GROOMED FOR THE WEDDING

When our family conducted our daughter’s wedding, I realised that while Marriages are made in heaven, weddings are done on earth!

The amount of planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, as well as the number of people involved in making it happen, is mind boggling. After  our daughter’s wedding, my husband and I had a chance to go somewhere alone, and boy, did I really need it to recover, both physically and emotionally!

Much effort and work is always needed to pull off a wedding. Apart from finding and fixing a venue, meeting with and arranging caterers, printing and distributing cards, inviting and involving people, purchasing dress and ornaments, ordering return gifts and cake, taking care of hospitality and transport, choosing and ensuring decorations, a thousand and one duties need to be taken care of.

When weddings are scheduled, some have an year to get ready, while others may have just a month or even less to get it done. Whatever the time period available and the trappings arranged for a wedding, the grooming regime of the couple, especially the bride, is given utmost priority. Most women take time to plan and execute the care of their face and appearance, often undergoing beauty treatments, both au natural at home and those done in parlours.

The bride-to-be often goes for a full-body makeover, pampering herself over a month or more. A bridal package these days includes free trial of makeup and hairdo, besides threading, bleaching, waxing, polishing, styling, spas, therapy, etc. Smart brides do take care to go on a diet and exercise routine to have a well-toned and well-nourished body, in readiness for their big day.

Getting a bride ready, fitting her to look her best on a day when she will be the cynosure of all eyes is a huge task and process which the beauty industry has turned it into a lucrative business. Vendors and beauticians have grabbed hold of the trend. They have capitalised on the occasion and cashed in on the focus, making sure that the bride is indeed the showpiece of the whole thing!

In the Bible, we see that when King Xerxes, the ruler of Persia and Media, sovereign over one hundred and twenty provinces, wanted to replace his Queen because she offended him, he was advised by his counselors: Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (Esther 2:2‭-‬4).

Being a monarch of high order, these young women underwent a time of rigorous preparation and prolonged training since one of them would eventually be the next Queen. According to Scriptures, Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). They were not just prepared physically, but also drilled in deportment, etiquette, manners, protocols, customs, court bearing etc as well as taught the history of the country. They learnt the art of pleasing the king, and endowed with every training to bring joy and pleasure to the king. They had to be flawless in looks, intelligent in conversation, sober in conduct, and impeccable in character. They had to keep themselves fit and ready, not have wandering eyes or attention, focused on him and fixed on only one thing – be ready to please him and serve him when summoned. They were being groomed for one purpose and for one goal only – be acceptable to him. What a picture of all is involved in being and becoming the bride of a king!

There is a wedding in the Bible that comes in the culmination of the ages, an event that the whole of the universe is waiting for with eagerness. In Rev 19:6-8, we read thus: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people). The key here is that this bride, as any bride, has made herself ready. Without that preparation, she cannot be joined to her groom.

Who is this bride who has made her self ready for her bridegroom? It is the Body of Christ, the people of God, His Church. set apart for Him and as His Church, we are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ. We read that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for to her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault (Eph 5:26‭-‬27 NLT). As disciples and followers of Christ, we have been chosen to be His special people and are being trained to rule with Him, to be seated together with Him on His throne. We are to share in His authority and are the centre of all attention, the cynosure of all eyes and the crux of all His plans (Eph 3:10). Are we aware of the beautifying that we need to have in order to be pleasing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

There is an agenda for us and we are in the process of being made fit for the King. Are we aware of it and are we yielding to it, cooperating with the Holy Spirit Who is the One appointed and entrusted with the task of grooming the bride?

Any bride will tell you how much pain and discomfort she has to endure in order to be fully fit and in form. There is agony when her skin is being scrubbed and polished to shine and glow; there is torment when her brows are being shaped to highlight her eyes; there is exertion when her body is being toned for the best effect; there is patience when the right makeup is being chosen; there is endurance when appropriate garments are being searched for; there is waiting when various alternations are being made; there is care when matching accessories have to be chosen; there is sacrifice and testing when diet is being administered. Besides all this, there is anxiety and anticipation, fear and frustration, besides sorrow of leaving behind certain way of life and excitement for the new things ahead. All in all it is an arduous time and process, but she goes through it all so as to be the best and see her bridegroom’s eyes light up at the sight of her beauty, binding him to her all their life together. She submits to this ordeal to be pleasing to the one she will walk with until the end of her days.

As the chosen one, the Church is in the course of being prepared to be the Bride of Christ and as such, being daily groomed and vigorously prepared to be like Him in every way. Only when she is in His image, perfect and lacking nothing, can He come to claim her. If a human bride prepares herself so intensely for her earthly husband, how much more the church should prepare for her heavenly bridegroom! If a woman is willing to undergo a regime to best present herself to her man, how much more should the Body of Christ endure to be acceptable to Christ!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11 NIV) declares the Word of God. Only when we yield and not resist the dealings and discipline of the Spirit of God, without resisting or withstanding Him, but willingly submit ourselves to His dictates can we be transformed into the image of Christ and be pleasing to Him.

The Bible declares that, Esther, the Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle Mordecai, chosen as one of the candidates for the king, had such a posture in her preparation. When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her...The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality Esther 2:15-‬18.

The bride of the Lord Jesus the Lamb is the Church, whom He has purchased with his own blood. He is waiting for her to complete her cleansing so that He can and claim her. The attitude and disposition of the church has to be to submit to the fashioning of the Lord, as the clay yields itself to the potter, willingly allowing herself to be moulded into His image and paying the price in patient trust until that is accomplished.

May we, as Christians and members of the Body of Christ, humble ourselves to accept the discipline and discipling of the Lord until He comes to claim us as His own.

May we with grace accept every dealing of the Lord with the understanding that His plans for us are to prosper us and not harm us.

May we proclaim And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:28‭-‬30 NIV)

Let us allow ourselves to be groomed for the King and the wedding ahead!

*Pic courtesy google images

HORSE TALK

My son-in-law (actually a son than a law) and I often take time to discuss about the ministry and work of God, since both of us happen to operate within the realm of the church. Our repartee would bring insights and growth that enhanced us both. Being at different ends of the age spectrum, as iron sharpens iron, we crystallize and shape one another’s understanding that causes expansion in our thoughts.

In one such recent colloquy, we were analysing the post-covid orientation and state of the church, about members in general and leaders in particular. I was lamenting on the fact that Christian life and witness seemed to be focused on creating a good impression and causing a outward expression. Rather than exerting a life-changing influence that flowed from an inward heart-level transformation, leaders were intent on visibility and projecting of themselves.or their work.

He stopped me short with this pithy statement: It is a matter of knowing what you want to be trained for or what you are training others for. Whether you are grooming or being groomed to be a show horse or a race horse or a war horse. The goal and end determines the training and the achievement of the desired outcome!

Thunderstruck, I followed the ensuing train of thought and came up with an perception of the difference between a wild horse, a race horse, a war horse and a show horse!

Wild horses roam free, unfettered, gamboling around the range, eating what they will, drinking what they want, going where they want and typically live about 15 to 30 years. Wild horses travel many miles a day (usually between 10 and 20), in search of food (grasses, seeds and leafy shrubs) and water, often through rough terrain that wears down their hooves. They use fight or flight defend themselves against predators and other dangers such fires or storms, etc.

For a horse to be wild, all you need to do is to allow it to go scot free, without any disciple or restriction. Just set it loose, offering no direction or forcing it into training, and its own nature will take over to be what it wants to be – an outlaw!

Horses enjoy racing for running and jumping come naturally to them and Race horses are usually considered “hot-blooded” horses, known for their agility, speed, and spirit. Race horses are well-bred and carefully trained animals who are given the highest levels of animal care and welfare. Race horse trainers tend to develop strong bonds with their charges, understanding well their traits and moods since they work many hours a day with them. Horses happily take part in a race in most cases but no racehorse can be made to race if it doesn’t want to, and can plant its feet refusing to move. Racehorses are treasured and prized possessions of their owners, getting utmost care and attention.

If you lasso and corral a horse, wishing to turn it into a race horse, then its diet and schedule will have to be carefully drawn out with care given to its type, age and other physical abilities. Training has to focus on developing muscular strength, stamina, and speed in that order, and must be spread over several weeks,  moving from slow and steady to fast and furious! Great care is taken to tailor the program to suit the age, condition, weakness, etc of the horse and though there are general/common components, each horse is trained deliberately and particularly, making each animal uniquely fashioned and special care is taken to factor in its individuality for getting the best result!

War horse breeds were highly valued animals that carried mounted warriors into battle, bred in medieval or ancient times for the sole purpose of aiding men in war. War horses were a mixture of heavy breeds ideal for carrying armored knights, and lighter breeds for hit and run or fast moving in warfare. They were either heavy animals able to carry a fully armored knight as well as their own armor, or shorter, lighter, and swifter ones, ridden unarmored during sieges and raids.

Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, or ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also had to learn to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried. Moreover, a war horse used as a riding animal was also trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse thus had to become accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, learning to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial to and in warfare. 

A war horse needs more discipline and attention, a more rigorous and diehard regime to equip it to not only carry the warrior but also itself become a fighting machine. Horses used for chariot warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but they also had to learn to do teamwork with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions, since a chariot would drawn by more than one horse. War horses are also denoted as fight or flight animals since both tactics would come in handy in the battlefield.

Show horses in circuses, on the other hand, perform a variety of equine acts ranging from sensational feats of acrobatics to clever stunts and the execution of the elegant “airs” from classical equitation. There are no specific performing breeds, since ability alone determines the particular horse used and are groomed to be fine performers for they are show-stealerrs and crowd-pullers. In the history of circuses, the excitement of the show and the hard work of the show depended on these horses!

Show horses are trained to behave cooperatively and willingly, taught tricks and skills to attract crowds and seek to develop its own talents. Show horses are performance horses and so, confidence training and trick learning are part of their drill. Boldness is a key ingredient that is inculcated so that they execute their acts with grace and poise as well as appear endearing and appealing.

The accoutrements of a show horse are for attracting attention and therefore quite elaborate and flamboyant in order to capture the eye.

The war horse, on the other hand, is fitted with armor, making it ready for battle and is aimed at protection rather than giving pleasure.

The race horse is minimally equipped with only the basic necessary for riding such as saddle and bridle. As speed is crucial, the lighter the horse, the greater the chance of victory in an even field. Even the jockey chosen is usually of small stature so that no extra weight would burden or slowdown the horse.I

It goes without saying that none of these apply to a wild horse since it rebels against confinement and submitting to tutelage.

All this horse talk just goes to show one thing – that in considering a horse, its purpose and the focus of what it is to be determines whether it is to be trained or not, and the type and direction of its training. The end surely does justify the means!

Apostle Paul acknowledges a Christian, especially a leader, as having to endure hardness as a soldier, undergo rigorous training like an athlete and working hard like a farmer.

In the Scriptures we also come across statements such as: Run in such a way as to win the race; my aim is to finish the race; I wanted to be sure I was not running or had been running my race in vain; And let us run with perseverance the race market out for us; Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize; etc.

We also note admonitions such as: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air; Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms; For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds; etc.

The thread through the Word of God and the teaching therein motivates and urges the disciples of Christ and God-fearers to be race horses and war horses. Nowhere is there an instruction to be a wild horse or a show horse.

On the contrary, there is a injunction against being unbroken as an unruly horse and not to be showoffs or self-promoting or having an outward form without inward orientation. Indeed, one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation is judged as having a reputation that was not true in reality.

Following through my initial train of thought, I see that it is important to decide whether I am striving to be a race and a war horse, or a show horse, or worse still, a wild horse!

As the people of God and as the Ministers of His work, the Church needs to ensure that it is not breeding or grooming show horses, but committed to raising race horses and war horses.

Wild horse, show horse or race horse, war horse – which will you be?

*Pics courtesy google images, unsplash.com, shutterstock.com and information on horses from Google links

WHY WOMEN WERE THE FIRST EVANGELISTS OF THE GOSPEL!

Recently helped coordinate a women’s training program in order to equip women with various skills needed to run a family. This followed the one the same team did for men and I found a vast difference in the way both these took off. It was interesting to study and note the different gender workings!

The men’s program registration picked up very slowly and not until the last few days, in spite of advertising it 3 weeks in advance. The number of men who attended were only the half the number registered, with some of these too dropping out midway the training. Only about 40% of those who registered completed the course fully and most of these were part of one church!

The women’s program, on the other hand, showed the opposite trend. Learning from the experience with the men’s program, the core team of women began praying together once a week, a month before the program. Planning and relevant issues were included as part of this prayer agenda the following week. The next week the core team of women, apart from praying, took total ownership of the event and began reaching out to churches and people they knew. Intensive and intense canvassing begun, with each one inviting their relatives, friends, aquaintances and church members to register for the training. Taking time to explain the nuances of the program, viz. the what, when, why of it, they urged and motivated the women to attend.

A week before the program the registered participants were put into WhatsApp groups and the team began to keep in touch through short messages. Prayer points as well as practical tips of how to arrange their schedules, prepare food etc in advance so that they could attend the meetings, were shared, helping to keep the women alert and in touch with the program. It served to trigger curiosity and maintain interest in the event, besides creating an anticipation of the event.

In John 4 we see that the first real evangelist was a woman, the one at the Samaritan well whom Jesus met. She went back to her village and told everyone that Jesus knew all about her and all that she had done. She made such propaganda, not feeling the least afraid to expose her own sinful nature and His acceptance of it, that they went back with her to meet Him and believed in His Word.

The last ones at the tomb, when it was closed sealing the burial of Jesus and the first ones when it was opened at His resurrection, were women. It was they who carried the good news to the apostles who then verified it. Women were indeed the first evangelists of the gospel of His resurrection from the dead!

Comparing and combining my practical experience with the Biblical precedents, I had a glimpse of why Jesus chose women to be the first evangelists of His good news!

1. Women are eager learners and thirsty for growth, especially if you give them space and attention. The best way to teach a woman is to give her some consideration, respect and acknowledgement. She will then be open to correction and rectification without rebellion or resistance.

2. Women are relationship-oriented, being connectors and builders of people. Their ability to be empathetic and sympathetic listeners enables them to quickly build a bond with others, intuitively sensing their need.

3. Women are good communicators and are never hampered by a lack of vocabulary, both the educated and uneducated. The 21,000 words a woman is supposed to have in contrast to a man’s 7,000 helps her voice out her thoughts, emotions and opinions. Women may need triggers to talk in order to overcome their natural reticence, but most women will just articulate and blurt out with a little motivation.

4. Women are doers and Bible designates them as the builders of the home. Nowhere in the Word of God does it say that a man builds a home, but does insist the role of a woman. A man governs the home that the woman builds, guarding, provisioning and administering it, but it is the woman who is mooted as its architect and builder.

5. Women are willing to go the extra mile to connect, communicate and care for others. They reach out to those around her and will generally have or be part of a group of people. She will have at least 2 or 3 cronies and friends with whom she will talk at least once a day. She cannot just be without reaching out to others.

Knowing all of this, Jesus not only brought emancipation to women, but also used them extensively in His ministry.

Understanding this, the Apostles and leaders of the early church tapped into their potential, giving them free rein even though they laid down principles for their spheres of action. These principles were not meant to confine women (as it is thought and practiced today), but rather provide walls of protection for them to be guarded from the enemy and guided in the right way. Lacking this was what caused her to be exposed to manipulation and exploitation in the Garden of Eden.

Jeff Reed of the BILD network USA, in his paper entitled ‘Women and the spontaneous expansion of the gospel’, declares and authenticates that women were key to the growth of the early church.

60% of any church anywhere in the world are women and any church leader or pastor who recognizes this would be smart to tap into this greatest resource that God has given and blessed his church with.

Myles Munroe points out that the greatest need of a woman is a man who knows his mind and has a blueprint for his life and his family. Created as his helper, he opines that a woman comes equipped with all the skills needed for him to be an achiever. Therefore, if she is blocked or left clueless, she cannot remain quiet but will begin to flow in other channels that will give her field to operate, since she is meant to perform!

Most men reject and sideline women with the accusation that they are incorrigible. They do this because they have no idea or clue about the design of a woman nor do they take the time to learn about her. This ignorance tends to birth insecurity and fear, because of which they think and assume that the only way to handle a woman is to bully, threaten, control or restrict her to a narrow area of operation. This forces the women under such treatment to experience frustration and dejection, resulting in depression and disillusion or aggression and decadence.

This is not to say that there haven’t been any men who have upheld and promoted potential of women. In the history of the world and the church, time and again, there have been men who have understood the value of women partnerships and welcomed the input women gave. Nations have been blessed by the governance of women leaders, voted in and supported by strong and secure men. Corporate companies have grown and expanded by the leadership of women whose authority has been upheld by male colleagues and subordinates. Churches and organizations have been established by the ministry of women with the able support of their men and others in leadership.

However, these have been more of a minority rather than the typical, a very small and countable number in contrast to the vast majority. Acceptance of women potential is yet to become the persuasion and conviction of the masculine gender. It hasn’t progressed to become the default disposition of the male component and counterpart of society or churches as a whole. It is more of a rarity rather than the norm, even though of late there have been pereceivable changes in the general outlook of the male social perception.

Let’s remember that when God didn’t find a man, He always found a woman to birth His will and fulfil His purpose – Deborah, Hannah, Esther, Lydia, etc. Remember also that Jesus has depicted the church as His bride, not as just His Body!

Happy is the man, husband, father, leader, son, grandson who would recognise and accept a woman’s potential, step up to give time and effort to develop as well give room for women to blossom and self-actualize!

Blessed are you if you such a man, for your woman will be a fruitful vine within your house, gladdening your heart and refreshing your soul with the wine of joy distilled from the essence of who she is and what she has become!

Jesus, her Maker, upheld her potential and acumen, giving room for her to flower.

Can you do any less!

To gain more insight, please read: https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2019/08/16/woman-warrior-or-worrier/

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and Google images

STATELESSNESS, THE DEFAULT STATE & STATUS OF CHRISTIANS?

A couple of days ago my daughter, who is a professor of law, had shared with us her recent lecture topic: Reduction of Statelessness in South Asia. It set me thinking about the issue of statelessness and its implications.

The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country.

A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. In simple terms, a stateless person doesn’t have a belonginess or a sense of being part of a people. They do not belong anywhere and nobody has a care over or for them, by legal right or otherwise.

Being part of a community bestows identity as well as a sense of well-being because of the awareness of being part of a bigger whole. When some event happens, let’s say a disaster, then there is solace in knowing that we are not alone. There is comfort in knowing that we are all sailing in the same boat and others are working to help us.

This is why refugees so desperately seek to have citizenship status, so that they can become part and parcel of a country. They look for the care and concern that comes from being part of a nation. They seek the covering that comes from being part of a people. They yearn for the fellowship and friendship that comes from belonging to a community. They want a life that is solid and established instead of living on the margin of it.

Citizenship confers identity and recognition as people who have rights and legal standing. They are no longer nameless or lumped together as refugees, but exist in a sovereign state where they can carve out a life for themselves. Citizenship gives them security and settlement so that they are no longer aliens or wanderers.

In the Bible, Israel was birthed as a nation when they were delivered from bondage out of Eygpt and received God’s laws at Sinai. They became an acknowledged and accepted sovereign state only when they settled down and were established in a land. They were constituted as a nation and acquired an identity as a people only when they were rooted in a place and belonged to it.

Ancient India was made up of a number of disjointed states and kingdoms, becoming a united nation only after independence. A common flag, a code of conduct and a declaration provided statehood. Being a nation or state brings unity and imparts a sense of belonging and identity as a community.

Being part of a community and to savor the privileges of belonging is an essential need of the human psyche. Human beings need companionship, to belong and be together with others. One of the tenets and traits of the postmodern era is the need to be part of a group. That’s why, more than ever before, people are willing to adopt all sorts of behaviour or habits just to be ‘part of the crowd.’

In Eph 2:19-20 we read that: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In I Cor we read that we have all been baptized to become one body, one people and one community.

The scriptures is clear that all who believe and call on the name of Jesus have been amalgamated into one new humanity, beyond the trappings and confining of caste, creed, color etc. As believers, we have an identity as the people of God living on this earth as the representatives and witnesses of heaven, bonding to live life together as His family and His household. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened so as to grasp the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people.

However, many who are born again and baptized in Christ live as aliens, full of an orphan spirit. They move around without no sense of identity since they lack community comprehension. They have no consciousness of the fellowship that comes with being a disciple of Christ. They wander around as refugees, feeling alienated and left out in this world.

The reason for this is two-fold: Either they are ignorant of the fact because they have not been taught of what they inherited in Christ; or they have rejected the fellowship of the saints since it involves responsibility and accountability . The former can be realigned and restored by proper teaching, but the latter are to be pitied since they have no understanding of the riches that identification with a community of faith brings.

Every one who is born of God must live as the beloved Sons and Daughters of the Most High. They need to have an understanding of the family they are part of and the entitlement that comes with bearing His Name.

Unfortunately, many are yet to grasp that they are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the apple of His eye and the people of His love. They are yet to recognise and realize their rights in Christ, the freedom that is their birthright and the authority that is theirs in Christ. They live as orphans, outcasts and ostracized, not as those who are the hope of the whole world.

Statelessness is real in His Church and among His people. Many a person in His Body walks around with the wounds of being aliens and castaways. Being aware of the need for a community of faith is core to living a purposeful life on earth. Being identified with a local family of God will purge the sense of lostness and abandonment in these times. Being committed and dedicated to the Body of Christ, the church of the Living God is of utmost importance in all seasons and turns of life.

Many people of God die, as Sir Walter Scott says (in his poem Breathes there a Man with soul so dead), Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung, because they are stateless ie, not part of a local community of faith or the church of the Lord, sometimes by ignorance but often by choice!

*Read my piece on https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2020/07/30/promoting-symbiosis-during-covid/

*Pics courtesy google images

SYMBIOSIS AND COVID

Symbiosis involves interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association. It denotes a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups or species.

Symbiotic relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. There are three basic types of symbiosis: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit. Bees and flowers have a mutualistic relationship as well. Bees get the nectar they need to make honey by traveling between flowers. The bee brings pollen from one plant to another, resulting in pollination.

Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits while the other species is not affected. One species typically uses the other for a purpose other than food. Tree frogs using plants for protection, golden jackals, once they have been expelled from a pack, trailing a tiger to feed on the remains of its kills, goby fish living on other sea animals, changing color to blend in with the host, thus gaining protection from predators, are all examples of commensalism

Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species (the parasite) benefits while the other species (the host) is harmed. There are many types of parasitic fungi that will attack various plants, fruits, vegetables, and even animals.

In the Bible, we see precedents for all these three types of symbiotic relationships existing, especially in the church.

In Acts 4:32 we witness mutualism when we read that All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Israel was instructed by the laws of God to care for the widow and the orphan, the poor and the needy as well as for the foreigner and alien who.lived among them. The Church also lived by this principle, a clear demonstration of commensalism.

Apostles Paul, Peter and Jude warn of parasitical people in the church who are blots and blemishes in their feasts, people who use and misuse the goodness of others in the Body of Christ for their own needs. In the Old Testament too, God warns the shepherds through the prophet Ezekiel for not searching for His flock but caring for themselves rather than for His flock and living off the flock (Eze 34).

I believe the best illustration of symbiosis occurs in II Cor 8 & 9 when the Apostle Paul commends the Macedonian churches for their generosity towards other churches in need and recommends that the Corinthian/Achaian churches follow suit. He points out the cycle of mutual benefit that results from such caring and sharing when he writes This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(II Cor 9:12‭-‬15).

In these days of Covid, churches can follow this principle and demonstrate community concern and consciousness to a watching world through the acts of positive symbiosis. Not just commensalism symbolized in caring for those adversely affected, but also in partnerships of beneficial mutualism.

An example of such a relationship would be for larger churches with extensive technological resources to help the smaller ones, who lack such amenities, use their facilities to record and propagate their online services. The prayers of the latter will surely bless the efforts of the former and God’s love will be exhibited in a very practical way in a greedy and selfish society, making hearts sensitive to receive the gospel!

Churches do reach out to those in the community being hurt by the pandemic, such as migrant workers or those who have lost their income. However, church communities haven’t yet begun helping one another enough to warrant a community impact that will open doors and hearts for the gospel. Unless a community cooperation and coexistence is perceived, people around will never understand Christ’s love for the lost.

A city church adopting a struggling village church, serving it in times of need will go a long way in showing solidarity between members of the same family of God to those around. Just as the conduct of individuals and families is to adorn the gospel, the attitude and deportment of churches towards their needy brother/sister churches would provide context for the content of the gospel.

Not just churches, but Christian businesses and businessmen/women can also adopt and emulate the Biblical model of mutuality or commensality. This is not the time to behave like vultures to swallow up others because of the opportunity for acquisition, but rather exhibit charity in every way.

God’s way is for the mountain to be used to fill the valley so that a highway be made for all. He had this in mind when He told His people to care for the poor: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deut 15:10‭-‬11

Symbiotic relationships are showcased in nature to clue in us to God’s plan for mankind, as individuals and communities.

Let’s not be cunning as jackals or ravenous as wolves, but pure as doves and innocent as lambs, especially in this pandemic crisis!

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and google images

THE KEY FOR PROLIFERATION AND MULTIPLICATION – A PATTERN

MacDonald’s is a name that’s recognized all over the world, even in seemingly remote places. The phenomenal growth MacDonald’s achieved has made it not just a business or a brand, but a symbol of a country and its way of life, specifically its food.

One of the reasons for the success of the MacDonald’s chain of restaurants is the quickness of their service and the quality of their product, maintained the same in every place they have opened up. Their fanatical obsession to maintain their quality and sameness has contributed to the explosive growth of their franchisee.

The key to their near-perfect replication of their product lies in their strict adherence to the same production process in every location they are found. They discovered and refined a way of doing things and then religiously stuck to that way everywhere. Their insistence that the same process is repeated every time, all over, is the key to their phenomenal expansion. MacDonald’s owes its growth to the sameness of its process that has resulted in the sameness of the end product delivered in the same interval of time!

What has made this business expand and be outstanding is that its profit has been achieved everywhere and every time. The key to such effect is the ability to reproduce through replication, not duplication, of its product and process. Nobody likes a duplicate for it is the imitation of the real thing. However, if the real product can be got with the same quality and in the same quantity, that’s the key to multiplication into multiple locations. The crux of such an achievement is thus having a model, prototype and a pattern to emulate, and then following it strictly.

A pattern and a model enables easy way to multiply, expand and establish. If there is no pattern, then the original prototype will become submerged and lost in the milieu of possibilities and modifications. Only when the integrity of the design of the source model is maintained, the reproductions will be true to the prototype and can be validated as that product. Otherwise, you will end up with imitation that looks like the original but does not retain its integrity. Only when its integrity is safeguarded can the product be trademarked.

The key for an industry to grow and impact with its product is this same thing, a pattern or a model or a prototype. This is especially true in the textile industry where multiple garments can be tailored using a key pattern. This is indeed crucial for the export of such garments, for each and every piece must be the same as the model they showed the buyer. The colors may vary, but the pattern and sizes ordered must not very from the original that was exhibited while receiving the order. Every industrial product goes through the same process, including big one’s such as cars and trucks!

In the Bible, we see both in the Old and New Testaments a pattern of worship and life given to the people of God to live as a community of faith. Through Moses God gave Israel a manner of life in very minute detail, including their worship, their holidays, their occupation, their diet, their justice system, their education, their family life etc. Since they were the people of God, their life revolved around worship and expressions of their faith. Their allegiance to Yahweh permeated every part of their existence and the sociocultural as well as economic and political construct of their lives was ordered by His instructions, communicated to them as His laws. Irrespective of the places they migrated to, they maintained their identity and their distinctiveness through this pattern of worship places, practices and lifestyle!

Similarly, in the New Testament Christ, as the Apostle and Architect of His Church, gave Paul His administrative plan for those who follow Him to exist as His people on earth. In order for them to be the community of faith, He gave them a distinct blueprint and pattern for their lives so that would be witnesses of His death, burial and resurrection. The way they lived as individuals, families and community would communicate the good news of His love for all to the world around. This pattern was for all times, providing a sociocultural framework for His followers that would distinguish and set them apart as the adherents of His teaching.

Paul and other apostles faithfully communicated this framework through their teaching and their letters, urging the people of God to follow the pattern of life and inward transformation. This was what would set them apart and brand them as Christ’s, worthy to be called His people.

The question to ask today in our churches is this: Are we following the pattern shown and showcased by the Apostles and the early church? Is that a core reason that we haven’t multiplied and expanded the way they did? What if returning to the way of Christ and the Apostles is the need of the hour and the appropriate step to take if church has to shine with the glory of God?

After all, the blessing inherent in creation for multiplication is: each kind bringing forth its own kind!

*Pics: Coutesy shutterstock.com

WAR AND PEACE

https://youtu.be/pVfkXC79nMQ

War and Peace authored by Leo Tolstoy is a chronicle of life as lived alternately between times of war and times of peace. According to critics, War and Peace isn’t just a great novel, but a guide to living. What Tolstoy offers is not so much a set of answers to life’s every situation as an attitude toward living. Tolstoy packs in more human experience than any other work of fiction had ever attempted as he moves seamlessly back and forth between ballrooms and battlefields, marriages and massacres, private lives and public spectacles. The world, Tolstoy shows us in his greatest novel, is a mysterious place where things aren’t always what they seem to be, with today’s tragedy often paving the way for tomorrow’s triumph.

War and peace are two sides of a coin, the coin of life and living, a coin we all indulge in unconsciously. No farmer has been able to enjoy the fruits of his labor or sit under his tree to enjoy his leisure without first waging a war for it. He battles the elements of the earth, the soil, the weather, the predators etc, before being able to gather in a harvest. No mother brings forth life without first struggling through the process of birth before she is able to gaze with calm devotion at her baby. No builder or engineer has ever been able to raise an edifice or build tracks and roads without first grappling with digging holes, unearthing vegetation or other barriers to progress. No student has ever able to rise to the heights of education and learning unless and until he or she has struggled to stay away from sleep or carousing or even laziness. No man can ever hope to become an entrepreneur or businessman before combating discouragement, lack of resources or even loss of vitality. No doctor has ever been able to bring the peace of healing and unless and until he has worked against the ravages of disease and depression. There is no gain without at least a modicum of pain in tussle and conflict.

A classic case exists in the Bible of the twin tools of war and work going hand in hand and being used to achieve a target. Nehemiah, the statesman with sanctions from the Persian King Artaxerxes I to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem, faced stiff opposition from those who couldn’t bear to see the nation rise again. The feud was so bitter and the work so threatened, that he had to command his people to work with one hand and war with the other. He gave instructions to his people to be battle-ready so that in the event of an attack, they would not lose a moment or effort in protecting the work being done. The progress and establishment of the wall depended on their ability to combine work and war. Alternating between war and peace, Nehemiah successfully rebuilt and dedicated the wall making the city safe and a name again.

Warfare then, is not just nation states bashing one another up, but a striving to achieve in all walks and parts of life in some form or another. The real wisdom and acumen lies in being able to know who to war, when to war, how to war and which is the true battleground.

Apostle Paul is very vehement in reiterating that we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. He instructs the church to don on the armor so as to be able to stand against the Devil’s tricks and hold the ground gained by Christ.

He specifically explains that the world or society out there is unprincipled and a case of dog-eat-dog! The world doesn’t fight fair, but, we aren’t supposed to live or fight our battles like that. As the people of God, the tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but for demolishing the entire massively corrupt culture. We are to use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. And that is the crux of the matter – our war and fight is to set the captives free!

War and peace are, therefore, Siamese Twins that are part and parcel of the process of accomplishing anything. You cannot hope to achieve a target unless you are ruthless to everything that would hinder the forward movement of the task. You may not call it a war or battle, but nevertheless, focusing on a goal involves being radical against all that would harm or delay it.

However, we need to be really persuaded and convinced that the real place of battle and the true arena where we war is on our knees and in our prayer closets. We often forget that what is achieved on our knees is what will be set in motion and in reality in the world. What is conceived in the prayer womb is what will be be birthed in the outer realm of the visible world. If your prayer room doesn’t become your war room, then we become walking tombs and white-washed sepulchres. We who are meant to spread the sweet aroma of Christ and life in the world, will unconsciously and unwittingly spread the stench of death in a society already stinking of selfishness, self-centeredness and sadness. The saying ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams’ holds true at all times!

Remember that the greatest Man of Peace, Jesus Christ, was also the One Who was first a man of prayer before He was a man of action. The greatest battles He fought were in secret, in those hidden years of silence of which time it is said ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.’ Through the book of Acts we see that the Apostles automatic and instinctive reaction to opposition, opportunity and open doors was prayer. The church began in prayer and was sustained by prayer all through its history.

Can we at any time then not consider prayer as the mode of war in order that peace may prevail and His will be done and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven!

*A video blog of this content is available

To read more on prayer, read this book on prayer available on Amazon, both in written and audio form.

*Pics are courtesy of shutterstock
*Please note that no part of this writing, content or video, may be used in any form without permission of the author and writer!