“The Way Of Holiness”

8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Is. 35:8-10

The way of holiness”. What a way! Nothing unclean shall pass over it; it shall be for the holy only. The Bible goes on to give a description of the holy.

“No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon…”

The lion here does not refer to the Lion of Judah, who is Jesus Himself. Both the lion and the ravenous  beast the Bible speaks of here talk of the carnal lusts in us. These shall not be found on that road. The carnal nature shall not be there.

The Bible says that “the redeemed shall walk there”. Redeemed from what? It is men and women who have been redeemed from the corrupt nature of the flesh.

Everything here unmistakably speaks of the need to crucify our flesh. Everything with the gospel revolves around the cross – the cross working in us. If that detail is lacking in our understanding of the gospel, then we simply are not living the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

Lion. Ravenous beast. How so apt a description of the lusts that destroy both us and those who surround us! Here, on this highway, they shall not be there! Praise the Lord!!

As with all of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this scripture is therefore a call to crucify our flesh. It is a call from God to separate ourselves from this world through dying to self. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul put out this call so well:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24)

[““No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon…”]

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Christ Crucified, Our Firm Foundation

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured… 2 Tim. 3:10-11

Unravel. That’s one word you would not to hear in connection with your life. There you are, your life all neat and tied down pat and, all of a sudden, it begins to unravel. I wouldn’t wish that for myself nor for anyone else.

But many lives have unravelled in this world. One of the lives that unravelled horribly fast was that of a man in the U.S. called Joe Paterno. The sequence of events that led to Joe’s life unravelling was started by a man called Jerry Sandusky. Jerry Sandusky preyed on young boys and sodomized them. But then, Joe and Jerry worked on the same team. Joe was – had been for decades – the much-celebrated coach of the powerful Penn State college football team and Jerry was Joe’s technical assistant. The story goes that Paterno & co. knew about Jerry’s evil deeds but they firmly put a lid on it, unwilling to divulge Jerry’s dark secrets and end up compromising the sports image their team held, over the fate of a few boys. But one day, in the natural course of such events, the pressure forced the lid to fly off, and all that was known (and not known) about Jerry’s rot became public news, including what Joe and and his other assistants knew. Sandusky was jailed, of course but, within a few months of the publicizing of the allegations, Joe Paterno, one of the greatest legends of the sporting world, died of a broken heart, leaving behind a legacy forever tainted and a name irreparably damaged.

There is nothing to rejoice over such news. In fact, this is news that should break the hearts of each one of us. It is extremely depressing news.

Not all lives will unravel in this world. But in heaven, every life that is not built upon the sure foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, will unravel. That is exactly the thing to avoid.

One of the best lines in the scriptures is found in 2 Timothy 4:7. It was written by the Apostle Paul. It says:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”

This is a line that each one of us should desire to have written for our lives.

Notice, “I have finished my course”.

This is one man whose life will never unravel in this life, nor in the next. The reason is because he fought the good fight, he kept the faith. But pray, how did Paul keep the faith?

It was through the life he lived. His life was an open book. There were no folds where he hid things in his life. Nothing was hidden from view. He laid out his life for all to see, and among the people who would see Paul’s open life would be his young disciple, Timothy.

But Paul’s was also a victorious Christian life. That was what made the difference.

I wish I could speak to my family, without wincing, the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

“10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 persecutions, afflictions…”

Unravel. This is a word that is designed to send fear and terror down our spines. But it ought not to. There is a place of safety from the terror this word inspires. It is in the cross. Here we are free from such terrors. When we accept to deny ourselves by taking up our cross and following Christ, we are assured that here on earth we can walk in the greatest liberty of spirit. We have nothing to hide, for we have become more than victors over sin. And, when we get to heaven, we will stand tall in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and before His holy angels.

I wish I could become more of an example to my wife, my children, and to those around me. I wish people would see more of Christ in me. That was what the Apostle Paul accomplished. That was what guaranteed that his life would never unravel. Paul denied himself and took up his cross in order that he might show forth in his body the only life that would not unravel, the life of Christ, Christ crucified.

[Below: Arusha is the most well-known of Tanzania’s towns. Little-known Singida is some 300km down south]

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No Righteousness Of Our Own!

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

A brother said to me, “I have been saved 20 years, but this morning I woke up with the strangest feeling in my heart. I had this strange desire to say only one thing to God: ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ So I got out from my bed and knelt down and spoke to God those very words. The thought so pressed upon my heart that I was unable to say anything else. I kept saying, ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ And then… the most amazing thing happened. I felt this deep peace and joy within me like I have never felt before in my life!”

I said to the brother, “Actually, what you did was Biblical. Jesus praised the man who said those same words.”

I thought, ‘At 20 years old in our salvation, most of us cannot mouth the words, “I am a sinner.” Nor, “Forgive me”’.

Most of us hold arrogantly to our ‘righteousness’, and we end up self-justifying ourselves and despising others, like this Pharisee. This is especially so if we allow our thoughts to lead us to think we are of value to God in some way. If, for example, we have been saved for a long time, we tend to justify ourselves. We think that with the passage of time, we have become more righteous. But time does not justify us before God. What justifies us is our continued dependence on the righteousness of Christ Himself. That means that at no single moment are we allowed to lose sight of Jesus.

Just to pull the scope further on our attitudes, it is the same when we find ourselves taking up responsibility in church duties (I wouldn’t call them spiritual duties, for our spiritual duty is one: to die to the flesh).

When we become ‘something’ in the church, we think that justifies us before God. Today, some of the most brazenly arrogant people in church are church leaders, including preachers. On another level, people even boast in their hearts because they can pray more hours than others! They are even called ‘prayer warriors’. This same attitude goes for singers, etc.

But these are exactly the kind of attitudes that we ought not to have in our relationship with God. They are all of the flesh, and God hates the flesh. In ourselves, we are not righteous and we are not good. We are lousy and despicable when we are held up to God’s righteousness. It is not a matter of how long we have been saved, nor how good we have tried to be. On the contrary, it is a matter of humbling ourselves and realizing that we are, after all, nothing but sinners who need God’s forgiveness and mercy upon our lives, daily. We come away justified before God when we constantly walk before Him with this kind of attitude.

It is the heart! You can be anything; but watch your heart. Do not ever, ever allow it to rise up. Always make sure your heart keeps a low profile, for your justifier, Jesus Christ, is already standing tall for you.

Fantastically Unreal

I have a problem, and I think the readers of this blog will have caught onto it already. I am hopelessly romantic. I am the kind of guy who would love to walk down my neighborhood boulevard every day holding – I mean, showing off – my beautiful wife to the world. I use the word “would” because that state of affairs will never come to pass. My wife is simply the dyed-in-the-wool conservative. She deals only in the strictly practical. Such nonsense things like holding hands in public or leaning on me for the cameras is simply out of her territory. And being the strong Christian believer she is, she is strictly Bible Belt. Humming to her baloney like “You Are The Best Thing That Happened To Me” or asking her to sit by my side and watch a movie such as “How About You” is, well, looking for trouble in broad daylight.

But if you think I am complaining, I am not. My wife is my spiritual pillar and I would not exchange her for all the women in the world.

Anyways… I was talking about how awfully romantic I am. That being the case, I find it extremely surreal that simple fishermen could become the greatest men that walked this earth. That men like Peter, James and John could become the pillars of God’s spiritual house… the God who declares that the earth is His footstool and heaven His throne. I am the kind of fellow who is drawn to such things… such fantastically unreal realities.

I hail from the shores of Lake Victoria and, believe me, I know all about fishermen. (Now, I know there are classy fishermen who fish out in the deep oceans; but the Bible says that Peter, James and John were simple Lake Galilee fishermen.) Even the Bible states that they were “unlearned and ignorant” (Acts 4:13). The word unlearned there does not necessarily mean that they did not attend school (which they certainly did not); more to the point, it means they were unrefined, uncivilized. And you can see it all in their characters which are scandalously laid out in the Bible.

That God chose such men among all the classes of men in this world, that speaks volumes about the character of God Himself.

I find it surreal also that the great grand master of Phariseeism, the incredibly learned Apostle Paul, in attempting to catch up with these men, would arrive at a point in his life where he declared:

“7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…” (Phil. 3:7-8)

Now, I can’t think what it is that I set out to write in this post. Probably the thought just flashed in my mind and I thought I would put it down. I wish you a lovely day.

 

 

None Is Good

1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

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;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Rom. 3:1-31

I once asked my pastor, the man I respect with everything I have within me, whether it is not possible that anyone will go to heaven without faith in Jesus. His answer was simple and pointed.

“No”, he said matter-of-factly. “The Name of Jesus is simply too eminent for anyone to supersede, whatever their qualifications.”

As he spoke, my heart throbbed with the truth of it all.

In my lifetime, I have seen many good people. I have met men and women of whom I could say with all of my heart that they were good. I have met, heard and read of people who did such extraordinarily good deeds that you could not but be moved by the goodness of what they had done. It had therefore become difficult for me, in my human state, to wrap my mind around the fact that, save for him who puts their faith in Jesus Christ, there is absolutely no good person in this world. But a time came when I had to decide whether to believe what I saw and discerned with my flesh-and-blood eyes or what the Bible says about man. And so it was that I decided to ask my pastor that question, just to make sure.

But the Bible even goes further and states:

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Is. 64:6

There are people who believe in the innate goodness of man. The Bible destroys all that and everything else related to such beliefs.

God is perfect and righteous. All of Him is light. In our human state, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before the Lord. The best of the best in us is, in fact, gross sin in God’s sight. Moreover, He is so high and lifted up that it would be the height of presumption to even think of ourselves as anywhere near possessing any quality that God possesses.

So, do we throw up our hands and lose hope in our ability to please God?

Not at all. There is hope, infinite hope. But that hope is in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, alone. When we humble ourselves and align our minds and hearts with the truth of God’s Word – that we are evil through and through – and confess Christ as Lord and Saviour, we become acceptable to God.

That breaks us, doesn’t it? It breaks our pride. If it does not, than we have not grasped the gist of the sacrifice that Christ offered on the cross. Unfortunately, there are too many of God’s children, particularly in this age and generation, who are simply too prideful to give up their self-importance even as they declare Jesus as Lord of their lives.

But this scripture should make us to realize just how insignificant we truly are in God’s sight if we do not give way to His Son, Jesus Christ. He, and He alone is our everything. May we gladly acknowledge that it is He alone who has brought us to be in right standing with God and it is He who shall lead us to God’s eternal Kingdom.

Let us never ever forget: there is none good; no, not one. All our goodness is attributable to Christ, and Him alone.

[Below: A bedroom with central heating in central Tanzania]

“Thank You, Lord”

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Heb. 12:1-13

The Americans gave the world the mega-church; but they weren’t half-prepared for the surprise that Africa would give them: the field church. These are super mega-crowds of believers so huge that no structure in the world can hold them. They therefore congregate in open fields, in football grounds, etc. In the southern part of Africa, where they have a propensity for such things, there are countless such churches.

The lives of most of the leaders of these churches, though, are less than exemplary. The word “exemplary” means being so praiseworthy or excellent in something as to be an example of. When I say less than exemplary, I mean these men are not examples of the Christian life.

One such preacher of a field church that claims to raise the dead – a man so rich he owns aircraft and a fleet of expensive cars – has a knack for generating fights of every sort, except the good fight of our Christian faith. He has been involved in altercations with the leader of the Roman Catholic church in his country and currently he is involved in a bitter confrontation with one of that country’s political leaders. We get to know of these things because they cover every news channel.

The reason this man is involved in these childish skirmishes is because he cannot afford to be opposed or disagreed with. He is lord of whatever turf he believes he owns and everyone has to bow down to him. He cannot endure to be slighted.

That is in stark contrast to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that when men opposed Him, Jesus “endured” their opposition.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself…”

In 1 Peter 2:22-23, it further says of our Lord:

“22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”.

This was because Jesus had the grace of God in Him. And we are called to carry that same grace in us, in order that we may live an exemplary life… a life of faith, forbearance, forgiveness, love. And we are to thank God exceedingly for sending His Son to come down to earth to show us that these things can be lived. If God had not sent Jesus down in human form, we would have no example to follow. We could rightfully say to God, “God, You are in heaven, and we are down here on earth. What do you know of what we are going through? Just continue living your life in heaven and leave us to our earthly lives.”

I tell you, that would leave God speechless and, on judgment day, He would have to waive His judgment on all humanity.

But, in Jesus, we are presented with this amazing example of a Man who, in human form, could live out the grace of God in its fullness and perfection. We are only called upon to run after Him, taking hold of God’s grace that is readily available to us. The Bible says that, in the dispensation of the new covenant under which we are living right now, this grace has been given without measure (Jn. 3:34).

The greatest measure of the grace of God in our life is when men oppose us. That is the moment we can reveal the grace of God in us.

For this confrontational preacher, therefore, instead of continuing to raise the dead, he should instead go back into his closet, lock the door behind him and cry to God; cry to God for the grace to bear with the opposition of men against him. He should cry to God to help him to learn to love them and to bear with them. For it is in the opposition of men that the chastisement of the Lord – and the love of God towards us – is hidden. And this is the gift that we can truly thank God for.

To Dwell With God

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. Is. 66:1-3

I once heard the preacher of a large mega-church, as he was preparing to deliver a sermon, say to his congregation, “The Lord sent me here to feed someone this morning. I have been hand-selected; I have been divinely picked; I have been Holy Ghost- anointed; I have been designated for this time… I will not fail you!”

I said, “Wow!!” That sounded heretical to me and it did not appear as if this man had ever read God’s words here:

“… to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

But… The man was strutting all over the podium and the people were so overcome with emotion that, if God Himself had dropped in and said to that preacher, “Could you please stop talking and go sit down for a minute”, there would have been a riot in that church.

Anyways…

You would be forgiven to think that at my age it would be extremely difficult for one to decide who their best friend, or the person they love most, is. Indeed, it is. I have so many people who are incredibly close to me, so many whom my heart yearns for in the Lord; so many who have sacrificed so much for me. There are literally thousands of people who vie for the No. 1 slot in my heart.

But, still, I know with God the answer comes easily enough if you were to ask Him who He loves most. God loves a man who has a humble heart. I personally know of many such people. But today I will talk of only one such person. Actually, this man lives with me right here in Singida. I have come to love this man with all my heart. And my love for him is not because of his proximity to me. No. I love him for the same reason that God loves him.

This man is one of the pastors with whom I work here. Not too long after this pastor heard the gospel of the cross, his small church and our small church decided to merge together in order to save on the rent we were paying and in time have enough money to buy a church plot. One of the brothers in his church had given out a part of his plot where they have put up a half finished structure. This semi-finished building has no roof and they have to put up tarpaulins at every service to provide the shade from the sun.

When some of the pastors in town heard that we were merging churches, they ‘prophesied’ our doom. They said, “You will not last even a month together.”

But the men who have opened their hearts to the gospel of the cross here in Singida have seen something in the Spirit, and I already had a lot of respect for this particular brother. But one day, not too long ago, he did something that broke all bounds in my esteem for him. He stood up in church – his church – and said, “Ever since I heard the gospel of the cross I have felt myself only getting smaller and smaller; and I have desired to become smaller still. And I have arrived at a place where all I feel I am worthy to do in this church is to put up the tarpaulins and to bring them down after the service. I have therefore asked my fellow pastors to put me off preaching for now.”

It was not just the words he spoke; but the power of a broken spirit that attended them. Now, if there is anything that has power in the Spirit, it is a man or woman who is broken in the Spirit. You could be “handpicked” for all we know, but if you do not have a humble and contrite spirit, you have no power in the Spirit.

Not a soul moved when this pastor made this announcement. There was deathly quiet as we weighed in on the pride in our hearts after hearing these words from this simple man.

A humble heart has respect with God above anything else; therefore God dwells with a humble heart (Is. 57:15). This translates into the fact that God’s power is manifested in the humble spirit.

Notice in our key scripture above that there is nothing you can really do to ‘surprise’ God. God says:

“The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool”.

Just imagine: Heaven is God’s throne and the earth is His footstool. Now, if heaven is God’s throne, and earth merely His footstool, where are His upper body and head; in what ‘sphere’ do they reside?? And, pray, what can a mere earthling really do to surprise or please such a God?

Apparently, this pastor in Singida had stumbled upon the answer. It is humility of heart. We serve God with our humble hearts. That only, and nothing else. Thank God He does not look to the apostle, the prophet and to the many ‘mighty men of God’. On the contrary, He says:

“… but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

That’s simple and clear.

This pastor’s words: “All I feel I am worthy to do in this church is to put up the tarpaulins and to bring them down after the service” are branded on my heart as if with a hot iron. And I am sure they are equally branded in the hearts of those who heard him speak that day.

[A distant view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the east]

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