God’s Unsearchable Love

I once overheard an old man say, “Heaven is our home”.

The following clip is of a plane in distress as it approaches LAX, in the U.S. No doubt, God wanted these people safely home. And “home” here was not Los Angeles;  home was heaven. And so He, who holds sway over every affair both in heaven and on the earth, intervened on these passengers’ behalf – and on behalf, possibly, of many other people on the ground.

I wonder whether we value God’s perspective  concerning our lives as He does?

Understanding The Cross

The more you understand the cross of Jesus Christ, the more you begin to see things… things that are hidden. That is why the Apostle Paul calls the gospel of Jesus Christ a mystery, and a revelation (see Ephesians 3).

More and more as you understand the cross, you begin to realize that the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with the things of this world; in fact, one day, it becomes crystal clear to you that God’s Kingdom has absolutely nothing to do with anything of this world; that it is spiritual, and not material.

When it comes to the material life, for example, you begin to understand why Jesus had “not where to lay his head” (Mat. 8:20); and yet this same Man could walk on water, He could feed more than 5,000 people at one sitting; and He could raise the dead.

For which is greater: having a place to lay your head or walking on water?

You begin to understand why the Apostle Paul could tell the Corinthians concerning himself and the apostles:

“9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:9-10)

You begin to understand why the apostles would walk about without a dime in their pockets (3:6) and yet the Bible indicates they could have been rich had they chosen to.

“34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:34-37)

All the church assets were at the apostles’ disposal. And yet, they would not use any of it on their own persons. Their hearts were not in these things.

It is as you grow in your understanding of the cross that you get to understand the vanity and the futility of this earthly life. You begin to understand even why Jesus did not marry; nor Paul. You understand Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2:

“1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

Marriage is holy, indeed (Heb. 13:4); but these earthly marriages are not God’s original plan. In other words, earthly marriage is not God’s plan in the Spirit. That is why a man and woman are not joined in their spirits, but in their bodies. They only become one in their spirits if both are living for Christ.

Jesus made it clear that in God’s heavenly Kingdom,

“… they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Mat. 22:30)

Earthly marriage exists simply to prevent us from fornication, as Paul states. Earthly marriage is a testimony to the power of the flesh and it is allowed because of the weakness of our flesh. God of necessity had to sanctify marriage; otherwise, it would be unholy and we would not be allowed to marry.

But our Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul and others, by the grace of God, crucified the flesh and were therefore able to not engage in earthly marriage. They were able to live only for the heavenly marriage.

The Roman Catholic church tried imitating this heavenly lifestyle of abstinence in the flesh and they have ended up destroying more lives than have all the wars in the world.

As you understand the cross more, you realize more and more that the spiritual man or woman indeed has nothing in this world to live for. The Apostle Paul realized this fully well. Hence he declares in Galatians 2:20:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

That means that every breathe of earthly air that Paul took, he took for Christ; every motion he made with his earthly body, he made for Christ; and that his thought processes were wired in the Spirit to Christ’s. He lived, not for himself, but for Christ. He never did, thought or spoke anything for himself, nor for the flesh, but for Christ. He says again,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

For Paul, to live was Christ.

We, on the contrary, live a ragtag life, where we try to infuse Christ and the flesh together. But that cannot be called a spiritual lifestyle. If we really want to be spiritual, we have a long way to go in disentagling ourselves from the earthly and living for what is purely spiritual.

But take heart… It is a journey, and a long one. As long as you are denying yourself and taking up your cross and following Christ, you are on the right track even if you are not perfect yet.

[JESUS – What a beautiful Name!]

Our True Family

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mat. 12:46-50

This is a tough one. It is a very, very tough one. In a sense, probably the toughest of all of Jesus’s lessons.

In a nutshell, there can be no emotional attachments in God’s Kingdom, only spiritual ones. There could be no greater emotional attachment than the familial one; and here Jesus discards it. We are to seek after spiritual relationships. The Bible says that God is Spirit. There can therefore be no other relationships acceptable to Him other than a spiritual one.

The church may not be perfect, but it is the Body of Jesus Christ! And where else, aside from this congregation of mostly imperfect men and women can we grow to know the will of our Father in heaven? No, there is nowhere else. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our true family.

Yes, Peter still had a sword hidden in his inner robe, and we can imagine his thoughts were not so peaceful nor holy. Equally fierce and furious were James and John, who also harbored Napoleonic thoughts of conquering the world.

But, incredibly, Jesus  elevated these people above his earthly brothers, sisters and mother. He called them His family!

There are people who will value their flesh and blood kin over members of the Body of Christ. There are others who approve of people for various other reasons other than purely spiritual ones. But that attests to their inability to see in the Spirit. For when we see in the Spirit, we realize how truly valuable brethren in Christ are and how high our relating to them towers above earthly relationships, however close; and however weak our brethren in Christ may be.

It is best – before it gets too late and we come to realize the vanity of it all – that we as God’s children align ourselves fully with the church and stop appeasing other relationships, however important they might appear. There is a price to pay there; but, again, the gospel is all about paying the price.

God will give us grace and it is not as if we will stop loving our kith and kin in the flesh. Jesus Himself no doubt thought constantly and prayed for His family, a fact that is born out in John 19:25-27:

“25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

But, right to the very end, as we see here, Jesus’s thoughts about his mother and siblings were spiritual, not otherwise. His love for them was not emotional, but spiritual. In the end, through Jesus’s pursuit of only the spiritual, they, too, came to an understanding of the treasure that is God’s Kingdom. In the end, He bequeathed to them the true riches, heavenly ones.

[Powerful clip. Please go to “Settings”, click “Subtitles” for the English subtitles to appear]

Of Oxen And Cribs

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. Prov. 14:4

A crib here is not the thing where a baby is raised in. According to the context, this particular crib refers to a cow pen or paddock. This is the place where cattle live and sleep. It is their home.

Now, we all know that this is not a particularly clean place. Cattle keep urinating and defecating here all the time. Naturally, this gives the farmer a hard time cleaning out the pens if he has to. In Africa, however, we don’t bother cleaning cattle pens precisely because they are not stationed indoors. The cattle are simply penned in outdoors and there they will comfortably live all their lives. We allow the manure to compact and mature during the dry season and, just before the rains come, we take it out and pile it in the farm to await the planting season.

I have never heard of a clean cattle pen. But, again, the Bible tells us here that a pen can only be clean if there are no cattle living there! In other words, if there are cattle living inside, the pen can never be clean.

The men who wrote the early Wisdom were practical men. They could relate to life in a down-to-earth manner. That being the case, it is true that even in a big house there are bound to be many people, and all these people come with their different habits and characteristics. Without a doubt they are bound to do things that are not pleasing to the owner of the house. But it is also true that they will in turn do many things that are helpful in that house. You cannot have ten people living in your house and it turns out that it is you who is running every errand. The truth is that many, many chores, duties and errands will be accomplished without your knowledge even.

There are many people who opt to live lone lives. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t for one minute defend how we Africans treat our dogs; but I am tempted to believe that many Westerners also have a hidden agenda in their love for their dogs. I think many do so because dogs are easier to cope with than human beings. After all, dogs are so subservient and humans so intractable. But, still, it is human beings that we are called to cope with.

At any rate, most people would rather not dirty their hands or suffer in any way; and yet, with the gospel, we are called to suffer for the gospel’s sake.

That said, notice the word “increase” in that scripture. The Bible says that if the crib is clean, the farmer has no increase or profit; he will experience only loss. Why? It is because there are no oxen in his crib!

These are the same words that our Lord Jesus echoed in Matthew 10:39.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

In the natural, the more the oxen you have in the stall, the dirtier that stall is bound to get. But then, again, it means you will have more strength in those oxen to accomplish things that will bring you profit.

It is the same in the Spirit.

“… much increase is by the strength of the ox”.

In the Spirit, the more stumbling blocks you meet on your spiritual journey; the more trials and temptations you come across, the more spiritual you are bound to become as a child of God. The stronger spiritually you will become. A weak Christian is one who does not experience challenges to their faith. If you hold onto your life, you will lose it.

It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul said:

“9 … Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

It is only by allowing more trials and tribulations into our lives for the sake of the gospel that we will develop that inner spiritual strength needed to please and serve the Lord in the Spirit.

[It is for this reason that I, too, would not want to know any other gospel than that which was preached by the Apostle Paul: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified]

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Freedom In Christ – Part 2

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Jn. 8:36

Some time ago, I was sending money to someone through an electronic outlet. It was a substantial amount of money I was sending and if anything happened to it I knew I was a dead man.

After she had completed the transaction the teller went and sat in the far back of her booth and it was from there that she mumbled the name of the person she had sent the money to. (It is standard procedure here for the teller to tell you whom the money has gone to).

I did not hear the name properly and I asked her again who the money had gone to. The girl answered me and, once again, I failed to catch the name. I was about to ask her a third time when I noticed her body language suggesting that I was becoming a nuisance to her. I opted to not bother her further and I left the booth without really knowing who the money had gone to. But I was not at peace. If that money did not go the intended recipient…

One time my wife lost more than 1 million shillings of her company’s money in the same manner and we took a year to repay it. As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy.

Anyways, as I was walking back home, the thought kept bugging me, What if it turned out that the money you sent did not go to the person you intended it to go to? Would you go back to that tough little girl and ask her for your money back?

But I hadn’t gone very far when I felt this big calm come into my heart. A very calm and satisfying thought came into my heart saying, No, I would not fight with her. I would simply look for more money to send.

I felt so free at the thought. And I immediately realized that this was a part of the inheritance that we have in Christ: freedom from these kinds of things.

In the world, money is everything. The world revolves around money. If the Bible took the time and space to write that “the love of money is the root cause of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), it is important for us to realize that money is the greatest god of this world. All over the world, daily, people are  scheming, fighting and murdering each other on account of money. All the wars in the world are about money. In the world, they say, “money is power”. The love of money is so powerful.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ sets us free from everything worldly, including the love of money. The gospel can set up completely free. Actually, that freedom takes us further than we can imagine.

One of the things that I rejoice with the gospel is that there are no contracts. Contracts are born of the law and there is no law with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Had there been law with Jesus, Judas Iscariot would never have been His accountant. Jesus would have made him to sign a contract at the first sign of trouble and the very next day or week or month Judas would have been out of a job. But the guy kept his job up till the very end of Jesus’s ministry even though Jesus knew he was stealing big from the treasury.

There is no paperwork with the gospel. No one needs to sign anything. If someone steals from you, you don’t take them to jail. You don’t even take them to the police station. God is far more wealthier than the little money you might have lost. His grace will uphold and strengthen you and if He deems the money or property you had stolen from you is worth refunding, He will refund it. And sometimes God will not refund that money because He does not need it for His Kingdom.

Oh, the ways and workings of God! And, equally exciting, what incredible power the grace of God has in our lives! May we daily partake of this grace and walk free in a world that is bound by these oh, so petty things.

[If you just lost some money, here’s something to brighten your day. A little girl preparing to go to school]

Mollel

Freedom In Christ – Part 1

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 The. 4:13-14

Oh, the liberty that the gospel brings!

One of the things that money cannot buy in this world is reprieve from sorrow. And, without a doubt, one of the most painful sorrows that affects us here on earth is the loss of a loved one. Imagine the pain that death brings to those who are left behind by the passing away of a loved one. It affects us in our deepest parts. It is bad enough when it is an ordinary death but, in today’s violent and unpredictable world in particular, death sometimes is attended with terror, pain, suddenness and a host of other additional calamities that make it all the more difficult for the deceased’s relatives to bear. I cannot imagine the pain that the violence that accompanies so many deaths in a place like the U.S. city of Chicago, for example, causes to those left behind. It is estimated that every day, 12 people are shot dead in Chicago.

It is in this light that we can better appreciate the Apostle Paul’s words here. This scripture makes it clear that people ignore Christ at their own spiritual peril. It is in Christ that both the dead and the living can enjoy this liberty. What Paul says in essence here is that when we lose a brother or sister in Christ there is no sense of loss on our part! The brother or sister is simply sleeping, he says! Who would mourn a person who was only sleeping?

What a blessing, to be set free from such incredible pain! Imagine being set free from the many bondages and hurts that death brings! It is an incredible thought.

But these things, though hard to comprehend, are true in the Spirit. Remember when Jesus was told that His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus did not break out wailing. He simply told His disicples:

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (Jn. 11:11)

Jesus said this because He was the resurrection and the life. He did, in fact, raise Lazarus from the dead.

Today, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life, and He will remain so unto eternity. We may grieve for a brother or sister who has died in the Lord in the short term, but that is due to our human weakness. In truth, however, that person has gone to a far better place – to be with the Lord.

This realization affords us incredible freedom – freedom from sorrow. And sorrow is one of our greatest enemies. Sorrow can hit us where nothing else can.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 8:36 ring out true and clear when held in this perspective.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

[Below: Women mourning at a funeral in rural Singida]

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Food For Thought

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Lk. 9:57-58

Y’know, I often think about Jesus’s words above, and I cannot imagine a grown man speaking such words in today’s world. Even in church, it would be anathema to speak such words. Had Jesus been in today’s hyper-materialistic church I know exactly what they would tell Him.

“You are lazy! Go work and put something over your head.”

And they would have turned away in disgust, muttering, “Stupid!”

They would do their best to shame Him.

But the Lord was about His Father’s business. He had no time, nor inclination, for the business of this world and the things that pertain to it and the flesh. Actually, Jesus did not speak those words because He needed a house. He was not soliciting for help. A house meant nothing to Jesus.

In Philippians 4:10-13 the Apostle Paul, who had the same heart as Jesus, writes:

“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“Not that I speak in respect of want”.

The spiritual men and women of old never lusted for the things of this world. When you are pursuing after spiritual things, you have absolutely no time for the trappings of this world, however ‘necessary’ they might be.

Isn’t a reproach for the church today that a person’s worth would be measured by what he owns material-wise? That a person with a car, a house, who has been to university, who is better dressed and who has all the symbols of this world upon him would be looked upon in church as someone? That’s the real shame – in the Spirit.

Jesus told Martha:

“41 Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41-42)

We are so careful and troubled about many things: but one thing only is needful: to see into God’s spiritual Kingdom and to live the life of the Spirit.

The good thing about Jesus, of course, was that, try as you might, you could not shame Him. He knew what He was about.

Do you know what you are about in God’s Kingdom? When you think about how unacceptable Jesus’s words are in today’s charismatic church setting, there’s much food for thought there.