Food For Thought

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Lk. 9:57-58

Y’know, I often think about Jesus’s words above, and I cannot imagine a grown man speaking such words in today’s world. Even in church, it would be anathema to speak such words. Had Jesus been in today’s hyper-materialistic church I know exactly what they would tell Him.

“You are lazy! Go work and put something over your head.”

And they would have turned away in disgust, muttering, “Stupid!”

They would do their best to shame Him.

But the Lord was about His Father’s business. He had no time, nor inclination, for the business of this world and the things that pertain to it and the flesh. Actually, Jesus did not speak those words because He needed a house. He was not soliciting for help. A house meant nothing to Jesus.

In Philippians 4:10-13 the Apostle Paul, who had the same heart as Jesus, writes:

“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“Not that I speak in respect of want”.

The spiritual men and women of old never lusted for the things of this world. When you are pursuing after spiritual things, you have absolutely no time for the trappings of this world, however ‘necessary’ they might be.

Isn’t a reproach for the church today that a person’s worth would be measured by what he owns material-wise? That a person with a car, a house, who has been to university, who is better dressed and who has all the symbols of this world upon him would be looked upon in church as someone? That’s the real shame – in the Spirit.

Jesus told Martha:

“41 Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41-42)

We are so careful and troubled about many things: but one thing only is needful: to see into God’s spiritual Kingdom and to live the life of the Spirit.

The good thing about Jesus, of course, was that, try as you might, you could not shame Him. He knew what He was about.

Do you know what you are about in God’s Kingdom? When you think about how unacceptable Jesus’s words are in today’s charismatic church setting, there’s much food for thought there.

A Sinner’s Worth

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Mat. 18:11-13

How much is a person’s life worth? The Bible says that God gave up ALL He had because He considered each sinner’s life worth that much. The Bible says in John 3:16, “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.”

Our lives were worth all that God had. You cannot lay a price to such a revelation.

But it is the individual touch that speaks volumes about God’s compassion, mercy and grace.

Beyond the fact that God sent His only Son Jesus to come to die for us, the scripture we just read in Matthew 18 gives us an even more amazing description of the incredible worth that God attaches to a sinner. Two factors are revealed here. One is that God goes for the sinner as if he were the only person in the universe. The second, even more incredible thing is that God goes after that person Himself, personally.

I remember, many years ago, how one night the Lord came calling at my heart’s door. This is how it happened. I was in my final year at the university. But I was also a sinner of the most frightful sort. That night I was all alone in my room when all of a sudden I felt a deep, indescribable grief welling up in my heart. There was no preamble; just as suddenly it was there, and without a thought the tears began rolling from my eyes. The grief was so overwhelming that it shook me till I thought I would tear apart.

Having never experienced anything of the sort before, I thought it was a sickness. But it was past midnight and the dispensary would be closed! So I lay in my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, till morning.

In the morning, I felt all right again, so I did not bother to go to the dispensary.

Thereafter, every night after that, the Lord would come and stand in my room. And then He would softly call out to me. You appreciate, of course, that I did not know then that it was the Lord. I neither heard a Voice, nor did I see any Body. I did not even feel a Presence. In fact, having established that it was not an illness, I decided it was just a feeling, and I was convinced it would soon go away!

It was long after I got saved that I came to understand the surreal drama that had been unfolding in my room those many nights back then.

I cannot remember for how long this went on, but on countless nights until the semester ended, I would spend half the night (and sometimes the entire night) standing under the showers, crying my heart out. I would cry till the tears had completely dried from my tears. Even after I had stopped crying I would continue standing under the shower, savoring a strange kind of peace. I must have cost the university a neat bundle with the water bill!

When I went home for the vacation, the Lord made His final call. I had continued living my old sinful life, of course, since I had no way of knowing that the Lord had been calling. Then, one day a pastor and three young men passed by our home. They found me there all by myself, just as I was finalizing my ‘plans’ for the evening. I would never have guessed that that would be the end of the road for the Mwita that I was then; but it was. By the time these blessed men left our house an hour later, I was back in the Lord’s fold.

It happened so suddenly, and no other member of my family was even around.

To this day, I can never fathom what it was that drew the Lord to me. I cannot understand what it was that caused Him to come looking for me. However hard I look, I cannot find anything of worth in me that could have attracted the Lord to me. I can only accept His gift of faith which teaches that He did all that out of love. Not because there was anything good in me, nor because there was any ‘worthiness’ in me, no. Indeed, I am convinced (and the Bible affirms it) that it was because of my very unworthiness that He was so overcome with compassion and mercy that He decided to give me worth.

And He did not give me any old worth; He gave us – me and you – His very own worthiness! He gave us the best that He had, the best of the best!

I give my Lord and Savior praise and glory and honor and thanksgiving for the incomprehensible grace and mercy that He showed me then, and which He continues to show to me today. And there is also something more… My heart yearns with all its strength for such a heart of love and compassion as my Lord’s. A heart that can give the best that I have. A heart that can deal with an individual person as if he or she were the only person in the world.

In reality, this is a commandment. We are commanded by Jesus Himself to love people in that manner. It is an incredibly enormous responsibility we have been shouldered with, and we are hardly up to the task. We need to cry out to God for His grace in our lives.

If I had only one prayer to make, I would not ask for any other thing. I know exactly what I want from the Lord: that particular heart of love and compassion. Somehow, in my heart, I know that those are the only true riches, the only real treasure – and therein is the richest contentment.

The Simplicity of Grace

Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world… Phil. 2:14-15

The Apostle Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history. All you need to do to prove this is to type “Paul” or “Apostle Paul” or “Saint Paul” into Google search or Youtube, and you will have material that you will be reading or watching or listening to for the rest of your life. That’s how important Paul is to history. The fame – or infamy – of Paul rests entirely on the fact that he attempted to bring about an understanding of or a ‘revelation’ of the grace of God. There are many Christians, even today, who are bothered by the amount of freedom that Paul allowed into the church, as well as many of his other teachings.

Now, considering the earth-shaking repercussions that Paul’s teachings have created in the last 2,000 years (in one place in the scriptures they declared that he and those with him had “turned the world upside down” – Acts 17:6, the Apostle Peter warned of “unlearned and unstable” men who would try to wrestle with Paul’s teachings – 2 Peter 3:16; and those were still early days); considering all his, you would expect Paul’s writings to comprise some of the most advanced, complex and thought-twisting doctrines found anywhere on the universe. This should be more so when you consider, as I have said, that Paul’s distinction has to do with trying to ‘reveal’ a subject as inscrutable and ‘philosophical’ as God.

And yet when one reads Paul’s writings, it is surprising to find that he wrote the simplest expositions on the nature of God and then proceeded to give us the most mundane instructions on how to live out that God-nature here on earth. The writings and directions of Paul are so simple that even a child can get to know exactly what Paul is talking about. They do not require anyone who attempts to understand them to have ever seen even the inside of a classroom.

Although Paul was a very learned man, he did not use his education or his mental capabilities to understand or explain God. He used his heart instead. All that we require to understand God is a recipient heart. Or, as the Bible says, a believing heart, a heart of faith.

Let us take the above scripture in Philippians as an example. In the context that Paul wrote this scripture, another word for “disputings” would be “rivalry”. And for “murmurings” we could substitute “complainings”. Both words speak of discontent.

In effect, therefore, this scripture says that when we live out our Christian lives without complainings and rivalry – that’s a contented heart – we will become blameless and harmless, which is how God’s children are meant to be.

Even in our basic human vocabulary, “blameless” and “harmless” are fairly simple words to understand. You can teach those words to children in Sunday school and they will understand exactly what you are telling them.

These two words are the most beautiful words in God’s Kingdom. They are words we need to meditate long on. The character they embody is what we have been called to embrace.

And yet, again, these two words are amongst the most difficult for us to accomplish. Living a blameless and harmless life might sound easy but it really is not. You don’t have to carry a gun to be harmful, y’know. Living that kind of life demands that we take up our cross and follow Christ. In other words, it requires a heart of grace. It is a spiritual thing, not a mental one.

To “lay my heart bare” as one blogger put it, I  must say that personally I have a problem with this scripture. I find I am still a good complainer. Woe is me! I pray for God’s grace!

Let me end with a testimony. I am proud to be associated with a certain simple, uneducated lady (who has now gone to be with the Lord) who many years ago took to task some young men who were backbiting their pastor in her presence. What actually happened was that there was a problem in the church. Seemingly out of nowhere, as it sometimes does happen, someone rose up with a grudge against the pastor and, through whisperings and murmurings, his discontent soon spread to some other unstable souls within the church.

The three young men who went to visit this old lady on this particular day happened to be in the group that had ganged against the pastor. As the dear sister prepared dinner for them, the young trio began to talk about the pastor. Totally ignoring the ‘inconsequential’ old woman, they ‘dug’ at the pastor to their satisfaction.

Well, these guys had made the mistake of their life. After eating their supper, one of them put on his religious mask and said in the most pious voice, “Dear, beloved brethren, let us now pray.”

At which the old lady said, “No, please, you cannot pray in here. What are you going to pray about, seeing that you have been back-biting the pastor all evening?”

The young men left deeply embarrassed. Inevitably, the story ‘went viral’, and through that single incident many parishioners were forced to reconsider the condition of their hearts. What followed was a wave of repentance within the church and God brought healing to that church. An old, unlearned woman had taught the church what Christianity was all about.

Today that church is one of the strongest amongst all our churches.

We may be very intelligent and know many things about God. We may have degrees, diplomas and many other exalted paperwork all to do God. We could know the Bible inside out, we could even manage to be reading it through once or twice each year. We could write new versions of the Bible, and books. We could be internationally- acclaimed preachers, and have big ministries. We could be all of these things and more.

All these things are commendable to the highest degree. If we can do them – and we should – so much the better for the Kingdom. But on a strictly personal level with God what is required of us is something far simpler than that. God requires a simple, humble heart above everything else. He requires a heart of grace. All else should come from that. Whatever proceeds out of such a heart is acceptable with God.

It sounds mind-twisting (and it should), but the truly deep things of the Spirit comprise a life simply and humbly lived.