The Cross For His Grace

In recent times I have been traveling a lot and, on one of these days, as I was waiting for the bus to fill up at the bus terminal, I found myself in a conversation with God that went as follows.

Me: “Oh, glory! Thank you, Lord, for all this travelling; as you know, I love the adventure of travel and you have been so gracious to me in this regard.”

God: “Oh yeah?”

Me: “Yes, Lord. I am truly grateful. Moreover, these travels keep me far from home where, as you rightly said, a prophet has no honor in his own country.”

God: “Oh! I said that, did I?”

Me: “Yes, Lord. Back at home, there are so many things that make me to stumble in my walk with You, but out here, there is so much peace!”

God: “Oh? Peace. Is that so?”

Me: “Of course, Lord.”

At this point, the Lord left off talking with me. The small bus had filled up and the driver got in behind the wheel.

As soon as the bus began moving, the driver turned on the radio. The volume was automatically set to the highest level possible, and the driver left it right there.

“Hey!” I shouted from the back seat where I was seated. “Please turn down the volume of your radio.”

The driver did not respond. He did not even look back to see who had called out to him. I could not believe it. Had he not heard me? Even above the din, I had shouted loud enough for anyone outside the bus to hear.

I took a closer look at the driver and for the first time I noticed the fellow had a nasty haircut which I took an instant dislike to. I looked at him again and I did not like anything about him.

I called out for the second time.

“Driver”, I shouted loudly again. “Please turn down your radio.”

No response.

I settled uncomfortably back into my seat feeling angry and unsettled both by the the loud music and the cold shoulder the driver had chosen to give me.

After half an hour of high- speed driving (which I also did not like and I was thinking I should warn him about that, too), the bus stopped to drop off some passengers. This being a small bus, the driver was also the conductor. As he came around to take his fare I spoke to him.

“I think you did not hear me”, I said stiffly. “I told you to turn down your radio.”

Without saying a word, the young man stopped taking the fare from the passengers, walked to the front of the bus and turned down the radio’s volume to an acceptable level (as per me).

He then came back and finished taking the fare. I couldn’t help noticing that he had a kind word for each one of the passengers. He even helped an old lady cross the road.

Soon he was done and we drove off. After an hour I arrived at my destination. The driver came round to take my fare. I gave him the money and, as he searched for some loose change in his pockets, I looked into his face. I was looking for an excuse to not like him even more.

But I found nothing there. Instead, I noticed how, despite his cocky haircut, he seemed to be a normal, likable young man.

Right there the Lord spoke to me. He said to me, “You are the problem, not him. If you are looking for something not to like, it is in you, not in him.”

I hadn’t planned on talking to the young man. By the time he gave me the change, though, I realized how much I already liked him. I told him, “Thank you.”

He looked up at me and said, “Thank you, too, sir.”

Then, instead of jumping back into his bus, he just stood there. Suddenly he put his hand back into his trouser pockets and showed me an old one shilling coin.

“You’ve got to be on the lookout for these”, he said, giving me one of the brightest grins I had ever seen. “It appears the same as the new 500 shilling coin. They are using these one-shilling coins to trick people nowadays. Someone tricked me with this one the other day. It is getting to be a common practice.”

“See you around”, he said.

“See you”, I answered absent-mindedly.

As I crossed the road, my eyes were burning with tears. I said to myself, “That boy ought to be preaching the gospel, not me.” He had so much peace. And I was still learning to have God’s peace in me.

The Lord uses any situation to show us how little of His Kingdom we have in us. When we have His Kingdom in short supply in us, that shortage will manifest in us, whether we are at home or far from home.

We cannot run away from the cross. The cross working in us ushers in the Kingdom of God into our hearts. In Colossians 1:24-29, the Apostle Paul writes,

“24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

Notice the word “sufferings” there. The more Paul denied himself and walked the narrow path of the cross, the more the incredible grace of God manifested in his life.

[The Lord will use any situation to humble us]

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A Humble Heart Above All

6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.

12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 1 Sam. 16:6-13

The other day my wife confronted me about something I had done and I owned up immediately. I said, “Yes, what I said was wrong, please forgive me.”

My wife almost fell down with shock. Being a good reader of my wife’s mind, I could see she was thinking that probably the rapture had occurred without her knowledge and that we were now living in the millennium. She is so used to me defending myself whenever I am confronted that what I had just said was simply inconceivable to her in the old world. But on this ocssion she searched my face and she realized it was real.

What she did not know was that when she came at me, I was prepared. I had been reading about David, the man who made ghastly mistakes but was quick to own up. And David’s heart and life had challenged me greatly.

We can hardly claim to know what God knows, even about ourselves. The Apostle Paul tells us:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Here Paul is saying that it is only when we get to heaven that we shall know things as God knows them.

That said, it stands to the test that we do not know men’s hearts as God knows them. We need to die more to self to arrive at this point. But many today do not want to know the cross of Christ. That is why today men are so full of empty praises. They love praising the mighty and looking down upon the lowly. But if we truly knew people’s hearts, especially with regard to how God sees them, we wouldn’t be so fast with our praising of some and our despising of others.

When Jesse’s sons began passing in front of Samuel, he looked on the outside. Is that not so much like us? We gauge, judge and categorise people based on what we see on the outside. For this reason, men therefore prepare themselves more on the outside than on the inside because everyone’s attention is on the outside; and, in our natural state, we crave men’s praise more than anything.

The seven sons whom Jesse made to pass before Samuel had better qualifications than David in the natural. They were of a better countenance and stature.

Under the new covenant, we could be better men by all standards; but God is not looking for just any standard. We could be better preachers, but God is not looking for good preachers. We may be great singers, but God is not looking for great singers. We may be men and women who do everything right. But God is not looking for people who do not make mistakes. David made the biggest mistake that any man under the sun could make.

But God is not looking for any of these things. God is looking for a heart. And having the kind of heart that God is looking for is the biggest challenge that any man or woman could face.

So what kind of heart did David have? What kind of heart did he have that set him apart from his brothers? What kind of heart did he have which made God to say to Samuel,

“Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

The answer is to be found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. The answer lies in David’s attitude when he was confronted. He had sinned, and when he was confronted by God’s servant Nathan, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the LORD.” (v.13)

David did not rise up to defend himself. He did not even try to offer an explanation. In other words, he did not give God any conditions. He owned up fully to his sin.

That is the hardest thing with us. The minute we get confronted, our defense mode kicks in. Even if we admit our guilt, we still try to offer up an explanation. But this attitude of heart is of the flesh, not of the Spirit of God. Even when wrongly accused by men, Jesus did not defend himself.

If you want to know that you have the kind of heart that God desires, it is when you desist from defending yourself. That is the humble heart that God desires us to have. That is the heart of faith.

God is therefore not looking to the many great things that we can do. He is looking for a humble heart, one that can quickly fall down, confess, admit and repent. One that can allow itself to be trampled under. We see all this with David especially in his difficult relationship with King Saul.

We may not have many qualifications in the natural. We may not even be gifted with many gifts in the Spirit. But we can all have a humble heart, and this is what pleases God most.

In the Psalms, King David wrote about the relationship that God has with people who have a humble heart. In Psalms 34:18, he wrote:

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

And in Psalms 51:17, he wrote:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

[… for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.]

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Photo courtesy of Carol Lanthier

The Holy Spirit is Grieving

Jer_9:1  “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

I now know that all the men and women whom God ever called to Him were men and women of tears. When I say ‘I now know’ that means there was a time when I did not know that. In fact, it has taken me a long time to really appreciate this truth. I have come to know that the Spirit of God is a grieving Spirit. God has nothing to rejoice about in this world. On the contrary, there is much, much to grieve Him, particularly in the days we are living in, and especially within the Church itself.

Some years back, there emerged a wave called “laughing in the presence of the Lord.” I remember participating in one such event. True, we laughed our heads off, but to be honest I felt nothing in my heart. I went home feeling empty and used. These are the kinds of strange, crazy doctrines that the Church today has allowed itself to accommodate!

But no, Sir. That kind of spirit never was, and never will be the Spirit of God. These are demonic doctrines brought in by the enemy to weaken the Church.

Nothing much is written about the Apostle Paul on the topic, but I realize that he also was a man of many tears. When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”, I believe it was no laughing matter. It was a breaking experience and it was accomplished with much tears on his part. Of necessity he had to constantly be on his knees, so that he could conclude: “for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In my humble experience I have come to discover the only place to really meet God is when the tears are flowing from my eyes. Even in the most mundane of my experiences with God I always know it when the Holy Spirit is visiting me. My eyes fill with tears, and immediately I know He is there. I can just be standing somewhere, and all of a sudden I feel my eyes burning, and I have to quickly make sure I am alone because I know He is there and He needs my attention. And when the Holy Spirit wants your attention you need to be alone because no one else will understand what is going on. One time, many years ago, a lady invited us to dinner in her house, and there was a song playing there, and I just began crying. I was naïve, of course, and I should have known better. But I sat there shaking like a rattlebox; and the pastor who was the senior member of our team began laughing and said, “What is this stupid fellow doing?”

When I got saved I was a final year university student. I remember clearly whenever we entered the chapel for a service, even before the service began I would sit down and begin crying silently, the presence of God was so pervasive.

If there is one thing I can thank my God for today, it is that the tears have not dried from my eyes. The day they dry I know I will be a dead man. The one moment when I know without a doubt that “I am weak, but He is strong in me” is when I feel exactly that: weak. The Lord has won many battles for me as the Holy Spirit led me to simply sit in His presence and let the tears flow.

The Bible talks of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7 and Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:4, and I see this was exactly what happened to them. Of course, it is not a principle, or something that you can just decide to do by yourself. It cannot be an emotional thing that you can just work up. But I am sure that this is a grace that God alone can give. He alone knows our hearts and only He can lead us to that place of humbling ourselves before Him; and at the end of it all, we are left praising and thanking Him for such a grace! If anything we do is not initiated by the Holy Spirit, however spiritual it might appear it is of no spiritual value.

The Church is not in a position to laugh now. We are in a position where all we can do is to allow the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts, and we will first allow God to change our lives; then He will commission us to go out and effectively reach out to a dying world. God will come down and He will move on behalf of His Church.

Let us end by seeing what this broken man of God accomplished. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” verse 12