A Given Life – Part 2

But there is another interesting aspect to living a sacrificial life. Remember when Jesus sent two of his disciples to get him an ass to ride into Jerusalem on? In fact, let us read the entire account as St. Luke tells it.

“29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him thither. 31 And if any man ask you, why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they sat Jesus thereon.” (Lk. 19:29-35)

Mark finishes off this account thus:

“… and they let them go.” (Mk. 11:6)

The owners let the disciples go. Without another word. I love that. Loosing the colt without the owners’ permission was the setting for a conflagration that could have turned “nuclear” at any moment. But the owners let the disciples go. What had happened? Had some form of hypnosis gotten hold on these men?

By no means. What had happened was that God had prepared these simple village men long beforehand; and, on this day, when God’s call finally came upon their lives, they answered it. They answered it to the full. How did they answer it to the full? By not speaking another word. When they heard it was going to the Lord, they let the colt go without hesitation, without a word.

Do we realize how wordy we are when we are faced with a trial and are not willing to take up our cross? Not realizing we have been called to lose our lives, in a situation like this we would have asked a few more questions, even if we knew well who the colt was going to. Losing is not easy. But these men simply

“… let them go.”

Again, Wow! What a heart! When men surrender their lives fully to the Lord, they are ready to let go anything; and to do so without hesitation. They are like men under hypnosis. Why? Because they are dead. They are dead to self.

Do you not wonder at how these men just let the disciples take away the colt without questioning them further? What kind of men were they? It talks of men whom God had prepared.

What a life!! Would you not want to meet these men when you get to heaven? I certainly would.

[At the height of the dry season, baobab trees shed their leaves and straddle the central Tanzanian plateaus like gigantic scarecrows]

Image21289

Advertisements

A Given Life – Part 1

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19

Let us read that again.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham

“… offered up Isaac.”

In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,

“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)

in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,

“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.

But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.

When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.

[Oh, those songs!!]

Grow!!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ… 2 Pet. 3:18

Oh, to grow! We are to grow in the Spirit. We are not to remain the same. Notice that to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is to grow in grace. The two are inseparable. You cannot say you have grown in the Lord Jesus Christ because you are now a bishop. Our claim to knowing Jesus solely rests on the fact that we have also grown in His grace.

This scripture challenged me greatly especially in my relationship with my wife. Now, there is no doubt at all in my heart that my wife is a rare gem. I consider her one of the most beautiful of God’s creations. She is amongst the regal women of this world (“Regal” means royal, majestic, stately, noble, according to my Thesaurus. My wife is all these. She has an incredible love for people.) I am very sure of the fact that, if it were men giving out wives, I would not have been in the race to ask for Flo’s hand in marriage. Had I come forward, the whole world would have had a long, hearty laugh. That’s a fact. In the natural, I am not the kind of guy who should have married Flo.

But the Bible says,

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” (Prov. 18:22)

In other words, it is God who gives men wives. So, God gave me the woman I should never have had. End of story.

That’s the warm part. But now to the cold facts.

Regal she may be, but my wife is also my ‘iron’. What is it about her being an ‘iron’?

The Bible says,

“Iron sharpeneth iron…” (Prov. 27:17)

She is my sharpener. She keeps seeing all those weak points in me, and God has singularly created her to iron them out. In the early days of our marriage, she was especially enthusiastic about that job. She never wasted a moment in showing me the many creases in my character, after which she went about trying to straighten me out in the best way possible.

That was hard enough in itself. To say that I did not accept her chastisement would be a stupendous understatement. I kicked  and fought. But it did not end there. Regal she may be, but my wife is as human as the next. And to err, they say, is human. So, sometimes she erred and saw things that were not there. And she wanted to iron them out as well. She wanted to iron out things that were not there in me!

That was when my patience absolutely ran out. I was never one to take such injustice lying down. And so the mother of all battles would ensue. Mostly it was fought in the dead of night. Its details are yet to be de-classified.

As I got older, I decided to ‘grow’ and so I changed tactics. The trick, I realized, was to keep my mouth shut, and so I kept my mouth closed much of the time. But I closed my heart also. She would talk and talk… and I would keep my cool. I thought, Oh, what peace! What was I thinking all this time, making a scene? How so peaceful to just sit in my corner and watch her yap and yap!

One day, I attended a regional conference where our elder, Brother Miki Hardy, was preaching, and I heard him say, “I have purposed in my heart to never hold a grudge against my wife.”

I remember thinking, ‘I will never arrive there.’

Remember I am talking about the condition of my heart towards my wife whenever she tried to tell me something that grated against my pride or my rights. I am not implying that we lived a ‘war-torn’ life, no. Being the kind of woman she is, I believe I have enjoyed an incredibly happy marriage, in spite of myself. I am talking about those trying moments… the moments that tried my heart.

Anyways, one day I chanced upon this scripture.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

I was sure I had never seen that word, “grow”, in the Bible. It seemed new to me. I mean, I had given up even trying to get out of the rut, and I had accepted the fact that when Jesus came back to earth, He would find me in exactly that state. But I consoled myself that Jesus would understand…

But, reading that scripture, it dawned upon me that we are commanded to grow. God commands us to grow. That means to stop moaning and to get up and move!! In the army, when you moan about how difficult an exercise is, they drill a bullet right next to your calf, and they promise that the next one will be on target. And they mean it.

But this scripture also means that God recognizes our weaknesses and our helplessness, and that He is there to help us grow in grace.

It was then that I stopped moaning. I stopped moaning, and I began working at growing. And, ever since then, never have I found a more delightful occupation. To grow. To grow in grace.

I know in my heart that I have now reached the place in my life where I could say, as Brother Miki once said, that I will never close my heart to my wife. I have purposed that in my heart. Not that she is perfect. But I have found the impossible is possible, for with God nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37).

Does that mean I no longer react? Hardly. Does that my wife has stopped sharpening me? By no means. She is still my ‘iron’. As a matter of fact, she does not seem to be aware that I have changed and she digs into me even more. And – and I now know this is God’s doing – she keeps making those fallible ‘errors’. God allows her to see things in me that are not there. God allows it because He wants to see how I will react.

In recent times I have heard the phrase “open borders”. With me, it is “open heart”. I have brought up all my arsenal and placed it near the only place that matters – my heart. My heart ought to never shutter again – be it against my wife, nor against anyone else.

Granted, there is more to the Christian life than just relationships. But I believe the area of relationships is especially trying. That said, however, as believers, we are to grow in every area of our lives. We are not to keep glorifying our weaknesses. But we are to move on to maturity.

Fact: on the day of reckoning, Jesus will not ‘understand’ our lack of spiritual maturity.

“The Sons Of God” – Part 2

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19

Although Adam might have been able to fly, yet, under the New Covenant, we could hardly find time to talk about Adam and his flying skills. On the contrary, we are to look at the heart. Something bad happened with Adam’s heart. And thereafter, grief, sorrow, fear and death reigned over the earth. Whether Adam was able to fly thereafter or not is no more of importance to us.

I truly thank God for the revelation that He has given to the church concerning the heart. Where would we be without this revelation? No doubt we would be preaching the charismatic gospel of material prosperity, et al.

But the Bible says:

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

I have heard many preachers try to make this scripture to be about the human intellect. But they could hardly be more off-track. This scripture is not talking about the brain. Indeed, no scripture addresses the human intellect. All scripture addresses the heart. All it is saying here is that as a man is in his heart, so is he. As a man is in his heart, so is everything about him.

Elsewhere, the Psalmist wrote:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps. 139:14)

The Psalmist was in the Spirit when he wrote those words. He was not in the flesh. The Psalmist here therefore is talking about the heart. God could hardly be bothered with our bodies the way we are.

In the Bible, we find men and women who had the heart of God. Men like David. And Abigail, among countless others. I have it in my heart to write about these two especially and, God willing, I shall do so within the next few days.

God has given us a heart that is fearfully and wonderfully made. A heart where God can dwell. Through Jesus Christ, our hearts have become the dwelling place of God.

Is that not so wonderful! But for us to arrive at the place where God dwells in our hearts, we have to pay the price. And, pray, what is the price?

The price is to circumcise our hearts. Those are the “sufferings” the Apostle Paul talks of in our key scripture above. Notice,

“we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

The true gospel of Jesus Christ preaches the singularity of the sufferings and death of Christ through crucifixion. It may not be a “pop” gospel, but it is the true gospel. Any other gospel, any other Jesus, is not genuine and the preaching of such simply draws men and women further from eternal life (2 Cor. 11:4).

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Himself said,

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The denial of self and the taking up of our cross is not easy. But there is no different path. The cross makes for a beautiful heart. A beautiful heart, on the other hand, makes the difference in this world – and in the next.

I find myself singularly wanting in any endeavor to do justice to this important subject. What I have written here is my small contribution for now. I pray it might make a difference in the lives of any who read it.

[Man is an incredibly wonderful creation. God intended it to be so. Judge Frank Caprio]

“The Sons Of God” – Part 1

“The Sons Of God” – Part 1

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19

The words “the creature” in verse 19 refer to all of creation. This verse could therefore also have been written, “For the earnest expectation of all creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

All of creation. That understanding is important to our comprehension of this scripture. But… before we get to the meat of this scripture, let us look at another scripture in Genesis chapter 1.

“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth… 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:26-31)

The other day I read in the news that a lion mauled and badly injured eight young Maasai men in the countryside. The beast chanced upon them as they were digging a well and attacked them. The young morans were unprepared for the attack, of course, and as they scattered they cried out for help. But the lion fought off anyone who came to help and he managed to walk away from the confrontation largely unscathed. Fortunately, no one died; but some of the morans were badly injured.

In the comments section of that story, people were talking about how things would have turned out had the young men been from a different tribe. One comment read, “The headlines would have read: ‘Eight young men mauled to death by a lion'”.

The Maasai are without a doubt the most redoubtable people in the land. In the early days, a Maasai warrior had to hunt and kill a lion in order to be initiated into manhood.

But the lion is no animal to tangle with. It is known to be the boldest and most ferocious animal in Africa. This time, unprepared, nine young warriors were wrecked by a single marauding lion.

But the first man, Adam, was an awesome creation before the fall.  He was beautiful and wonderful to behold. We cannot imagine the glory that attended the first man. Adam was clothed with the glory and power of God. We could say he was supernatural. I once heard Benny Hinn claim that Adam could fly. I cannot argue with that. Adam was a truly awesome creation.

Had Adam encountered the lion, all alone, Adam would have played with it the way one plays with a cat. The Bible says,

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (v.28)

Adam had dominion over every living thing that moved upon the earth. He was every creation’s master. All of earthly creation was subject to him.

It was only after the fall that God turned the tables on Adam (or, rather, Adam turned the tables on himself!). Now, man fears everything. (Even a domestic cat, when cornered, can be deadly! Nothing in this world is safe anymore, and nothing is to be taken lightly.)

The Importance Of Keeping A Pure Heart

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

What does it mean to keep your heart?

It means to guard your heart. It means to not have issue in your heart – with God or with your fellow man or brother. We have a problem with God when we sin against Him and more so when we are unable to humble ourselves and repent. It is the same with people. We are not to harbor anything in our hearts against anyone even if they have wronged us. And if something arises between me and another person which thing threatens to pollute my heart, I am to quickly let that thing go the way I would drop a hot coal from my hands.

Personally, I have come to realize that whenever I have an issue with someone (or with God), mortal fear strikes my heart. I never realized the reason for this until I read and understood this scripture. Then it was that I knew that as long as my heart is not right with God or with my fellow man, death, and not life, reigns within me. The fear that I feel is God’s way of warning me; it is God’s warning bell. He is telling me, “Step back!”

At that particular moment that I am nursing that state of heart, I am a dead man. Dead in my spirit. Were I to die physically at that particular moment, I probably would go straight to hell. I say “probably” because the grace of God is beyond my understanding in this regard. Probably God just might ask the doorkeeper to let me into heaven. But… even if I were to make it to heaven in that state of heart, I would never have the courage to lift up my eyes and look my Lord Jesus Christ in the face. How could I, one who had failed to guard my heart, look at the One who fully paid the price.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Heb. 12:3)

And that is forever.

No wonder the Apostle Paul writes:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)

How so grateful we ought to be to God! The Bible gives us an opportunity, right now while we are here on earth, to do all in our might to pay the price and follow Christ in denying ourselves and keeping that all-important pure heart)

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

Do you want to see God when you get to heaven? Guard your heart and keep it pure. If something arises between you and a brother/sister, anyone, deal with it instantly.

When it comes to it being between husband and wife – which is all too common – the Bible specifically speaks to men thus:

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Col. 3:19)

Is that not all too common with we husbands? Is it not all too common for us to be bitter with our wives? But we are to quickly let go the minute we feel that bitterness beginning to creep up on us. We are to quickly cry to God and make sure – make sure – our hearts remain open, pure, forgiving and loving. That is the cost we have been called to pay. It is the cost for our high calling as children of God.

And to the wives:

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet. 3:1-6)

Wives are quick to learn the weak points in their husbands. If the wife is not a spiritual woman, she will regard her husband’s weaknesses and despise him in her heart instead of honoring him.

But the wife should take note that she has been called to obey and be in subjection to her husband. In fact, Ephesians tells the wives to be subject to their husbands

“in every thing” (Eph. 5:24).

Are these things just too hard for us? But it is the reason we have been given God’s Holy Spirit. He is our Helper.

And this condition of heart is commanded for every child of God in every situation. If we have any hopes of beholding the face of God in His eternal Kingdom, Rule No. 1 is to guard your heart.

[We are to pay the cost to keep our hearts pure at all times]

Image20827

Faith-Patience-Perfection

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Jam. 1:2-4

The first thing I want to say is how attractive the two words “patience” and “perfect” appear to me. They fascinate me. From afar. They draw me to them with a great sense of wonderment.

Is it even possible to imagine that one could ever arrive at being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the Spirit? The thought seems presumptuous. And yet the Apostle James coolly tells us here that it is possible; and he makes it appear so easy. In just a few steps, he makes it possible for us to arrive at Godly perfection.

But… You cannot just wake up one morning and say, “Abracadabra! I am perfect!” To arrive where the Apostle Paul arrived at – “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) – is an incredibly long and painful step process. But it is joyous and relieving in the Spirit.

Joy

Every believer loves dancing and rejoicing like David in the Bible. It is all good and acceptable before God to sing with joy when things are going in our favor. But have we ever stopped to think that the Bible specifically commands us to rejoice when things are going against us. Like when we are being opposed. Or when we are financially broke. Or, even, when we are sick.

The charismatic gospel teaches us that anything that comes contrary to our physical, material or financial welfare is of the devil, and that we should rebuke it. But such teachings could not be further from the truth. The true gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that these contrary things try our faith. Our faith is so precious it has to be tried by fire. It will be tried and tried until it stands pure and unadulterated.

For this reason, therefore, we ought to rejoice with extreme joy, not just when things are going well in our lives; but even more so when they are not.

Have you ever suffered a little for the gospel’s sake and rejoiced for it? If you have, you are on the right track.

Patience

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

I have absolutely no doubt that patience is a virtue that most of us would give anything to have. From reading this scripture, it is clear that patience is a step away from Godly perfection. The man who can exhibit Godly restraint in the face of opposition is not far from being perfected in the Spirit (or they already are).

But did you ever stop to think about the cost of patience? The Bible gives it right there. The cost of patience, the Bible says, is joyfully accepting “divers temptations” in one’s life.

The call to salvation is no picnic. On the contrary, it is a call to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow Christ in His sufferings and death.

The ‘King’s Kids’ creed and the prosperity gospel that birthed it both belong to the garbage dump. Those are silly and childish beliefs and they will never work patience in anyone’s heart.

What does scripture mean by ” the trying of your faith worketh patience”?

Far from the popular belief that our faith is for claiming cars and private jets, scripture here makes it abundantly clear that our faith has been given to us in order that we may endure suffering. Our faith brings far more glorious blessings than the material blessings of this world. Yes, it is true that the trying of your faith could bring you a new car, money or any other material blessing. But that is a very small blessing.

The Bible tells us what the grand prize is when it comes to the trying of our faith. The Bible says it is… patience. Patience connotes suffering. But it is also a blessing of unspeakable magnitude. Why? Because it is eternal. As our faith is tried over and over in the fire of adversity, it grows stronger and stronger and it brings down bigger and bigger strongholds of the enemy. Like our pride. Or anger. Or fear.

Perfection

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Are we so soon there? Have we so soon arrived at perfection? Yes, we have. But… not just yet. Notice that we have to “let patience have her perfect work” in order for us to be perfected.

Becoming perfect is a result of a life that is ruled by patience. If you are the kind of believer who cannot be touched, you need to know that you are not letting patience have her perfect work in you. In other words, you are not allowing the cross in your life. But the cross is exactly what you need. You need to work at killing your ego or whatever it is that is preventing you from becoming patient.

And how, pray, do you go about working on that? It is by ‘letting’. We have to allow things into our lives; things that chafe at us. In other words, be happy when trials and temptations are chipping away at your anger, pride, etc.

When we have become perfectly patient, that is when perfection begins working in us. When we have been perfected in patience, then we are “perfect and entire, wanting nothing”.

Whew! what a work! But, again, what a goal!