Abigail’s Beauty – Part 2

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

Many years ago, when I was a small boy, my school organized an expedition for some of us to visit a ship at the coast. When we arrived, the ship’s captain led us on a tour of the big ship; but I do recall that the one thing that made a permanent mark on my mind was the engine room. It was huge. When we walked down there, it was like we had entered a different world altogether. At that young, impressionable age, the engines appeared to be a hundred stories high! Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on down there. In fact, I recall it was like we found no one down there. Just the large engines powerfully humming away by themselves.

Then the captain spoke to us about the engines. I remember the word he used. He said, “The engine room is the heart of the ship.”

The engines, he told us, drove everything on that ship. Nothing could work on that ship if the engines were dead. The engines were the life of the ship. In other words, the engines made the ship to become a ship! Without the engines, that ship was just a big piece of scrap metal sitting uselessly (and possibly dangerously) on top of the ocean waters.

It is the same with us. The heart is our engine room. It is our very life. Our heart controls everything we do. And God, in his infinite wisdom, is concerned only with what issues from our hearts, for this is where our life is. As far as God is concerned, if we are to do things without the heart, we might as well not do them. God does not regard anything that is not done from the heart. That was exactly what He meant when He told Samuel:

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

The man who wrote the Book of Proverbs probably received one of the greatest insights into God’s working, for he wrote:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Out of a man’s heart comes every issue of his life. His character comes out of his life; and so does his success, his prosperity – and even his beauty. And, in more ways than one, this inner life comes out and brightens a man’s exterior life.

That said, we cannot, as spiritual people, measure success, beauty or prosperity in material terms. No, we measure these things through what comes out of a man’s heart.

Consider Joseph. The Bible says of him,

“And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.” (Gen. 39:6)

What does the Bible mean by “goodly”? Does it mean he was good-looking, handsome? He might have been, but that is not what the Bible is talking of here.

Or, “well favoured”; what does that mean? Does it mean Joseph was built like Hercules? By no means. We might not even have any inkling of Joseph’s physique, for that is not what the Bible is referring to here.

The Bible is not interested in these things. Rather, in using these terms, the Bible is trying to show us the kind of heart that Jospeh had. Joseph had a “goodly” heart (not physique); and the term “well favoured” means he had the grace of God in him. And, through having this kind of heart, Joseph prospered.

How about Moses? The Bible record about Moses states:

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23)

Does that mean that Moses was more handsome than his siblings and that his parents therefore gave more consideration to him than to the others?

Hardly. On the contrary, the writer here is talking in the Spirit. In the Spirit, Moses’s parents saw into his heart. They somehow saw, in the Spirit, that this boy would turn out to be a vessel in God’s hands. And for that reason (for they were people of faith), “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”; and they hid Moses.

Finally, let us consider the life of what most people regard as the Bible’s favorite character, David. In most people’s imagination, as well as in folklore and in countless modern-day movies on the subject, David is given the character of a strapping, handsome young man. My guess is that all this comes from what people read about David in 1 Samuel 16:12:

“… Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

But th church has no place for Hollywood’s portrayal of a Biblical figure. All the attributes that the Bible lays out here talk, not of David’s physical appearance, but of his heart. Yes, the commendations that this particular scripture places on David are many, but that is because the heart of David had so many credentials to it.

Many of us would love to have such credentials attached to our names in God’s heavenly Kingdom;  but there is a price to pay. And these men and and women were willing to pay the price.

The price we have to pay to become beautiful in our spirits, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, is to guard our hearts. And, when it comes to guarding our hearts, there is no way around it apart from denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Christ.

Need we wonder, then, why the Apostle Paul would preach such a singular gospel,

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2)

It was because he realized the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul said,

“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29)

Christ worked in Paul’s heart mightily. The Apostle Paul was one of the most beautiful people spiritually. It was because he allowed the cross to work in him. When our hearts are well, we are the most beautiful people in the world.

Advertisements

Marangu!

Two weeks ago, our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) held its 15th regional East African ladies’ conference in the small Tanzanian town of Marangu, situated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The heartwarming moments, and the inexpressibly beautiful scenery, were priceless.

For most of the wonderful ladies who travelled from Singida to attend the conference, it was their very first time to travel so far from home and to such a beautiful gathering as this, not to mention the paradise-like greenery of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

For unavoidable reasons, I was not able to post this report earlier. But now, here, in pictures, is the story of their experience.

Stepping out.

Ogling at the age-old eucalyptus trees at Marangu-Mtoni.

One of the beautiful services at the conference.

Two of our sisters from Kenya.

Image19258

The Singida ladies welcoming their “mother”, Flo (yours truly), who arrived late.

Image19261

Some of the Singida ladies braved the early morning cold to catch a glimpse the elusive mountain.

Image19274

Mt. Kilimanjaro can just be seen in the background.

Image19275

Finally, a moment of rest for Pastor Stephen, sister Frida and the elders from the Lake Region.

Image19310

Prior to starting on their journey back home (and fully refreshed in their spirits), a group photograph for the Singida ladies.

Image19314

And… here comes the bus. Bye bye little town of Marangu.

Image19316

Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 4

There is no denying that feeding “five thousand men, beside women and children” with five loaves of bread and two fishes was an incalculably extraordinary miracle. I haven’t heard of such a feat lately; and by lately I mean the fifty or so years that I have been about on this earth.

And now, finally, we can establish the real reason Jesus was so effective in His ministry. By effectiveness, it means doing things according to the will of God. In Jesus’s ministry, prayer was involved, yes. And so was faith. But you can have the gift of faith. This does not necessarily mean you are doing God’s will. Moreover, as we said earlier, when it comes to these things, Satan can turn himself into an angel of light. He can perform counterfeit miracles.

But Jesus performed genuine miracles. A while back I read of a certain preacher in Africa who decided to not let be (as most intelligent ‘power rangers’ do) and waded out into untested waters. He pronounced to his congregation that on a certain day, he would walk on top of the waters of a nearby croc-infested river. He spent the whole week fasting. Come Sunday, and he gathered his entire congregation by the river. It is not reported, but it requires no feat of imagination to surmise that the whole neighborhood had gotten wind of it and that they were on hand to witness the miracle of the century.

After uttering “Abracadabra!” or something, the man stepped onto the water and the last his loving congregation saw of him were two giant crocodiles tearing him to pieces.

Jesus, however, walked perfectly comfortably… on the stormy waters of a raging sea. And after He had entered the boat, He ordered the storm to cease. The storm ceased instantly.

Jesus not only performed these incredible miracles, but He was able to live a life that was fully pleasing to God. So, what was His secret? The reason Jesus was able to do live such a life with ease was because He denied Himself and lived according to the will of His Father. Jesus therefore was able to tell His disciples,

“12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:12-15)

The real reason men do not perform effectively in ministry as Jesus did and with the ease with which He did it is because we are not living fully according to God’s will. In other words, our lives are not fully surrendered to God. A man’s effectiveness in ministry cannot surpass his Godly way of life. We are not all called to be miracle-workers, so we cannot measure ministry by miracles. But we certainly can measure effectiveness in ministry. Whether one is called to be an apostle, or in any one of the five-fold ministries; or whether he is called to the ministries that Paul lists in Romans chapter 12, we can only perform effectively to the extent that we have given of our lives, i.e. the extent to which we are dying to self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

That is why the revelation of the cross is so important to the believer. It is in this revelation that the believer learns to die to self and to allow the God-life to reign fully in them.

It is when we are living this revelation that we can live a life of true obedience to God and find ourselves pleasing Him fully.

Christ was the perfect example in this regard. Through crucifying His flesh since before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus served God perfectly according to the calling that God had placed upon His life.

The Apostle Paul, who followed hard in the footsteps of Christ, wrote:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

[Ministry can be as simple as one-on-one evangelism. Our effectiveness in ministry is measured by our obedience to God through living the crucified life]

Image18045

Of Joseph, and Jacob

17 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. Ps. 105:17-19

It is rare that I can read the story of Joseph without tears streaming down my cheeks. It is incredible the suffering the saints of old endured in order to carry through and keep alive God’s plan and purpose through the ages until Christ’s time should come.

All the more reason that we should consider it a privilege when we suffer for Christ’s sake. And it is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul would write:

“8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9)

If any man preach any other gospel than the singular gospel that Paul preached – (“But we preach Christ crucified…” 1 Cor. 1:23) – let that man be accursed.

For Christ has called us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. Jesus also said,

“13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Mat. 7:13-15)

Many false prophets will rise up in the last days who will show a different way, the easy way; but it leads to destruction. But the only way to eternal life is the way that Joseph, Jacob and the early saints, walked – the way of suffering.

 

Grasping The Eternal – Part 1

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mat. 16:5-12

The disciples of Jesus (if they had any wits about them) must have thought that Jesus was about to start a cult – THE CULT OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, it would have been called. Yes, it appeared that was the direction Jesus was headed. Now, if it had turned out to be so – which, bless the Lord, it turned out not to be the case – that would have been an Old Testament cult. Unfortunately, today, in Christianity, there are so many such cults, cults that are embedded in the Old Testament. There are people today who will defend the old covenant to their death at the expense of the new covenant. Well-meaning men, but who have no idea of the work of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross. Such men, such churches, are steeped in law.

I heard one ‘apostle’ from Philadelphia, in the U.S., claim he bars men in his church from sitting together with women in the pews for the sake of discipline. Yep, those were his very words. He doesn’t want the men in his church, he said, looking down strange women’s exposed cleavages, or have them dropping their pens every now and then in a desperate attempt to look at their female counterparts’ beautifully-formed ankles and leg calves!

The Old Testament law, under which many churches today are entrenched, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, law works; but it works the exact opposite of Godliness. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:3:

“But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”

All law does is to remind one of sin. Or, to put it more clearly, it makes you aware of sin. That is what it says also, very clearly, in Romans 7:7-11:

“7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

It couldn’t be stated clearer than that.

I love this preacher from Philly, he is a well-meaning man, but he has got it all wrong. He does not have the revelation of the gospel of grace. By doing what he is doing, he is putting law on God’s people. And you cannot lead people into God’s righteousness by harnessing them under Old Testament law. By his own admission, all the men seated in his church are unrepentant sinners who need the law to keep them from committing sin! His ‘church’ therefore ceases to be the church, but a cult.

On the other hand, the gospel of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) – which the Apostle Paul preached, glory to God! – is solid gold. It is the power of God. God’s grace, that comes through the working of the cross, breaks the power of sin in our lives. If, say, a short-skirted woman were to sit next to me, a man, who is being ministered to under the new covenant (the true gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby I am crucifying my flesh daily) that short-skirted lady would not make the slightest difference to me in the natural. If she had the most visible cleavage, still it wouldn’t make any difference. The likely scenario is that I would yearn for her in a Godly manner. On the other hand, when you are under the ministry of law, in such a situation you would not be free. You would be under pressure. Your un-crucified flesh would give you problems. The very thought of looking at that woman would have you beginning to fret. That is the difference between law and grace. Grace sets people free; law binds them. Preachers are stunting and ultimately killing God’s people spiritually by preaching law instead of grace to them. The law cannot set anyone free from sin.

Anyways, back to Jesus and His disciples…

[To know Christ is to understand grace]

Sell All/Take Up The Cross/Invest

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-22

This post boasts all the subjects that I have listed in the title above.

One would need to write whole books and more to dissect this small portion of scripture, so I will not attempt to do that here. Instead, I will just home in on verses 21 and 22. The Bible says that Jesus beheld this young man and He loved him. That singular fact is of great importance to us in understanding God’s heart for us.

When Jesus loved this young man, it is clear from scripture what Jesus did. The account says He told this young man:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

We cannot assume that, if Jesus truly loved us, that He would tell us anything less than what He told this young man. But the first thing is to be sure that Jesus does love us. Does Jesus truly love us? You bet He does. He gave His life on the cross for us. But the flesh has a problem with the love of Jesus for, when Jesus says He loves us, the flesh would want Him to shower us with American dollars and houses and lands; and the occasional private jet. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing gospel in the church today. But it is a worldly gospel, of the flesh, and demonic.

But, on the contrary, when Jesus turns His loving gaze upon us, He only has one thing to say to us:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus asks us to sell all that we have, to take up our cross and follow Him!

Now, we might not be rich like this man was, and we might have a problem with the “sell whatsoever thou hast” when we probably have nothing to sell. Not all of us have things to sell. But “selling all” here does not necessarily mean giving away or parting with our material riches. More importantly, it means denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. When you deny yourself, you have “sold all”!

And the poor here might not be referring to the materially poor. But what if the poor here refers to anyone who might need something from you; say, for example, someone feels they need to rob you, or to insult you, or to hit you on the cheek. That’s a poor person right there, and you need to “sell all” and let them have their way with you. Actually, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that demanding.

The gift, or joy, of denying ourselves! The pleasure is all mine, said the Apostle Paul:

“9… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

The flesh is against the cross. There is nothing in all what Paul writes here that the flesh can rejoice in. But Paul, who in the Spirit saw the beauty of the cross, rejoiced in these contrary states of affairs, things contrary to everything that the flesh stands for. They were the things that would make him spiritually rich.

Denying oneself means exactly that: denying your rights! That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“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.”

In all what Jesus said to do here, there is a denying of self. In the Spirit, you gain your life by losing it.

Finally, let us see something slightly different but equally important. Scripture says that Jesus beheld this young man and loved him. Now, even in ordinary life, when you love someone, you want the best for them, don’t you? Jesus saw this man, He saw in the Spirit the worldly wealth that this man had and Jesus immediately knew that He could turn this young man, whom He had taken an instant liking to, into one of the top “billionaires” in God’s heavenly Kingdom. All the young man needed to do was… invest. In the Spirit, Jesus saw what this man’s worldly riches were worth in heaven if he could invest them wisely. Jesus decided to inform the young man of the Good News.

“Friend”, He said. “I have for you the best investment proposition that both heaven and earth can offer.

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”.

Jesus said,

“… and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

But, sadly, the rich young man could not see in the Spirit. Unfortunately, he did not see things as Jesus saw them. He did not see the great reward that would be his in heaven if he followed Jesus’ advice to sow in the flesh and reap in the Spirit. He could see only in the flesh; and all he saw was his valuable wealth – and someone (Jesus) trying to take it away from him.

[A woman and a young man meditating]

Image18763

The Testimony Of Philemon – Part 2

Brother Philemon’s testimony.

Back in 1993, I was a regular guy who loved drinking beer in the local pub. One day, I remember I was drinking in the inner room of the pub with two of my friends. I happened to know that both these men were once saved, but they had backslidden. And so on that day, I asked them why they had backslidden.

One of them told me, “Pal, salvation is a very difficult thing.”

“But”, I countered, “I have heard them teach that there is a hell?”

“Yes”, he answered, “there is a hell.”

“Don’t you fear going to hell?” I pressed further. But they did not answer me and we continued drinking.

But something had grabbed at my heart. Hell. I cannot say it was fear; rather, it was like the word “hell” made a big impression upon me and it just would not let go.

I had a neighbor who was saved and when I woke up the next morning, I knocked on his door. I asked whether he had a Bible and whether he could lend it to me.

“Most gladly”, he said, and he went inside and came back with a Swahili language copy of the New Testament.

I took the book back home and began reading it. But all I was searching for was the word “hell”. I wanted proof from the Bible that hell exists and that every sinner would end up there.

In the course of reading that small Bible over many days, I found plenty of that proof. There was a lot written there concerning hell! Whatever had grabbed my heart concerning hell continued to tighten its grip. Gradually, a conviction formed in me that I ought to get saved. As the days went by, that conviction grew and grew.

One day I came back home and called to my wife. I said to her, “I am thinking of leaving you.”

“Why?” she asked, surprised.

“Because I am thinking of getting saved.”

“You?” she scoffed. “How can you get saved while you are drinking in the pub all day long?”

But, unknown to her, I had already made up my mind. One Sunday morning, I went to my neighbor’s house, the one who had lent me his Bible. I told him, “Here, I brought you back your Bible. See you later,  I am going up to the shops.”

“Wait”, he said. “I am going that way, too, to church.”

We walked on together, and when we reached his church, I made to pass on. But the man reached out and said, “Welcome in. Come on in and let’s worship together.”

“Oh, okay”, I said, and without much ado, I turned and walked into his church.

The service went on and, at the very end, the pastor called to anyone who would want to get saved. I stood up and walked to the front. I could feel everyone staring at me. But this was a decision I had made for quite a while, and I was simply delivering on it. And so, on that day, I got saved and became a born-again believer.

Soon after, my wife followed suit and gave her life to Jesus.

In those days, unlike today, the fear of God was in church, and the pure gospel of Jesus Christ was preached. We knew what it was to live a holy life.

But, as the years progressed, things began to change. Gradually, the pure gospel we had been hearing was replaced by something else. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was a definite change. There was an emphasis on the outside man rather than the spirit. There was, for example, an emphasis on how one dressed; and on being financially stable. In church! Now, today, as I speak, the church that I got saved in is a circus. There is little of the Spirit there. The services are a circus, geared towards entertaining the flesh. And, in preaching, there is a lot of emphasis on money. Today, when the bishop comes to visit, women lay down clothing for him to walk on, all the way from his car to the inside of the church! That was not so in the early days of our salvation. Moreover, back in the diocese in town, the churches are ranked according to how well they treat the bishop when he comes and the leaders make a huge thing out of it.

But the worst part are the broken lives of believers. The lives of believers are a joke; and so are those of the leaders themselves. There is more discord and enmity amongst church members than there is in the world.  Leaders are jostling – actually fighting – for positions in church. Me and my wife were leaders in that church, but we arrived at a point where we decided it was far much better – and safer – to just stay at home rather than go to church even if we were members of the church leadership.

That was when I met Dude here. He told me he had met some brethren who preached a different gospel, the gospel of the cross. He told me that the gospel of the cross revealed the problem of the church today, which is the flesh.

What he said made sense to me and I desired to hear more about this gospel. That was when you came to Minyughe.

In my life, I have seen much in the church, and I am convinced in my heart that the gospel of the cross is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing would budge me and my wife from this belief. We have witnessed the grace of God through the revelation of the cross in our lives. Today, our lives are filled with joy and purpose in the Spirit. We have changed! We look at our brethren in all these Pentecostal churches, fighting and living defeated lives, and we simply thank God for the revelation of the cross.

What do I believe? I believe with all my heart that this revelation will cover the entire earth, and then Jesus will come. When I read scripture, that is what it tells me. Jesus will not come back until the truth – the gospel of the cross – has been preached everywhere, to prepare God’s people.

I will forever be grateful for the revelation of this revelation in my life.

[Brother Philemon]

Image18996