Marangu!

Two weeks ago, our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) held its 15th regional East African ladies’ conference in the small Tanzanian town of Marangu, situated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The heartwarming moments, and the inexpressibly beautiful scenery, were priceless.

For most of the wonderful ladies who travelled from Singida to attend the conference, it was their very first time to travel so far from home and to such a beautiful gathering as this, not to mention the paradise-like greenery of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

For unavoidable reasons, I was not able to post this report earlier. But now, here, in pictures, is the story of their experience.

Stepping out.

Ogling at the age-old eucalyptus trees at Marangu-Mtoni.

One of the beautiful services at the conference.

Two of our sisters from Kenya.

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The Singida ladies welcoming their “mother”, Flo (yours truly), who arrived late.

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Some of the Singida ladies braved the early morning cold to catch a glimpse the elusive mountain.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro can just be seen in the background.

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Finally, a moment of rest for Pastor Stephen, sister Frida and the elders from the Lake Region.

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Prior to starting on their journey back home (and fully refreshed in their spirits), a group photograph for the Singida ladies.

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And… here comes the bus. Bye bye little town of Marangu.

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Relationships

“8:19 Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.8:20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.8:21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” (Lk. 8:19-21)

I have been studying the words of Jesus, and none of His words are easy to the human ear. Much of the time whenever He spoke to the Pharisee or the elders or the teachers of the law (the scribes) He would address them directly: “Ye hypocrites”.

Peter, He called Satan.

One of the toughest was when one of His disciples needed to go bury his father who had just passed away. Jesus told the man, basically, that he would not be going. He said to him,

“Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:60)

That was not only tough on the man who had just lost his father; it went way, way, way against societal norms. This was something that was guaranteed to have Jesus stoned. Actually, if the man remained with Jesus after this, he deserves our deepest respect. Not many of us would have been able to bear such a “cross”.

And now here comes Jesus’s mother and all she wants is to see her son. And His brothers want to see their big brother.

Jesus’s response to His family’s claims must have left everyone present shocked to the core. But in heaven there was great rejoicing.

God has an agenda, and we as humans have an agenda. But the two run parallel: they will never meet. God’s agenda is for man to be saved and to go to heaven. This is the sole agenda that God has for His beloved creation, mankind.

Unfortunately, we have been bewitched. Even after we are saved we still have a thousand and one priorities, and God is hard at work trying to pry us from them.

Thank God He sent His Son Jesus into the world! Nothing would leverage Jesus from seeking only to do the will of His Father in heaven.

Many times the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus just because He spoke and did only the will of God.

It is not easy to be as bold and direct as Jesus was. This is especially so as man gets more enlightened. Today, an even newer generation, called the ‘woke’ or GenZ generation has arisen, whose preoccupation is all about “me”. All they know is self.

But for we who have been called by God, we should abandon the human agenda and seek to only hear and do God’s will.

This does not mean we are not going to intermingle with the world, for that would require us to leave the world. What it means, though, is that we are to keep our relationships spiritual. There is so much mixing in with the world today for the church, and there is so much that the church wants to know and imitate from the world.

For some it is friends especially – worldly friends – who are pulling them back. I believe we should cherish worldly friendships only to the extent that we can preach the gospel to them.

But it is in church that the danger is even more potent. There are people in church who have absolutely no interest, nor the slightest intention of doing God’s will. Unfortunately, amongst these are top well established preachers, preachers who are known all over the world, and who have massive followings.

Persecution – The Way To Heaven

“5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Mat. 5:10-12)

The secrets of God are hidden in the every day words of scripture that we read in the Bible. But no amount of Bible study can unlock them: God reveals them to whom He will. That is why it is more important to humble ourselves than to set our hopes on a regime of study, prayer or any other ministry in our endeavor to know God.

Notice that the Kingdom of Heaven is for

“they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

The Kingdom of heaven is not for those who gorge themselves with this world and expect to carry on the party in heaven. Unfortunately, too many believers are on that gravy train.

We must be on the lookout for the flesh. Any gospel that does not lead you to the cross (the sufferings of Christ) is a gospel that is based on the wide gate and broad way that the Bible speaks of in Matthew 7:14.

The word “persecution” refers to suffering for truth’s sake. That is why Jesus said,

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

Notice that among the “Blesseds” that Jesus proclaimed, this is the only one where the believer is told to

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad”.

The Kingdom of heaven is for such; why should they not rejoice?

The flesh will never rejoice at persecution. But the spiritual man knows that is the way into the Kingdom of Heaven. And he rejoices in it.

Keep A Pure Heart!

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mat. 5:8)

I want to write, in quick succession, on two scriptures that the Lord has opened my eyes to see, of the Beatitudes that Jesus spoke on in Matthew chapter 5. The two are closely related.

The first blessing that I will talk about is in Matthew 5:8.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

When I read this scripture my heart was overcome with unspeakable joy. The reason for this was because the revelation of this scripture came with a question: Is it possible to maintain a pure heart in all situations?

And the answer that came was a resounding yes. Yes, it is possible for a believer to keep his or her heart pure in every situation under the earth. The Bible tells us about our Lord Jesus Christ, that He

“… was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

Jesus has called us to be His disciples (Mat. 16:24). The meaning of the word “disciple” is a follower. The reason Jesus was tempted in all points was not so we could cheer Him from afar; rather, notice, it was “like as we are”, meaning it was so we could follow in His footsteps. Jesus was identified with us in every point in order that we, too, could identify ourselves with Him. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul was able to crucify his life with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

Through His sacrifice Jesus has made it possible for us to identify our lives with His “in every point”.

I rejoiced greatly upon reading Matthew 5:8, but not because I have become perfect therein. I have undergone epic failures in this “field”. One of the most horrid experiences that I had involved an incident where someone verbally attacked me. It was so sudden and so unexpected – and, quite obviously, keeping a pure heart was nowhere near the range of priorities that I had at that time. All my defenses were wide open and the enemy came in and did me a lot of spiritual and physical harm. Thankfully, I have been set free from that incident.

But many more instances come up where my heart is tested daily. The enemy will never give up, and we are not to let down our guard, even for a second!

But the joy that I had upon reading Matthew 5;8 came because of the challenge. When an athlete sees an obstacle ahead of him, he feels the pull to overcome it. This was the reason I rejoiced. It is not easy but we must strive to keep our hearts pure at all times.

Again I ask: is it really possible to keep our hearts pure in each and every situation?

Such a simple question, and yet so profound. But the answer lies in what our Lord Jesus Christ was able to do. And scripture tells us that He went through all the situations that we go through

“yet without sin.”

That’s deep food for thought.

Circumstances will come, situations will arise. Some will be very personal. Like the case where someone looked Jesus in the eye and spat on His face. Or when they mocked Him as He hung on the cross, suffering unbearable pain.

What a challenge that was! But Jesus overcame it. He overcame it by guarding His heart.

But if we are overcome with the thrill of the challenge to keep our hearts pure in every circumstance, imagine then the reward that comes with it, that we read of in the second part of that scripture.

It says:

“… for they shall see God.” (Mat. 5:8)

Imagine… seeing God. What an incredible blessing! This singular prospect should invoke the highest and truest emotion in us.

But what exactly does it mean to “see God”?

Notice it says “Blessed”. A blessing has been pronounced upon the believer who keeps their heart pure.

It means, simply, that we shall see God moving on our behalf. The glory of God shall overshadow our lives. Our God is a glorious God. He is the King of Glory. We shall therefore experience a victorious Christian life. That is, victorious in every aspect. (But we should not confuse victory here with the carnal charismatic teachings of God’s “favor” and the prosperity gospel).

Too many Christians miss the blessing and the victory of God upon their lives simply because they harbor impure things in their hearts. Too many live spiritually hard and difficult lives because they have been unable to let things go. Unfortunately, God cannot deny Himself, and He cannot shine His glory on a believer who cannot keep their heart pure.

Many have been taught that prayer brings the victory. But if your heart is not pure you can pray your way into the outermost cosmos, and God will not hear you.

Others believe in ministry, etc., etc., etc.

We should stop these things.

I love the finality and authority that God has. Keeping our hearts pure is not an option, it is a command. It is a command whose fulfilment on our part reins in the most fantastically impossible blessing.

Ready To Meet Jesus?

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

Recently, the Lord allowed me to see what this scripture meant. This scripture simply means that Paul was finally ready to meet Jesus face to face. And how was Paul able to become ready to meet his Lord in heaven?

The answer is plainly stated here. Paul became ready by “living” Christ. In other words, Paul crucified his own flesh and allowed Christ to live His life in him.

We love proclaiming about how we will get to heaven. In fact, one of the songs that we sing here says that “When I get to heaven I want to meet Jesus first”. Many believers, myself included, think we are ready to go meet our Savior in heaven. But scripture here warns us that it will not be easy to meet up with Christ. To do so we must first be willing to put off the works of the flesh. In order to be ready to meet our Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, we must first be prepared as a bride is prepared to meet the bridegroom.

We do not prepare ourselves by singing beautiful songs, no.

Paul became ready by crucifying his own flesh. He stated,

“I am crucified with Christ”. (Phil. 2:20)

That’s such a profound statement.

Let us also consider the words of Jesus in Luke 13:24. When someone asked Him whether there be few that would be saved, Jesus answered him,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

Who are the “many” that Jesus is talking of? Is it unbelievers? Many times when we see the word “many” in the Bible we think it is the unbelievers.

But Jesus is not talking of unbelievers here. Jesus said many would seek to enter in. How can a non-believer seek to enter into the Kingdom of God? He has no idea such a thing exists. It is the believer who has tasted of the manna from heaven, and who wants to consummate the heavenly calling. He feels the pull of heaven, and he wants to get there. Jesus was therefore addressing the believers.

Let us look at these words of Jesus from a different angle. We could say, Many will be unable to enter into the Kingdom of heaven because of the flesh. Too many Christians walk the broad way. They want heaven – and they want the world. They want heaven – but they are unable to crucify the flesh. But Jesus said,

“… if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16:24)

Too many of us are unable to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Actually, I believe the singular reason God gives His children more time to live in this world is so we may repent and line up our ways with the cross.

Many are called. Glory to God. But we should also read the second part: Few are chosen.

It is clear that getting to heaven will not be easy. And it certainly is not free, as so many assume. Actually, it demands the highest price. It demands that we surrender our lives.

I suspect that the reason many will not make it is because of pride. The strait and narrow path requires humility. It requires us to fall to the ground and repent the minute we hear the truth.

But too many Christians chose to follow their ego instead. They are contentious against the truth. They have aspects of their flesh that they are defending, and they will not let go. Some have doctrines that they have built over time. They will not bend nor submit to the truth even though it is set before them plain as day.

But the Apostle Paul did not live HIS life. Such a man was ready to meet Jesus in heaven. And meeting Jesus is gain.

The Power Of The Cross

“1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:17-18)

I do not know much about planes, but I read somewhere that when a plane is preparing to land it must align itself with an electronic gadget on the runway called an ILS. Once the airliner is well aligned with the ILS it is guaranteed to land safely. But if it ventures anywhere out of that ‘safety net’, so to speak, it will most likely crash.

This is a very good example for we believers.

How does this analogy relate to the church?

Let’s just say the church is the plane, seeking to land safely in its destination (heaven). To do this, of course, the church must do the perfect will of God.

The ILS for the church is the cross. It is only through the cross that the church will be able to land safely on its desired end: i.e. to please God fully. Actually, the cross was prophesied upon a long time ago by the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 53:10 says that it pleased God to bruise His Son Jesus Christ!

For this reason, this blog will always be about the cross. Why?

The answer is right there above.

“For the preaching of the cross is… the power of God.” (v.18)

I believe that any right minded believer wouldn’t desire anything more in their lives than to meet up with the power of God. The power of God rights our horribly off course lives with God’s will.

Seeing then that the power of God is hidden in the cross, the “education” of the Church then should be singularly settled on the cross. All the way from ‘kindergarten’ to ‘PhD’ – from beginning to end – the church should strive after only one thing: to know Christ, and Him crucified, fully. The church should strive to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who wrote the Corinthians:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 1:2-3)

If Paul wanted to know nothing other than Jesus Christ crucified I wonder why would we not want to know just that? Even more preposterous, why would we want to know anything else! (For Christians today want to know so many things!)

But the spiritual fall of man was so total that rebellion against God is firmly instituted in him. Even after we are saved, still God has the hardest time trying to right us and align our ways with His will. This is the toughest mission that God ever embarked on.

In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul shows us the unique nature of the cross. He begins by stating that Christ did not send him to baptize. This can only mean one thing: “the preaching of the cross” of Jesus Christ is more than water baptism. But scripture reveals the cross is more than even that. It is more than speaking in tongues; and it is more than miracles (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13). Indeed, the cross is far, far more than the basic understanding that the Church has about it. Rather, the cross is the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The cross is a lifestyle whereby the life of the believer is challenged and moulded and shaped into the image of the Son of God. The cross is where the life of God is sown and grown in our lives unto maturity, unto perfection.

When our lives are founded on the cross of Jesus this is what happens.

Just as the plane on ILS is perfectly set to land safely, in the same manner, when we are walking in the revelation of the cross, our lives are aligned perfectly with the will of God. We will grow into maturity in the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit will be found in our lives.

And what is the final outcome of all this?

The Apostle Peter tells us.

“1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:10-11)

If we allow our lives to be built on the foundation of the cross, an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shall be granted unto us ABUNDANTLY!

What a powerful statement! And pray, what could we possibly desire more?

David – Part 2

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1)

I wish to begin by thanking all my readers and to wish them a new year, 2021, full of the wisdom of God to the end that they may please God fully.

Again, before I embark on this last chapter of this series I want to apologize deeply for my long disappearance from this blog. No doubt much of my disappearance had to do with end of year engagements both in and out of church but still I need to ask for forgiveness.

Now to end.

In the Swahili Bible the word “provided” in 1 Samuel above is translated “gotten”. In other words, therefore, God was telling Samuel, “I have gotten (or, I have found) for myself a king amongst the sons of Jesse.”

Now, when God says, “I have found”, it does not mean He threw dice to help Him decide who among Jesse’s sons would be fit to be king over Israel. Nor does it mean that God consulted with some “higher power”, so to speak. There is no higher power than God Himself.

In the contrary it means God had found someone who fitted the job description that He had. God knows exactly what He wants. God is looking for someone who has taken responsibility over their own hearts. David was a man who had done exactly that.

I find it a great honor and an indescribable grace (unbelievable in the extreme!) that God would allow us to be involved in anything that has to do with Him. Have you ever thought about that? Who are we? For we are mere mortals. The great man of God, Job, was so taken aback that he asked,

“7:17 What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?7:18 And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18)

But God does whatever pleases Him. This is another mystery about God, that He does whatever pleases Him. No one advises Him. He is the supreme advisor to Himself.

It pleased God, therefore, to allow man to be a partaker of His Godly nature. The Bible says that God has BEGOTTEN us now into His Kingdom. By His great love for us, God has through Jesus Christ begotten us as His own sons and daughters! This is an indescribable grace.

The biggest challenge that we have is our hearts! This was the difference between Saul and David. Try as he might Saul could not please God because he had a rebellious streak in him. That was so sad. It saddened Prophet Samuel to no end! In the end it proved fatal.

But God had given Saul chance after chance to redeem himself.

With David, as we see, it was different. He had an incredibly contrite and broken spirit.

David – Part 1

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1)

We saw in our last post that the flesh prevented Saul from being king over Israel. It is in the same manner that our flesh will prevent us from entering into the Kingdom of heaven, and this is how we learn about it. After listing all the works of the flesh – “5:19… Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” –

the Apostle Paul declares:

“… they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (v. 21)

That fact couldn’t be stated any clearer.

When God says something, it comes to pass exactly as He said it would. When Adam and Eve sinned God told them,

“3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (Gen. 3:16-17)

No amount of philosophising will ever change any of the things that God said here. It came to pass just as God said. We do not just see these things every day; it is the life that we live every moment of our lives.

Even the snake moves on its belly.

When God therefore says that when we fail to crucify the works of the flesh we shall not inherit the kingdom of God, we should realize the seriousness of our situation. We love joking and taking things lightly down here, but God is not in the joking business. When He declares something, it comes to pass exactly as He said it would. It is advisable to stay on the safe side of things, and this saying couldn’t be truer in the Spirit. We need to make sure that our relationship with God is as He has designed it to be.

And so God was done with Saul. He told Prophet Samuel,

“How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?”

We should fear and tremble. If God can reach such a place with someone, who are we to assume that God is going to change terms just because we think we are special?

Today’s Christians especially claim so many rights from God. But they are not willing to partake of the responsibility that God has given them, which is to put to death the works of the flesh.

King Saul

“But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” (1 Sam. 15:9)

I raise chickens. It so happens that every once in a while I am required to either give away or slaughter a chicken. I can assure you that it is not easy to give away the best of my chickens. In many cases it is war! Something inside of me does not like letting go my fattened chickens.

But I find it so much easier to give away the weak and unhealthy ones.

This state of affairs in my own life makes it so much easier for me to understand why King Saul had such a hard time fulfilling the command of the Lord. For the Lord had told Saul,

“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam. 15:3)

Something in Saul’s heart did not allow him to obey God. Recall that this was not the first time that God had tried Saul’s heart. On the contrary, God had given Saul chance after chance to redeem himself but, somehow, Saul only hearkened to the thing in his heart, and not to God.

Much of the time we castigate King Saul; but in most cases we are no different from him. How is that so?

It is because we find it hard to get rid of the things that God has commanded us to get rid of in our lives. Our hearts are so bound up with these things!

When we talk of things we are not talking about material things. Material things do not bother God. What bothers God are the works of the flesh in our lives. Interestingly, it is these that we are not willing to let go, to crucify. The Bible in Galatians states:

“5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21)

Then it concludes:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (v. 24)

Just as God commanded King Saul to exterminate the Amalekites, He has commanded us to crucify the works of the flesh in us. But it is these very things that we find so hard to crucify.

May we examine our lives and see if we are still embracing the works of the flesh, things that we find hard to let go. The only way to get the victory over the flesh is to cry out to God and to allow the cross to work in us to bring to death the works of the flesh.

Christmas – Not For Us

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (Jn. 8:58)

One of the things that I wonder at as I grow older in Christianity is how the church gets so easily drawn by the gimmicks of this world. Like the church believing the same thing that the world believes in. How is that even THINKABLE?

Take the issue of Christmas, for example. The world believes that Jesus was born on the 25th of December, whatever year. Imagine the church believing that!

I am not talking about celebrating a day. I believe God is not stingy, and we can celebrate any day that we choose to. You can have a feast any and every day of your life, and God has nothing against it. What God is against is dragging Him into such things. For God is Spirit, and the things that we do down here in this regard are temporal and of the world. Can you imagine celebrating Jesus with roasted chicken? What connection could there be between the two?

I believe that the church should have a spiritual backbone and not accept to be led about by the world. In fact, such a factuality beats the very purpose of the gospel. The church being ‘led’ by the world into the things of the Spirit. Is that even possible? But the church’s belief in Christmas and other so-called Christian holidays proves that this is actually happening.

Jesus was not born 2000 years ago. Scripture says that before Abraham was, He was.

Jesus was God, and God is the creator of time. In fact, God owns eternity. How about that! How can a believer even put a date to Jesus’s birth?

In the Spirit Jesus was never a child. Yes, He was born a baby in the natural, but in the Spirit Jesus was never a baby. He has always been and will forever be fully God. Recall when Jesus as a child was taken to the temple in Jerusalem by His parents? There was a prophet of God by the name of Simeon there at the temple.

“2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.2:27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,2:28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,2:29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:2:30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,2:31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Lk. 2:25-32)

This man Simeon, seeing in the Spirit, did not see a baby. In the Spirit he saw the Messiah, his Lord.

Anyone who sees Jesus as a baby in the arms of Mary is plainly seeing in the natural, not in the Spirit. In the Spirit we see Jesus Christ, our Lord and King.

So, as you tuck into your roasted chicken on this Christmas day, thank God. Thank God for the things of this life that He has given you to enjoy. But honor God in your spirit and do not try to equate God to a day.

The Church Is One

“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16)

The Church is a Body. The Bible says so right there. That means that the Church is a living organism. If our mortal bodies are living organisms, we can expect that the Church is much more so.

That is why the Church has to be built on a strong foundation, the strong foundation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). The strongest foundation that God could find for the thing He loves most – the Church – was the cross: not just the cross where Jesus was crucified; but where the believer, too, can crucify self. It is only by crucifying the flesh that the Church can become one!

There is no other foundation that can be laid for the unity of the Church. It is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul writes:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11)

The cross is the beginning and the end of the story of the Church. And the Church, as we just read in Ephesians, a living organism that caters to itself in love.

What does all this portend? What does the cross mean? What is the connection between the cross and the unity of the Church?

The cross, as we saw, is where we crucify self. Crucifying self simply means we are not seeking to gain in the natural. We do not seek to keep our lives; but to “gladly spend and be spent” for the Church as Paul boldly states in 2 Cor. 12:15.

In crucifying self we become one with Christ, and with His Body, the Church.

Recall the words of Jesus when someone asked Him what the first commandment was.

“22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.22:38 This is the first and great commandment.22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat. 22:37-38)

Notice:

“22:38 This is the first and great commandment.22:39 And the second is like unto it”.

This scripture proves that God has priorities. And God’s first priority is that we love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The two go together.

Who is your “neighbor” in this case?

It is your brother and sister in Christ. God’s true desire is that the Church may be one.

You cannot do either of these two things – loving God and loving your neighbor – without crucifying self. You must crucify self in order to fulfill God’s first commandment. The Bible both in Romans and Galatians tells us that the flesh (self) is God’s relentless enemy. You cannot be a Christian who panders to the flesh and at the same time claim you are one with Christ, nor with the Church.

There can be no oneness under such circumstances. But the Church that has been crucified with Christ is one. For this reason the Bible talks of the Church in this manner:

“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:11)

The Church is indeed one! There is no place for divisions based on skin color, educated and uneducated, rich or poor.

There are many foundations being laid today: but none has any place in the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul already stated the singular foundation that – thank God! – has already been laid for the Church: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.

The reason the Church today is not one is because of a lack of the revelation of the cross. Any other gospel apart from Christ crucified cannot bring lasting peace and unity among believers. Self is so destructive! And all these other foundations seek to minister to the flesh, or self.

The cross revealed is the foundation for the Church. Under this foundation no one is looking to gain in the natural. On the contrary, everyone is seeking to lose! They are seeking to put self to death and to allow the life of Christ to flow through them.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about the denial of self. Any believer who does not deny themselves and take up their cross cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said,

“14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke

Notice the word “cannot”. Pentecostals believe all things are possible. But you cannot be a disciple of Jesus if you are not willing to deny yourself. The entirety of the gospel is based on the ability for one to deny self through the power of the Holy Spirit.