The Church Today…

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:1-8

This entire portion of scripture ties in together.  When Paul tells Timothy:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”

he is telling him to do exactly what he did in order to receive what he will receive from God at his death. In other words, there is no other way for a preacher to fight the good fight than to do what Paul tells Timothy to do here, i.e., to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (v.2); and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (v.5)

There is no short-cut to heaven.

More precisely, however, for our purposes today, let us zero in on verses 3 and 4; and, especially the phrase:

“For the time will come”.

In other words, the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy that it is not all times that people – God’s people – will turn their backs on sound doctrine in this manner. Even at the time when Paul was writing this there were false apostles, false prophets and all kinds of counterfeit preachers of the gospel. These people have been there throughout the entire history of the church, ever since Adam.

What Paul is talking of here is not a cranky preacher here and there; rather he is referring to something vastly monumental. He is referring to a time where the church as a whole (or at least most of it) will be overcome by the lusts of their flesh but, in order to keep a semblance of ‘church’, they will bring in preachers who will read from the Bible but who will preach/interpret scripture according to the lusts of the flesh. These preachers themselves will be men (and women) who have no heavenly agenda in them; their lives are centered on filling their bellies.

The Apostle here, by the power of the Holy Spirit, predicts a time in the future when God’s people will, wholesale and actively,

“not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (vs. 3-4)

The “they” Paul is talking of here is the church. The Bible explicitly says that God’s people will not endure sound doctrine! That’s incredible, to say the least.

Now, about the “time” that Paul is alluding to here. I very much doubt whether that “time” is not now. When you turn on Christian TV today, what do you see? Can you sincerely claim to find amongst all the teachings there any amount of preaching that has a bearing on the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you find there anything remotely related to Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”?

Sound doctrine is there, no doubt, but it is infinitesimal. Without a doubt, more than 90% of what you find on Christian TV are material, worldly teachings, much of it conveyed through so-called motivational teaching.

Even in third world countries like mine, all you hear on radio and television concerning the gospel is how to get rich or die trying; how to exorcise demons; tales of how people have been to hell (and heaven) and back; encounters with witches, etc. These are fables!

That means over 90% of the church is turning away from the truth and turning to fables.

I heard a preacher in the West say on TV, “Next is now!” She was preaching the false ‘new dimension/next level’ gospel.

I will take her phrase and use it here. The time Paul was talking of is now. At no other time have God’s people have had a sort of ‘herd mentality’ in running after materialistic teachings – “the good life”, etc.

That is why today – now – is the time to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

That is the way it has to be with us today.

The word “watch” here is filled with meaning. It means not just to watch in prayer, but it also refers to carefully living a Godly lifestyle.

These are the two things that will bring Christ back into a dying church, and a dying world.

[Below: The church today is not much different from these wrecked vehicles. But there is comfort in Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus can resurrect the church if we turn to Him and receive the revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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Seeing Like God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ… Eph. 1:3

This scripture is so powerful! It talks, not only of the power of the Kingdom of God, but also of God’s focus.

If I went to the U.S. and tried to purchase things with my third world currency, everyone would be laughing at me. And yet, surprisingly, if someone made purchases in my country using the American dollar, they would be much welcome! The dollar is so powerful that it is usable virtually anywhere in the world. When it comes to currency, the rich and powerful in this world deal in dollars.

This is the difference between the things of the Spirit and the things of this world. The former is so much more powerful. The latter is weak and ultimately insignificant.

In everything, therefore, in totality and in His entirety, God deals in the Spirit, through the Spirit, and in the things of the Spirit. I remember one time my wife and I had a big financial need. The need had to do with the church, we had bound ourselves to it; but when the time arrived, we did not have the money. On the exact date that we were supposed to deliver the money, an amount of money was deposited into our personal account. My wife called me and said, “Someone told me there is some money in the bank, go check.”

I went and checked, and there was more money there than we needed to clear our debt to the church.

The money came out of the bluest blue. We had neither informed anyone nor solicited anyone for it.

It is easy and desirable for us to claim miracles like these, but much of the time we do it for our own personal advantage. But God never looks for the advantage of the flesh. He always looks for the advantage of the Spirit. In our case, He supplied our need miraculously because He knew it would do a work for Him.

God is so much more magnanimous, of course, and He blesses us even when our sights are not on the things of the Spirit. He blesses us even when all we want are His material blessings.

But for us the central question should be, What pleases the Lord? We should be interested in what pleases the Lord rather than what pleases us or having our needs met. We should not find leisure in the blessings that God gives us without considering whether we are pleasing God therein or not.

In Africa we often joke that when an African sees a white man he sees, not a fellow human being, but dollars. In other words, according to the joke, a white man is a bundle of walking dollars.

Well, God certainly views everything in about the same manner, except all that God sees is Spirit, spiritual. When God sees money, He sees it in the Spirit, i.e. what it can accomplish for His Kingdom. And when we talk of God’s Kingdom, we are talking of bringing men to become more like His Son Jesus. In the same manner, when God sees a car or a Gulfstream jet, He does not label it ‘private’ so He can ride it alone with His Son Jesus. No. God considers what that plane can do to bring men, women and families to attain to the three things that constitute His Kingdom: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! (Rom. 14:17)

Thank you, Jesus, for enabling us to see in the Spirit and to not become bound by the weak material viewpoint of this world.

[Mysterious pre-colonial rock paintings near Singida Town]

Godly Chastisement Brings Godly Character

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 12:5

This is an awesome scripture. Notice Paul talks of two different people here: “an one” and “myself”. Of this “an one” he says he will “glory”, or boast; but of the persona he calls “myself” he says:

“yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”

Who is this person of whom the Apostle Paul is willing to boast in?

He tells us exactly who this person was: he was a person who

“was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (v.4)

This was a spiritual person because Paul says of him:

“(whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)”

We could use language here to describe these two – the “an one” and the “myself” – as two personalities within the same person. The “an one” is the spiritual man and the “myself” the carnal man. These two personalities dwelt inside Paul, just like they do in each one of us. And the Bible in Galatians 5:17 tell us that the two are in a perpetual state of war.

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The incredible fact about the Apostle Paul was that he took sides with the Spirit in its war against the flesh. That is a detail that we take so much for granted; and yet to take the side of the Spirit against our own selves is without a doubt the most difficult undertaking that any human being can attempt. It is therefore profound what Paul says of himself:

“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” (v. 10)

It is a powerful testimony of a man who had surrendered his life completely to Christ that the resurrection power of Christ may dwell in him. Paul allowed himself to become weak in the flesh in order that the power of Christ may rest on him. Christ had told Paul:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 10)

To which Paul responded by declaring:

“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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.”

Oh, the glory of that! The long and short of it is that when we are strong in the natural, we are weak in our spirits. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to become weak in the flesh through Godly chastisement, we become strong spiritually. If, for example, an argument arises between me and my wife, I as a man am tempted to use my ‘machismo’, or male chauvinism, to remain on top. And she, having heard about the Beijing Conference and women empowerment, will try and stand her ground. Neither one will be willing to go down without a fight.

But the Bible tells us exactly how to bring the power of Jesus into our homes, into our churches and even into our communities: it is through spiritual humility. And spiritual humility comes about through buffeting of the carnal mind in us.

The Bible says in Rom. 14:17:

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

How do we bring righteousness, peace and joy into our lives and into our homes?

It is by following the Apostle Paul in accepting Godly chastisement. It is the only way we can let the Spirit to win in us.

The Power Of A Good Name

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. Ecc. 7:1

The things that bring glory to God are not the things that we see in the natural. On the contrary, they are the things that are unseen, the things that are of the Spirit. But, unfortunately, the former is exactly the way many believers think. I remember one time we were at a conference and there walked up this pastor who had a big tummy and a body that appeared to be well fed and well taken care of. He was also wearing a sharp, shiny suit, shoes to match and a (fake) gold wristwatch. By all accounts he was a figure to envy.

A fellow pastor grabbed his hand and, pumping it up and down, exclaimed, “This is the kind of figure that brings glory to God!”

But that kind of thinking is carnal, and of the devil. God is not glorified in the flesh. Otherwise, Jesus would have been a Leonardo di Caprio.

I can tell you exactly what bring glory to God. It is a life that is lived in all Godliness and holiness. It is a life like the one I am about to describe below.

About three months ago, we lost a brother in one of our churches in a town called Mwanza. The brother, a young married man, worked as a construction labourer and on that day he was working on the second floor of a house he and his fellow workers were building. Suddenly, the girding he was standing on gave way and he plunged two floors down and his head ended up hitting the concrete below. His death was sudden and instantaneous.

The brother was a simple man. He was not a great person in any sense of the word. He was a simple construction hand and he had only recently moved into his humble half-finished house. He was the kind of guy who at his death would have had only a few neighbors show up at his funeral and, if anyone cried tears, it could only have been his wife or kids.

But with this brother, things were astonishingly different. The crowds that turned up at his burial attested to something superiorly unique. They were the kinds of crowds that you could only have expected to see at the burial of a very rich or famous person. The brother had died in the city, but he was to be buried in his village. Two funeral services were therefore held: one in the city; and another in the village where he was to be buried. In both services, I saw there multitudes which could not have been expected for a man of this brother’s calibre. In his home village, the entire community attended the burial; all businesses, including bars, closed and every last man, woman and child came to bury Musa.

But it was not just the crowds. The outpouring of emotion was overwhelming. Women cried uncontrollably, and the men could hardly contain themselves.

Musa was a deacon in the Mwanza church, and I had known him for a long time; but I did not know the extent to which he had touched people’s lives. On the day of his burial, even I was overcome with emotion as I witnessed the feedback from the crowds, and I too broke down in tears.

What could possibly have made this poor young man such a hero in the eyes of so many people, including unbelievers?

It was the kind of life that he lived. Musa gave his life to the people around him. He was a brilliant light in the true sense of the word for through his faith he brightened the lives of all he came across. He had brightened mine, too, for during the times when I visited the church in Mwanza, it was Musa who impressed himself on my mind the most. He had a simplicity and a humility that I envied.

It was not the first time that Musa had worked at the site where he died. After his funeral, the owner of that particular property called Musa’s pastor to his office. He said to him, “I cannot say this about everyone who has worked here, but Musa never stole from me. In fact, I could trust him with anything. For that reason, I will support Musa’s wife with exactly the same amount of money that Musa earned monthly.”

In addition, the owner of the school where Musa’s children were studying waived 90% of their school fees.

That was the power of a good name. Musa had lived an exemplary Christian life during his brief lifetime. A life humbly and godly lived; and a reputation that was more solid than a rock star’s. It was as the Bible says about the Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:3-5:

“3 Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. 4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand. 5 And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.”

At Musa’s burial service, the pastor was bold and confident as he proclaimed the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. He had a good reference point. When he made the altar call, nearly every hand was raised in acknowledgement and many people received the Lord Jesus into their lives. In life and in death, Musa reaped a great harvest of souls. Without a doubt, Musa proved the proverb true that says:

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

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A Message For Today’s Youth

One of the most revolting piece of news that of late has been making headlines in one Western country is the story of an off-duty policeman who was attacked by a group of teens, aged between 13 and 15, as he was arresting one of them for illegally crossing his lawn. The story is accompanied by a video, and in the video one of the teens can actually be seen attacking the policeman. The teen rushes the policeman WWE-style and when he falls down the group of teens surround him. This being the crime-riddled country it has become, it is anybody’s guess what could have followed with an incapacitated cop lying on the ground surrounded by devil-knows-who. But the cop was not willing to wait and find out; instead, he pulled out his gun and fired a warning shot.

When asked why he attacked the policeman, the 13-year boy said that the policeman had cursed his girlfriend!

Tell you what: I couldn’t care. I couldn’t care if the policeman had slapped both this spoiled brat and his so-called girlfriend. The policeman is an adult and he has a right to teach these damaged youths any lesson he deems fit to teach them. That’s what we were taught as children, and I wouldn’t exchange that lesson for any amount of dollars.

The second, even worse thing I read was that people – grown-up people – were protesting in the streets because the policeman fired his gun at those ‘children’. I think there are too many lazy bones in this country. Always on the streets, protesting.

This police officer is a very mature and intelligent man. He did not hurt any one of these youngsters, which he could if he had wanted to. But, talking of their age, I personally couldn’t care what age they were. Considering their lack of discipline and their lack of respect for an adult, I couldn’t care whether they were 10 year olds. In the Bible we read about the Prophet Elisha coming from escorting Elijah as Elijah was taken up into heaven. The Bible says that as Elisha was walking on his way, some rude kids accosted him and began taunting him on account of his baldness. The account reads:

23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” (2 Ki. 2:23-24)

Yes, I know that that is the Old Testament, and I know also that we are living in the New. But this scripture clearly shows us the heart of God (and God never changes). There are some things that God simply does not put up with. We love children, especially little children, don’t we? Well, God killed 42 of them. Yes, 42 “little children”.

I think this country is killing itself. It is killing itself with stupid laws and ungodly attitudes. There are attitudes – and laws – in some countries that are as stupid as stupid can get.

Not too long ago I read also of a pastor in this same country who was arraigned in court for disciplining his own daughter. The charge read that he had choked her. After which she called 911 and the cops came to pick up her father. Her father!!

The judge released the pastor on bond and ordered him not to so much as argue with his daughter!

Seriously, I don’t know what moronic country can create and uphold such laws.

But with this particular case in this country, it is the fact that adults are protesting in favour of spoiled, indisciplined – and violent – teenage brats that is so absolutely stunning. It portrays a total breakdown of societal norms. But, even more dangerously, it goes against the Word of God.

No one loves liberty more than God Himself. And yet God wouldn’t have defended those kids. God would have sided with the police officer. God does not fear or hesitate to use the law when He deems fit. The Bible says that God used the law to curb lawlessness in His people for centuries. Galatians 3:23 says:

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.”

And notice, in 1 Timothy 1:8-11:

8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

In other words, according to the glorious gospel that was committed to Paul, the law is good; and we can see exactly the kind of people it has been set aside for. God recommends the law for people like these ruined teens.

It is therefore against God to support the kind of behaviour that these kids showed to that adult man. This incident will come to haunt these kids – and their parents – in the distant future, if they make it that far. Whatever you sow, you will reap. But remember, you sow the wind, but you will reap the whirlwind.

But God always has a way for His people for He loves them. There is a way out of this cursedness. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:1-3:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

“Troubled On Every Side!”

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10

One time, not too long ago, I was in a jam – financially, spiritually and virtually in every area of my life. Spiritually, I was hanging by a thread, literally. I couldn’t pray and I couldn’t read my Bible. I would spend all of my devotion time looking into space. The worst time was when it came to ministering in church. I preached while looking at the clock, willing the time to pass quickly. I reckoned that if I made a lot of ‘spiritual’ noise within the allotted time, no one would notice that there was not a shred of the Spirit in my sermon. (Surprisingly, the services were always extremely lively!)

As my condition worsened, I soon found myself blaming myself for each one of the problems I was facing. As far as I knew I hadn’t done any express sin that warranted this downward spiral in my life. But I couldn’t put my finger on the reason nothing seemed to be working in my life and I could not find anyone else to blame. I was also ‘smart’ enough not to blame the devil.

It was then that the Lord, out of mercy for me, came to my rescue; and He did so in the most unexpected manner.

Early one morning, at exactly 6 o’clock, a brother 600 miles away called me as I lay in bed. For the last three hours, I had been lying on my back worrying about all the problems I was going through. At the exact moment that the brother called me, I was just beginning to doze off in fatigue. I was therefore none too happy as I made a belabored effort to answer his call.

The brother had never called me that early in the morning, so I thought he had something important to tell me. But, as it turned out, he had absolutely nothing of any importance to tell me. After the initial greetings, he told me that he was rushing off to his job. He works as a casual construction laborer. Work was hard to find lately, he intimated to me, and life had become extremely hard.

“But”, he concluded brightly, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed!” Then he hung up.

It took me a split second to realize that the brother’s last words were direct scripture. I shot out of bed like a bullet. The good news was that my wife was not at home at that time, she had gone visiting. Otherwise, I would have had some explaining to do.

I hit all the lights in the house as I began making a frantic search for my Bible, which since the last Sunday service I had thrown into no-man’s land. When I finally located it, I almost tore out the pages as I feverishly scrambled to find the scripture. I knew it was exactly as I had heard it on the phone, but I just had to make double sure!

When I finally found it, I sighed with relief – and unbounded joy! The scripture lay there before me, exactly as the brother had spoken it. I trembled as I read the words.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (2 Cor. 4:8).

Even as I read the words, I knew the Lord was speaking to me. I read the phrase over and over again:

“… troubled on every side”.

“… on every side”.

The joy that Lazarus felt after resurrecting from the dead wouldn’t have lighted a candle to the exhilaration I felt as those words rolled about in my heart. I can assure you, beloved reader, that on that particular morning, the biggest cloud ever lifted from my shoulders. I felt indescribably free and relieved! I realized that the devil – whom I had been desperately trying to shield from blame – was he who had actually been telling me that it was my fault that I was undergoing all these negative situations in my life. But the Lord came to my rescue by showing me through His Word that what I was going through was the perfectly normal Christian life! Trouble on every side! I couldn’t’ believe it!

Much of the time, it is like we want to have a ‘hedge fund’ in our spiritual lives. It is like we want to have the rights to lots and lots of breathing space. Somehow, it has been psyched into our minds that the Christian life is a trouble-free life and that, at the very worst, God allows us to encounter a few teeny weeny problems which we can easily brush aside while sucking on our chocolate bars.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it says that we shall be “troubled on every side”!

I can assure you that if the Bible says trouble, it is talking of more real trouble than all the terror groups in the world can think of. It is talking of everything that the flesh, the world and the devil and all his hordes can throw at you. And, the Bible adds, we shall encounter this trouble on “every side” of our lives.

That is so Biblical. Jesus Himself said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

As children of God, tribulation is our portion in the world. The Bible concludes,

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind…” (1 Pet. 4:1)

Abominations In The Church

The theatrical skills are straight out of Hollywood. And the words come from the devil’s own mouth.

Notice how cleverly the man drops the “F” bomb; and then, dramatically turning away, he listens in on the crowd and, when they take the bait, he carpet-bombs them: “F u! F u’all!”

It’s fascinating – and deeply troubling – the way this ‘preacher’ uses the Word of God (supposedly a sermon on forgiveness) to serve his own purposes. Clearly, he is in love with the “F” word, and he craves the opportunity to introduce his love for this word to a wider audience. But he is a preacher: what can he possibly do?

It is at this point that the devil – who is his real master – shows up and instructs him exactly how to do it and superbly get away with it…

These are the depths to which the gospel has been made to sink today.

But the Bible tells us:

“3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” (Eph. 5:3-7)

Aside from these preachers themselves, people who go to such churches should reflect especially on that last verse.