The Attributes Of God

23 Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Jer. 9:23-24

This is a big one…

But, before we start… We have to realize that every word written in the Bible is written to believers, not to unbelievers. The Bible is the believer’s handbook. The words above, therefore, written by the Prophet Jeremiah, were written to the church, not to unbelievers. And the way these words are written suggest that here, right in the church, in the Body of Jesus Christ, there are believers who are boasting in all kinds of things which God never thought that a child of His would boast in.

There are believers boasting in their wisdom. Have you ever heard of people called motivational speakers? In church, I mean. They talk all kinds of lofty things and they have all these grand ideas of how you can achieve practically anything you want to achieve and how you can basically become anything and anyone you want to become. You would think they work for The American Dream, Inc. But motivational speakers are just a small part of this large group of wise men and women.

There are believers boasting in their might. I heard one owner of a Christian denomination in a neighboring country tell his bishops, “Any bishop who does not respect my wife I will throw out of my church. This time I will show you my power.” These are powerful men. They have lawyers and all kinds of musclemen who will do their bidding at any cost.

In my country, there are preachers who have all kinds of titles on them, ranging from “Transformer” to “Caterpillar” (equated to the famed heavy earth-moving machinery), to “Chief”. A little further down south we have the Major, of course.

All these self-given titles talk of earthly (not spiritual) might.

There are believers boasting in their riches. Have you ever heard the gospel called the gospel of prosperity? God’s Word hits the nail on the head with this one. The people who subscribe to this gospel are many and they flaunt their wealth about “in the Name of Jesus”.

There are a million and one ways that God’s people use to show off their “godliness”, or how much they “know” God. In addition to the few we have mentioned above, there are all kinds of circuses (real ones) going on in church today. People vibrate, pole vault, and do all kinds of gymnastics in church, all geared towards making a statement about their “knowledge” of God. Some preachers are capable of roaring like lions, with devastating effect upon their blind, terror-filled followers.

As I said, man is capable of doing a million and one things to try and convince people – and God, hopefully – that God is on his side.

But God is not in any of these groups. God does none of those things. In fact, notice how humble – and simple – God is. He states simply that He exercises

“lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth”.

Just in case you are tempted to think that those are lofty, unattainable ideals, the answer is no. They are simple, everyday principles which every believer in Jesus Christ can practicably attain to.

In the Swahili Bible, the word “lovingkindness” is translated “goodness”. How so clean and simple! Goodness is the opposite of evil, or maliciousness. It means not doing evil to your fellow man, only good.

God is simply good. His goodness has no strings attached to it.

“Judgment” speaks of a lack of favoritism.

“Righteousness” talks of not sinning against God.

All these are the simplest things that a child of God can do. And the Bible says that these are the things that please God. Not those other things which we saw so forcefully put forward in church.

But we must realize that we can attain to doing the things that please God only when our flesh is crucified; when we are crucified with Christ, as the Apostle Paul says of himself in Galatians 2:20:

“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.”

[Goodness is doing no ill to your fellow man, only good]

IMG_20190629_162613

Understanding Faith

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 2 Cor. 5:7

What a singularly powerful statement by the Apostle Paul! This scripture has been on my heart for a while; but it has not evoked the emotions I would have wanted, for instead of joy, it has brought me deep sadness. When I look at my life and the lives of my fellow brothers and sisters, I see how much we in our generation have misunderstood faith. And how, for this reason, we are walking by sight – by a mile!

At the same time, I cannot help wondering what a truly incredible man the Apostle Paul was. Who would write such words? To understand faith and to actually state that we walk by faith and not by sight! Oh, to have theman or woman who can walk by faith!

Notice the word “sight” here. This is the saddest word in the world. Through what the Bible says here – “we walk by faith, not by sight” – it is clear that “sight” is the absolute opposite of faith.

For this reason, nothing in this world can bring true joy to the spiritual man.

Sight and intellect have a lot in common. The word “sight” as used here encompasses everything that has to do with our earthly nature. It encompasses everything that is of this world. And whatever is of this world goes into our spirits through our intellect. The word “sight” therefore includes everything that has to do with our physical and emotional senses. It includes what we see, hear, taste, and feel. It also includes our ‘heart’ feelings, the emotional things.

When we see or hear or are affected by something physically or emotionally, our brain processes it and it becomes part of our ‘being’. Let’s say, for example, that someone says something good about us. Our brain will process that and we will have a good feeling about ourselves on account of what we have heard. Likewise, if someone says something bad about us, that same brain will process the words we’ve just heard and we will feel bad.

Likewise, lust. When we see a beautiful car and crave after it, it means we are drawn by what we see.

There is nothing spiritual about any of these things. Any attachment to them, therefore, is a hearkening to “sight”. It is a hearkening to that old man, self.

Faith, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the intellect. The intellect cannot comprehend anything that is beyond “sight”. But let us see what the Bible says faith is.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 1:1)

Faith sees beyond the curve of “sight”.

The words “substance” and “evidence” mentioned here basically mean the same thing. They refer to things that are tangible. So therefore faith is about things, but the Bible tells us it is not about the things that can be apprehended by the intellect, (the things of “sight”). Rather, faith sees into another realm, the realm of the Holy Spirit. This is the realm of the heart, where God works. Our hearts are God’s drawing boards. Faith therefore sees things that are tangible in the Spirit.

And pray, what do we see in the Spirit when we are walking by faith?

Faith sees the character of Christ. It beholds Christ’s character forming in us. That is what faith is. Miracles, signs and wonders form a minute portion of faith as far as the believer is concerned. That is why the apostles did not dwell on these things in their epistles. They knew what true faith was: a crucifying of our bodies on the cross with Jesus.

Hence the need for the revelation of the cross in a believer’s life. The cross crucifies our intellect to the end that our spirits might become alive to God. The Apostle Paul asked:

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath God not made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20)

He was talking about our intellect.

But concerning himself, Paul 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)

He had of necessity to die to who he was. To walk by faith – to carry Christ’s grace – demanded his death. So much so that even his name was changed. Formerly known as Saul, his name was changed to Paul. Few of us have arrived there.

The crucified life is the pinnacle of faith. This is the pinnacle of Christianity. I am amazed that all the great ministries in this world are built on miracles, signs and wonders, not on the revelation of the cross. But if we would know the breadth and length and height and breadth of God, we need to know… Christ crucified.

[What are we teaching our congregations?]

IMG_20180411_121223

Eternal Life – God’s Mystery

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Lk 17:12-19

Indeed,

“strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat. 7:14)

Only one man saw something different. One man out of ten. That is how difficult it is to see the things of the Spirit.

But first…

It is not written, but the sight of the lepers¬† standing “afar off” must have shattered Jesus’ heart into a thousand pieces. The compassion that this Man had knew no bounds. And when they begged Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”, knowing He had the power to do what they asked Him to, He couldn’t have been more glad to oblige.

“Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” He spoke casually; but He was excited, for He knew the profound miracle that would befall them along the way.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (v.14)

Jesus was happy at their cleansing; yet nothing could send Jesus’s heart pounding harder than what happened next. Scripture tells us:

“15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”

The fact that scripture states that this man “turned back” indicates that he did not wait to arrive at the priests’ office. He had no more need of that. He had met God! And having met God, he became alive in his spirit.

The other men went rejoicing, of course. Not that they were thankless, no. They were very happy and thankful. But where, pray, do you think they went? To the priests, of course. They were going to show the physical miracle that had been done for them. These men saw nothing besides the miracle that was done for their bodies.

But their compatriot turned back and came and worshiped the living God. Bye, bye priests!

This man saw something the others did not. As they say, what you see is what you get. For that reason, therefore, Jesus told the man,

“… thy faith hath made thee whole.” (v.19)

We can finally perceive what true faith is. It is seeing into the Spirit. Jesus was now not talking about physical wholeness. That had already been accomplished. Here Jesus was talking about spiritual wholeness. This is the greatest gift a man can receive from God.

When we see God, we get done with the law! Our spirits become alive!! We are free men and women. That means we can worship God in truth and in the Spirit, for the life of God resides in us.

We ought to endeavour to go for the life of God. Christ’s life in us. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified… 24 Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22-24)

Paul and those who worked with him did miracles, but they distanced themselves from the miracle ‘ministry’ and the wisdom seekers. They sought after the life of God in them instead.

Lastly,

“… and he was a Samaritan.”

Wow. This man was not a Jew. Jesus called him a “stranger”.

The people in greatest danger of not receiving the life of Christ are, sadly, those of us who claim to be saved. ¬†The problem is, we tend to think in terms of entitlement. For this reason we take the grace of God in vain. But forget about all the rights you think you have in Christ. God’s Kingdom is for those who do not think anything of themselves. That is why Jesus told the Jews:

“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (Jn. 9:41)

Imagine that. Jesus told them it were far better if they had been blind!

The Apostle Paul said,

“I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11)

That was Paul’s perspective of himself.

Recently, I was drawn to read about an American preacher who wears $4,000 shoes. Y’know, just shoes. In America they call them celebrity preachers. I wondered what a man who wears $4,000 shoes thinks of himself.

But what does the healing of our spirits do for us?

We become men and women of grace, for the life of Christ works in us. In 1 Cor. 15:45, the Bible says:

“… the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

The last Adam, Jesus, was a life-giving Spirit. That is what we become when our hearts are touched and changed by the Master.

[A mother and her child arriving home in the evening]

Image21672

Living For Others

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despisehim that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Rom. 14:1-3

Those are powerful words:

“… for God hath received him.”

We all have a lens through which we view things in life, and each one sees differently. But no one sees perfectly; only God does.

One of the easiest things for us to do as believers is to think that we alone are called. And if we are able to extend a little more grace, we add to that small list of I, me and myself others who have the same beliefs as we. That is why there are all these small groupings calling themselves “family”, or “church” all over the world who think that somehow they are different from other believers. In their minds they think they are the ones with the particular brand of faith that is acceptable with God.

But this kind of thinking is simply a testimony of our narrow-mindedness. And we are going nowhere with God when we carry such narrow-hearted attitudes. God is big-hearted, and He accepts everyone who comes to Him. The Bible says in Romans 10:12-13:

“12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Notice,

“Whosoever”; and,

“all”.

Once we come to the Lord, all our differences are cast aside. Once we come to the Lord, we have only one common denominator: we are all products of the mercy of God. God has children – of different levels of faith – all over the world. Notice that God does not differentiate between His children. All are His children, and there are no levels of faith with Him. That talks of the power of the grace that God has. As long as we are serving God, at whatever level of faith we are, God accepts us!!

One of the gravest mistakes, therefore, that we can make with God is to think that somehow we are special on account of anything we might be or that we might be doing on God’s behalf.

Surprisingly, even we do not differentiate between our children whom we have borne in the flesh; but when we become children of God, all of a sudden we think we are special, and we want to act special and to be treated special. All this is on account of the flesh. The flesh thinks in terms of I, me and myself; and this means we are still spiritual babes.

But, even though God would want to see each one of His children exercising great and perfect faith, yet what truly matters with God is the way we carry along with the little or big faith that we have. In Romans 14:10-12 we read,

“10 … for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

One day we will give an account to Christ of how we carried on our lives here on earth with our faith, and that is all that really matters.

But the Bible goes beyond merely encouraging us to accept one another. It presses us to go the extra mile and do something for those whom we deem are not as strong in faith as we are. In Romans 15:1-3, the Bible exhorts us,

“1 We then that are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbor 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.”

Notice,

“Christ pleased not himself”.

In other words, Christ could have pleased himself. He could have been thinking of Himself. According to the full and perfect faith that He had, Christ could have considered Himself the genuine, bona fide Son of God (which He was), with all rights attached. But He chose to please others instead, for their spiritual good. For this cause, He upended things and chose to sit at the very bottom where every one of our sins fell on Him.

That is not an easy thing to do. But Jesus had the grace of God without measure (Jn. 3:34).

May God’s grace be abundantly upon us to mature us to the extent where we can carry hearts of mercy and compassion towards other believers who are different from us, and where, rather than judging, we will desire to contribute towards them knowing Christ and living the Christian life better.

Despising Shame

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us rub with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:1-2

So many things here. But today I just want to address one thing here. But just before I do that, did you notice that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses? They are listed in Hebrews chapter 11. These are men and women who made it. By the grace of God they saw the reward in the Spirit and surrendered their lives that they might receive it.

But today I want to talk about ‘despising the shame’. The Bible says this was what Jesus did.

At first it did not catch my eye. I never understood what shame Jesus despised. Then, slowly, the Lord taught me.

Have you ever had situations in your life where you were shamed? I mean raw, ordinary shame. I would be surprised if you said “No”.

However well set we are, somewhere in life we all will have situations where we will be put to some form of shame. I can recall many times in my life where I have been shamed. Being shamed was the single most difficult spiritual trial in my life. Probably because it began since childhood…

Anyways, long into my salvation, I still reacted against being shamed. I never realized that our Lord Jesus Christ was also shamed. Then, one day, the Lord opened my eyes. I saw clearly that what I was fighting against was the same thing that the Lord despised. Shame. Our Lord not only endured the cross, He despised shame.

Wow! I had never seen it that way. The ordinary situations that we think are unconnected with the gospel. For me, a simple thing like my wife saying something to me in front of people which I considered offensive or ‘disrepectful’ (and she is a pro at that because she never really minds speaking the truth to whoever she needs to speak it to); something like that could start a conflagration that would have all heaven ceasing every activity to wonder at with open mouths.

But one day I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me. It was very clear. I was all alone when the Lord led me to that scripture. He asked me, “Is the word ‘shame’ there or is it not.”

I said, “It is there.”

The Lord said, “How come you behave as if you have never seen it?”

I said, “As a matter of fact, Lord, I had never seen it. This is my very first time to see it.”

He said, “This is exactly what that scripture is talking about. You must despise shame. Shame of every kind. That is what the cross is for.”

I had never heard anything so clearly. And I knew, just hearing that in my spirit, that I had taken one of the biggest steps in my spiritual walk. That I could despise shame! I had never thought I should.

Ever since that day, I know I not only should despise shame; but I can, too. I am not always able to; in fact, I fail often. But I realize I can laugh at shame. And whenever I manage to do so, what sweet victory!

So many situations rise up to shame me. But the realization that this was the very thing that my Lord Jesus despised gives me the strength to do the same.

What say you? Don’t you think we ought to despise shame? Shame of every kind? There are so many versions of shame, but we ought to despise every kind of shame.

But we cannot do that without the revelation of the cross in our hearts. Without that revelation, we will fight for our pride and rights.

While this applies to every believer, yet I cannot help thinking about many of today’s preachers in this respect. Those who have no revelation of the cross. Many today are so big they are bigger than God Himself. Today’s apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and whoever. The self-proclaimed ones. I cannot help thinking about them. They have a long way to go… down.

I don’t know about you. But me, I want to welcome and rejoice at any and every opportunity that rises for me to be shamed. It’s the only road we have as believers.

A Given Life – Part 1

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19

Let us read that again.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham

“… offered up Isaac.”

In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,

“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)

in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,

“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.

But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.

“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 cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.

When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.

[Oh, those songs!!]

Faith-Patience-Perfection

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Jam. 1:2-4

The first thing I want to say is how attractive the two words “patience” and “perfect” appear to me. They fascinate me. From afar. They draw me to them with a great sense of wonderment.

Is it even possible to imagine that one could ever arrive at being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the Spirit? The thought seems presumptuous. And yet the Apostle James coolly tells us here that it is possible; and he makes it appear so easy. In just a few steps, he makes it possible for us to arrive at Godly perfection.

But… You cannot just wake up one morning and say, “Abracadabra! I am perfect!” To arrive where the Apostle Paul arrived at – “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) – is an incredibly long and painful step process. But it is joyous and relieving in the Spirit.

Joy

Every believer loves dancing and rejoicing like David in the Bible. It is all good and acceptable before God to sing with joy when things are going in our favor. But have we ever stopped to think that the Bible specifically commands us to rejoice when things are going against us. Like when we are being opposed. Or when we are financially broke. Or, even, when we are sick.

The charismatic gospel teaches us that anything that comes contrary to our physical, material or financial welfare is of the devil, and that we should rebuke it. But such teachings could not be further from the truth. The true gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that these contrary things try our faith. Our faith is so precious it has to be tried by fire. It will be tried and tried until it stands pure and unadulterated.

For this reason, therefore, we ought to rejoice with extreme joy, not just when things are going well in our lives; but even more so when they are not.

Have you ever suffered a little for the gospel’s sake and rejoiced for it? If you have, you are on the right track.

Patience

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

I have absolutely no doubt that patience is a virtue that most of us would give anything to have. From reading this scripture, it is clear that patience is a step away from Godly perfection. The man who can exhibit Godly restraint in the face of opposition is not far from being perfected in the Spirit (or they already are).

But did you ever stop to think about the cost of patience? The Bible gives it right there. The cost of patience, the Bible says, is joyfully accepting “divers temptations” in one’s life.

The call to salvation is no picnic. On the contrary, it is a call to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow Christ in His sufferings and death.

The ‘King’s Kids’ creed and the prosperity gospel that birthed it both belong to the garbage dump. Those are silly and childish beliefs and they will never work patience in anyone’s heart.

What does scripture mean by ” the trying of your faith worketh patience”?

Far from the popular belief that our faith is for claiming cars and private jets, scripture here makes it abundantly clear that our faith has been given to us in order that we may endure suffering. Our faith brings far more glorious blessings than the material blessings of this world. Yes, it is true that the trying of your faith could bring you a new car, money or any other material blessing. But that is a very small blessing.

The Bible tells us what the grand prize is when it comes to the trying of our faith. The Bible says it is… patience. Patience connotes suffering. But it is also a blessing of unspeakable magnitude. Why? Because it is eternal. As our faith is tried over and over in the fire of adversity, it grows stronger and stronger and it brings down bigger and bigger strongholds of the enemy. Like our pride. Or anger. Or fear.

Perfection

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Are we so soon there? Have we so soon arrived at perfection? Yes, we have. But… not just yet. Notice that we have to “let patience have her perfect work” in order for us to be perfected.

Becoming perfect is a result of a life that is ruled by patience. If you are the kind of believer who cannot be touched, you need to know that you are not letting patience have her perfect work in you. In other words, you are not allowing the cross in your life. But the cross is exactly what you need. You need to work at killing your ego or whatever it is that is preventing you from becoming patient.

And how, pray, do you go about working on that? It is by ‘letting’. We have to allow things into our lives; things that chafe at us. In other words, be happy when trials and temptations are chipping away at your anger, pride, etc.

When we have become perfectly patient, that is when perfection begins working in us. When we have been perfected in patience, then we are “perfect and entire, wanting nothing”.

Whew! what a work! But, again, what a goal!

Interlude: Tribute

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56

Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.

This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.

When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.

For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.

Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.

When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.

My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”

Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.

When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.

Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”

Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.

But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”

With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.

At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!

When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”

After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”

Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.

That was when the pastor called me.

When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.

With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,

“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. 4:7-8)

For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.

[Home – our eternal home – calls]

Your Heart! – Part 3

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mk. 7:17-23

The freedom that we have in the Spirit can only be accessed through the cross. The cross working in our lives, that is. Any freedom outside of the cross of Jesus Christ is of the flesh. True faith, whereby this freedom is found, states with the Apostle Paul:

“19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. 20 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. 2:19-20)

Notice the things that Paul says about himself. He is

  1. “dead”;
  2. crucified with Christ”;
  3. “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”;
  4. “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God”.

Paul’s life was crucified! Paul no longer lived! On the contrary, Christ lived in him.

What profound facts! What a profound place to be! What an entirely different lifestyle from the humdrum and tepid Christian lifestyle that most believers live. We are so carnal, so selfish and so self-centered, and therefore we are deprived of the beauty and the power of the Kingdom of God.

Notice Paul says that because he was crucified with Christ, therefore Christ lived in him.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

The two cannot exist together. You cannot be alive and at the same time have Christ live in you. If Christ is to live in you, you must go. That was the revelation that Paul received from Christ.

And yet, as we see here, the truly wonderful thing about Paul was that, as he says in Acts 26:19,

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

It is all about obedience. Paul could have received the revelation and sit there and begin wringing his hands and mulling over how he would one day crucify his life. He could have said, “What a wonderful revelation! I am now going to lay me down and sleep and I can come back next year and look at this revelation in a different angle. After which I will work out how to approach the cross. Oh, what a wonderful revelation!”

But no. Not this man, Paul. When Paul received the revelation of the cross, he crucified his life. He crucified his life with Christ, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in his mortal body.

This reminds us of Abraham who, when God told him to circumcise himself and all the men in his house, the Bible says:

“23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him… 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” (Gen. 17:23-26)

On the very day that God told Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham obeyed God and did so.

God is pleased when we obey Him instantly, as Abraham did.

The need for obedience is the reason why, in our key scripture, Jesus swoops in on the heart. It is such a waste of time, energy and resources to approach the things of God through form and the other natural avenues that we attempt to. The reason for all this preoccupation with these things is because we are nursing our disobedience. For this reason we will never arrive where God wants us to arrive at: His throne room of power, grace and wisdom.

But Jesus wants to help us to go directly to God and to receive from Him. We do this through obedience.

In speaking to His disciples about the heart, Jesus was in effect saying, “Circumcise your hearts; that is enough with God”.

When we fail to circumcise our hearts, we are just going round and round in the wilderness like the children of Israel. They did so for 40 years and in the end they all died there!

What a tragedy. But yet, again, what a lesson for us.

We are to look at our hearts. Forget about form. God’s attention is fully centered on our hearts.

If you take a toothpaste tube written “Colgate”, although the tube is beautifully and ‘loudly’ adorned with all kinds of writings and drawings, yet you know full well that the “Colgate” (the toothpaste) is inside. You have to squeeze the tube to bring out the real stuff – the “Colgate” toothpaste.

In the same manner, God allows many circumstances into our lives to squeeze whatever is inside us out. Whatever we have inside of us is the life that we have in us, and that is what comes out when God brings people and situations to squeeze us. And so it is that when we have not the cross working in us, whenever we are squeezed we give out the “evil things” that Jesus stated here. These are the things that you will find in an un-crucified heart.

evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness”. (Mk. 7:21-22)

Jesus said,

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (v.23)

What troubles God, therefore, is not the food we eat but, rather, on the contrary, it is when we have these “evil things” in us. These things are the result of a disobedient heart, a heart that does not want to be circumcised. A Christian who does not want to crucify his/her life.

But when we are crucified with Christ, whenever a situation squeezes us, we give out the aroma of Christ.

God be praised for the Apostle Paul who could write,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

These are the most beautiful words ever! Whenever the Apostle Paul went through a situation, he left behind the aroma (the knowledge, the grace) of Christ. He did not leave behind the putrid stench of the flesh.

Like fighting for his rights, etc.

We are to crucify the flesh. We are to crucify the rights of the flesh. We are not just to understand the revelation of the cross as Paul and the other saints understood it; we are to get ahold of our flesh and actually crucify it. We will never really get anywhere in the Spirit until we do that. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

Paul was a man on the move.

[The Apostle Paul: a man on the move]

Image20716

Your Heart! – Part 2

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mk. 7:17-23

The Bible emphatically establishes that we are truly free in Christ Jesus. Why all this freedom?

Actually, an understanding of this fact is central to our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The freedom we have in Christ Jesus is the equivalent of entering into the Holy of Holies under the Old Covenant. Through the New Covenant, God has let us in on to His deepest secrets. He has allowed us to see things that under the Old Covenant could not be seen. Then, if one saw them, he would surely have died, for they were hidden in the Holy of Holies where only one person could enter that place: the high priest. Moreover, the high priest had to rigorously cleanse himself before entering the Holy of Holies, otherwise he died the minute he entered that most hallowed place.

But now, through the New Covenant of the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, and through unimaginable mercies, God has ushered us into His most sacred inner court. It is as simple as that! It is through the Blood. It is unbelievable, but true. Through faith in the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ, we are now beholding God face to face and understanding everything He would have us understand about Him and His Kingdom.

So what is it about the freedom to eat all foods?

The fact is, food has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. In Romans 14:17, the Apostle Paul states that

“For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

The Kingdom of God is NOT meat and drink. It has nothing to do with food, so we are free to go ahead and eat anything we want. God is not in that region anymore. God was once there (though grudgingly, under the ‘holding’ Old Covenant). But He moved out a long time ago. He moved out the day His Son Jesus died on the cross. The Bible states that at the exact moment that Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross,

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Mat. 27:51)

God had moved out of the earthly temple.

But it is not just about food. Indeed, the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with anything in the natural. Actually, many of the things that we emphasize in the natural we do to cover up our nakedness in the Spirit. Derived of anything spiritual, we put out the things that can be seen in the natural: form in worship, shouting in church; clothing; outward giving; prayer (some do it on loudspeakers); good deeds; magnificent buildings; order; the list is endless. These things are not wrong in themselves. But it is not these things that God looks upon. Whether we do them or not is irrelevant to the extent that it is the heart that God looks upon.

This is the reason that when it comes to the things that pertain to this earthly body, God is not bothered in the least.

But in the words of Jesus we are afforded the grace to know where God is at. God is concerned about our hearts. We have another world inside us that is far removed from the one we see in the natural. That world is in our hearts, and this is the world that God resides in. In the strictly spiritual sense, God dwells in the unseen world of our hearts.

God therefore looks upon the heart. And it is here that the things that please or disturb Him lie.

[“Faith to walk on oceans deep!”]