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 Great Price

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35)

Another way of putting this scripture is: What shall separate us from LOVING Christ?

Amongst the things mentioned here there is nothing good, certainly not for the flesh. And yet this scripture does not indicate that these things will not come upon us. In fact, the very reason they are mentioned here is because they will come. They are a part and parcel of the cross that we are to take up in following Christ.

Most believers will not notice this and they will read this scripture and not see the RESPONSIBILITY attached to us in it. Most will just read about the love of Christ… They are not willing to take up their part following Him.

But the element of responsibility will always be there in our relationship with Christ.

Notice even the sword is mentioned here. This indicates the great price that we must be willing to pay to enter into the Kingdom of God. If we are to expect even the sword, how much more should we be willing to undergo the far lesser sufferings that we are called upon to endure on a daily basis?

Things like lack or hunger ought to be at the bottom rung of OUR list of things. There are far tougher things. How about dealing with the pride in our hearts? Thanks be to God for the revelation of the cross.

The cross will come to us in many different ways. But when we are carrying the mind of Christ we will be more than willing to identify ourselves with His life, in suffering and dying with Him.

A Doorkeeper

“For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:10)

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.

I would rather be.

I would far rather be.

Of Clothes Particularly

“3:10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?3:11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” (Lk. 3:10-11)

Hello Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Once again, I have been away for a long while and, once again, I apologize! (Don’t be deceived. My constant apologies in this blog have absolutely nothing to do with my levels of humility. Here I need your constant prayers!)

Now, back to today’s lesson. I start it off with a provocative question: How many clothes does a child of God really need to own?

Fortunately for everyone reading this post I have the answer right here with me. According to the Bible, you need just one. If you have two garments the Bible commands you to give the excess one to someone who doesn’t have any.

Judging by the size of our wardrobes, I believe we can be the best judges of whether we are living up to the Word of God or not. God is not against us owning more than one dress; but would you be willing to reduce it for the sake of a needy brother? Not to ask if you would give them the best you have!

But the greatest lesson that we learn from the words of John here is the great price we need to pay for the Kingdom’s sake. We need to learn to deny our flesh many things in order to enter into the Kingdom of God.

I am aware that there are many believers today who are not ready to agree with a message such as this. They will scoff at it because they have been taught, and they believe in material prosperity.

But John the Baptist, and even Jesus Himself, lived up to an austere lifestyle. John came dressed in a “garment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins.” (Mat. 3:4)

The Bible tells only of the one garment that our Lord Jesus had, the one that the soldiers cast lots over. He may have had other clothes but I doubt it was more than just the bare necessary.

I myself need to reduce and reduce my wardrobe. There are so many people in need!

A Sad Day

A dark cloud has descended upon our country. Our beloved president, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, has passed away. The news was relayed to the nation last night by the Vice President, Mama Samia Suluhu.

Dr. Magufuli was the most lovable president ever. Fearless and enterprising he had a passion for the land and for his people which he worked at with every ounce of his strength.

He hated corruption with his last breath.

It was a great blessing to live under this man. For five straight years we, the citizens of Tanzania, enjoyed true and just leadership. Not to mention the great entertainment that the president constantly afforded us in his speeches.

The world media will probably go for the overkill on account of President Magufuli’s stand in the fight against COVID 19. But for more than a year he shielded us against the horrors of lockdown. We know what has been going on in our neighboring countries in the name of fighting the Corona, and it is not good at all. Our President deliberately steered the country away from this mess.

Most people wouldn’t accept it, of course, but death is a fact of life. Sooner or later we are all going to die, COVID or no COVID. And, “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Ps. 127:1)

I cannot end this post without mentioning what I believe to be President Magufuli’s most enduring legacy, particularly from a faith standpoint. It is that he directed his people to stand firm in their faith in God. Even more potent is the fact that he lived out that confession to the end.

A dark cloud has most certainly settled over our land. But it will pass, as all clouds do.

God bless Tanzania.

The Way Of Love

“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” (Prov. 17:9)

To love or not to love, that’s the question. That’s the question for we believers.

Without a doubt, love comes with a price. You cannot love unless you are willing to pay that price.

The price for one to carry love in one’s heart is, as scripture says, to cover transgression. Now, we have all been taught that the best medicine for sin is to expose it. But here the Bible expressly says to cover it. That’s tough because we all love exposing sin, specifically other people’s. As for ours we want it kept under the tightest lid possible, preferably with the key thrown away.

But the Bible is not even talking about hiding sin in this manner. On the contrary, it is talking about carrying the heart of forbearance. It is talking about patience and forgiveness. The heart of forbearance is exactly the heart that God the Father had for us, as it says in Romans 3:23-26:

“3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

We were all bound for hell. But Jesus died for us.

The way of love is not easy. Jesus said we must deny ourselves. We need to constantly deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to carry the grace of God. And nowhere is this grace needed as in our relationships.

This is the call of God in our lives. We are called to love. And in order to love we must deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Those Little Foxes!

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)

Another word for “take” is “catch”. In other words, therefore, “Catch us the little foxes”.

The little foxes refer to the small things in our lives. Believe it or not but what will prevent most believers from making it past the pearly gates are not the so-called big sins like adultery, stealing, murder, drunkenness and the like. Most Christian believers do not engage in these things, either through the grace of God, or through major effort on their part.

What will prevent most believers from entering into the Kingdom of heaven are the small things or sins in our lives. These are the kind of things that believers tend to ignore in their lives. To many it’s no big deal walking about with anger, pride, unforgivingness or even lust in our hearts! But these things should sound a very loud alarm in us. We should rush to Jesus and repent!

Notice the scripture says the little foxes destroy the vine,

“for our vines have tender grapes”.

The things of the Kingdom are extremely tender and they can be easily destroyed by the seemingly small things in our lives Actually, seen in the proper light, these things are not small at all. On the contrary, they are deadly.

Unfortunately, on Judgement Day many believers will be counted with the raw sinners of this world. Jesus will tell them, “I never knew you”. This is because they harbored things in their hearts that destroyed the vine.

We should repent of these things. We should repent of the deep, hidden things in us for it is these that “spoil the vine”.

I have heard believers boasting about how they no longer sin – meaning they no longer fornicate, etc. But what about the pride and prejudice and bitterness and every whatnot, the things that reside deep in us?

We cannot boast until we have quieted each and every one of our enemies on every side. And that requires a constant crucifixion of the flesh each and every day of our lives.

The Love Of The Early Church

“The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” (3 Jn. 1:1)

In the Swahili version the words “wellbeloved” and “beloved” (verse 2, etc.) are translated “lover”.

In other words, the Apostle John addresses Gaius as his lover. But, clearly, Gaius is not just John’s lover; he is beloved to the entire church.

In this twisted world, of course, “lover” means something entirely different. But for the Early Church that word indicated the unspeakably deep love that the church had for one another.

In his endings to his letters to the churches the Apostle Paul exhorts them to “greet one another with an holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians).

So does the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:14).

The Early Church was light years ahead of today’s church where enmity and every kind of ill will define much of the church. It is difficult to comprehend the kind of love that ruled the church in those days. It is difficult to comprehend a love in the Spirit that finds it insufficient to just call one “brother” or “sister” and can only call them “lover”.

In the same manner the holy kiss is an expression of incredibly deep love that the early church members had for one another.

Truly, the Early Church left us an incredible example to follow. Isn’t amazing and simply wondrous to imagine such love amongst all God’s children scattered all over this old, tired world?

May God give us much grace, that the church might arrive here.

Corona And “Good Tidings” – Part 2

“7:3 And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?7:4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.7:5 And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.7:6 For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.7:7 Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.7:8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.7:9 Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.7:10 So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.7:11 And he called the porters; and they told it to the king’s house within.” (2 Ki. 7:3-11)

All things work for good to those who love the Lord. Even a plague as deadly as the Corona fits perfectly into “all things work for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose”.

The church has no place for fear of the Corona. On the contrary, this is the perfect opportunity for the church to declare the power of the gospel. I am just thinking, What if the pandemic had come before we received the revelation of the cross?

We might have ended in witch doctor’s houses! But now, this is a time for the church to show forth the unsearchable riches of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that respect the Corona is good news.

And who is the church?

Unfortunately, today, there is a lot of compromise because the church wants to be like the world. They want wealth, fame, power and basically everything else the world wants. But the true church, those whom God has chosen to inherit the Kingdom of heaven, cannot be in this group. Just like in the case of the Samaritans, the church are the “lepers”. They of necessity must be people whom the world has rejected, for scripture says,

“1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

I remember back in the days when the gospel was first preached in our country. It was not preached by men in suits, no. It was preached by people who had nothing of this world: they had no worldly riches and no worldly reputation. Above all they had no worldly education. And the gospel was very powerful then. It brought real healing to our country.

In those days there was a lot of armed robberies, and it was the church that played a pivotal role in bringing crime down. Hardened criminals would own up at evangelistic meetings and, with tears streaming down their faces, they would rush off and bring their guns and surrender them the men of God. In public!

This brought great attention on the church. One day, the then Regional Commissioner of Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania, spoke up at a public meeting and he told the gathering, “Brethren, I am a Muslim. But there is something so powerful about these ‘Walokole’ (the Pentecostals) I cannot describe it.”

He said, “How can the government not be able to pry these weapons from these armed robbers and yet they are handing them to these preachers in public?”

The Regional Commissioner was visibly touched, and so was the entire nation.

That was the church then. It was powerful. It was full of the riches of Christ.

But the enemy is always at work, trying to destroy the work of God and, even though we know he will never succeed in that endeavor, yet, given the chance, he can do a lot of damage, and sometimes the damage is irreparable.

This, sadly, has happened to the church today. Somewhere down the road, just as we see with the churches that Paul started, the church lost its first zeal. The men in rags disappeared, and the gospel is now preached by men in suits. The introduction of materialism into the gospel opened the door for a spiritual famine to beset the church.

To cater for their new gospel of materialism preachers dumped the true gospel of Jesus Christ and came up with,

“another Jesus, another gospel, another spirit” (2 Cor. 11:2)

It is difficult to hear “Jesus Christ and him crucified” preached in church today.

The outcome is that when the true gospel of Christ and Him crucified is not preached there is a famine in the church. In all my lifetime I have never seen a spiritual famine such as the one that is in the church today. When people in church begin eating grass like goats just because some so-called preacher has told them to, that is an indication of how severe the spiritual famine is.

Elsewhere, God’s people have eaten snakes, drank every kind of oil and filth, brought their underwear to church; they have been sprayed with “Doom” to the point of death; they have been beaten; they have been robbed clean in broad daylight; marriages and families have been destroyed. This is the spiritual carnage that is being perpetrated within the church as a result of… famine.

At the same time the character of Jesus Christ has suffered deeply for Christians do not reflect it in their lives.

But thank God for the gospel. The revelation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the best news ever. For it brings life and a true reflection of Christ in us.

This is the gospel that we must preach to a dying church and a dying world that is so fearful of the Corona pandemic.

We must be like these four Samaritan lepers. Upon realizing their mistake, these men stopped thinking about themselves. All of a sudden they changed priorities and their new mission became to announce the “glad tidings” so others could benefit.

I love these men. They were good men. And Christ has put that same goodness in us.

The church in particular needs to hear the Good News – of the cross. This is the food for the church. The revelation of Jesus Christ, “Christ crucified”, is the food that the church needs. It is also the unsearchable riches of Christ. And this is the message we need to fear missing most.

The church cannot fear or even find time to discuss the Corona virus. The Corona pandemic is nothing more than a wonderful opportunity for the church to spread forth the Good News.

It is my earnest prayer that the church may grasp the revelation of Christ crucified. It is not an overstatement to say that the church today has absolutely no idea of this revelation. But it must hear it!

Corona And “Good Tidings” – Part 1

“7:3 And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?7:4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.7:5 And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.7:6 For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.7:7 Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.7:8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.7:9 Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.7:10 So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.7:11 And he called the porters; and they told it to the king’s house within.” (2 Ki. 7:3-11)

Hallelujah! Praise be to our Lord! He is a God of great mercy and grace. I thank God so much that He considered these poor lepers and granted them incredible grace. He showed them more mercy than anyone could ever think of.

The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble but He opposes the proud. In verse 2 of this same story we read about a lord upon whose hand the king leaned. This lord, when he heard the prophet of God, Elisha, declaring the Word of the Lord that the next day a measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel at the gate of the city – he mocked him, stating, “If God were to open the windows of heaven, were such a thing possible?”

There had been a famine in Samaria for three and a half years; not a drop of water had rained on the ground. The lord thought that the prophet of God was crazy. This shows the contempt with which this lord held Elisha.

But the Word of God prevailed and the next day the lord was trampled to death as he attempted to organise the people as they were rushing to buy food at the gate.

But God showed mercy to the humble lepers who at the end proved to be very good men. The difference in character between these lepers and this particular lord prove that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Sometimes those who look wholesome to the natural eyes are sick in their hearts. And those whose failings are visible to the human eye sometimes turn out to have the most humble hearts.