Making It

The wife of a pastor friend of mine died yesterday afternoon, right after church. She was a woman whom I knew intimately. Just last Friday I was with her and her husband at their house. As we sat she complained of a headache, and her husband brought her some painkillers. No one thought anything else about it until she fell down in her sitting room and died. She died instantly.

It was a poor family and she lived a poor life. She never knew the good life.

Today, at her vigil, all the men were sitted outside and the women inside, as is customary when there is not enough space inside the house. Everyone’s thoughts were on what caused her sudden death. But, as her husband was narrating the ordeal, he said something that made me realize that the really important question was not what had caused her death, but where she’d gone.

A week ago, her 14-year old son had been involved in an accident. He had been riding a borrowed bicycle when he was broadsided by a motorcycle as he was making a turn. It was a ghastly accident, but luckily he came out largely unscathed. Within four days he was out running again. But the near-miss had shaken his mother badly.

Her husband told us, “My wife’s last words were to my son. She called him over and said to him, ‘Do you realize what could have happened to you in that accident? You could have died instantly. You should not play with going to church. Tell me you will not be missing church again.’

“At which”, proceeded the pastor, “the boy said, ‘I promise, mother.’”

It was then that his mother let him go. Not long afterwards, she collapsed inexplicably and died instantly.

As the pastor was speaking, we were sitted outside, under a clear, blue sky. Just about then, I glanced up and espied an airliner making its way across the sky. It was travelling from the north to the south. It was very high up, probably 30 – 40,000 feet. It was so high that were it not for the jetstream, I might not have noticed it.

Something told me, “No, she is not on that plane. She has left the splendors of this world that she never knew. But she is somewhere”.

And I knew, even as I looked up, beyond the airliner, that she had made it. Yes, she was finally with the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought was too tremendous for me to comprehend. It still is, even as I write.

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A Friend In Jesus

Not too long ago, the Lord impressed upon my heart the importance of prayer. And, although I know it was personal, yet this impression has stuck with me so unrelentingly that I felt I should share it here for the sake of someone who might be in such need as I was. And the way God works is indeed marvellous and strange, for it is not I thought I had a need. But but the Lord impressed upon me that I ought to pray, and it was then that it dawned on me that I truly had a need – the need to pray!

Actually, the impression came in the form of a familiar song. On this particular occasion, the words of a song that I had sang for so long that it had become mundane to me became the sweetest words of any song that I had ever heard or sang! The song took me to a new level of faith, literally. Ultimately, I discovered that I had the truest Friend in Jesus.

Since then, I have shared this song with my family and with some members of my church, and although they are accustomed to singing it every so often, this time round I could see the power it had over their lives. So I thought, There might be someone out there, besides us here, who needs some encouragement in this regard. Hence my decision to share it on this blog. I share it with a prayer.

May the Lord bless everyone who has a need tonight and may He hearken to your cry. And may you discover, like I did, the meaning of the word “friend” in Jesus Christ.

The Way We Are

I got this post from a friend on Facebook and I asked for permission to share it with my readers on WordPress. The post is based on Colossians 3:1-4. The location is Africa. The time is the present, going all the way back to the 1990s. So, here goes, with some slight variations.

Scene 1:

Prophet: Can I prophesy ?
Congregation: Prophesy, man of God
Prophet: In one year I see some of you getting visas to relocate to the US.
Congregation. Aaaameeeen! (Attended with ululations, stampeding, breaking off of tree branches and charging around the church; general pandemonium)

Scene 2:

Prophet: Can I prophecy ?
Congregation: Yeeees,  Prophet of God. Prophesy!
Prophet: In one year I see some of you desiring more to live in complete holiness and service to the Lord in readiness for Heaven.
Congregation: (Silent, absolutely no response. Major look of disappointment on most of the faces; confusion in the rest.)

[And now, to calm your frayed nerves, I have chosen a beautiful song for you…]

Be Comforted

I just read in the news about another mass shooting in the U.S. where 26 people lost their lives yesterday. They were in a church service.

May God bless and comfort the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Our hearts are truly with you. May we believe that those who died went to a far better place in heaven, to be with our Lord Jesus Christ. And may God grant healing to those who were injured.

The Thorn For His Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 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. 12:7-10

Many years ago, before I got married, I was the sweetest, kindest human being you could ever meet. My pastor would tell the congregation, “Look at Mwita. You can call him anything, and it doesn’t trouble him one little bit. He is always at perfect peace!” I was a star.

In fact, I was so lovable that, one day, some ladies from our church paid me a visit. Ours was the biggest Pentecostal church in town, and you can visualize the kind of ladies who attend such churches: not simple housewives, but teachers, managers, office workers, etc.

Anyways, they came in a sizable group and they found me in my bachelor quarters. At that time I was working, so I was living in a nice apartment. After the usual greetings and introductions, they brought out their objective. They all expressed their love and affection for me. After which they let slip that the sun waiteth not even for the king, so to speak. The years were moving on and that I should consider moving on to the next stage in my life. Finally, from the folds of their loving hearts they pulled out a name.

I silently considered their proposition. To be honest, it is many years since, and I do not recall exactly how we wound up that conversation. But the fact that I did not marry that girl means that I turned down their proposal. And the fact that I refused certainly has nothing to do with the girl in question: not only was she very beautiful, but she was also considered one of the spiritual pillars among the youth in the church. But I do remember also that at that time I was fully engaged to Christ and, except for my job, I had no other commitment, hobby or interest except Him alone.

Fast-forward to a few years later when I finally did get married – to a different girl. This girl was not from our church, so she did not know me. Unbeknown to her, though, a nightmare was awaiting her. Within a short period of time into our marriage, she was shocked to find that she had married… well, the devil himself.  Even I was surprised by the change that I saw in me. The Bible says we should be transformed to become Christ-like, but this particular transformation occurred the other way round. I changed from being the picture-perfect representation of the Christ-like life that I supposedly was, to something completely different. I discovered I had little patience – and tons of pride. And she was rubbing up against my pride so hard! My wife originates from a tribe where women do not fear men; while I come from one that seeks to put the fear of God in every soul it meets. I wanted her singing my praises all the time; but that was the last thing on her mind. In fact, she had some unflattering thoughts about me which she was not afraid to voice out loud. Having someone by my side who could not be coerced into playing my tune proved to be the biggest trial of my life.

Not too long after our honeymoon ended, we were into fighting, scraping and everything else in between. And, to the utter dismay of my pastor who had spent the better part of his sermons praising my patience and resilience, my wife and I were now regular visitors to his house; and all for the wrong reasons.

Finally, my thorn had arrived, beautifully wrapped and packaged; and hand-delivered by God Himself. It had come to battle with my flesh. And the flesh in this case was my pride.

There is an immeasurable difference between good old human goodness and the grace of God. When we talk about the former, no man is totally bad. Even Hitler must have had some feelings for his wife and children. However, when we talk of God’s grace, it can only be had if we allow that thorn in our flesh. That was exactly what God told Paul, and we can hardly expect God to tell us something different from what He told the apostles. Paul says to the Corinthians, therefore,

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

It has taken me many long years since then to allow God, through my wife, to put His finger on the one spot He wants to deal with in my life, which is my pride. But a time came when I had to choose between whether I wanted to keep my pride or to carry the grace of God in my life. And it is a choice that I am forced to make every day. Sometimes it is difficult to make this choice. But, whatever the case, I certainly have learned my lesson. If I desire to walk with God and carry His grace, I must allow the thorn to be there in my body, permanently.

[God can use anything to bring about the death of the flesh. The death of the flesh brings much grace to our lives. Are we truly dead and buried?]

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A Humble Heart Above All

6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.

12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 1 Sam. 16:6-13

The other day my wife confronted me about something I had done and I owned up immediately. I said, “Yes, what I said was wrong, please forgive me.”

My wife almost fell down with shock. Being a good reader of my wife’s mind, I could see she was thinking that probably the rapture had occurred without her knowledge and that we were now living in the millennium. She is so used to me defending myself whenever I am confronted that what I had just said was simply inconceivable to her in the old world. But on this ocssion she searched my face and she realized it was real.

What she did not know was that when she came at me, I was prepared. I had been reading about David, the man who made ghastly mistakes but was quick to own up. And David’s heart and life had challenged me greatly.

We can hardly claim to know what God knows, even about ourselves. The Apostle Paul tells us:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Here Paul is saying that it is only when we get to heaven that we shall know things as God knows them.

That said, it stands to the test that we do not know men’s hearts as God knows them. We need to die more to self to arrive at this point. But many today do not want to know the cross of Christ. That is why today men are so full of empty praises. They love praising the mighty and looking down upon the lowly. But if we truly knew people’s hearts, especially with regard to how God sees them, we wouldn’t be so fast with our praising of some and our despising of others.

When Jesse’s sons began passing in front of Samuel, he looked on the outside. Is that not so much like us? We gauge, judge and categorise people based on what we see on the outside. For this reason, men therefore prepare themselves more on the outside than on the inside because everyone’s attention is on the outside; and, in our natural state, we crave men’s praise more than anything.

The seven sons whom Jesse made to pass before Samuel had better qualifications than David in the natural. They were of a better countenance and stature.

Under the new covenant, we could be better men by all standards; but God is not looking for just any standard. We could be better preachers, but God is not looking for good preachers. We may be great singers, but God is not looking for great singers. We may be men and women who do everything right. But God is not looking for people who do not make mistakes. David made the biggest mistake that any man under the sun could make.

But God is not looking for any of these things. God is looking for a heart. And having the kind of heart that God is looking for is the biggest challenge that any man or woman could face.

So what kind of heart did David have? What kind of heart did he have that set him apart from his brothers? What kind of heart did he have which made God to say to Samuel,

“Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

The answer is to be found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. The answer lies in David’s attitude when he was confronted. He had sinned, and when he was confronted by God’s servant Nathan, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the LORD.” (v.13)

David did not rise up to defend himself. He did not even try to offer an explanation. In other words, he did not give God any conditions. He owned up fully to his sin.

That is the hardest thing with us. The minute we get confronted, our defense mode kicks in. Even if we admit our guilt, we still try to offer up an explanation. But this attitude of heart is of the flesh, not of the Spirit of God. Even when wrongly accused by men, Jesus did not defend himself.

If you want to know that you have the kind of heart that God desires, it is when you desist from defending yourself. That is the humble heart that God desires us to have. That is the heart of faith.

God is therefore not looking to the many great things that we can do. He is looking for a humble heart, one that can quickly fall down, confess, admit and repent. One that can allow itself to be trampled under. We see all this with David especially in his difficult relationship with King Saul.

We may not have many qualifications in the natural. We may not even be gifted with many gifts in the Spirit. But we can all have a humble heart, and this is what pleases God most.

In the Psalms, King David wrote about the relationship that God has with people who have a humble heart. In Psalms 34:18, he wrote:

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

And in Psalms 51:17, he wrote:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

[… for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.]

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Photo courtesy of Carol Lanthier