Paul – A True Servant

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cencrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. 13 Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, and Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you…. 21 Timotheus, my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in  the Lord. 23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. Rom. 16:1-23

Ah, the Apostle Paul! Paul’s life is a study in the working of the grace of God in every way.

Notice how close and personal Paul was to the people he ministered to. This was another grace that he had, apart from the grace to preach the gospel. Paul had the grace to live, interact with and know God’s people. He knew each one of them intimately. Of course, Paul did not Google their profiles. On the contrary, he paid the price to get to know them in as fine details as he did.

Notice also Paul’s salutation in his epistle to Philemon.

“1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearlly beloved, and fellowlabourer, 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house…” (Phlm. 1:1-2)

How did Paul come to relate to God’s people in such an intimate way?

Paul lived with the people of God. One of the things that I love about the Apostle Paul was that he did not end up in 5-star hotels when he visited the churches. Rather, he lodged in brethren’s houses. Here he tells us who his host was. It was Gaius, a brother in the local church.

In that way, Paul got to know each one of God’s people individually.

You cannot get to know people intimately if you are a hotel-based preacher. Preachers always tell people how much they need to have that all-important privacy in order to be with the Lord, etc. My reckoning is that you should spend all the time you need to be with the Lord before you go to the conference or meeting. Once you join up with God’s people, you are their property and you should avail yourself to them fully. You are not, for example, to come to the service just in time to be welcomed to the pulpit with the reasoning that you could not have come earlier because you did not want your anointing to be tainted, etc. You couldn’t possibly be more anointed than the Apostle Paul was!

Some preachers, especially here in Africa, stay in their hotel rooms long after the services have began. Meanwhile, God’s people are forced to sing for hours just waiting for the man (or woman) of God to show up!

Again, if you, a preacher has any intention of relating to God’s people, you are not to be whisked away in air-conditioned cars – sometimes a whole procession of them – and treated with gloved hands as if you are the most important person in that meeting. The most important person in that meeting are the people God has sent you to minister to. As a matter of fact, you should make every effort to sacrifice as much of your time, energy, money, comfort and freedom as possible for the sake of God’s people.

If possible, walk with the people of God to their homes.

A true servant of God is he who will serve God’s people. He will spend time with God’s people, serving them in whatever way they need to be served. Above all, he will not desire, nor encourage red-carpet treatment for himself. He will desire to walk the narrow road in every sense of the word to the end that he may be an example of what the given Christian life ought to be. To this end he will be like our Lord Jesus Christ who had

“not where to lay his head.” (Lk. 9:58)

If anyone deserved to be lodged in a 5-star hotel, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But He even did not have a place to lay his head.

And pray, what will your reward be for living such a sacrificial life? There is the heavenly reward, of course. But apart from that God will reward you with the joy of knowing your brothers and sisters in greater intimacy, as we see Paul here. Here we see Paul’s joy as he connects with each brother and sister whom he has known in Rome. In verse 15 he even says,

“Salute… Nereus, and his sister…”

I am sure that if Paul knew of Nereus’ sister’s name, he would have addressed her by name. It could well be (conjecture on my part) that Nereus’ sister was not even a member of the church; but Paul got to know this family real close and he therefore includes her in his greetings.

The point is, Paul was a man who knew his people well. God’s people were not just numbers to him. He does not say, “I am glad to hear you have 200 members in the church in Rome”; as desirable as having a large number of church members is.

In sacrificing his life for the sake of God’s people in this way, Paul perfected his service to Christ.

[Paul lived with the people of God and he took the trouble to know every one of them individually]


“Things Which Are Not Seen” – Part 2

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18

Let me pose you a question. What comparison would you, as a spiritual person, make between owning a 10 million-dollar mansion and someone whose dead bones brought a dead man back to life, in spite of the fact that, during his lifetime, this man whose dead bones brought the dead man back to life slept in “a little chamber… on the wall” whose only furnishings were “a table, and a stool, and a candlestick”? (2 Ki. 4:10)

If you are a person who only sees in the natural, I will bet that a 10 million-dollar house must sound very attractive to you.

What you don’t know you don’t know.

And what comparison, pray, could there possibly be between a man who could walk on water, as Jesus did, even though He had “nowhere to lay down” His head, and a preacher who sleeps on a million-dollar water bed?

Once again, I will bet that if you are a person who sees only in the natural, you would very much want to know how a million-dollar water bed feels like.

Finally, what similarity can we attach between a life simply lived in this world but full of eternal hope and a life richly lived down here but empty and fruitless in the Spirit?

When Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, Texas, in August 2017, the most prosperous mega-church in America, which is located in Houston, closed its doors to the many desperate people who went knocking on its doors seeking for shelter from the floods. Not until it was shamed publicly did the church drag its doors open.

Imagine… unsaved people were opening their doors to the needy, and yet a church could not. That speaks of zero fruit of the Spirit. Luckily, that church preaches material prosperity and physical well-being. I am glad it does not preach spiritual well-being, otherwise it would have embarrassed God big time. Spiritual well-being involves coming to people’s help in time of need.

When we see in the Spirit, we despise not only the things of this world, but our own lives as well. We embrace the cross and crucify the flesh.

This great woman could have made Elisha a five-star hotel accomodation. But somehow she knew he would not need it. So instead she beseeched her husband:

“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.”

I wonder who among today’s prophets would live in such an abode. Nearly all the ‘prophets’ that I know of today are competing for a spot on Forbes magazine. All you need to do is to Google any one of their names and scroll down to the column written “Net Worth”, and you will be blown away. They sport million-dollar mansions and cars.

Elisha had none of these, but he was full of the life of God! He was the compassionate Elisha who told his servant, Gehazi,

“Call this Shunammite.”

And when he had learned of her need he said to her:

“About this season… thou shall embrace a son.” (2 Ki.4:16)

This Elisha who slept in a room on the wall was the same Elisha whose bones brought to life a dead man (2 Ki. 13:21)! Elisha had been long dead; but the life of God refused to depart from his bones! The Spirit of God stayed by Elisha’s remains long after he had died! What better witness to a holy man of God.

The Bible commands us to look at the things that are not seen, not those that are seen. In other words, we are not to see in the natural, but in the Spirit!!

When we look at the things of the Spirit, we will live a powerful life of the Spirit. Our transformed lives will testify of the power of God.

What would you rather have? God is my witness. I would rather have the life of God in me as Elisha had rather than the finest trappings that this world could offer me.

[True men of God are deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of God’s people]


Charity In Action

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. Lk. 7:13

The Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 14:1 to

“Follow after charity…”

The Apostle Peter tells us (the church) that if we do these things,

“… so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:5-11)

[May God bless these beautiful people from Fox. May He pour His grace upon their lives! Imagine if Robert Reboredo had died with only his wife struggling by his side. What a depressing state that would have been. How miserable and forlorn both of them would have been!]


Mercy, Not Law

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Jam. 2:13

I looked at the lady seated in front of me. I had prepared some hard words for her and I was ready to let fly. I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Then, all of a sudden, God’s Word knocked on my heart.

“… mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Mercy. That’s a word that ought to be always on our lips… and in our hearts. Unfortunately, much of the time our hearts are, literally, hearts of stone. Remember, under the Old Covenant, Moses carved the law into tablets of stone. But, under the new covenant, God’s law is written onto our hearts; hearts, not of stone, but of flesh. Now, we all know that there is a big difference between stone and flesh. One is hard and unbreakable; the other is soft and malleable.

Do we know how merciful God is towards us? He is incredibly merciful towards us. In the first place, He provides us with food, clothing, protection, and everything else that we need in this life. Yes, it is God who provides us with these things, despite our inclination to think otherwise. Some even attribute it to luck! You are not lucky to be alive; God’s hand of protection has been upon your life throughout. And have you ever thought of all the free things of nature that God has given us to enjoy?

Secondly, and this is the most amazing of all, He forgives us of our sins. The Psalmist wrote:

“8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:8-10)

I don’t know whether you have ever stopped to think about this, but God forgives us of our sins more times every day than we can even think of. And I am not talking about the cases where we ask Him to forgive us. Much of the forgiveness is for sins that we are not even aware we have committed – just as much, unsurprisingly, as we are not aware of His forgiveness! He forgives us silently, without creating a fuss, or even making us aware of what He has done, because He loves us. He does all this out of compassion for us. God is extremely compassionate!

It has come to my notice that nearly, or all, of the people we interact with need mercy, and not judgment, from us. And more so those who have sinned or wronged us. But it is only when we are taking up our cross that we can carry this heart in us and be able to have mercy upon others. When we are men and women of law, it is so much easier to throw the book at someone. We don’t mind too much whether it will hurt, maim or kill them; as long as the law in our hearts is fulfilled.

But the Bible even says to feed our enemies! Not with that heart, of course. But here the Bible is talking about being compassionate even to our enemies.

We need to realize that people are as weak and prone to fall just as much as we ourselves are. That is why we need that heart of compassion, for that is the nature of God Himself.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us, when it comes to confronting a brother or sister who has sinned,

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

That talks of grace and mercy, not law.

[John Starnes reminds us of God’s merciful providence upon our lives]

The Power of Love – Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I talked about how the Lord miraculously changed my heart towards my daughter. The lesson I learned there is that no amount of anger on our part, no amount of sermonizing, no amount of scolding will ever bring out the best in our children. The change must first begin with us. We, the parents, must pay the price for our children to change by changing first. And that is as it should be, for the Bible says:

“… for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” (2 Cor. 12:14)

As parents, we must carry the unconditional love of Christ in our hearts.

The brother that I was sharing my story with had joined our pastoral team here in Singida a few months earlier. But, already, I had come to love and respect him deeply. He was a man who was truly called of God, and he and I regularly spent a lot of time together. On this particular day, we were sharing the gospel casually as we normally do; the account of my daughter came up in the natural course of our conversation.

When I finished telling him my story, the brother looked down for a few minutes without saying anything. On my part, having finished narrating my story, I did not think much of what I had just said to him, and I was considering starting another topic. But the brother had other things on his mind.

After a few moments, he said, “I am touched by what you’ve just said because I, too, have a son.”

He told me that when his son finished his secondary school education, he took him to what we call here a “military school”. This is an ordinary high school, but run by the armed forces. There are therefore some military ‘extras’ in these schools.

A week after the boy had been enrolled at the school, he called his father.

“Dad, make arrangements to quickly get me out of this school. This school is completely useless. All we do here all day long are military drills. We are hardly doing any studying. Get me another school!”

The pastor told me, “I was livid. The reason I had taken this boy to this school in the first place was because he had failed his secondary school examinations. And the reason he had failed his exams was because of his bad behaviour. Instead of studying during his free time at home, he would spend the time walking around with his hands in his pockets, whistling nonchalantly and spewing every kind of garbage around the house. Whenever I told him to study, he would answer me in the most abrasive manner and continue his foolish ways.

“It had cost me a lot of money and much effort to find this school for him. When I heard him say, ‘Get me another school’, that was the end. I told him pointblank that if he ever left that school, I should never see his face in my home again. After which I hung up.”

He said, “I never called him again. But just this week he called me to tell me that the school is closing for the short holidays. He will be coming home tomorrow. Up till today, I did not know how I would receive him because I was still annoyed with him. But what you just shared with me has really touched me. I feel that, despite the boy’s rebelliousness, I also have not demonstrated any compassion or patience to him.”

The pastor left without making any promises. When we met a few days later, I had forgotten all about our conversation. But he brought up the subject almost immediately. He told me that when the boy arrived the next day, he went out to meet him. The boy, apparently fearing for his life, blurted out, “Dad, forgive me for troubling you. I have now gotten used to the school and I am enjoying it.”

To which the dad replied, “No. It is I who needs to ask you for forgiveness. Forgive me for being so hard on you. I ought not to have spoken so harshly to you.”

At which they both hugged and the father led his son inside the house.

“That boy has changed”, he told me. “Gone is the cockiness and defiance. It has been replaced by a seriousness I have never seen in him before.”

Every year’s end, during the December holidays, our organisation, CTMI ( holds regional youth camps in various countries around the globe. This year’s East African youth camp will be held in the town of Musoma, in Tanzania.

I am glad to say that, this year this young man will grace our regional youth camp for the first time. His father told me, “I just asked him whether he would go and he replied yes. I never expected that answer. It came out of the blue!”

“No, my friend”, I told him. “You paid a small price, and this is the reward for taking up your cross.”

The Bible says:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (Jn. 3:16-17)

Let us live, not to condemn, but to love.

[Below: Buses at a weighbridge near Dodoma]


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]


His Name Was Malchus!

The servant’s name was Malchus. Jn. 18:10

The Bible is a Book of little people. Really, really little people. People like Gideon:

“…behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Jdg. 6:15).

That was like, literally.

The Bible is also a Book of tiny, inconsequential towns, like Nazareth. Nazareth’s status was perfectly summed up by one Nathanael, who said, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46)

But no matter. For it was in Nazareth that our Lord Jesus Christ was brought up and henceforth His name would be associated with the town, as Jesus of Nazareth. Scripture had foretold that,

“… He shall be called a Nazarene” (Mat. 2:23).

Now here we read about this man, Malchus. This was the high priest’s servant whose ear Simon Peter cut off when they came to arrest Jesus…

I always wondered why this servant’s name had to be included in the Bible. It seems so innocuous. Why should anyone care what this guy’s name was?

I am sure, even today, that many of us read this scripture and move on without any second thoughts about its implications.

But this particular scripture has huge implications. It was put there – by God Himself – for a reason.

In that smallish sentence God was announcing, “I care!”

This Malchus fellow did not deserve anyone’s attention. Actually, he was an enemy. I wonder how you would feel about someone who was about to take away your child to go torture and kill him? There is only one word (or two)… VIOLENT OUTRAGE!!

The whole world would consider you crazy if, instead of pumping the fellow full of bullets, you took a photo of this murderer and you framed it nicely and you put it in a prominent place in your living room. Then, whenever someone came in you would tell them, “I love this guy. That’s why I have put his photo in my living room.”

If you did that, people would conclude that your mind had snapped, out of sorrow. They would not understand nor believe your words.

But this was exactly what God did with Malchus. God is the author of the Bible, and He took the name of the man who had come to arrest His Son and personally wrote it in the Bible, thus introducing him to us. In writing Malchus’ name in the Bible, God introduced him to His family, the church. Now we all know Malchus. He is God’s special friend.

God cared enough for Malchus to have his name written in His holy Book, the Bible.

It does not matter that he came up as an enemy of Jesus. After Jesus healed him, he must have gone back a deeply changed man. I have a strong feeling that we will find him in heaven.

God cares. God cares about everyone. He cares especially for those who have no one to care about them. God’s love is so great the human mind cannot fathom it. His mercy and compassion know no bounds. Yet it is God’s very heart – a heart of sacrifice – that we as His children are to carry towards a needy world.

[In the perfect Biblical setting, everyone can express their mind freely because the love of Christ is there]


Grace For Compassion

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Lk. 10:30-37

Have you ever thought on forgiveness? Have you ever wondered why we need to forgive people, and especially those who have grievously hurt us?

There was a time when I thought that in the above story Jesus was referring to actual robbers. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to see that the story is beyond flesh and blood robbers. Instead, it is about people who have been robbed of something in the spirit realm.

In the spiritual world, the devil is the real robber and he robs men and women of the things of the heart. And when men have been robbed of the things of the heart, their hearts become empty and dark. They therefore become bitter, angry, hurting, and sinful.

But notice also that this scripture is talking about compassion, and mercy. When we are carrying selfish hearts we think about ourselves. As they say, we look out for No. 1 – our own interests, our own lives. When people therefore hurt us, we think of how much we have been hurt. But when we carry the heart of Christ, we think of the suffering and emptiness in those people’s souls. That is why we can forgive them. Compassion is the foundation upon which forgiveness rests.

God’s Kingdom is all about the heart. Therefore, in this parable, Jesus was talking about the heart, a compassionate heart.

Let us take the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. His was a very real and physical experience. After they had finished crucifying Jesus, His many tormentors did many other hurtful things to Him. But I believe it was the words that they spoke to Him that must have caused Him the greatest amount of pain. In the Gospel of Mark we read,

“29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” Mk. 15:29-32

Now, remember that Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I. The words came at Him like barbed arrows, and they were intended to hurt Him. Do you know what it means for someone to wag their head at you? It means they utterly despise you. And – unless you are made of stone – it hurts. It hurts real bad.

But, y’know, the way we are, when we read these words, we think, “Oh, that’s easy. I could take that.”

But no; it is not easy, and no, you could not have taken it. The way we are today, few of us could have come to taking the hurt. Why? Because our lordship the flesh has not been crucified and therefore our personalities are bigger than the Lord Jesus Himself. The result? We trip at the tiniest slight upon our perceived rights and dignity!

But what did the Lord do? Did He get bitter? Did He feel degraded and vow  they would pay for it? No. On the contrary, he saw the misery in their hearts, and had compassion on them. And in His mercy He prayed for them:

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Lk. 23:34

Jesus did not pray for His tormentors because “it is written”. On the contrary, His prayer was born of compassion, and mercy. By doing this, He revealed true love.

I can vouch for the fact that were it not for the nails holding Him up there, Jesus would have come down and even in His pain He would have held them all in His arms and – if only they would open their hearts – fill them to the brim with His grace. Did He not say so Himself? (see Mat. 23:37; Lk. 13:34)

Let us consider briefly the Apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered why Paul would write:

“1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:1-3?

Paul wrote this out of love. In his love for his fellow Jews, Paul would gladly have given up his place in Christ for them! Such a thought is unfathomable..

Lastly, let us take a look at Stephen. When the Jews stoned Stephen,

“… he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).

Did Stephen “copy” Jesus’s words at the cross? No. Stephen’s words came from the heart. Stephen had the heart of Jesus, a heart which had a limitless amount of love such that he could show mercy on his tormentors.

I once heard a preacher say, “Stephen asked God to forgive the Jews only this particular sin (of stoning him). They will answer for the rest!”

But those are vengeful words, and that is neither the heart of Christ, nor was it the heart that Stephen carried. Both Jesus and Stephen loved their persecutors, and they had mercy on them. If you love someone, you cannot ask God to forgive them only a specific sin and at the same time ask Him to make sure they pay for all their other sins!!

The story of the Good Samaritan is especially relevant in the case where a brother or sister has stumbled, or has wronged us. In both cases that we have reviewed above, God revealed His heart for the fallen Jews through the words that Jesus and Stephen spoke: “Forgive them”. His was a heart full of mercy.

In the same way, we ought to see deep into the heart of a brother who has stumbled and fallen. We ought to have a heart of mercy towards them. It is they who are actually suffering. They have been robbed of something; that is why they are doing what they are doing, even if they are doing it against us. We are called upon to lay down our lives for such brethren, if perchance they might arrive at a place of repentance.

It is in the same vein that we evangelize. We should not evangelize to fill up our churches. We should evangelize because we love people. The Apostle Paul says:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14).

Paul did not say, “The law constrains us”. Unfortunately, for many people it is all about the law. It is about fulfilling a certain program. But law and programs have no power to bring life. They have no heart. That is why the priest and the Levite – who were men of law – could not help the wounded man. They were more dead than he.

Love is sensitive in the Spirit and it keenly feels, not its own pain, but the pain of others. It knows, not what it has been robbed of, but what others have been robbed of. The heart of God is a heart of compassion, compassion beyond belief. He can see deep into the miseries that men suffer.

But the even better news is that God has the perfect remedy for our suffering souls. He has given His life for us. He has paid the sacrifice for our deliverance. If we will only humble ourselves and cry to Him, He will give us the grace we need to be rich again in our spirits.

[Below: “Go… go and do thou likewise”]

Living For Others

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Rom. 15:1-4

Recently my wife and I were in a special time of prayer. We did not set out to pray for anything specific; we simply felt a desire to spend some time in the Lord’s presence.

As we prepared to begin, the scripture that naturally came to mind was Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

We thought we knew what this scripture meant – had read and heard it taught hundreds of times. That is, until we decided to study it a little bit more; and then we were surprised to find the context in which it was written. As we read through Romans 14 through 15 we found out that this scripture was written in the context of not only not becoming a stumbling block to a brother (14:13); but, more importantly, to bear with the weaknesses of others. To not despise, and to not judge others. And, finally, to welcome everyone into our hearts, regardless of their weaknesses.

It slowly dawned on us that this required a lot more grace than we had. The admonition to judge not, and to “receive ye one another” (15:7) were quite a tall order for us. (It is the most natural thing to “receive” people selectively. And there are some things that man is a professional at, right from birth: things like judging or despising those who do not attain to his particular ‘standards’.)

But in these scriptures we also see the heart of God. The heart of God is the heart of a father. God’s heart is wide enough to accommodate everyone. No wonder God “… maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” – Mat. 5:45.

More importantly, though, we see that the Apostle Paul also carried this heart, the heart of a father. That is why he could write these things. It was a life that he lived.

No one man knows what the future holds for them. But one thing I desire of God is that He may give me the grace to carry the men and women that He brings into my life with His heart, a heart of grace.

Is it any coincidence that it is to the very people that he wrote these words – the Roman brethren – that Paul sent his most personal greetings? He proved how much of a father he was: he not only knew each one of them by name but even more surprising, he knew their lives almost inside out!

Among the many salutations that touch my heart greatly is this one: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

Paul felt it important to acknowledge that these brethren had met Christ before him! He even says these men are “of note” among the apostles. He found something POSITIVE to say about each person!

We could write much here, but let us not stray from true need of our hearts: to carry God’s grace in our lives for others.

There are so many people out there that need ENCOURAGEMENT instead of discouragement. There are so many people who need to feel a heart of SUPPORT instead of a judgmental stare.

A fatherly heart of COMPASSION is the keyword here.

Needless to say, we can arrive at this level of spiritual maturity and grace in dealing with people only when we are daily walking in the revelation of the cross – denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ. Our boasting in this regard – and it is the only boasting we have in the gospel – is when we are dying daily.

[Below: The Apostle Paul knew intimately the lives of the men and women that he worked with. Scripture challenges us to do the same]


Effective Ministry

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. 1 Cor. 13:1-3

I once saw a ‘great’ man of God speaking to a large audience on TV, and I heard him say, “If there is someone I may have hurt in one way or another in my life, I want to ask you to forgive me. Please forgive me.”

He did not shed any tears, but he did not need to. You could feel the sincerity in his voice. In other words, that man looked deep into his heart and realized there were people he might have hurt in his life; and somehow, in that instant, that fact became the single most important thing in his life; and he repented of it. That was rare indeed for me to see; but I believe that was a demonstration of God’s love!

It is not easy to speak Paul’s words today. In our day, we seem to have all of a sudden discovered the scripture that says to touch not the Lord’s anointed, and we are applying it to every Tom, Harry and Dick. We apply it to everyone who can open their mouths and say, “Thus says the Lord!” Or to anyone who can ‘prove’ that they are endowed with a ministry. And the bigger the ministry the man or woman appears to have, the greater our respect for them.

It is good to respect true men of God. But, apparently, the Apostle Paul wasn’t about to board the bandwagon of ‘total praise’. On the contrary, he came down hard on anyone who took ministry as the end result of our calling. He told the Corinthians that when it came to the Kingdom of God, love matters above ministry.

I remember one time, many years ago, some men came to our church and they taught us that a believer who has been baptized with the Holy Spirit should be changing their spiritual language every week or so. In other words, that you should be inter-changing tongues ever so regularly. At that time we were swallowing everything.

The men were about four or five in number and they spent the entire week giving us exercises in these spiritual callisthenics. They would say, “Ok, now begin!”; and if you began saying “Rabarabaraba” or something, they would say, “Now say, ‘Hai hai hai!’”

Had they stayed with us for a year, I am sure we would have learned Japanese! The minute they left, though, I reverted to my old tongues and they haven’t changed to this day.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with changing tongues once every week, but the Apostle Paul here tells us that even speaking in tongues of angels is an exercise in futility if we are not walking in love. So it is with all other ministry, however high up the ladder it might be.

The Apostle Paul tells us to earnestly covet the highest gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is right and needful to covet such gifts – but not so we become “great men/women of God”. On the contrary, it is in order that we may edify God’s people. In other words, ministry is a way of dying to self, a way of giving away our life for the church. That’s when ministry becomes love.

With all the pressure and emphasis on ministry today, Paul’s statement is a pretty powerful cul-de sac in the Spirit. It sets the foundation to any work that any man would do in the name of God, and it says that that foundation is love. If we do not have love in our hearts, if we are not walking in love towards people, all that we accomplish is of very little benefit to us and even to those we minister to. People need to feel a heart, not dry ministry. Compassion, not ‘ministry’, was what drove Jesus to do all the miracles that He did.

As much as ministry is needful in the church, the Apostle Paul – who was the greatest minister of them all – here says, “… and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” In other words, if we are to minister effectively, then the way of love is the “more excellent way”.

[Below: It is reported that the legendary American blues singer, B.B. King married twice, but both marriages snapped under the weight of his ‘ministry’*. But, apparently, King had a soft niche in his heart; in November 1972, he and other artists held a Thanksgiving performance for the prisoners at “Sing Sing” prison in New York. The performance was understood to be a risky undertaking, but King went all the same; and this is a part of that performance]

*Source: Wikipedia