Beautiful Tanganyika

I wish to apologise for being ‘away without official leave’, meaning not being active on this blog for a quite a while. I hope and pray that everyone can forgive me.
For me, though, I have been through the most beautiful experience. That sounds selfish, but I better own up. I have been visiting with one of our churches in the village. I would come and go, but this was the main reason for my being awol because I simply did not have the time to stop and write. Moreover, internet in the hinterland is sketchy, so I had to leave my computer at home.
One of the real blessings that I count from God is bringing me to the Tanzanian hinterland. Apart from my early childhood, I have lived in cities and towns throughout my life. But for the last four years or so, I have been living in the ‘middle of nowhere’ in central Tanzania – and what an experience it has been! Sure, I live in a town, Singida, but it is a small rural town and, moreover, I have the opportunity of constantly going out into the vast, unlimited savannah bush regions of central Tanzania. This savannah land is what gave the name Tanganyika to the mainland. ‘Nyika’ means open plains. The name Tanzania came out of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Being in the Tanzanian hinterland is one of the biggest blessings in my life because I love adventure – and there is certainly no adventure in towns or cities, unless you are a gangster or the Mafia. But in the big, unspoilt regions of central Tanzania you can have as much adventure as you want, spiced with a whiff of danger. Just the other day, as we were walking in one trail in the bush, we found the biggest, blackest snake lying in the road. But it was dead; someone had just killed it. I couldn’t help wondering how things could have turned out if it was I who had encountered it.
We also went to visit a man who some nights ago had had an unfortunate encounter with a wild pig. He and his companions had been out hunting and it was he who was holding the flashlight. When they heard movement, he flashed the light in the direction of the noise. The pig, a big boar, thinking the light were the eyes of a lion, charged, kamikaze-style. Before anyone could make a move, the man had three of his leg bones broken.
Those are the kind of adventures that you find in the bush. But there is more. There is the exquisitely different and refreshing cuisine, including delicacies that you only hear of in the town: things like pure honey; and milk, both fresh and curdled. And then there is the night sky… oh, I’d forgotten about that. Yes, the night sky. I once wrote a friend that if I had the gift of time, I would spend it all watching the starry night. And there is no better place to watch the stars than in the Tanzanian hinterland, far from the city lights. While in the village, I asked my host for a reclining chair and I would wake up every night at 1 or 2 a.m. and finish off the rest of the night watching the incredible brilliance of the clear, starry night. I ended up seeing more amazing things and phenomena with my naked eye than you could read of in a book. And all the while feeling the presence of God in me and about me, leading me to worship Him fervently under my breathe.
But, really, nothing I could write here could truly bring out the beauty and pleasant flavor of Tanganyika. If you, the reader wish to take this post as a promotional for my country and my province, it would be my pleasure to concur with you. And to say, “Karibu!”
As for my fellow Tanzanians who love the comfort of the madding towns and cities, all I can say is, you don’t know what you are missing. And this splendour is right under your noses.

The mighty baobab

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No vehicle has ever set foot on this road

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A panoramic view of the home I was staying in

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Eating honey

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Marching to church

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And, finally, church. Here, even the dogs are allowed to listen in on the sermon

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Sharing Christ’s Riches

27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mk. 10:28-31

If you think that anything that Jesus said was easy, you better begin scratching those grey cells again. Although He was on the earth, yet Jesus always spoke as God. Which means He spoke nothing less than perfect perfection. He was so far-sighted we have to die first to begin seeing the things that Jesus saw in the Spirit. Nothing Jesus said was of this world, which means nothing He said was easy. But, thank God, He also said,

“with God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)

We ought to be eternally grateful to God for giving us His Holy Spirit who enables us to do God’s will in its perfection.

There are many believers today who interpret the above scriptures to suit their own lusts. They say, “Lord, I claim (or, Lord give me) a hundredfold this and that according to your Word in Mark 10:30”.

But Jesus was not speaking in that vein. He was not speaking about you or me in the way we are used to. On the contrary, Jesus was speaking about the church. The church is where everyone, including me, dies. We die to our selves – and live for others.

The early church arrived at that spot. This was because they were fully filled with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is given full reign in our lives, we can live God’s heavenly Kungdom right here on earth.

And so, the more we give ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the closer we get to that hallowed spot, where we can truly give rather than receive, of which the Lord Jesus Himself said,

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Although I live in Africa, I have brothers and sisters and mothers and lands and houses all over the world. I have them in North America, I have them in Asia, I have them in Europe, in Australia and New Zealand. I even have them in the Middle East. If I go to any of these true brothers’ and sisters’ homes, whatever they have is mine. They would not say that I could not fully share in anything that was theirs.

Where the power of the Holy Spirit is, nothing is impossible. In today’s world, for example, the world is getting steadily polarised – especially between blacks and whites. But, in the Spirit, the church is getting more and more united. God’s people are coming together as one as the Holy Spirit readies the Bride of Christ for His soon return.

If you are thinking in terms of I, me and myself – the doctrine of receiving – then you have absolutely no idea of the church that Christ is building. In this church, we are here to give, not receive. That is why Jesus said,

“…with persecutions”.

We are to have the mind of Christ who, although He was God, and although He was rich, chose to forgo those rights for our sakes.

The Bible also says:

“27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28)

Colossians 3:10-11 basically says the same thing.

“10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

The riches of Christ – both the heavenly and the worldly – are all ours to share . When we have been blessed with the mind of Christ, it is easy for us to give our all. Here there is no poor or rich. Even the poor has something to give, because he has the heart of Christ. And, more importantly, he will not go to church to look for his own gain. He will go to give his life even as the rich man has gone to church to give of his life.

Finally, on the part concerning eternal life, that’s where we need to be super careful. This was where Jesus said,

But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”

Dying To Live

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mat. 8:31-38
In the world, when men die, we say they’ve lost their lives. That is as it should be, for here we are speaking from a worldly point of view. It is fair and correct to say that someone has lost their life because they have no other life.
But when we believe in Jesus Christ, we gain another life. Not that we get to have more than one life like the proverbial cat. On the contrary, through losing this temporal earthly life we gain the eternal heavenly one. This is our singular calling as believers. Many believers know and are affirmed of the hope of eternal life. But there is the experiential grasping of this hope, which can only be achieved through losing our worldly life.
Unfortunately, many people do not have this revelation. Even after they have been born again, many believers are not aware that they need to lose this earthly life in order to gain the heavenly one. That is why they will fight and scrape for self-preservation in every sense of the word. They do not learn to lose their love for this life.
But losing or denying one’s self is not easy, as we see in Jesus’s example. It goes absolutely contrary to what we in our flesh would want to experience. Notice what Jesus stated would happen to Him:
“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed”.
Nothing in these words is easy by any standards. But with Jesus it went far beyond comprehension. He did not deserve to undergo any of this. Normally, after a terrorist attack you often here people say, “The terrorist killed innocent people”. But there is no such thing as an innocent person. All human beings are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).
The only Person to whom that word “innocent” ever applied in this world was our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible declares that “He did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).
Jesus therefore did not derserve to suffer in any way. On the contrary, He needed to be praised and exalted and lauded. But He suffered, and terribly. And for this reason – His sinlessness – our own suffering cannot be held in comparison to His.
But still the Bible exhorts us to have the mind of Christ,
“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)
It is not easy to have the mind of Christ. Such a mind will take you to places you wouldn’t want to be. It will lower you to levels you would not wish to be at. And sometimes it will cause you to suffer physical pain. That is why worldly-minded men will try to stop you from suffering for the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as Peter attempted to do to the Lord. I have heard believers say, “Being saved does not mean becoming a fool” as they attempt to justify fighting for their rights. That is why you will find them in the civil rights movements, etc.
But Jesus said clearly,
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it…”
May we learn to deny our selves. Denying ourselves means denying our own rights and whatever else the flesh craves. The flesh craves the world, literally. It has thousands and thousands of desires. But the cross comes to crucify these desires. It comes to reveal another glory, the heavenly glory. In the process, we count the glories of this world, including our rights and material comforts, as dung.
[In the world, dying is counted as losing. In the Spirit, it is gain]

Keep Your Heart Pure!

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

In the Swahili translation, the first part of this scripture reads: “Guard your heart above everything else…”

In other words, there are other things that we should guard; but it is the heart that we are to guard above everything else.

I believe there is much to this scripture than I dare try to expound here. But there is a small light that has been shining in my heart with regard to this scripture, which is what I want to share with you this morning. And it has to do with what I have just explained concerning what it says in the Swahili translation.

There are many areas in our Christian life where we can mess up; but it should never be with the purity of our hearts. We can “blow it” in may areas of our lives; but it never should be with the heart.

Let me illustrate this to try and bring out the light that I have seen in this scripture. Let’s say you and your wife have a disagreement over something. A disagreement often leads to some form of altercation. Unfortunately, this occurs quite often between married couples. But this is not the real problem. The problem, as far as God is concerned, is when we come away from such a situation with bitterness in our hearts. Bitterness causes us to close our hearts to the people who have hurt us. On the other hand, we can walk away from such a situation with a pure heart.

The Corinthian church hurt Paul deeply. He had paid such a big price to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them but the minute he turned his back, they reverted back to the flesh in a big way. When Paul heard the news, he was deeply distressed. But he did not close his heart. In other words, Paul guarded his heart to the extent that he did not allow any bitterness to seep in. And hence he was able to write them:

“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12)

Paul had such grace that, the more they sinned against (him) the more his heart became enlarged towards them. That is the heart of grace that the Bible talks of and that we should always carry in us.

It is not okay for us to arrive at disagreements, but that is the lesser of the problems that God sees in us. The disagreement or the altercation is not the problem; with God the problem is the condition of our hearts.

In Matthew 5:8 we read:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

You can do everything well and be blessed; but in order to behold God’s face – in order to get up close to God – you have to take care of the condition of your heart. But, pray, what does it mean to “see God”?

I believe we can find the answer in 1 Peter 3:7

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Here the Apostle Peter says that if husbands play it roughshod over their wives, God will not grant them an audience. He will not hear or answer their prayers. In other words, such husbands will not be able to “see” God. On the other hand, when we guard our hearts and maintain patient and loving hearts towards our wives, God is pleased with us. He gives an ear to and answers our prayers.

This is as it should be for in Isaiah 57:15 it says,

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

It is in the same spirit that Jesus taught about forgiveness.

“6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat. 6:14-15)

Forgiving requires a denial of self. Ultimately, therefore, we have to come back to the cross to be able to keep pure hearts. Only a man or woman who has crucified their lives with Christ can keep and maintain a pure heart in a world that waiting is to defile our hearts every waking moment of our lives. The Bible says that a man’s enemies are those of his own house (Mat. 10:36). That means that it is the things that are closest to us that easily defile our hearts. And what could be closer to us than our own selves. It is when we are unable to rein in our carnal nature that we get defiled in our hearts.

Personally, I can say that in my married life it was my wife who became the biggest thorn in my flesh. Presumably. I had never heard the cross taught as the Apostle Paul expressed it, and I therefore always had something to be bitter towards her. It took me a painfully long time to realize that the key to unlocking the victory over the bitterness lay in my heart. But today, by the grace of God, it is no longer so. Whatever may come between me and my wife, I am glad (and greatly surprised) to see that there is no aftertaste of bitterness after all is ended.

I believe that is one of the true victories that we can claim in the Spirit. But the price we have to pay for such a victory is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Above all things, may we keep a pure heart.

[Called upon to keep and maintain a pure heart]

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Jesus – Our True Friend

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Prov. 27:17

Hello there again. Today we will look at a subject that has been on my heart for a while: Who is our true friend?

There are people who call the dog man’s best friend. Actually, the faithfulness of this animal is legendary. It is known to do exactly as you tell it to, and it sticks as close to its owner as their own skin. Dogs have even been known to save their owners from certain death. But thank God, a dog’s life is just that: a dog’s life; and we cannot carry this reasoning into the church. For all the faithfulness it is famed for, there is one thing the dog cannot do: it cannot save you from eternal death. In fact, no one can save you from eternal death, except One: our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the Spirit, Jesus is therefore our true friend. Jesus does not appear to us physically; but we know Him through the circumstances that He allows us to pass through. And here on earth, Jesus has given us many like-minded friends – brothers and sisters in Christ who will show us and coax us along the narrow road, the road of denying self and taking up our cross.

This scripture is therefore speaking of Christ, ultimately. It is Christ who tells us:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…” (Phil. 1:29)

Notice, Christ does not tell us to only believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. The reason for this is because God’s wisdom stated long ago in Proverbs that

“Iron sharpeneth iron”.

Believing alone does not sharpen us. Suffering does that work. Suffering for Christ, or Christian suffering, sharpens our spiritual countenance.

The No. 1 gospel in the world today is the “faith message”; but it is a message that twists God’s truth. This message teaches that all we need to do is to believe. That is all that is required of us. Once we believe, this message states, we will be able to receive God’s best for us, both in this world and thereafter in heaven.

But God’s truth states that we are not only to believe on Christ here on earth, but also to suffer for His sake. That is the full Christian message. If someone were to pay me a half-salary all my life, imagine the amount of money they would have robbed me of! That is what the “faith” or “only believe” message has been doing to believers all their lives. It has been robbing them of God’s best for them. But Christ will never rob us. That is why He has brought the revelation of the cross to the church. The message of the cross pays the church its full spiritual dues. That is why the Apostle Paul also would teach no other gospel than

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

As he also tells the Galatians in Galatians 3:1:

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”

As I said earlier, Christ also gives us true earthly friends. No, these are not the people that you laugh with and with whom you have a good time together. On the contrary, these are probably the people whom you would not call “friends” here on earth. They are the people who will tell you the truth, however painful or bitter it may be. That should include your wife or husband. (In fact, if you have a Godly wife, she can be your best friend on earth. Your wife knows all your weaknesses and by God’s help she can become your best helper).

True friends are the people who will rebuke you and put you on the right path of righteousness. They are people like your pastor (if he is a man whose faith is founded on the revelation of the cross). As we can see in his letters both to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul was such a man.

Sometimes you hear things that make your ears to literally tingle. I recently overheard a pastor (one of the many new ‘prophets’) tell his congregation, “We are not going to drive cars; we are going to drive machines!”

He meant God wants us to own Hummers, Bentleys, Mercedes Benzes; not the Toyota Corollas that jam Tanzanian roadways.

Such a pastor cannot claim to be your friend. In fact, he is an enemy and a deadly one. The Bible says:

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…” (2 Pet. 2:3)

Such a “friend” will fleece you here on earth and ultimately lead you to hell through teaching you to have the same covetous spirit that he has.

Jesus is our true friend. As iron sharpeneth iron, so does Christ us. Christ will bring in our way circumstances that will only sharpen us spiritually. He will bring in our way things that will shake our spirits to the core.

As Christ sharpeneth us spiritually, so do Godly brothers and sisters in Christ. And so do our Godly wives and husbands. And so do the men and women who, like Paul, preach no other gospel save the message of the cross – the revelation of

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

[The lyrics to the following song (by Google Translate)

“There is a happiness that sings in me,

And that gives me joy.

Without which I can not live, for which I want to live.

The Prince of equity has freed me from iniquity.

Changed my identity, my name is redeemed.

Where would I go far from You,

The one we call Emmanuel.

My happiness and my joy, my all in all.

My precious and personal property

My friend, my heart, my Jesus.

 

My Jesus, I have no other than you Lord / x2

 

Your love in me remains,

Your presence in me abides, I want to belong to you.

As a seal in our hearts,

Be engraved the name of my Jesus.

Where would I go far from You,

The one we call Emmanuel.

My happiness and my joy, my all in all.

My precious and personal property

My friend, my heart, my Jesus.

My Jesus, I have no other than you Lord / x2

My Jesus Your love in me abides,

Your presence in me abides, I want to belong to you.]

Fight!

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life… 1 Tim. 6:11-12

Without a doubt, it is much easier to run away from danger than to stand and fight. But the Bible here tells us to fight – to fight the good fight of faith. The “flee” that Paul talks of here is part of this fight. You have to wrestle yourself from the things of this world – things like fornication, idolatry (materialism). The Bible also talks of other things that we are to part from:

“… envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings” (1 Tim. 6:4-5)

On the other hand, you have to fight to cling onto the things that Paul tells us here to follow after, things such as:

“righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”

We can choose to fight – or run. But if we run, we will not be counted worthy to enter into God’s Kingdom. The Bible in Revelation 21:8 tells us,

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Who are the “fearful” that the Bible is talking of? What fear is the Bible referring to here?

I believe it is not the fear of snakes, nor the fear of heights that some of us have. Rather, when the Bible talks of the fearful, it is they who are unable to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow Christ. It is they who love themselves. In a nutshell, it is they who are unable to crucify their flesh.

But the Bible encourages us with the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:24:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

May we choose to fight, not run.

[In 1963, President Kennedy announced that America would put a man on the moon. He said it was worth pursuing, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.]

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