Receipt, Anyone?

… Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 1 Tim. 6:5

The depths to which preachers will sink to get at people’s purses are truly terrifying.

 

 

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Mercy, Not Law

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Jam. 2:13

I looked at the lady seated in front of me. I had prepared some hard words for her and I was ready to let fly. I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Then, all of a sudden, God’s Word knocked on my heart.

“… mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Mercy. That’s a word that ought to be always on our lips… and in our hearts. Unfortunately, much of the time our hearts are, literally, hearts of stone. Remember, under the Old Covenant, Moses carved the law into tablets of stone. But, under the new covenant, God’s law is written onto our hearts; hearts, not of stone, but of flesh. Now, we all know that there is a big difference between stone and flesh. One is hard and unbreakable; the other is soft and malleable.

Do we know how merciful God is towards us? He is incredibly merciful towards us. In the first place, He provides us with food, clothing, protection, and everything else that we need in this life. Yes, it is God who provides us with these things, despite our inclination to think otherwise. Some even attribute it to luck! You are not lucky to be alive; God’s hand of protection has been upon your life throughout. And have you ever thought of all the free things of nature that God has given us to enjoy?

Secondly, and this is the most amazing of all, He forgives us of our sins. The Psalmist wrote:

“8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:8-10)

I don’t know whether you have ever stopped to think about this, but God forgives us of our sins more times every day than we can even think of. And I am not talking about the cases where we ask Him to forgive us. Much of the forgiveness is for sins that we are not even aware we have committed – just as much, unsurprisingly, as we are not aware of His forgiveness! He forgives us silently, without creating a fuss, or even making us aware of what He has done, because He loves us. He does all this out of compassion for us. God is extremely compassionate!

It has come to my notice that nearly, or all, of the people we interact with need mercy, and not judgment, from us. And more so those who have sinned or wronged us. But it is only when we are taking up our cross that we can carry this heart in us and be able to have mercy upon others. When we are men and women of law, it is so much easier to throw the book at someone. We don’t mind too much whether it will hurt, maim or kill them; as long as the law in our hearts is fulfilled.

But the Bible even says to feed our enemies! Not with that heart, of course. But here the Bible is talking about being compassionate even to our enemies.

We need to realize that people are as weak and prone to fall just as much as we ourselves are. That is why we need that heart of compassion, for that is the nature of God Himself.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us, when it comes to confronting a brother or sister who has sinned,

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

That talks of grace and mercy, not law.

[John Starnes reminds us of God’s merciful providence upon our lives]

Choosing The Cross

7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.

10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Job 2:7-10

Sometimes we look at the Word of God and we think, “That’s easy. I can do that.”

But it is impossible to see, much less do, the will or plan of God. It is only when we have been granted grace by God Himself that we can do His will.

So we can see that Job was granted the grace to see and do God’s will. He told his wife:

“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Job, full of the grace of God, realized that ‘evil’ is a part and parcel of the life that a spiritual person must pass through.

The Spirit-less man only wants the good things of this life. That is why the charismatic gospel is so popular. It is popular because people do not like the spiritual life, with all the suffering it entails. But the charismatic gospel has destroyed people’s spiritual lives. Under this gospel, people go to church to be blessed, to receive financial, material and physical blessings.

It is true that when our Lord Jesus Christ was here on earth, He gave all those blessings. But one day, He turned to the very people He had been giving these things and we read in John 6:53:

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

Jesus was speaking about sharing in His sufferings and death! He was telling the Jews, “You must partake of my sufferings and death to become true children of God as I am.”

And this was what Job saw in the Spirit. And this formed the basis of His faith. That is why Job’s book is called The Book of Job, and not the Book of Job and his Wife. Job’s wife did not see what Job saw in the Spirit.

It is a grace to see

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

This is something that the flesh cannot comprehend. That is why we must beware in our spirits when all we want is the good life; and we cannot see God’s hand when suffering is allowed into our lives.

It is a grace from God to share in the sufferings of Christ. This is what forms the basis of  our spiritual lives.

The good life is only a shell of the real spiritual life that we ought to live.

[For Sandra]

Do Not Murmur

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 1 Cor. 10:10

Recently, someone failed to deliver on a promise he had made to me. The worst part of it was that he began giving excuses and, listening to him speak, it appeared to me as if he did not care that it was going to affect me adversely.

As I sat there listening to him, I could feel my heart beginning to turn black. But, just as quickly, something spoke to my heart. It went, “What is important to you? Is it for the man to deliver, or is it for you to maintain a clean heart?”

The answer was as clear as day. Nothing could come close in importance to me keeping a pure heart.

At that very moment, I felt the biggest burden ever lifting from off my shoulders. I thought, I can forgive and let go; and I did so immediately. In fact, I spoke so peaceably to the man I could see the surprise written all over his face.

At about the same time, someone showed me a clip of some Arabs, purportedly Libyans, beating to death a young black man, supposedly an immigrant. They had stripped him down to his pants, bound his hands and feet with tape, and sealed up his mouth completely with the same. They had locked him in a room and were beating him with what appeared to be a baseball bat. They beat him until every bone in his body was broken. Someone grabbed him by the back of his head and stabbed him repeatedly in the back with a large knife, and soon the boy was swimming in his own blood as he struggled for his life. Finally, as they went on bashing, he gave up the struggle. I had to steel myself to watch the video to the horrible end.

Again, I felt the old anger and hatred rising up in me. But, again, just as quickly, something spoke to my heart: “Watch out!” It was telling me to watch out for the purity of my heart. In my heart I immediately cried out to God; and just as quickly I felt the anger and hatred seeping away.

I am not blowing my trumpet and, indeed, the victories in my life are not always so forthcoming. But I rejoiced greatly when I saw clearly my responsibity in these two cases, and the grace of God that was so easily accessible to me.

Most of us don’t realize how important it is to watch over our hearts. But the Bible in Proverbs 4:23 tells us that watching over the purity of our hearts is the most important exercise that we can engage in here on earth.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Notice, “with all diligence”. The Swahili Bible reads, “Guard your heart above all the things that you guard…”

Murmuring means grumbling, complaining; and it prevents us from keeping a pure heart. Ultimately, it destroys us. In fact, murmuring can be considered the silent killer of the spirit. It is so subtle and muted we often are not aware of its existence in our lives.

Much of the time, of course, we murmur because we feel we have been robbed of our rights. But that is what the gospel is all about. In fact, the gospel is more about us gladly giving up our rights rather than just waiting to have them grabbed from us. It is about rejoicing in persecution (Mat. 5:11-12). As children of God, we must pay the price to maintain a pure heart at every occasion and at all costs. And this state of affairs can only be achieved by the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ in our lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14:

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

And, in Galatians 2:20 he writes:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Paul’s faith was revealed in his dying to self.

Let us not murmur. However great the injustice, let us not murmur. Let us learn to rejoice and give thanks to God in every situation. Notice the Bible says that, when they murmured, the Israelites were given over to the Destroyer. Murmuring will destroy us; it will destroy our souls. Instead, let us learn to take every injustice with patience, for injustice is God’s way of testing our faith. We are to be men and women whose lives are ever full of love, forgiveness, joy and peace.

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17)

[And now, for your listening pleasure…]

 

Giving For A Spiritual Reward

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:10-19

I love Paul’s singularly spiritual focus. The Bible says:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

The Apostle Paul had true faith. He did not see things that are seen, but rather, things that are unseen. He did not touch or talk of the substance of things that are seen but, rather, things that are hoped for!

In our key scripture, notice he talks of

fruit that may abound to your account.”

The sole reason that Paul rejoices over the Philippians giving is for the fruit that would abound to their account. So, what is the fruit, and what is the account? The fruit is no doubt spiritual fruit, and the account is a heavenly one. Jesus told the rich young ruler:

“If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Mat. 19:21)

Jesus did not talk of this world, nor of any hope in this world. He talked consistently about His Father’s heavenly Kingdom. When Paul, therefore, who was a follower of Jesus talks of “fruit” and “account” he is referring to these things in the Spirit.

On the contrary, when we are walking in the flesh, we think of and refer to these things in the natural. We think in terms of money, houses, lands,  jobs, promotion, marriage, children and all the other natural blessings that we can receive from God. And this is what the church is filled with today. Preachers are directing God’s people to these things instead of to the spiritual things. We serve God to receive natural rewards! Today, giving in church is all tied to receiving in the natural! But the Apostle Paul writes:

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19)!

If all we can see are the things of this world, the church cannot be said to be pleasing God because the Bible says that we can only please God when we are walking in faith and, as we just saw,

“…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith sees in the Spirit; the flesh does not. When we are spiritual, like Paul was, we can see and direct God’s people to a spiritual reward. Here in this world, we can see (in the Spirit) the grace that will be ours as a result of giving of our lives; and beyond that, we can have hope of a heavenly reward.

[When we see in the Spirit, it means we can see beyond the curve of time, literally]

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Faith In God, Not Men

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:10-19

Oh, to be free! You would think that after the Apostle Paul had told the Corinthians that he was often hungry and that he was naked (for lack of clothing), you would think that if the man was in such dire straits, then such would grasp at any ‘aid’ that came his way the way a drowning man clutches at a piece of straw.

Unfortunately, that is the way it is with much of the church today. God’s people, and especially the ministers of the gospel, have been literally enslaved, and hence incapacitated in the Spirit, by their love for money. In the world there are people known as sponsors, financiers, underwriters, godfathers, etc. These are people who bankroll the big and small worldly projects; and they are exalted in the eyes of their benefactors. There is a belief, especially within Pentecostal churches, that the church needs people who will help advance the gospel financially, materially, etc. This has created cartels and groupings in the church, where the moneyed are given a higher status.

Since Paul’s ministry was such a big affair, you would be forgiven to think that he needed such people to advance his ministry. But no. It was not so with the Apostle Paul. In his spirit he was free from the love of money. By extension, he was therefore free from men. Therefore, he could serve God in the Spirit and in truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ, of which Paul was its foremost servant, has never needed men to advance it. Indeed, scripture does not allow for the existence of bankrollers in the church. That is a worldly spirit and it remains in the world. In the church, we have only one financier – God Himself. It is not the rich man who finances the gospel in the church, no: it is God Himself. It is not man who supplies our needs, material, financial or otherwise; it is God who does.

As a matter of fact, the rich man’s place in the church is clearly set out in the Bible.

“9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” (Jam. 1:9-10).

The rich man’s position in church is the lowest.

The singular reason God allows us to give into His Kingdom is so He can have an opportunity to bless us as we exercise our faith. His challenge to us is stated in Acts 20:35:

“… It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When we accept His challenge, God rejoices in blessing us. He is the total financier.

The Apostle Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:14:

“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”

If a worldly father is mandated to lay up for his children, how much more our heavenly Father?

In church, we are all to become children of God, not some godfather figures in church just because we have money.

What the church needs is faith, not money. And what the church needs is God, not men. The Bible says,

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

Notice the Bible says  God, not men. This realization set Paul so free! He was free to not even put demands on God’s people. He trusted in God to supply his needs; and when the help was not forthcoming, still Paul trusted in God. He knew God had a reason for delaying His help. That was faith!

Paul was free to preach the gospel because he was a slave to only One – God Himself. And he set God’s people free to serve God in total freedom: give as you want, when you want, according to the working of God’s grace in you.

Today, it is the other way round. In fact, most sermons on giving are engineered to bind God’s people, not to set them free. They are geared to compel God’s people to give. This is because there is little faith amongst pastors and they are looking to men, not to God, to supply their needs.

But the revelation of the cross comes to destroy all idol-worshiping in church. Christ is given center-stage once again when the flesh is crucified to the cross, and true faith is restored once again both to the pastor and to the congregation.

[“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”]

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True Ministry

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I was also forward to do. Gal. 2:9-10

Who would have thought that part of the apostolic mandate is to

“remember the poor”?

The apostles of old had a true heart of God; for God is very concerned with the poor and downtrodden, the less fortunate. A true mark of a false ministry is where the leader, founder or whoever is in charge jets about all over the world (preferably in a private jet) while he has no inkling of the kind of life that the people he leads or preaches to are living.

It is not enough to just preach the right gospel. It is not even enough to have the right anointing or to take your rightful place in the ministry. Once you are out there, ministering, you have a special mandate to

“remember the poor”!

And we cannot allow culture or pride to dictate to us. The white man cannot, for example, say, “Oh, the black man is lazy; I am not going to support him with my money.” Nor is a rich black man allowed to speak similar words about a less fortunate fellow black. No, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit teaches us that God is kind, merciful and sacrificially generous. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 8:9:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

Jesus denied Himself the comforts of this world that we might inherit the true eternal spiritual riches.

Would it have made Paul less of an apostle if he had ministered without remembering the poor?

The answer is no, but it would have greatly undermined his ministry – and God’s purpose. You don’t want people questioning issues and intents in your life as a servant of God. You don’t want people seeing double standards in your life. If there is one place where justice must not only be done but be seen to be done – so to speak – it is in the ministering of the gospel.

A true servant of God must care for his flock in every sense of the word. You cannot go into the midst of God’s people and just thump the Bible and then get into your air-conditioned car or jet and leave. A part of your ministry must be to see how these people live, real time; and if there is a physical, material or other need, you have to provide as a father. You must ask yourself, what kind of lives do the people I minister to live?

The early apostles were shining examples of this kind of ministry. When they went to minister among God’s people, they did not live in expensive air-conditioned hotel rooms. No, they lived amongst the people. That is how we got to know about Gaius. The Apostle Paul mentions him, and so does John. Why? Because he was their regular host. Gaius hosted many of the apostles of Christ!

Now, you would think that Gaius was a rich man and therefore worthy to host these great servants of God. In one of our towns in Tanzania there was a rich brother. He was so rich he even had a Jacuzzi sauna inside his home. His home literally became over-ran with preachers; every preacher who visited even a neighboring town wanted to be hosted there.

According to today’s standards, therefore, you would be forgiven to think that Gaius was a rich man. But Gaius was not rich, he was poor. In fact, the Apostle John prayed that Gaius would prosper both in his health and in other areas of his life as his soul prospered (3 John). You wouldn’t pray such a prayer for someone who was already well-off materially.

The Apostle Paul also lived with the people he ministered to. Read Roman chapter 16. It is through this kind of ministry that today we have names that we can baptize our children with. One celebrated radio presenter in a neighboring country was called Patrobus.

The early apostles remembered the poor.

The Apostle James adds:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (Jam. 1:27)

These scriptures are a challenge. The apostolic ministry is a lifestyle where the clear mandate to remember the poor has been given by God Himself to His servants. The carriers of this ministry must pay the price!

I personally happen to know of many small-church pastors here in Tanzania who even now are struggling to make ends meet financially and even ministry-wise. At the same time, there are big ‘ministries’ or denominations whom these pastors work with; but they even have never stepped inside these pastors’ homes to know how they live, and the general picture is that they do not care. Some are so callous they do not care to even know these small pastors’ names! In other words, these ministries have not remembered the poor. The even sadder fact is that some of the pastors have been working with these ministries for decades.

As I said, this is a challenge; a challenge, not from me, but from God Himself. It is a challenge to every ministry to get out there and go down into the lives of those poor people they minister to and to know how they live. And, if there is any way you can help, get out and do so.

Finally, this ministry to the poor should not be made into a TV ad. It has nothing to do with the publicity people love putting out on TV. Rather, this is a lifestyle where the true intention is to bring out the heart of God to God’s people.

[“Remember the poor”!]

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