wrath, and none more than others, there is a temptation to categorise people – the

good and the not so good. And when we have categories of people there is a

temptation to lack grace for the not so good, let alone the bad ones. And so when

there is a case of one who has fallen into sin, there is less understanding of how and

why they fell. There is a lack of grace. A gracious community understands that all of

us were in that category without exception. At the end of a church service, still in

Uganda, a member of the church walked up to me and greeted me. Then he asked

me to my face, “Uchalokoka – Are you still saved”. He had analysed me and

concluded I was either backslidden or not fully saved. When a community lacks

grace, it is judgemental and critical of people’s shortcomings. It becomes a

community carrying people with pain – a hurting community.

 

A Gracious Community recognises what it cannot do (v 4 – 10).

A pastor who shepherded me in my early days of faith once shared with us how

zealous he was for the gospel. He was so zealous that when he would preach on the

street in Mombasa where he was based, he would force any person who gave him

audience to kneel down and get saved, hammering them with the bible. Another

group of evangelists made it their mission to go to arboretum and target Indians

having a good time. They would then set up their speakers right next to them and

preach the gospel, preaching brimstone and fire and eternal damnation in hell.

I wonder how many people gave their lives to the Lord from that. But I know how

Jesus won me. V 4 says, “Because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy

made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is

by grace you have been saved. A gracious community knows that the greatest gift

ever given to them was not earned. It was a combination of God’s love and mercy,

culminating in His gracious act of salvation. We could not save ourselves and neither

can we sustain ourselves. It is only “He who began a good work in us who can bring

it to a perfect finish at the coming of Christ” (Phil 1:6). When a community lacks

in grace and understanding of this, it becomes a community defined by legalism

rather than faith, where what you do or don’t do matters above else. Failures are

not tolerated and indeed become a stain in that community and hence the need to

excommunicate them. But when a gracious community knows that it is justified by

faith and saved by grace, they are able to see the One who is at work in them and

also in others. This community heals the wounded and comforts the broken-hearted.

This community practices the words spoken of God in Isaiah 42:3, “He will not crush

the weakest reed, and a flickering candle He will not put out”.

 

A Gracious Community Recognises the purpose of grace

But I need to be careful and say that grace is extended to the willing, those whose

hearts desire to walk in the ways of righteousness and truth. Grace operates in the

arena of weakness so that the power of God can be seen. Paul says in 1 Cor 12: 9

recounting what God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made

perfect in weakness”. For those then who may take grace for granted, Romans 6: 1 –

2 asks, “Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound”? The response is clear –

“By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer”?

A gracious community knows how to extend grace but also knows that when

grace is taken for granted, then they must make a call on that situation. A gracious

community knows that when grace is abused the value of it in the community is

threatened. And so we must challenge those who would take for granted grace by

keeping on sinning. We must point out to them the sin and challenge them to return

to the ways of holy living. A gracious community must treasure the gift of grace

given to them by challenging those who misuse it in the same measure that they

would extend it to one another in difficult circumstances.

Conclusion

We must value grace. We must also live out the values of grace as a community at

large. We must value grace in our marriages, with our children, with our neighbour

and in our fellowships. It must become a mark of a LIFE Community.

Somebody asked a question in reference to the song Amazing Grace, “What is so amazing about

grace?”

I go back to the words of that song that has resounded over the ages,

T’was grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home

Amen

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Values of a LIFE Community I: The Foundation for Values

Values of a LIFE Community I – Pastor Bob Kikuyu

The Foundation for Values (Eph 1: 1 – 10)

SisiNi WhoA few years ago, my wife and I deliberated on which school to take our son. We were

very hesitant to take him to an international school where she taught because we were

not sure that the values in that school would be beneficial for him. So we sent him to a

local but upmarket school. To our great surprise, the issues we feared we would find

in the other school were the same we found in the school he was now in, only that they

were local issues and probably even to a greater degree. We resolved that the place of

values would be an important task for us and it fell on us to teach our children values

that would help them stand regardless of where they were.

We will be looking at Values for a LIFE Community over this month. Our key text will

be Ephesians, on a great community but one that had various challenges in it. These

challenges ranged from witchcraft, idolatry, sexual promiscuity, prostitution and many

other vices. It was a place that required one to develop and stand on their values if they

were to keep the faith.

Read: Eph 1: 1 – 10.

It is from understanding the following that a community establishes a good foundation

for developing values.

We are blessed

V 3 begins with praise to God for one thing – that we have been blessed with every

spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. When we know that we are

blessed, it gives us a positive posture for establishing values. When we know we are

blessed, we know that we are people of worth and therefore attach value to ourselves.

Not only that but we also seek to share our value with those who need it (missional) and

those who encourage it (social).

However, the fact that you are blessed is not necessarily a guarantee that you will

develop positive values. The story of the Prodigal Son is a case in point. He had

everything he needed yet chose to leave the place of blessing, taking what was “due” to

him. As it goes, he wasted it in a far land. He lived a life that was contrary to his family

and community values, indeed any decent values. One needs then to appreciate that

every blessing is from God even as Eph 1: 3 says – that it is God who has blessed us.

We Belong

When you sense you Belong, there is security and stability that comes with the

individual and the community. When you belong you have a base from and on

which values are tried, tested, proved and approved. Values that are contrary to the

community you belong to are challenged. Belonging enables values to be taught and

reinforced.

When the Prodigal Son had spent everything and was living a low down life, he had

nothing else but home to fall back on. With his head hanging in shame he went back

and asked to be taken as a servant. But the father accepted him because he belonged.

He came back and received the forgiveness and restoration of the Father which indeed

was a value that the father espoused and demonstrated even in this case. I can imagine

that with the lessons he had learned from this experience, he was able to firm up

and appreciate the values that the home had instilled in him. And this is because he

belonged.

Conclusion

Knowing that we are blessed and knowing that we belong is an important foundation

for developing values for a LIFE Community. These act as a foundation on which we

can be proactive to develop and instil within us and the community values that are

honouring to God and beneficial to society.

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The Mystery of LIFE communities

The Mystery of LIFE communities

UnitedAn agreement was signed between dissenting parties in the South Sudan conflict. This current conflict seems to have put communities against each other.It is sad that during the decades of the liberation struggle, against the northern Arab neighbours, they were one. At least they appeared to be one. Until the current conflict, I have always known these tall dark, beautiful people to be all one nation. My prayer is that the current cessation of aggression will hold and a solution arrived at that will help them return to building their common home.

This reminds me of a community that was once united, with one language, having great accomplishments. In Genesis 11, Nimrod and his followers decide to build a tower. This was in direct defiance to an instruction they had received from God, to spread out and multiply. They instead decided to stay together and build a tower and a name for themselves. God comes down and sees what they were doing. Whenever I think about this incident I cannot help think of God as a kill-joy. The big boy who finds the little ones having fun and decides to interfere. The Lord does acknowledge one thing though in Gen 11:6 “The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

What follows is that God confuses them and gives them different languages, inevitably scattering them all over the world. This is one of the of the mysteries of God. At this point He must have known that for generations to come these people would hurt each other on the basis of superficial differences. History have evidence of how many wars and acts of hostility were action because they were “different”.

From this standpoint God knew that he would need a solution to the division among humans. His strategy involves the development of a united global people who would advance his mission. This is yet another mystery. The Mystery of the LIFE community.

We continue with our walk through the book of Ephesians. We have so far seen from Chapter one that LIFE communities are Christ Communities.

  • God was intentional about LIFE communities
  • LIFE communities have Christ’s Authority
  • LIFE communities are inclusive
  • LIFE communities are communities of hope

In Chapter two we looked at the Position of LIFE community

  • They have a past: dead
  • They have a present: alive
  • They have prospect: eternal promise

Today we look at a mystery about LIFE communities revealed by Paul.

Equality & Unity: Paul Misunderstood

Eph 3:1 “When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles… 2 assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles.”

This account is written while still in prison. Paul gives us a glimpse of the reason he was imprisoned. The account of his arrest is found in the book of Acts 2:29 where he had been accused of having brought Trophimus, a gentile from Ephesus, into the temple. This was an abomination according to Jewish customs. A mob had accused him of this, captured him and was intending to kill him when he was rescued by Roman soldiers. Paul, a man of many languages, leverages his skill in this and he finds reprieve. He is a Jew, a Roman Citizen and speaks Greek. He speaks Greek to the Commander, drawing his attention, he then addresses the Jews in Aramaic, and later he escapes punishment by calling upon his Roman citizenship.

Paul was confronting a culture that was ingrained in the lives of the people in the world at the time. The Greek considered themselves superior to everyone else who was not Greek. The Romans conquered and ruled the world. They sought to make everyone Roman. The Jews thought that the Gentiles, were unclean. There were divisions within specific communities as well. There was royalty lineage, wealth, peasants, etc. It is in this context that Paul seems to be speaking equality and unity about. It displeased the Jews greatly to the point of wanting to kill him.

In Eph 3:2 he reminds them that his appointment to bring the news was specially given by God. We may remember that Paul was “arrested by God” and given a mission to do one of the hardest things at the time. Having been a Pharisee, he despised anyone else who was against the law he lived for. God instead send him to the “unclean” to reveal the mystery that had been concealed for generations before.

The Mystery of Christ

3 As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. 4 As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.5 God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.

Paul calls this revelation a mystery because it had been kept secret from the people of the past ages. The Jews had thought that they would remain separate from Gentiles. In verse 6 Paul states that this secret has been revealed.

6 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

LIFE communities have equality and unity. Paul had spoken about this in Eph 2:11-22. He talks about Christ breaking the walls of hostility, adopting the gentiles into the family of God. This equality has the following characteristics

  1. Members of a LIFE community are equal heirs to God’s inheritance
  2. Members of a LIFE community are one body in an equal relationship
  3. Members of a LIFE community share together in the promises of Christ; receiving the same promises and blessings

8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. 9 I was chosen to explain to everyonethis mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

God’s Purpose

10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

This plan as we saw in Ephesians One was intentionally put in place since the foundations of the earth. He had the end in mind from the very beginning. We see his plan revealed early on when he calls Abram and gets into a covenant with him in Genesis 12.

LIFE communities are God’s plan A for an ailing world.

  • Abraham’s Promise

Gen 12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Response

With such knowledge then how do we respond?

Eph 12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.13So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

Those of us who were once fearful strangers to God’s promises can now approach him with freedom and confidence.

As we consider how to nurture LIFE communities may these foundations be put in first.

  • Communities of Grace: responding to the Grace given to us by Christ we should also extend the same to others.
  • Communities of Equality & Unity: That we would see every member of the community as equal. It may call for us to shed of stereotypes of gender, economic status, titles, tribe. These communities would be the example the world needs. The hope of the world as God intended.
  • Communities of blessings: Know that we have every Spiritual blessing now in Christ Jesus.
  • Communities of Hope: having an equal inheritance to God’s promises

Paul’s Prayer for the LIFE community

Worth

That we would know that our worth is defined by our Father. We belong to him.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

Resourced

Having been given the position in his family, so is our access to his wealth assured. We who have every spiritual blessing should know that we are not limited.

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

Filled

He who fills the earth is able to fill our hearts. He will build a home in the hearts of the beloved.

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Empowered

He will gift and empower us with knowledge and ability to live out our Master’s mission.

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Beloved

Lavished with love, cared for under his arms, filled with abundance.

19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Credit where it is due

All this, for his glory.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!

Amen.

 

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NOTICE OF 2014 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

TO ALL LIFESPRING CHAPEL REGISTERED MEMBERS

NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

All registered members of Lifespring Chapel are hereby given notice of an Annual General Meeting to be held on Saturday 22nd February 2014 at Lifespring Chapel Embakasi Sanctuary from 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

The Agenda will be as follows:
1. Call to order and determination of quorum as required in this constitution.
2. Confirmation of the minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting.
3. Presentation of the Chairman’s report.
4. Consideration of the Statement of Accounts.
5. Appointment of Auditor in accordance with Rule 10.
6. Appointment of Office Bearers.
7. Amendments to Constitution.
8. Such other matters as shall have been given in writing by a member or members to the secretary at least two weeks before the date of the meeting.
9. Any other business with the approval of the elders.

DAVID MASIDZA KIKUYU
Secretary
Lifespring Chapel

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LIFE Communities; Christ Communities

LIFE Communities; Christ Communities

Our theme this year: Nurturing LIFE communities

Today we begin our study of the book of Ephesians to help us understand foundations for LIFE communities.

Proposition: There are many good communities, but not every community is a LIFE community.

Human beings are made for relationship. We are born into a community. God made it such that we would need a man and a woman to bear the next generation.  We all are naturally drawn to communities. Over history we have seen communities form for various reasons. Some social, others economic, some religious, and others for pleasure. In the text we are about to read, the community was a commercial community. The city of Ephesus was a port city which made it easily cosmopolitan. There were people drawn from all over the world in search of trade. Something else drew people to this city, the temple worship of artemis.

Paul, is believed to have been the author of the book of Ephesians. This is the same one who was called “Saul of Tarsus” who persecuted members of a community known as the people of “The Way.” It was until later in Antioch that the believers in Christ were first known as Christians in Acts 11:26. This was a term probably used by the Greeks or Romans to distinguish this community from “others”. It is believed that Paul (also called the apostle of the Gentiles) wrote this book while in captivity awaiting trial in Rome. This epistle was written about the same time as Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. He begins the passage of Ephesians 1 with a greeting to the faithful.

Ephesians Chapter One

 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

This is something common with Paul’s letters. He begins with a personal salutation to the intended audience for his letter. It is specific here that he is addressing the believers (…faithful followers of Christ Jesus.) Paul writes this as a letter of love. He then goes on to lay down foundational propositions about the community of believers. In this chapter it becomes clear about LIFE communities; God is intentional, they have Christ’s authority, they are inclusive, and they are communities of hope.

God is intentional about LIFE communities

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

It is evident here that God was purposeful with these communities. He conceived them before time, choosing them to be part of the family he was building. He would then build communities set apart (called holy) with his righteousness. Those who have experienced physical adoption into a family understand that it communicates that one is valuable. Acceptance helps one get established and fruitful.

LIFE communities are made up of individuals elected by God himself. They were

  • conceived before the foundation of time
  • set apart
  • without fault in God’s eyes
  • adopted into a family

It pleased him then and it pleases him now to build LIFE communities. Knowing this should cause us to respond in Praise to him.

 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[b] He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

LIFE communities have Christ’s Authority

Christ has all authority in Heaven and Earth (Matt 28:18 “He declared that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him.”) This means that LIFE communities have God’s full authority and the full blessing.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,[c] for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

I mentioned earlier that there are possibilities of many types of community. The distinctive here is that this is a CHRIST community.

LIFE communities are inclusive

God redeems us and invites us into family with him. His purpose includes all people who would believe.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own[d] by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Therefore, God’s conviction through Christ draws people from every nation, economic background, colour, tribe, race into one community. LIFE communities are therefore inclusive. This is the solution to the elusive unity among people.

LIFE communities are communities of hope

In a world that is wrought with hopelessness, LIFE communities bring in hope.

15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,[e] 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom[f] and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

The New Jerusalem is the image we set before us. The vehicle that mirrors this in the meantime, as we await the day of our Lord’s coming, is the LIFE community.

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

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The Great Encounter: 3 Days of Corporate Prayer & Fasting

THE GREAT ENCOUNTER

3 Days of Corporate Prayer & Fasting

Fasting is like a spiritual atomic bomb that elevates us to sow into a deeper encounter with the Lord. As we begin the year Lifespring Syokimau invites you to be a part of this special experience. Come with great expectations because God has promised to do great things as we join together in this course. John 15:5 says “I am the vine, you are the branches, if any man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”. If we are to bear any fruits this year we must purposely and intentionally plan to pray.

I will make streams in the desertIn order to receive God’s best from this fast, we shall require solid commitment to our father. Arrange special times each day to commune with God. These could be; during your meal times, while on traffic, and in the evenings with your family. Read His Word, meditate and sing praises to Him. In short remain in Him and He will remain in you.

The fast will take place between 6 am- 6 pm for three days starting from the 23rd Jan- 25th Jan. We shall then meet on Sunday from 9am for community worship and prayer where we shall also receive testimonies of what God has done.

How to break the fast

While doing so in the evenings approach it gradually. Start with soup and slowly introduce the solid foods. Avoid eating meat during the fast.

You may experience discomfort during the fast remember this is a spiritual war and the enemy may retaliate, however, I pray that you will come out victorious in Jesus’ name.

To stay hydrated everyday drink lots of water.

Journaling

During this time find notebook where you will write what the Lord teaches you. You may choose to write the prayers you have presented before the Lord. This is a good practice that will help you keep track of what the Lord is doing in and around your life.

DAY ONE/ Wed Jan 22nd

Personal Encounter (Ephesians Chapter 1 & 2)

Ephesians chapter 1 deals our Identity in Christ, our confidence in His grace and our Redemption through His blood. It also says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.

Prayer points

  • Pray to be strengthened in your inner man, that you will be filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding so that you may to know the Lord better.
  • Pray also, that that the eyes of your understanding may be opened so that you may know the hope you have called to in Christ Jesus.
  • Pray that the mighty power of Christ may work within you (to help you to will and to do according to His good purpose Philippians 2:13.)
  • Claim your every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)

DAY TWO/ Thus Jan 23rd

Community Encounter (Ephesians Chapter 3 & 4)

Prayer points

  • Pray that the Body of Christ will be gifted with every spiritual blessing.
  • Pray for the unity of believers.
  • Pray that each one of us will exercise their gifts so that the Body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in knowledge of the son of God, attaining full maturity. (take time to discover your gift and your place in the Body of Christ: consider how you will use your gift in the local church)
  • Pray that we the believers in the church will live a life worthy of our calling according to Ephesians 4:17-32. (Take time to evaluate, confess and repent.)
  • Pray that the Lord will guide you on your part in building LIFE communities.
  • Pray for Godly marriages that will be centered in Christ.

DAY THREE/ Fri Jan 24th

National Encounter (Ephesians Chapter 5-6) [Find the National Anthem]

Prayer points

  • Declare Blessings on our country Kenya
  • Pray for peace and unity of all people.
  • Pray for the growth and the prosperity of our country
  • Pray for our leaders at all levels: Ward, Constituency, County & National
  • Come against the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil bent
  • Pray for the revival of every soul to turn to Christ
  • Pray for Godly marriages that will be centered in Christ.

Plan to celebrate what you have encountered with other members of this LIFE community on Sunday morning.

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