A Man; And Money

1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:

2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:

4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;

13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Cor. 9:1-15

Today’s is a rather long post. I felt I should not cut it up into 2 or 3 parts but bring it up as a whole. So, belt up!

Notice also that the title of this post is “A Man; And Money”, not “A Man And His Money”. That is important for our understanding of what I want to share here.

I write a lot about money in this blog. Now, I will not say that the reason for this is because I do not love money… or that I do. I will not say anything about that here.

Aside from money, though, my readers will concur that I also write a lot about the Apostle Paul. But what could possibly be the connection between Paul and money?

Brother Miki Hardy, the head of our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) once called a meeting of pastors, both from the islands and from the African mainland. He told them, “Go tell your churches that we need only two things: we need a man; and we need money.”

I was not in that meeting, but when I heard that statement, in my spirit I knew exactly what Brother Miki was speaking about.

A man, not men. Getting that rare man who can fully carry the purpose of God in their hearts is no mean task, even for God Himself. The flesh, unfortunately, is a big barrier for many of God’s servants. The flesh is our most intractable enemy. That is why we can talk so loftily of the Apostle Paul. Through his ministry, Paul was able to set the standard of how a servant of God ought to be: his character, life and ministry. To arrive at this goal, Paul denied himself and gave himself fully to the call of God. He allowed God to mould him to fit His plan. Unfortunately, too many of God’s servants do not have Paul’s vision or heart. And, in our generation, God is still looking. He is looking for a man.

The case for a man is summed up in how God chose to use the Apostle Paul. Paul single-handedly and effectively took the gospel to over half the then living world. Physically. Not to mention the physical, psychological and spiritual torment he endured.

Secondly, God used Paul to write over two thirds of the Apostolic epistles, on which the entire apostolic gospel hinges.

And then there is the life that Paul lived. Faultless, and blameless. The Apostle Paul attests to what God can do with that rare man who is willing to sacrifice all for Christ.

Lastly, Paul had a heart for God’s people. He was a father to the churches. And this is the most difficult position to fill in God’s order of vacancies. Not many people have a true heart (God’s heart) for the church. One time, Paul could trust only Timothy in this regard! (Phil. 2:19-22) Incredible.

Money, on the other hand, is needed in church because it logistically helps to further the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring glory to God. Yes, money does bring glory to God if used well. Unfortunately, the love of money has created its own problems within the church. Notice the Bible says that not money, but the love of it, is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is clean. Our love of it is not. Money can accomplish a lot of good; our love of it brings only misery and tragedy, as is so evident in the world around us. When the love of money enters the church, its consequences are incalculable, and devastating.

We as the church need to understand these things.

Now, back to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a desperate lot. They were 1. Fornicators of the worst kind 2. Divisive and combative; and 3. They were very, very stingy. You would need a nutcracker to get a dime out of their pockets. (The Apostle Paul had to send an advance delegation to prepare these saints to collect money they had promised a year earlier!)

But all these things speak of the extent to which the Corinthians had allowed the works of the flesh into their lives. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the Apostle Paul addresses them thus:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal…”

We could laugh at the Corinthians were it not for the fact that we are also tempted in like manner; and I have never heard of a soldier who laughed at a fallen comrade. When we are walking in the flesh (which we do oftentimes), when we are not denying ourselves and taking up our cross, we automatically have all the works of the flesh in us, only in varying measures.

Apparently, the Corinthians were not poor folks money-wise, certainly not to the extent that the Macedonians were. But Paul had to write two whole chapters of the Bible to get them to give! And we will never know for sure whether they ever did give, for it is not recorded.

But the lesson that I want us to grasp in these verses is why we need money in church. We need money:

  1. In order that we “may abound to every good work”. The Bible says that one of the keystones to abounding to every good work means giving to the poor and meeting every good need. There are people who have a problem with giving to the poor. They call the poor “lazy”. Well, lazy or not, there are legitimately poor people, otherwise we would need to rip 2 Cor. 9:9 out of the Bible. When God blesses us and we are rich, we should not become complicated and conceited; we should remain plain and simple.
  2. Supplies the needs of the saints (v. 12). There are needs in the church. People need food, clothing, school fees for their children, etc. These are basic human needs when we are here on earth.
  3. Thanksgiving to God. When a need is met, God’s people give glory and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. They say, “Thank you, Lord, you have been so faithful!” And God loves it when His people glorify Him (For He alone truly is worthy).
  4. Prayers and Godly envy. “And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.” (v. 14) Godly people don’t envy your Ferrari. It is worldly people who will envy your material expansion. Godly people envy the grace of God upon your life.

And so, here, in Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we have the case for the need for a man, and for money, in the church.

I cannot end this post without pointing out the grace of God that was upon the Apostle Paul’s life. Notice he does not angrily lash out at the Corinthians for their sluggishness. Instead, he begins (v. 1 and 2) by praising their readiness to give, even though it is clear they did not demonstrate any. But Paul had faith in them. That talks of incredible faith, and love.

[God is still looking… for a man]

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Fathers… And Children – Part 1

Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Col. 3:21

This scripture is straightforward enough. It is the easiest thing in the world for Godly parents to discourage their children. But first…

The first thing we notice in this scripture is that it is addressing fathers. It is not addressing mothers; or parents in a general manner. This goes to show that God has put upon the father the responsibility to raise his children in the ways of the Lord.

We cannot put “mother” where the Bible says “father”.

With all due respect, there is much wrong with single-parent families and, in particular, where the parent happens to be the mother, as is so commonly the case. The question must of necessity be asked, Where is the father?

But we must remember that this scripture is addressing the church, not the world. We cannot take this challenge to the world, for the world is free to do as it sees fit. But in church, there is everything wrong if the father (if he is in church) is not taking the lead in raising up his children in a Godly manner. If a father is an absentee father and he claims to be saved, he should be confronted and be told that his assertion is just that: a claim. In actual fact,

“… he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8)

It is no less severe if the father is present at home but does not take the lead in instructing, correcting and raising his children. There are some men who consider it their wives’ responsibility to talk to and to warn the children. Such fathers will come from work, put up their feet on the table and read the newspaper. Not a thought, not a question and not a comment about the children. As long as they are putting bread on the table, they feel they have fulfilled their responsibility.

But this is a totally wrong approach to parenting. In fact, the spiritual father’s No. 1 responsibility is to raise their children in the ways of the Lord. Provision of bread is secondary. The father, not the mother, has been invested with authority from God to lead the family. Biblically, a woman does not have that authority; and even when she takes it upon herself to discipline the children, whether it works or not, still, it is not God’s plan for the family. God’s will is for the man to lead the family. The father is also the prime example to the family in Godly conduct and in showing the fear of the Lord.

In other words, therefore, it is God’s will for every God-fearing family to have a father to lead it.

There must be a Godly standard in church in our approach to these things. A woman (or man) can join the church while a single parent. In other words, she comes in from the world already a single parent. This is understood by the church and she ought to receive support and encouragement from the church. And if she stays faithful to God, God will grant her many favors, both spiritual and physical.

The same goes for a widow (or widower).

There are many reasons for the single-mother family. But any other “single mother” reason other than the above is simply unacceptable in church. And I think the worst category here is the modern fab where women want to live so-called independent lives, marriage-less, but still have children. This cannot be allowed to happen in church and the only ‘remedy’ for such an aberration is for the woman to repent – and get married, if possible. That is how the church is run.

[If a man is meandering all over the place away from his family he cannot be a competent father to his children]

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Paul – A Father To The Churches (Part 1)

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.

9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.

11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. Rom. 16:1-16

There are people, and these are mostly men, who believe that a father’s main task is to bring children into the world; in other words, to reproduce. The minute he brings a child into the world, this type of man begins preparing for his next major assignment – to bring in another child.

Another group of men – and these are the ones in the majority – consider their job done once they have provided for their families. In fact, most men feel a great sense of accomplishment if they can do this. After they have provided for their families, they go gallivanting.

Nothing is wrong with doing either of these things, minus the gallivanting, of course. As a matter of fact, producing children and putting food on the table for your family are things that are extremely important. But there is another aspect of fatherhood which makes these two to fade into near-oblivion. This facet of fatherhood is… relationships. A father might as well not be a father if he has no relationship with his children.

But, again, there are fathers who fail miserably in their relationships with their children. They have relationships with their children all right, but they only know how to scold their children and to tell them how awful and incompetent they are. They have not one good word to say to their children.

But Paul was not like that. Paul was a true father. Paul loved the children he had begotten in the Spirit – God’s people. This was because he was a man of relationships. The Apostle Paul was all about relationships.

I cannot contemplate the price that Paul paid to have the kind of relationships that he had with the people that he ministered to. It was born of love – the epitome of love.

We see here that Paul took time to know the people he ministered to. Apparently, when he went to the churches, he did not stay in hotels or guests houses. He lived with and among God’s people. He interacted closely with them. He wove his life together with theirs. He wanted to and he came to know them, and he became a part of them. Paul got to know their littlest problem – and their every trait. In that way Paul became a true father to the churches.

[Below: Allow me to introduce to you my super-special friend, Jemimah. I have many super-special friends; but Jemimah just has got to be extra-super-special. I got to know Jemimah through her grandfather, who is one of our pastors here in Singida. Jemimah’s looks are worth a thousand words and, despite her cool demeanor in these photos, she is as lively as they come]

Father Is In The House!

Many times in church we hear the phrase: “Jesus is in the house tonight!” I am sure many of us would be surprised to hear a pastor say: “Father is in the house!” We most likely would think, ‘That is cult language!’

And yet it is truly the spirit of fatherhood that we need in Church. The Apostle Paul, talking about God’s family, puts it this way: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…” Eph 3:14-15. The Bible says clearly that Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father to us. It is the voice of the father that we need to hear in Church. It is the presence of the father that we need. Fatherhood is the most important institution on earth and in heaven!

One of the biggest curses that today’s generation is burdened with is the fatherless family unit. Many factors lead to this – fathers who abdicate their responsibilities, early pregnancies, divorce. Sometimes, the father dies early; but here the Bible gives the option for the widow to get married (1 Tim. 5:14).

Another contributing factor is that today’s generation is simply a rebellious generation and for some, single motherhood is actually a fashion statement! It is their way of saying ‘No’ to God’s order for humankind.

And yet it is a fact that a family without a father is simply a broken family. The father is the voice of authority in the family. The father brings stability, direction and security in the family. My wife is a strong woman by any standards, but once in a while, when I have been away from home for a long time she will call me and say: “Please talk to your daughter, she’s become too much for me to handle!” And I will speak a few words into the phone – probably of warning, or beseeching – and there will be order in that house until I return home.

There is no meaning to the word ‘family’ without a father. That is the way God made things to be. We cannot substitute God’s ways with our vain human wisdoms.

During the just-ended CTMI Leaders’ Conference in Nairobi we heard the voice of the father. Personally, I was challenged, warned, rebuked and given direction. Brother Miki talked to us about the importance of relationship within the Body of Christ. He clearly showed us that there cannot be true relationships when we are not each taking our proper place in the Body of Christ, something which can only happen through a revelation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

Most important of all, however, was that Brother Miki confronted us in the many areas that we had begun slipping back since we received the gospel of the Cross, some 10 or 20 years ago. He reminded us how our lives had been when the gospel first found us – we had many things on the outside, but little life on the inside. The revelation of the Cross and what it came to do brought light and life into our hearts and lives. Initially, when we heard the message of the Cross, we surrendered our lives and allowed that work in our hearts. But, Miki said, many of us had drawn back from that surrendered life and had begun walking as if we were our own masters, without a father. Our lives had reverted back to being our own.

Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians was clearly ours today: “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you”! (1Co 4:8)

The result? Our former manner of life, the old man of the flesh, had crept back into our lives. Slowly but surely, there were now murmurings, dissensions and warrings amongst us. Not far down along the road, every kind of sin will soon find its way into our midst.

Brother Miki reminded us that we have to go back to the Cross, where Jesus will reveal the spirit of the Father to us.

The conference message was a bittersweet experience for me – tough on the flesh, but music to my spirit. I needed to hear that!

I went back home refreshed, chastised and humbled. I had seen, once again, God’s plan for my life and I had been given reason again to lay down my life and allow Christ to reign fully in me.