Two Lessons – Part 2

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Gal. 2:1-10

Notice, in verses 7 through 9, the two things that the apostles in Jerusalem saw in Paul: they perceived and acknowledged that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him; and they also saw and acknowledged the grace that was given unto Paul.

This spirit of humility is very important for the church. The end goal for the church should be unity in the Spirit. Unity in the Spirit cannot be achieved where there is no humility. Had the apostles in Jerusalem not been able to see in the Spirit and had they told Paul: “You are a novice in this ministry, what can you tell us?”, the end result would have been a divided church right from the start, and there is no telling where that would have led to.

That is why we need to hail the early apostles as heroes of faith. Not only on account of the miracles that they performed, but more so for their humility. Humility always attends true faith. It is for this same reason that King David is a great man in the Bible. David did one of the most horrific sins recorded in the Bible; yet right to the end he was God’s favorite. How come? It was because David had a humble heart.

It was through this humility that the apostles could recognize Paul for who he was in the Spirit. It was also through this same humility that both Paul and these men could agree on one of the most important pillars of true Christianity: to remember the poor.

Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (v.10)

In ministry, we must remember the poor. Remembering the poor is central to our Christian faith. We can learn from the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In John 13:29, we read:

“For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.”

This scripture clearly shows that Jesus ministered to the poor financially. (We know from other accounts that Jesus ministered physically and materially to the people He preached to.)

What about the Apostle Paul? Paul tells the Corinthians;

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (2 Cor. 11:8)

Today there are men of God who rob God’s people to enrich themselves and to live comfortable lives. There is no way you are going to convince me that a Bentley or a Hummer or a 2000-dollar suit is for ministry. Which proves that even the private jets used by modern preachers are not really for ministry.

There is no place for this kind of lifestyle in the Bible. Paul did not “rob” other churches to enrich himself. But, as we see in 2 Corithinans 8, he took the money he got from the more affluent churches to serve the less fortunate ones. This was to fulfill what th scripture says:

“… he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack” (Ex. 16:18).

As of Paul’s own life, on the contrary, we read of his and his fellow apostles’ lives thus:

“11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 and labour, working with our own hands…” (1 Cor. 4:11-12)

True apostolic ministry will always look out for the poor. That is why the early apostles, who were true men of God, could concur and exhort each other to “remember the poor”. With these men, you would not hear such immature references to the poor as “lazy”, etc.

The long and short of it is that a gospel that does not mind the poor is a dead gospel. Whatever the Bible writes it writes to show us the heart of God. In this singular scripture, it is easy to see God’s heart for the poor and downtrodden people of this world.

Why should we “remember the poor”? It is primarily because nothing in this world is worth a person’s soul. No amount of money that you can hoard in your pocket or bank account can compare with the value of a human soul. Money – or, rather, the love of it – should not hinder us from serving the poor. In serving the poor, we serve God.

Faith and Compassion

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Lk. 16:19-25

Notice here that one man “was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day”; while his neighbor was daily “laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Now, the Bible here does not say that Lazarus was born again and that the rich man was not. It could well be that the rich man was also saved. But there is no doubt that Lazarus lived a life that pleased God.

The accusation against the rich man, on the other hand (vs. 19-21), involves how he treated his neighbor, Lazarus. It appears that he lived a selfish, unloving life. He did not love or show compassion to his neighbor, Lazarus, who was poor.

Even Abraham accuses him of only this sin:

“Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”

God is not envious of us when we prosper. I haven’t heard of a father who is envious when his children prosper. God is the Father of fathers and He is happy when we prosper, even in material things.

But, in countless scriptures, God tells us how we ought to live our lives with the less fortunate in a manner that testifies of our faith in Him.

When we get to heaven, we will not just walk up to God and tell Him, “Lord, you know that on such and such a date I believed in Jesus and I got saved”.

That salvation script won’t work. What will happen is, God will bring out a rap sheet of your lifestyle. He will say, “Let us see your works.”

The Bible, in the Book of James, talks about faith without works.

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17)

Are you saved? Don’t get complacent; Judgement Day is coming. Get out there and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)

Working out our salvation incudes how we live with the less fortunate. We are stewards of whatever God has given us. One day, we will give an account to God.

All that the rich man would allow the beggar, Lazarus, to have of his sumptuous fare were the crumbs that fell from his table! When we read this, we can think of any number of scenarios that could have been coursing through the rich man’s mind whenever he thought of Lazarus.

Scenario no. 1: He probably considered Lazarus a loser. In today’s church parlance, he would have said Lazarus was cursed. A child of God a beggar? Impossible! The fellow needed a ‘deliverance’ session.

Scenario no. 2: Or, he considered Lazarus plain lazy. Yes, Lazarus was a dirty, lazy beggar. His sores most likely were caused by an unhygienic lifestyle. The rich man therefore gave his security detail strict instructions to keep Lazarus locked out of his compound. He intelligently surmised that if Lazarus so much as set a foot within, something worse than the bubonic plague could erupt right inside his home, and he and his entire family could die.

I once heard a preacher say that he handles only clean, brand new dollar bills. He said something about having a phobia of all the germs that one can easily collect from touching old, dirty bills.

Just like Lazarus’s benefactor, this preacher was also a very intelligent man. But I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when God shows up.

We should be careful how we handle people, especially God’s people. We should not call them names like “lazy” when we don’t even know – or care – what they are going through. The Bible faults us when we carry this very uncharitable attitude. Colossians 3:12 says:

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…”

We ought never to forget that Christ died; and that He died for these very people. It is for this reason that we cannot despise or mistreat people, least of all God’s people.

I believe it was this very sin that took the rich man to hell.

[STOP being merely religious and reconsider your WAYS with regard to God’s people while you still have the time]

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Two Lovely People

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 2 Ki. 4:8-17

In this and the next post I will be writing about two great women of faith. The Old Testament is filled with stories whose incandescent beauty is only surpassed by the glorious revelation of the Holy Spirit who walked in the midst of the experiences that we read there.

As with all scripture, the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is full to the brim. I do not know how many books it would take to uncover to any level of satisfaction the riches to be found in this scripture. In this post we will attempt to bare the tiniest glint off of this priceless treasure trove.

What a woman this Shunammite was; and what an incredible man of God Elisha was! In the Spirit, these two fitted together like a glove.

The Shunammite woman was a truly great woman on the earth, and at her death she became a great woman in heaven also. Not too many people can attain to such an achievement, for the Bible says that not many great earthly men will be great in the Kingdom of God.

One of the things we notice in this narrative is that the Shunammite woman welcomed the man of God into her house ‘with no strings attached’. She was self-less, and she loved the man of God for who he was, not for what she could gain from receiving him into her house.

Elisha, on the other hand, felt indebted to this woman for her generosity towards him, and he desired to do her some good in return. But even when he called for her and asked her what favour she would desire from him, she wanted nothing.

“I dwell among mine own people”, she told him. Which meant that she did not have any problem for which she needed his intervention. More to the point, she implied that she was contented with her life.

But this Shunammite woman had a secret need buried deep within her heart. Actually, this need was greater than anything that Elisha had alluded to. This need comprised of the fact that the Shunammite had no child. Moreover, her husband was old, and their hopes of bearing a child had grown dim, if not entirely gone. The Shunammite would not think of burdening the servant of God with such an impossible wish. She therefore refrained from telling him.

Apparently, Elisha had not noticed that his benefactor had no child. But his servant Gehazi had noticed. When Elisha therefore pressed Gehazi for what they could for the woman in return, Gehazi told Elisha, “I know what this woman’s real need is. She has no child, and her husband is now old.”

Immediately Elisha heard that, he knew what he needed to do. He sent for the Shunammite woman again and when she came he told her,

“About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”

Her reaction tells us that this was her greatest need in life. In the classic manner of reactive disbelief she told the man of God:

“Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.”

But it came to pass just as Elisha the man of God had said. The woman conceived and, at the time that Elisha had appointed for her, she gave birth to a baby boy.

So what lessons can we learn from this story?

There are many, but the most obvious one is that God will reward us when we bless others selflessly. This woman blessed the servant of God, Elisha, and God blessed her in return. It happened to her exactly as Jesus Himself said,

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

Secondly, notice that the Shunammite woman did not go seeking for her blessing. On the contrary, of her own free will and out of her good heart she patiently served God by serving His servant. And it was that God saw it and, in His own time He met her most desperate need in life.

The Shunammite’s heart was filled with giving.

There are people searching for answers to their problems, but they are going about it the wrong way. They do not have the patience of this woman. Were they spiritual people, they would simply serve God and await His deliverance. There is only one way to test God: it is by serving Him, and serving Him wholeheartedly.

Notice also that Elisha tested the woman by asking whether he could intervene on her behalf in very mundane matters.

“If someone has taken your piece of land”, Elisha told the woman (paraphrased), “I could talk to the king and he could help you get it back.”

Today, many people regard men of God as the fairy with the magic wand in their lives. They regard them as the solution to all their earthly problems. This is the reason for most of the long prayer lines you see in many churches. Many people go to church to have their problems prayed for, not to be edified or to learn to love God in the Spirit. There are many people who are believers, not for spiritual reasons, but for earthly, material ones.

But the Shunammite woman was contented with her lot in life.

Thirdly, we learn an important lesson from Elisha himself. In the first place, the way Elisha conducted himself in the Shunammite woman’s house was exemplary. So much so that the woman told her husband,

“Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”

In other words, the more Elisha passed by, the more she came to realize that this was a holy man of God. I do not think she would have noticed that if Elisha had conducted himself in a disorderly manner.

Unfortunately, it is not so with many preachers of the gospel today. Stories abound of the carriers of the Good News that would make your skin crawl with dread. Today, there are fewer and fewer men of God who are true examples of a Godly, holy life. I know of a certain ‘prophet’ who lodged in a pastor’s house for a time, and he ended up demanding that the ‘spirit’ had told him move into the pastor’s bedroom and the pastor to move out. Unfortunately, the pastor complied. It took a public outcry to reverse the situation; but the damage had already been done.

Lastly, and of equal importance is the fact that men of God ought to be able to sow spiritual things into the lives of God’s people and in that way bring the great blessing of the Spirit into the church.

In Romans 15:27 the Apostle Paul says:

“… their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”

Elsewhere he tells the Corinthians:

“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:11

Notice Paul is not talking of mere preaching of God’s Word. Rather, he is talking about God’s ministers investing in the Spirit into the lives of God’s people. The price that one has to pay for such an undertaking is that he has to die to self. He has to lay down his life for the sake of God’s sheep.

[This morning I woke up with this song on my heart. And I cannot help myself just watching everyone who is in this video!!]

Free To Give!

7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 2 Cor. 8:7-9

Giving away our finances and our material wealth is one of the ways that we serve God. The devil therefore works hard to bind us in this area. According to this scripture, to find yourself free in the area of finances and giving as our Lord Jesus Christ was is an incredible grace. Indeed, this is an unbelievable scripture. That a believer can “abound” in everything else – “in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us” – and yet not be free in the area of financial giving! This talks of the power of money upon the human spirit.

The area of giving, for most believers, is where “the rubber meets the road”. The human heart is so bound up with money that to find oneself free in the area of finances is true freedom indeed! He who is free from the power of money is free in nearly every area of his spiritual life. Just imagine how rich the Corinthians were in all these other areas; and yet, in this single area, it is clear they were woefully lacking.

The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). According to Galatians 5, evil is “… adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Nearly all these things are rooted in money.

Elsewhere, scripture also says:

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat. 6:24).

The word “mammon” means money, wealth or worldly possessions. Mammon is so powerful that the Bible equates it with God! Mammon is the god of this world.

But notice the Bible says that we cannot serve God and mammon. It is clear, therefore, that we as believers need to be set free from the power of this force or god, mammon. In other words, we need to be set free from the power of the love of money! We are to be free in our spirits with regard to finances in every area, including in our giving. That is the only way to serve God.

That was why Jesus said of the poor widow who put in two cents in the offering box, that she had given more than everyone else (Mk. 12:42-44). This old lady was so free she gave away all her “living”.

Do you think she was grieving and telling God, “God, I am planting a seed so that you might bless me a hundedfold”?

Hardly. Had she said that in her heart, Jesus would not have said those words about her. But Jesus spoke about her because in her heart she was free from the power of money. Although she was poor, yet she was the richest person in the temple. She was so rich she could give all her living for the gospel’s sake.

“For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

The heart of this old widow was the heart of Christ. Free.

Had this widow died from hunger, she would have died gladly. She would not have been sorrowful about her condition.

Our love for money is a subject that we tiptoe about, simply because we do not want to offend the flesh. It is the flesh that is bound up with money, not the spirit. The spirit of the born-again believer yearns to be set free from the power of money.

Finally, let us consider verse 9:

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

This is a verse that has become the bane of the church because carnal-minded preachers and believers use it for their own gain. They say, “Jesus became poor that we may inherit the wealth of this world.”

But this scripture is not even talking about that! Jesus did not become poor so that we might inherit worldly possessions for the simple reason that God’s Kingdom is spiritual. You will not find the dollar sign in heaven.

So what is the meaning of this scripture?

The Apostle Paul here is trying to show the Corinthians how free our Lord was in the area of finances. Christ did not serve mammon. He served God. That was how He could afford to become poor.  You do not become poor simply because you have decided to become poor. You become poor because a work of God has occurred in your heart and God has set you free.

And notice Jesus did not become poor for poverty’s sake. Jesus became poor that through His poverty we might be rich.

But, anyways, let us give the benefit of doubt to those who claim that this scripture is talking about Jesus sacrificing His worldly riches so that we might become financially and materially rich. This argument gets instantly killed by the fact that the Bible also tells us to become Christ’s disciples, to follow Christ’s example and manner of life. How about we follow Christ’s example in not just becoming rich, but also in becoming poor that through our poverty others might become rich? That would require  we go and sell all that we have and give to the poor! Incidentally, that was exactly what Jesus told the rich young ruler. And just like the rich young ruler, I am sure not many who follow this line would obey Christ’s command to go sell all.

The love of money is the root cause of all evil. We, being innately evil, have not the faintest chance of defeating this god, mammon. If we have been born again, we can only thank God for having delivered us from the power of darkness. Hallelujah to that! And to thank Him exceedingly for the Holy Spirit who, through the power of the cross, will fully conquer this most subtle and menacing of all our enemies, the love of money in our hearts as we willingly surrender our wills to Him.

The cross is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).

[Below: God was so rich He gave us His Son Jesus Christ!]

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“A Child of God”

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Mat. 5:38-48

One of my childhood friend’s father used to say, “The white man is a child of God”. In observing all that the white man was capable of doing – and possibly even his comportment – this uneducated village man saw the pre-eminence that God had granted the white man over the rest of mankind. And he acknowledged it. To this day I respect this man for his words. Those were bold words to say in those days, when everyone else probably considered the white man an imperialist exploiter. No doubt today, in the current atmosphere of worsening racial hostilities, it probably would start a small world war to re-state those words. But I am sure my friend’s father would not hesitate to say them again: he was the kind of person who would stick to his convictions even if you put a loaded gun to his head.

Personally, I too consider that in the world there is the white man first, and everyone else following. That I regard to be the natural order of things. In my perception, I see that, in many ways that we cannot deny, God has placed the white man above his fellow man. That is my personal opinion.

But, of course, that is not the entire truth. It probably is not even the truth at all. This is because the truth under the New Covenant that we have with God is that the true “child of God” can only be one who has been begotten, and is walking, in the Spirit. And being spiritual has to do with character. The child of God, therefore, is one who can show forth the character of God through his or her life, attitude and everything. The white man, the black man, and any man of any color, can only be a child of God if they can bring forth the character of God in their lives. That is the truth.

There is currently a race war going on in the U.S., and it is bringing out the worst out of everyone involved. I will not delve into the murky details but, clearly, when you read the news, you can feel the bitterness, the anger, and the outright hatred gushing out of people’s hearts. That means these things/attitudes were always there, but there was nothing to bring them out. Now a situation has arisen that is stirring the waters, and the water flowing out of people’s hearts is not clean at all; it is muddy.

But this state of war is not peculiar to the U.S. alone. The entire world is seething under an unseen force, and “warfare” is written all across the face of the earth.

Nations are at war with other nations.

Citizens of one nation fight each other.

Even worse is the warfare going on inside our homes as husband fights wife, parents fight children, and relative engages relative.

Most unfortunately comes the admission that in church, too, there is warfare. And the worst part is that it is the leaders who are at the fore-front of this “church warfare”. They fight for the positions of power as well as the money. I believe this is the most inexcusable warfare of all, for it is to these very people that God has chosen to reveal Himself as a God of grace. But God’s people today are so hell-bent on getting their rights, they will fight their way right into the furnace.

All this warfare points to a fall in the character of mankind. Slowly but surely, mankind today is sinking into into the depths of the most spiritually malicious enemy of all – self. But in His words, Jesus pointed to the singular thing that can lift man again and turn him into a true “child of God”: the cross. The touch of the Master, through the revelation of the cross, brings true peace and calm in a man’s heart, because it transforms that man and makes him a loser. A true child of God is a loser. He willingly surrenders his earthly rights, just as Christ surrendered them.

That is why the church today needs a revelation of the cross. We cannot preach to the world what we ourselves are not living. We cannot teach the world character they are not seeing in us.

The New Covenant of the cross is the greatest miracle ever, and we are living right in the center of it. This, therefore, is the day when the church needs to rise forth and shine; to show forth the great riches of God’s grace. To turn the other cheek for your enemy to slap, to go two miles when one is required of us – that is true grace! This is the one single thing that is guaranteed to triumph in the face of all the hatred and violence in the world. Any other weapon will simply backfire, even a gun.

The simplicity in Jesus’ words above is awe-inspiring; and yet, to arrive at this excruciatingly simple state of affairs will require we, the church, to crucify our lives and die to self.

[Below: It is indeed well with our souls, if crucified with Christ]

True Christianity is Practical

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd dividethhissheep from the goats:
33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35For I was anhungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee anhungred, and fedthee?or thirsty, and gavetheedrink?
38When saw we thee a stranger, and tooktheein? or naked, and clothedthee?
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have doneitunto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have doneitunto me.
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42For I was anhungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee anhungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye diditnot to one of the least of these, ye diditnot to me.
46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Mat. 25:31-46
I have been away from home for close to two weeks, on what we call a regional inter-circuit tour of our churches. Overall, I went through three different towns.
At the very outset of my journey, my computer developed a problem, and my schedule did not give me any time to visit an internet café, so I was unable to do anything blog-wise. It is my hope and prayer that my readers and my blogging friends have not given up on me!
Today I will share a lesson that I learned during my recent travels.
In one of the towns that I visited there lives one of the oldest and most well-known diamond mines in the world. Long before I ever set foot in this town I had heard of this diamond mine, it is so popular.
There is, however, a rather unsavory folklore connected with this mine, which I heard only recently when I was there. The story goes that many, many years ago, the owner of this diamond mine once went to Buckingham Palace and, on account of his wealth, presented a marriage proposal to one of the Queen’s daughters. The Queen’s Protocol duly answered him that he would soon be receiving an answer to his request.
The man went back home and, unknown to him, the Queen dispatched a super-secret spy team after the man to check out on one singular detail: how did this multi-billion pound conglomerate of a man live with his neighbors?
The team came and did its investigation, which was not much of an investigation since everything was clear once the sun had risen in the east. They established that, despite the fact that the diamond mine had been there for ages and although the diamond mine was indeed extremely productive and the owner had to be a multi-billion entity in himself, yet his neighbors lived in abject poverty. The mine operated in an enclosed compound, and the man was totally unknown to his neighbors. There was also not the slightest sign of any development in the area which one could attach to the existence of this mine. The spies established many other things, which all pointed in one direction.
Shortly thereafter, the Queen sent a reply to the man who had asked for her daughter’s hand in marriage. She told him pointblank that she could not give her daughter to a man who does not care about his neighbors.
The story is folklore, which means it might be true, or it might not be true. But when you visit this town, you will find the story there; it is common to everyone who lives there.
As I listened to this story, I remembered Jesus’ words in the scripture above. I was reminded then that, as God’s children, we are called upon to do many things apart from singing, preaching, and doing the many things we do in church. We are called to give our lives for other people and in very practical ways. This pleases the Lord more than anything.

To Love – Our True Calling

To Love – Our True Calling

[This post is dedicated to my friends Frank and Carol Lanthier from Ontario, Canada who have not only dedicated their lives to serving the Lord, but have constantly maintained a pure heart throughout]

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 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.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

All the Christian blogs in the world combined could hardly do justice to these words, how much less a mere post as this! But the brightness of a diamond is the result of a million different flashes of light coming off of it.

Someone called me recently and said, “Could you look up Ezekiel chapter 43, I want us to discuss about the prophecy there, whether it has been fulfilled or not.” The man comes from a denomination where the word ‘prophecy’ is mentioned in every second sentence.

I am not very much into prophecy, and I knew I probably would have nothing to contribute. I knew that at best our ‘discussion’ would end in disputations, etc. Things like prophecy are important, of course, but they are also potential minefields, where someone can easily lose their soul trying to crack the prophecy code.

So I told the brother, “I would rather we discussed about love!”

Jesus said that in the Kingdom of God, many that are first shall be last, and many that are last will be first. That means that with God, things are not the way we see them in the natural. There are things that appear very important with us, but which are not so with God.

“1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

We could have and we could be all the things mentioned here, but if we are not walking in love, we are nothing in God’s sight. In today’s world especially, where the world is increasingly pressing itself to the fore, it is the easiest thing for God’s people to miss it. The people who ‘do’ things appear to be the most spiritual. In today’s Church setting, for example, there is a tendency to idolize so-called great men (and women) of God. The men of great faith, with the strong charisma that comes with this type of ministry, are particularly prone to this idol-worship. So are church leaders, worship leaders, gospel artists – and sometimes even we bloggers.

The flesh loves to boast in so many things: knowledge, spiritual insight, spiritual gifts, its ability to ‘do’ things (like giving), etc. These things are needful in God’s Kingdom, but they are not the rule with which the Lord measures us.

God measures us through our ability to love. And what is love?

Love is maintaining a pure heart. I believe that is the best expression of love that I can find in the Bible. I believe that a pure heart is what encompasses holiness, for our God is a holy God. It is not ‘doing’ or having things, even things of the Spirit. This world is a place where our hearts are tried 24/7. Therefore the challenge to love is the playground for the believer.

Love is the place where you can show who you truly are. It is the place where you can lose your life. It is the place where you are beaten and humbled by God (through circumstances) until you drop all your pride and discover and rejoice in the fact that you are nothing. If you are walking in love, you will constantly discover that you are not giving of your life as much as you think you are. Love is the place that of real sacrifice. And there are more than enough situations every day to exercise this love.

It is good to have prophecy and spiritual knowledge. These are deeply spiritual things. But it is far much better to walk in love, to take up our cross and follow Christ.

I believe there are people who do not even know the Bible, people who cannot read (or who cannot afford) a Bible. And yet these people know and walk in love because they are able to surrender to the Holy Spirit in them.

On the other hand, there are people who are very knowledgeable in spiritual matters, but who are unable to walk in love.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God is the man or woman who can walk in the kind of love that is stated in these scriptures. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit in us can lead us to walk victoriously on that road of the cross.

[Below: Frank and Carol Lanthier]

Carol & Frank