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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A Real President

As you might have noticed, this blogger is taking a short break. In the interim, though, this gives me the opportunity to say some things that are on my mind.

There are many things that I love about President Trump. One of the top ones is that he has set out to bring the word “GOD” back to America. Some people have been trying their best to kick God out of America. I pray that never happens.

Today, though, I want to state one other thing that I absolutely root for in Trump. It is that he is REAL. Yes, real.

Fear God!

I agree completely with Pastor Jennings that America is in the condition she is in because she has ceased to fear God and has embraced things like homosexuality, lesbianism, etc.

307 mass shootings in 312 days. Wow! Who wants to go to America in 2018? It doesn’t require a medicineman to tell you there is something seriously wrong with such a country.

The solution for this country is not gun control. The solution is to return to God.

“And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.” (Is. 19:22)

Charity In Action

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. Lk. 7:13

The Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 14:1 to

“Follow after charity…”

The Apostle Peter tells us (the church) that if we do these things,

“… so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:5-11)

[May God bless these beautiful people from Fox. May He pour His grace upon their lives! Imagine if Robert Reboredo had died with only his wife struggling by his side. What a depressing state that would have been. How miserable and forlorn both of them would have been!]

 

A Heavenly Recompense

12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Lk. 14:12-14

When was the last time that you made a dinner or a supper and invited in the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind to eat of your goods? If you have, blessed are you.

But notice specifically that Jesus is concerned here that we do not seek after worldly recompense in the good that we do. On the contrary, we are to have an eye for a heavenly recompense, at the resurrection of the just. On that day, God will reward those who did not seek to be repaid here on earth.

But, pray, can a Christian desire worldly recompense rather than the heavenly one? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. More times than I can count, I have done good to someone and, if they did not thank me or take notice of it, I felt bad about it. That was the flesh, demanding worldly recompense and leading me to forfeit my heavenly reward.

Walking in the will of God is not a matter of one simply believing in Christ; more importantly, it is about one denying self and taking up their cross and following Christ. The Bible tells us that the flesh wars against the Spirit, and that if we side with it we cannot do the will of God in our lives. And for this reason, therefore, the Bible tells us to walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-17)

It tells us that if we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Have you noticed how we hunger for earthly recompense, including being thanked, noticed, praised and repaid back? The flesh demands worldly recompense. It demands to be paid in kind right here on earth. It has no heavenly agenda, for it is not of heaven.

But when the cross is at work in our lives, we “kill” these kinds of attitudes. We begin to care more about the only thing that really matters: the heavenly recompense. One day we will stand before God and be recompensed for the things that we did here on earth for which no man could repay us back.

It is in the light of this revelation that we can understand and appreciate Jesus’s other teachings.

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Mat. 5:42)

In Lk. 6:30, Jesus made that even clearer.

Give to every man that asketh of thee…”

Give to every man. I overheard one brother say that he does not give money to street beggars. He had a grudge against what he called their “laziness”. But, in this scriptures, street beggars fall right in the middle of “every man that asketh of thee”.

Jesus went on to qualify His statements:

“32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Lk. 6:32-34)

Notice the word “thank” there. What was Jesus talking about here? He was referring to the heavenly recompense. One day, God will thank you in a way no man could.

The heavenly stakes are incredibly high. But, again, it can only be that one is truly fighting the good fight of faith that they can do these things. The spiritual man/woman does not need to be recompensed in the natural.

Grace Through Humility

7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 14:7-11

It could hardly be supposed that Jesus here  was talking about a mere wedding, or that He was setting out the seating protocol at weddings for people to follow; so what is this all about?

Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God! Notice that Jesus’s words here are a parable (v.7). Which means it is a teaching; a teaching for the Church. And Jesus’s message here was simple: when you come into the Kingdom of God, take the back-est seat possible. Desire to be the lowest person in God’s Kingdom.

Who do you think Jesus is referring to as “he that bade thee and him”? Who is the “he” here?

That “he” is God. Far from talking about a wedding in the natural, the Lord was talking about the totality of the Christian life. He was referring to the attitude that a Christian believer needs to have in his relationship with God; the attitude that the Church needs to carry in their hearts as children of God. It is this attitude that will cause God to raise us up.

Notice verses 8 and 9.

8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

In ministry especially, men are tempted to take “the highest room”. We want to be recognized! But the only person who counts is the “more honourable man”. And, pray, who is the “more honourable man” Jesus is talking of here?

We may not know this man. John the Baptist told the Jews,

“26… there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

The Jews thought John was the greatest.

This is a wake-up call to preachers. Leave off all those high-sounding titles and desire to become common servants of Christ. Above all, do not despise others, for you never know who is coming after you.

Thank God, John knew.

The “more honourable man”  is the man whom God alone acknowledges. It is not the man who thinks of himself as honorable, or he who advertises himself. Ought that not make us want to become smaller still in our own estimation of ourselves?

Desiring to be a nothing in the Kingdom of God is an attitude of heart. All our proclamations to the contrary, this is one of the hardest things for us to do as children of God. And the reason for this is because the flesh is involved. The heart of man is naturally puffed up.

The flesh works in tandem with the devil, who tried to take the position of God. It is written of the devil in Isaiah 14: 12-15:

“12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

But God answered Lucifer and said,

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Thank God for He controls everything. He looks upon the lowly heart, and uplifts them. He causes the poor (in spirit) to become rich.

The Psalmist, David, had a lot to write concerning the poor. In Psalm 69:29, David wrote:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”

David was not talking of material lack; the sorrow he refers to here is the sorrow of a man who seeks after the righteousness of God. Here he echoes the attitude of a broken man. That man, the Bible says, God will set “up on high”.

In Psalm 113:7-8 he writes also,

“7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, 8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.”

That scripture is talking about the “poor” and “needy” in spirit. God will always consider the humble in heart, and He will do something about it. But God will never consider the man who carries pride of any form in his heart.

During the charismatic era, I never really knew what this Psalm meant. Since I was poor materially, I thought it was referring to my natural state. But when we become children of God, God has better things for us. He desires to give the eternal things, which are spiritual, not the the material things, which are temporal. It is true He will also bless us with the material things if He so desires. But that is not where His heart is.

But the central point is that God gives the good things of the Spirit to the humble in heart.

Humility cannot be found in our hearts if we have not crucified the flesh. That is why the entirety of our Christian life revolves around the revelation of the cross in our hearts. The work of the cross is to crucify our flesh, for it is the flesh that desires to

“in the highest room”

But Paul writes in Galatians 5:24:

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

So what happens when God raises us “out of the dust” and lifts us “out of the dunghill” in the Spirit? Do we become rich materially, or wise and strong in the flesh?

As we already noted, the answer is no. On the contrary, it simply means that God enriches us with His grace. We become carriers of the grace of God. We become men and women who carry in us the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

“A Rushing Mighty Wind” (The Work Of The Holy Spirit) – Part 2

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23

Recently, someone exasperatedly asked one of the pastors that work with me here in Singida, “How come you people speak and preach as if you knew nothing before this gospel of the cross came along?”

The pastor answered him, “Yes, we knew nothing and we had nothing. In fact, we have had to start all over again. It is as if we are in kindergarten. Without the revelation of the cross, one knows nothing about the gospel of Jesus.”

Infuriated, the man threw up his hands and walked away. Without the revelation of Christ – “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) – in his heart, he could not understand what this pastor was trying to tell him.

When I set out to write this post, I meant it to be a tribute to these very men of God whom I work with here in Singida. The very being of these men in the gospel is something that is beyond my grasp. I fail to understand how, in the first place, they came to an understanding of the gospel of the cross. What was it that would convince such men – men who were well established in their particular denominations – to leave all that they had worked for for many years and to follow the gospel of the cross? It can only be that the Holy Spirit was at work, and He convicted them.

The work of the Holy Spirit with these men is something that never ceases to amaze me.

But this incredible story does not end there, and well it should not, for the Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 that God is

“able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”

The fact that these men and women can grasp the revelation of the gospel dumbfounds me beyond any words that I could possibly conceive, as I said. But what amazes me even more is the bond that exists among we elders here in Singida. We are not perfect, but the bond of love that exists among us in unmistakable. For the last two years, we have been meeting every Thursday. Even when one or more of us are on a mission away from town, the rest will always meet. God has worked through these weekly meetings to enable us to organize the many conferences that have brought out a veritable revolution in this region. Through these conferences, many more men of God have been added to our team. The unity and love among the members of our churches, and their commitment to the gospel, reflects this same working of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible talks of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. You notice that I started off this post with what I called a preamble: the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Important as they are to the church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the “main course” of the gospel: this happens to be something far different. It is the fruit of the Spirit. The raison d’être for the Holy Spirit residing in us is in order that we might bear the fruit of the Spirit. Apart from the many gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the Church, He desires, above all, to bear His fruit in us. This alone brings glory to God. Actually, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the Church for the express purpose of having us bear His fruit in us.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is something we do not even talk amongst ourselves as elders here in Singida; yet it comes naturally in our lives as we surrender to God’s will in our lives through the revelation of the cross.

The singular thing that the Apostle Paul boasted in was this fruit. That was why he could freely talk of his weaknesses, for he knew that in becoming weak, he was able to be perfected in the Spirit. He had nothing to boast of in himself; on the contrary, he attributed all that he had, and all that he was, to the power of the Holy Spirit in him.

[The pastors in Singida: working in team spirit, they are a powerful testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit]

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