ZGACT Conference & AGM 2018

Our church, Zion Gospel Assembly Church, recently held its annual general meeting, and a pastors’ conference, from the 23rd February to the 1st March, at our church’s headquarters in Shinyanga, central Tanzania. Here, in pictures.

  1. The pastors’ conference

2. The Annual General Meeting. This assembly sits tighter than the British Parliament.

3. A time to pause and reflect

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4. The team from Singida travelled 330 kilometers to attend the meeting!

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The Testimony Of Philemon – Part 1

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mat. 5:6)

The week following our visit to the churches in Lighwa (see my recent post, “An Unforgettable ‘Safari’”), the Lord granted me the immense pleasure of visiting yet another village. This time, it was the church in Minyughe, where our very first village church is located. I was delivering on a promise I had made to the local pastor, Paul Dude, some months back. This church is growing at a very satisfactory rate, both in numbers and in spiritual stature and we regularly send pastors from our pastorate in Singida Town to minister there. But I personally had not visited for a considerable while, and it was with much pleasure that I finally found myself on a bus headed to Minyughe.

When I arrived, Pastor Dude took me to see Brother Philemon and his wife, two of the people that we have ‘fished’ from the big charismatic denominations. We fish out –without apologies – people who are tired of going to these and other dead or dying churches. These are people who are tired of all the lifeless hype and the twisting of scripture to serve men’s selfish purposes that goes on in these churches. For this reason, we have become enemies of very big church people here – pastors, bishops, self-appointed apostles and every kind of self-serving preacher. But we march on unfaltering and unfazed.

That does not mean we do not evangelize and bring in brand new converts, people who are receiving Jesus into their lives for the first time. But it is the former group that I wish to talk on for a while. Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mat. 5:6)

There are two groups of believers: those who hunger for the truth; and those who don’t. According to scripture, there people in church who will hunger after other things other than the righteousness of God. That is what it says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

“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.”

That scripture right there is talking about people who are in church! But the gospel of Jesus Christ is for those who thirst and hunger for the truth. There are people who hunger for the truth of God’s Word, praise God! These people are not satisfied by the lies and theatrics that go on in much of so-called churchdom. Nor by the signs and wonders. Of signs and wonders, Jesus said tiredly,

“Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mk. 8:12)

In fact, let us read the entire account.

“11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.” (Mk. 8:11-13)

Notice verse 12. So tiring, this business of seeking after miracles.

Notice also verse 13. It says He left the sign seekers. It does not say that He left them and came back some time later.

When someone who thirsts and hungers for the truth hears God’s Word – the gospel of the cross (as so clearly stated forth by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23) – they throw off everything and go for it with all their hearts. Such a man is Philemon and his wife.

I arrived late in Minyughe and Pastor Dude took me to see Philemon that same evening. Even before we arrived at his house, the stars had already began peeking out of the clear sky. In the fading light of the evening we found Philemon seated outside, shaving his daughter’s head ready for school the next day. How happy he was to see us, and how glad we were to see him! It was like an old family reunion.

We thought we would be staying at his house for ten minutes or so, but we ended up staying for more than an hour. Philemon had a story he wanted to narrate to me. He wanted to tell me the story of his conversion, and I gladly obliged. I blocked out everything else, including the time of night, and gave myself wholly to his audience. The following is Philemon’s testimony of his salvation, told in his own words.

[Night had already began setting in when we went to see Philemon]

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[We found Philemon shaving his daughter’s head]

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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.”

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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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.

Receiving The Inheritance – Part 1

5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. Eph. 6:5-9

For almost two years ago now, one of the brothers in our church has been working as a bus conductor in a certain bus company. The people who own this company, who are Muslims, really mistreat the brother. When he is not on the road they get him to do the most menial jobs at the office: sweeping the office floor, and sometimes the entire compound; cleaning and dusting the tables, windows, doors and even the toilets. His employer treats him like trash simply because he is saved. It is not his job to do these menial tasks, but his employer makes him do them out of spite. He regularly says to him, “I will break you until you agree to become a Muslim.”

His employer’s special “punishment” initially was to make sure the brother would not attend Sunday church service. Even when he was not on the road, he had to ask for permission to attend church by messaging; and if his message was not acknowledged – none of his messages ever were – he had to report at the office.

One day, I told him, “Brother, whenever you are not on the road on Sunday, come to church. God will take care of everything.”

The man began coming to church, and his employer has never asked him a question since.

Initially, the mistreatment he received at the hands of his employer placed a heavy toll on our brother’s patience. He had thought of leaving the job; but jobs are hard to come by nowadays. So he persisted. But the gospel teaches that we are to serve our masters from the heart; how could one serve such masters from the heart?

The secret, as the Bible teaches, is to do things “as unto Christ”, and not to men. Colossians 3:23-24 says:

“23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Our “inheritance”, or reward, is not with men. It is with God, and therefore, it is God that we should serve, and not men. But that’s pretty tough when God commands us to serve Him by serving men!

But let us go back to our key scripture above, Ephesians 6:5-9.

Let us first begin by asking: what does the scripture mean by “neither is there respect of persons with him”?

Remember God is talking to the church here. This scripture therefore simply means that we are all equal in the sight of God. Due to our fallen nature, men have a tendency of categorising men in the natural. Having categorised them, we then handle them according to the categories that we have assigned them. When we encounter a rich or important person, for example, our demeanour changes all of a sudden. We bring out the best in us. Sometimes we can do things that can even surprise us.

Another example is when a person from the Third World meets a person from the West. I know this is tough to admit, but it is true. Under normal circumstances, such an encounter is quite a study in human psychology! But this state of affairs is of God because God said:

“25 … Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Gen. 9:25-26

Some people have a problem with this scripture, but why should you have a problem with something that God said in the natural?

But in the Spirit, praise God, we are all equal in God’s house!

That is why the Bible is quick to remind the church that with God there is no respect of persons, lest any believer consider their natural score as anything with God. God only distinguishes in the Spirit, and this is why we need to strive to serve God in the Spirit, i.e. with the fruit of the Spirit. For we who are called to be spiritual, everything is to be done from the heart, the heart of Christ. The Bible tells us that God is love. We are to do everything out of love. When in a position of servanthood (or slavehood), therefore, we will serve out of love – love for the person we are serving and love for Christ.

Love engages our hearts. With love, it does not matter whether men see our service or not. We will not work very hard when the master is around and throw our tools down the minute his car drives out of the gate. We will not smile at him but harbor a grudge against him.

No, we will smile at our master and serve him with all our strength because we love him. Love is something far more superior than the cheap menpleasing stuff we carry on with. We could say that love is the true servant. If we do not have love in us, our service is hollow, and futile.

Today, of course, this scripture applies mostly to contractual, paid servants. But in Roman times, when Paul penned these words, most “servants” were actually slaves. And we all know who a slave is. A slave has no freedom of his own and he is to do his master’s bidding by compulsion, if necessary. And yet these slaves were the very people that Paul was addressing here, telling them to work for their masters

“with good will doing service, as to the Lord”!

I believe in our time and generation we are privileged. We have many privileges and one of them is that we are privileged to be free. Let us not abuse this freedom. Let us rather benefit from it by using our freedom to serve both God and men from the heart, with an open heart, joyfully and with all our strength.

Suffering For Our Faith

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat. 16:13-25

In 1 Samuel chapter 22 verses 1 to 2 we read the following account of David:

1 David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

Four hundred men… what a small number! But the Kingdom of God is built upon weakness, not strength; in inadequacy, not competence; in insufficiency, not abundance. Four hundred men is a perfectly sufficient enough number for God to bring about a world-shaking phenomenon, for that was what the kingdom of Israel would soon become under King David.

As we noted in an earlier post, we must move on – move on to maturity. Leaving the basic doctrine of our Christian faith, we of necessity must grow, or move on, to perfection. But, in order to find ourselves on this road, we need spiritual perception.

The account about David is therefore an analogy: an analogy of Christ, the cross and us. Throughout scripture, the Bible talks of only one Christ – the Christ who was crucified. The cross signifies Godly suffering. Hence, in one scripture we see David suffering; and, in another, we see Christ suffering.

Interesting, isn’t it… that David escaped King Saul by hiding in a cave. The Bible, talking of the righteous men of old, says in Hebrews 11:38:

“… (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

The saints of old suffered for their faith. Many of us know David for his role as king of Israel. Yet, the Bible counts David among the men of old who suffered for their faith.

Equally amazing, however, is the fact that we see people who, in spite of the suffering they witnessed in David, still went out and followed him. But who were these people who went out to David? The Bible does not say that the rich and the well-fed and those contented with life gathered themselves unto David. On the contrary, the people who went out to David were all desperate people. The Bible says they were people “in distress”, “in debt” and “discontented”.

“In distress” here simply means they were poor.

In other words, the people who went out were people who had nothing to lose. They had lost everything already. Today’s world would call them ‘losers’. The men and women who went out to David were losers.

In the same manner, we can only follow Christ when we have lost all and have nothing more to lose. As long as you have so much as a shoelace to your credit, you cannot follow Christ. The Biblical standard for becoming a disciple of Christ is losing all. And when the Bible says all, it means all. The Bible says of Jesus, that He “poured out his soul unto death” (Is. 53:12).

Jesus lost all, including His life. On the cross, He died.

“24 If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

If you have something precious, better lose it now. When you go to the Lord, you go as the song says: “Just as I am, without one plea!”

But why did these people go out to David in the first place? The man was living in a cave; were they mad? Or had they lost hope to the extent that they were willing to suffer for suffering’s sake?

Hardly. On the contrary, these people saw something in the Spirit. The flashback to the reason these people followed after David is found in the key scripture above in Matthew 16. Jesus told Peter that upon the revelation of who He was, He would build the church, against which the gates of hell would not prevail.

In spite of David’s apparent weak circumstances, God brought a revelation into these people’s hearts that David was the anointed one of Israel, that he it was who would deliver them from their oppression. In David’s sufferings, they saw the plan of God for the nation of Israel!

In the cross of Christ – which represents Christ’s sufferings – we see God’s plan for us. In weakness, we see strength. In defeat, we see victory!

Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (v.10)

Those who will receive the things of the Spirit are those who have received a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who are ready to deny themselves and to share in Christ’s sufferings, with the hope of the Spirit in them. The Bible says:

11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb. 13:11-14)

The Bible says: “Let us…” God here is beseeching us. But God’s “Let us…” can sometimes be a command. Just as these people went out to David, we must move out – move out from our comfort zones, and from self-preservation. We cannot be contented with the status quo. We must desire real change in us – the change to live a sacrificial life. Blessed, indeed, is he who hungers and thirsts in their spirit for the things of God. He will learn to deny himself, to take up his cross and follow Christ.

[Below: Tanzanians standing for their national anthem]

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