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Let us Build #9: Marriage (Part 2)

Dear Friends,

This week I want us to look at the question: what is the essence of marriage? As I said last week, whether we are married or aspire to be married, it is good to spend some time thinking about the topic of marriage.

In order to build strong marriages, we need to know what the real meaning of marriage is. At its core, is marriage a place to have our needs met? Is the substance of marriage to fulfil our dreams and ambitions? Is marriage fundamentally about taking pleasure in what the other has to offer? These things are important. But are they are the heart of marriage?

Timothy Keller, New York Times bestselling author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, points out in his book The Meaning of Marriage that in generations gone by people were more comfortable with the idea of living for others. They were more willing to give themselves for the greater good of their families and society. However, today people are more interested in living for themselves.

This individualistic attitude has permeated many aspects of life, including the marriage relationship. People are increasingly entering marriage with a consumer mind and heart. Under these circumstances, marriage is like a contract for our emotional, social, financial, and physical fulfilment. And if we do not get what we want, we can break the contract. After all with a contract, we spell out upfront the conditions under which we can get out of it.

But that is not the Biblical view of marriage. Marriage is a covenant. Last week we made reference to Genesis 2:24 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” When you are married, you are one with your wife and you are one with your husband! The original meaning of the word ‘united’ is literally to be glued to something. Referring to this verse Jesus said, “So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Mark 10:9).”

Keller goes on to explain that a covenant relationship is one that is binding on you. “In a covenant, the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the individual.” It is a binding agreement with your spouse, and it is a binding agreement before God who established marriage. It will be driven by the promise you made to your spouse despite the challenges you face. It will have deliberate actions of love even when the emotions of love are running low.

If we come to marriage with an individualistic approach we will undoubtedly be disappointed. Our spouses, no matter how amazing they are, will not be able to fulfil us because this approach to marriage is fundamentally flawed. If we want to build strong marriages that will form a basis for a strong society in Dar, then our posture should be one of laying down our lives for the other person.

You may be thinking that it is so difficult to live for the other person. You are absolutely right! Next week we will look at how God provides help to us so that we can be less self-centred and more willing to give ourselves to our spouses.

Yours sincerely

Sheshi Kaniki (Pastor, God’s Tribe Church)

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Let us Build #8: Marriage (Part 1)

Dear Friends
 
I am really excited because I have recently received my marriage licence issued by the Government of Tanzania! I am not sure how you feel about marriage, but I love marriage because my parents’ marriage provided a loving and stable environment that was instrumental for me being the person I am today. I love marriage because for over 13 years I have been married to a beautiful amazing woman, my wife Trudie. Most importantly however, I love marriage because it is a wonderful gift from God.  As a pastor, it is a great privilege to be in a position to marry people. What a huge and humbling responsibility to help the residents of Dar enter the covenant of marriage.
 
Whatever your marital status is, I hope you will take time to read today’s note because marriage affects us all in some way. Some of us are married, while some of us aspire to be married. The marriages of our parents (or the absence of) played a large role in shaping our view of the world. We have close family and friends who are married and influence our lives in various ways. And those of us who were once married look back on that period as significant for who we are today. 
 
What does marriage have to do with building? Marriage has everything to do with building! The first human relationship that God instituted is that of husband and wife. Marriage between one man and one woman is the relational building block of human society. Despite all the societal progress and transformations through history and across cultures, God has never changed the foundational role of marriage. This is not to say that unmarried people are not important. They definitely are and do play a vital role in society. 
 
Genesis 2:24 says, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Following Adam and Eve being brought together as one flesh by God in the garden of Eden, numerous men through history have left father and mother to become one flesh with their wives in the union of marriage.
 
If marriage is so crucial for society, then we can measure the condition of our society by looking at the condition of our marriages. They will serve as a reliable indicator of the health of society. If marriages are strong, then society is strong. Conversely, if marriages are weak then society is weak, despite whatever progress is being achieved in other areas. How would you describe the state of society in Dar based on your marriage and the marriage of others that you know?
 
If strong marriages are crucial for a healthy society, then we need to know what makes a strong marriage. The Bible has much wisdom on this, which we will look at over the next few weeks. For today, let us appreciate afresh that God created marriage as the primary relational building block for human society. I hope that helps us to have a high view of marriage, whether we are married or not, and regardless of what state our marriage is currently in.

Sheshi

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Let us Build #7: Some 'How To' Points for Work (Part 2)

Dear Friends,
 
This week marks the end of our discussion on work. We will conclude by building on the ‘how to’ material from last week. The inspiring story of Nehemiah remains our reference point. Nehemiah 4:6 says, “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”
 
Notice that the progress made in rebuilding the wall is directly linked to the fact that the people worked with all their heart. It is the same for us. For you and I to make a meaningful impact through our work requires that we also work in this way. So the question is: what does it mean to work with all your heart? It means you are fully invested into your job. Four things are worth mentioning.
 
Effort – When you work with all your heart you will put significant effort into the task being undertaken. Mental, physical, and emotional energy will be used in large quantities. You will not be casual about what you are doing. Rather than doing the bare minimum to get the salary at the end of the month, going the extra mile will be quite normal.
 
Commitment – You will have a strong sense of ownership. It will no longer be simply a case of ‘us and them’, for example, us (workers) and them (employers). There will be a growing sense of ‘we’. When our hearts are in it, our thinking is along the lines of ‘we are in this together’. The work is done to the same standard whether the boss is watching or not. After all, you do not have a plan B. This is it.
 
Sacrifice – Rather than looking at the work place with a feeling of entitlement, you will lean towards giving up privileges in order to make progress. The common good, the bigger picture, will compel you to forego some of the comforts associated with your job. You believe in the vision so much, that you are willing to pay a personal price to see it achieved.


Initiative – You will be a self-starter that is regularly exploring different ways of moving forward. You will bring energy, excitement, and enthusiasm to the work place as you look to break through the existing limitations. You are motivated by more than the thought of a bonus at the end of the year. You believe that doing your job more effectively means a better Dar.
 
Perhaps you already work this way. Well done! Keep it up! Now imagine if you and I, and everyone we work with, worked with all of our hearts. I believe we would see greater progress in building Dar through our work than we currently experience. There would be less brokenness and more hope. Let us do our part and encourage others to do the same!


Have a great week!
 
Yours sincerely
Sheshi Kaniki (Pastor, God’s Tribe Church)

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Let us Build #6: Some 'How To' Points for Work (Part 1)

Dear Friends,

We are still looking at the topic of work. Thank you for your encouraging feedback on the first 5 weeks of Let Us Build. There has been a request from a number of readers for some ‘how to’ material. In response to this, I would like to dedicate this week and next week to discussing some practical advice on how we should go about our work.

The basis for this week’s discussion is how the Biblical character Nehemiah went about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. I encourage you to read his story when you have time. You will be inspired! Below are 7 points from his experience.

Bring your work before God – Give first place in your work to God. He gave you work. No one is able to help you and give you success like God can.  This is the most important practical thing you can do. Like Nehemiah, pray about your work, acknowledging your limitations and ask God to bless your efforts.

Get support from your leaders – Who are the key decision makers in your work environment? Nehemiah went to the King of Persia, whom he worked for as cupbearer. It is critical that you get the support of those who lead you. Share honestly and humbly what is on your heart with them. They can open doors for you and provide you with the resources you need to succeed.

Study the problem carefully – Every job exits to solve a problem. Make sure you really understand the problem that you are trying to solve. You need to if you are going to make any real change. This will enable you to visualise the solution, and ensure that the right resources are in place. Nehemiah examined the wall before he started rebuilding it. 

Share a compelling vision – No matter how competent you are, you cannot achieve anything meaningful on your own. Get others on board with the help of a powerful vision. Show them the gravity of the problem and then paint a picture of what the future will be like when this problem is solved. Nehemiah painted a future with rebuilt walls as one free of disgrace for the Israelites. 

Delegate – Who is going to do what? Get people in the right positions. Initially you may all have to do similar things. However, as people prove themselves to be faithful and demonstrate competence, division of labour happens. Nehemiah was an outstanding administrator who effectively delegated various building tasks among the Israelites.

Measure your progress – Take time to measure what you are achieving as the work progresses. This will serve to motivate you and your team. It will also assist with determining whether any changes are required. Nehemiah records for us when the wall reached half way, and how long it took to complete the rebuilding exercise.

Keep going – Opposition will come. Challenges are inevitable. Some people will oppose you for the progress you are making. Keep going. Do not give up! There is no substitute for perseverance. Make adjustments if need be, but be sure to press on. Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to kill him, they mocked his work, and they accused him falsely. He turned to God and kept building.

Have a great week!

Yours sincerely

Sheshi Kaniki (Pastor, God’s Tribe Church)

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Let us Build #5: My Results Do Not Match My Effort

Have you ever wondered why it takes so much to get results out of your work? You give your best effort, and yet the outcome is often mediocre, seemingly out of sync with the time, energy and resources expended to achieve it. We live with the continual reality of not seeing as much fruit from our work as we anticipated. I believe this is one of the main reasons that make it difficult to consistently enter our places of work with hope and enthusiasm.

If you have worked in Dar for any period of time, you may have answered the above question along the following lines: the power cuts while I am in the middle of my job, the traffic jams sap my energy, the phone network is erratic when I need to make important calls, demands for bribes are keeping us out of the market, and cash flow is bad because clients do not pay on time.

The frustrations mentioned above stem not from the work itself, but from the environment in which the work is done. This implies that removing these and other bottlenecks to work is itself a worthwhile endeavour. Phrases like ‘the investment climate’ and ‘the business environment’ are used frequently by those with the resources and expertise to identify these challenges and find the solutions to address them. 

A few weeks ago we discussed that work is from God.  We pointed out that people work because they are created in the image of the Greatest Worker, God himself.  Today we are reflecting on how, despite this amazing basis for work, it is affected by unfruitfulness. The Bible provides the best insight into this dilemma.

Following Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground. Genesis 3:17-18 tells us that God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.”

Notice that God did not curse the work itself, but he cursed the ground. He cursed the environment in which the work happens. Thorns and thistles sprout out to choke the potential of our work. The challenges we described earlier about working in Dar are some of the present day thorns and thistles that we contend with. This explains why our best efforts are often followed by disappointing results.

Fortunately for us, God is gracious, and the situation is not entirely hopeless. You will agree that despite the challenges, your work does yield fruit, sometimes in significant ways. Despite the curse, we are still able to obtain results from our labour. It is sobering to accept that our work will never reach its full potential. Nevertheless, because of God’s goodness we are able to produce something meaningful. It will be wise for us to take this tension to heart as we build Dar through our work.

Sheshi

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Let us Build #4: Building On The Right Foundation

I want to interrupt our discussion on work to consider the recent floods. About a week ago, Dar was literally covered by water following several days of continuous rain. Sadly, lives were lost, homes destroyed, and bridges washed away. Many people have been picking up the pieces of their broken lives, well aware that the rainy season is not yet over and probably concerned that these recent events could repeat themselves. The situation is grave and I hope we feel a collective sense of ownership for our city, and for how we proceed through these difficult waters.

We need better infrastructure and we must improve the planning of our city. Furthermore, we need to strengthen our ability to respond effectively to crises. These shortcomings are to be addressed predominantly by our government. Where viable partnerships between the government and non-government players are possible, they should be pursued. The need to build is substantial and requires that we work together as residents of Dar. I have been praying that God would give our political leaders and the rest of us wisdom.

It is useful and necessary to identify the obvious problems and potential solutions. However, I believe there is a deeper issue. Following the floods, I have been thinking about the importance of having the right foundation. How we cope when a storm comes is linked directly to the quality of our foundation. Jesus said that a storm will cause a house built on sand to collapse, while a house built on the rock will remain standing (Matthew 7:24-29). This indicates that a crucial part of building is having a strong foundation. Our city needs to be built on the right foundation otherwise we will not be able to withstand the storms that come our way.

By now we are familiar with Nehemiah. His job was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. One of the most striking facts about Nehemiah’s story is that the walls were destroyed because of a spiritual problem. It is because the Israelites had strayed from God that their city was in a dismal state. The physical problem of broken walls had its root in the spiritual problem of not giving God his rightful place. This is captured by Nehemiah when he prays. Nehemiah 1:6-7 says: I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you.

Is the brokenness we observe in Dar following the recent rains because we are acting wickedly toward God? If that is the case, we urgently need to turn to God, confess our sins, and ask him to show us the right foundation.  Jesus said his words are like the rock that will enable a house to stand when the storm comes. He made this remarkable statement after teaching on a wide range of issues including the use of courts, adultery and divorce, giving to the poor, money, and prayer. We give God first place in our lives by listening to his words and applying them to our lives. His words are the strong foundation we need to build Dar.

Sheshi

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Let us Build #3: What Does Easter Teach Us About Work?

This coming weekend is Easter, the time of the year when Christians across the world remember the death of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. I have been thinking about Easter for a number of weeks, reflecting on what it means for me personally, my family, our church, and our city.

Last week we began a discussion on work. Given that we are heading for Easter, I think it is appropriate to ask the question: what does Easter teach us about work? In other words: what can we learn from Easter about building Dar through our work? To begin with, I observe that for many of us Easter is a time of rest. We make use of the long weekend to travel out of town or quietly stay at home. This allows us to get some rest following the busy first months of the year. I am a great supporter of taking time away from work. In fact, I recently had an opportunity to take a short break from work during our school holiday. It was good to refresh and spend some quality time with my family.

However, it is important to realise that Easter reminds us of the most significant work that God the Father and his Son Jesus did for mankind. It is during Easter that we remember Jesus’ work of dying on a cross so that the sins of mankind could be forgiven. According to the Bible, sin, which is our rebellion against God, deserves spiritual death (Romans 6:23). Only the death of Jesus could pay the price required to save us from this punishment. John 19:30 records that Jesus’ last words on the cross before he died were, ‘It is finished’.  Through his death, Jesus finished the work of paying for our sins. Easter is also the time when we remember God the Father’s work of raising Jesus from the dead. Most certainly, without the resurrection of Jesus the Christian faith is meaningless.

As we consider Easter, we can learn a number of lessons about work. First, we learn that work focuses on others. Jesus died for us and the Father raised him for us. Second, we see that work requires sacrifice. The Father gave his Son and the Son gave his life. Both were acts of ultimate sacrifice. Third, work should make things better than they currently are. Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for the broken relationship between God and man to be restored. This gives hope in a world that is full of confusion, pain and despair. Fourth, work leads to a reward. Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of his Father, having been given a name above every name by his Father.

I admit that our work in Dar will not be of the magnitude of what God the Father and his Son Jesus did. After all, we are only human. Nevertheless, because we are created in God’s image as we discussed last week, our work should follow the pattern of his work. It should focus on others, be marked by sacrifice, make things better, and result in a reward for us. Does our work have these characteristics? If not, perhaps now is the time for change.

I hope you will have some time to rest during Easter.  As you do, please take time to reflect on the true meaning of Easter, and also on what it teaches us about work.  

Sheshi

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Let us Build #2: Where Does Work Come From?

Thank you for the highly encouraging feedback on the first Let Us Build!

I have been thinking about the fact that most of us spend a significant amount of time in our places of work. It is through our work as lawyers, teachers, policemen, shopkeepers, doctors, traders, contractors, bankers, managers, technicians (and many other jobs), that we make some of our greatest contributions to building the city of Dar. Over the next few weeks I would like to spend some time talking about how we can be more fruitful in this essential part of our lives called work.

Today I want to answer the question: where does work come from? This is an important matter because origin sheds light and gives context. For example, we gain insight about ourselves when we take time to examine the families and cultures into which we were born. Likewise, Tanzania’s steps towards a private sector led economy must be seen in the historical context of the previous unsuccessful government dominated economic system. Therefore, our understanding of work will be strengthened by obtaining greater clarity on its origin.

The Bible tells us that work originated with God. We encounter God for the first time in the Book of Genesis while he is working to create the universe. The very first verse of Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The pinnacle of his creation was man, whom he created male and female in his image. To be made in the image of God means that humans are like God. Think of that for a moment! I will say more on being created in God’s image in the weeks ahead. For today, it suffices to say that one of the ways that humans are like God is that we work. Genesis 2:15 says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

We need to appreciate that work is not a human idea. It is a God idea. This should give us a very high view of work! It should give us hope that we are involved in something of great substance. Next time you feel your work in this city is insignificant, remember that work was designed by the creator of the universe. The contribution you make towards building Dar through your work originated from the greatest worker, God himself.

 Last week we met Nehemiah who was called by God to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, the city of his forefathers. After weeping, Nehemiah prayed. His prayer was an acknowledgement that God was at the centre of the work he was about to embark on. As we tackle the work that is ahead of us this week, let us take time to reflect on the fact that God is the source of work. I trust this will be a step towards greater fruitfulness in our work.

Happy building!

Sheshi

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Let us Build

Dear Friends,

Dar is a city with many wonderful things including friendly people, cultural diversity, the ocean and beaches, delicious food, and exciting opportunities for work and business. You can probably think of something to add to this list. At the same time, you are likely to agree, that there are many things about Dar that are in a bad state. Things we need to build. Infrastructure is inadequate. Corruption is the order of the day. Our education and health services are in trouble. Many people have barely enough to live on, while many others are disillusioned with the work they do. Marriages are falling apart, and children are trying to find their way. There is much to build in Dar!

Today I am launching a new weekly note entitled Let Us Build. The purpose of Let Us Build is to provide some words of hope and wisdom to help us build our lives as residents of Dar.  As a weekly piece, Let Us Build will address the key issues that we face in this great, but often challenging city. Every Monday you will receive an email discussing a particular topic. I hope this is something that you would like to be a part of.

You might ask me: why would do you want to do this? The answer is simple. I believe it is part of my purpose to serve our city in this way. For many years I carried a dream of returning to Dar to play a role in rebuilding it. This is one of the ways in which I will fulfil that dream. Let me be upfront and say that my main reference point for what I will share with you is the Bible. I am a Christian and a pastor of a church in our city. I am convinced that there is no greater source of hope and wisdom than God’s Word, the Bible.

Given that this is the first time I share Let Us Build with you, I will be brief in discussing this week’s topic. I want to address the question: how do we respond to the brokenness around us? Do we get angry? Do we ignore it? Do we say it is someone else’s problem? Are we overwhelmed by it? I want to point us to a man in the Bible called Nehemiah as an example of responding well to brokenness.

Nehemiah grew up in exile, and had the important job of being cupbearer to the King of Persia. He received news that the wall of Jerusalem, the city of his forefathers, was broken down.  How did he respond? Amazingly, his initial response was to weep! Nehemiah 1:4 says “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.” Bear in mind that this was a man who was probably born in exile, and had a fairly significant job in a foreign land. He could have just said, “that is too bad” and moved on.

Despite the detached life he had lived, Nehemiah was so touched by the state of Jerusalem that he wept. It sounds odd, but weeping is a great place to start when we see broken walls. Like me, perhaps you often complain about the broken things in our city. I don’t blame you – there is much we can complain about! Friends, we need a change of heart that leads us to weep for Dar. We need to weep over the brokenness which exists in so many areas of life in our city.

Thank you for reading this far. If at this stage you feel this is not for you please let me know and I will remove you from the mailing list. On the other hand, if you have benefitted from reading today’s note, please give me your feedback. Also, if you know someone who might want to receive Let Us Build, please let me know so that I can include them.

All the best for the week ahead as you play your part in building the city of Dar!

 

Yours sincerely

Sheshi Kaniki (Pastor, God’s Tribe Church)

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