God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 1

8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph. 3:8-11

So much to contemplate here, so I will make this post a series.

Notice, first, how Paul perceived himself.

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…”

This was no false humility. This was Paul! Paul dared not consider himself anything above what he states here. “The least of all the saints…” he said of himself. Such humility simply takes your breathe away.

And yet, unbeknown to us, God through Paul was stating exactly who He gives His grace to. The Apostle James put it out in black and white.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Let a man not just mouth the words, but let him live that life, and God has material to work with. And, y’know, people think that where the big crowds are, that’s where God is at. Oh, please! No one could possibly pull in bigger crowds than the devil. The Bible tells us that “many” there be that follow the way that leadeth to destruction (Mat. 7:13). If we are talking about a mega-church, the devil has the largest.

On the other hand, “few” find the way to eternal life.

The Church, Christ’s Bride, His Body, is like a diamond. Rare. And the men whom God puts in charge of His Church are even rarer. God cannot give anything but His best for His Church. The men whom God has put on earth to birth and nurture the Church are therefore the best of the best. They are called apostles.

The Bible firmly declares,

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

The apostles are the best of the best.

That is why the Apostle Paul could make such a claim:

“Unto me… is this grace given”.

Why?

Ha! Simply because he was the best. And Christ gives His Body, the Church, the best.

[“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Eph. 5:25]

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The Holy Spirit And The Cross – Part 1

I attended a meeting recently where the speaker made one of the most astounding statements I have heard in my life. He said, “The Holy Spirit does not expose Himself.”

Those words hit me like an express train. All of a sudden, in that single sentence, I discovered so many unspoken revelations. No wonder, I realized, He is spirit. The Holy Spirit is not flesh, and He absolutely does not relate or attach Himself to the flesh. In other words, He does nothing for the human eye’s nor the flesh’s benefit. That is why, when Jesus was here on earth, because He Himself was God (for He had the Holy Spirit in Him without measure), He did nothing to be seen of men. He spent an inordinate amount of time and energy preventing people and evil spirits from revealing who He was! Imagine that. People and evil spirits both lumped together. How could this be so? It is because, when we are without the Holy Spirit, we are

“earthly, sensual, and devilish.” (Jam. 3:15)

James here is talking about three things: the world, the flesh and the devil. And he says they are one.

Why do I say that the words hit me like an express train?

Just how many expressions of the flesh, both the subtle and the not-so-subtle, are in us! Down to the way we talk, the way we walk, look, and even preach – indeed, sometimes in our entire way of life, how many aspects of the flesh are to be found there!

[The cross sets us free from the bondage of the flesh]

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Of A Nation And God

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Gal. 5:13

There is no such thing as freedom of the flesh, where men are free to do whatever they feel like doing. Such freedom throws out the mandate of God to

“use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh”.

Liberty being an occasion to the flesh ultimately leads to greater and greater wickedness against God. True Godly freedom can only be found in the cross of Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:23-24:

“… against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

And this goes all the way down to our worldly governments. A while back, a powerful CNN commentator called Christian Amanpour was interviewing the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta on TV. She asked him about Kenya’s position on gay rights. The question seemed to trouble the Kenyan president and I could see the pain on his face as he struggled to find the right words. Finally, he replied, “That is not an agenda with this country. It is not in the interests of Kenyans, whom I represent, to even consider such a subject.”

The lady replied, “You are getting yourself into trouble.” She did not elaborate who the Kenyan president was getting into trouble with. But her allusion was clear. He was getting himself into trouble with the people that matter in this world.

All of a sudden, I saw this lady in a new light and, even before the president could reply, the rejoinder leaped in my mind, “Lady, it is you who is getting yourself into trouble. You are getting into trouble with God.”

At about the same time I read the story of a man in the U.S., a homosexual whose partner had just died. In the article, the writer very sympathetically reported that the man was mourning the death of his husband. Maybe you think you didn’t read that right. Yes, the article said exactly that: his husband. Of course there is no such phrase in normal language; but there it was, courtesy of the liberal media.

But this is exactly the problem with this particular group: They do not want to acknowledge God, nor His righteousness. There are so many similar stories from these ’emancipated’ minds. This group reminds me of the story of Nabal and David in the Bible. You can read the story in 1 Samuel chapter 25. The truly interesting thing here is the question that Nabal asked the young men whom David sent to ask him to give “whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.” (v.8)

Mind you, David had graciously looked over Nabal’s flocks and herdsmen in the wilderness, allowing no harm to come to them. But when the young men reached Nabal and delivered David’s request, he asked,

“Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse?” (v.10)

Wow! What a question for the man to ask David! But that is the liberal agenda. They ask, Who is God? They have no idea who He is and they find no reason why they should obey His laws.

I hate the liberal agenda; and the American version is especially revolting. It goes along the lines that, basically, man is free to do whatever he wishes, without God. You have no idea where such a blind idea can lead to. When you think you are free to reject God, you have just opened a hornets’ nest right in your bedroom.

America, and the free world in general, was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. That is what makes America and any other free nation truly free. In other words, the fear and worship of God. The founders feared God and sought to establish His righteousness in the land. The Word of God says in John 17:3:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”

The liberal movement seeks to uproot that foundation. They do not want to acknowledge God nor His Son Jesus. They are for freedom; but freedom without God. Eventually, America’s undoing will be a result of its rebellion against the Judeo-Christian God and His values. I was shocked to learn recently that there are Muslim members in the American Congress now, complete with hijab! I cannot imagine where America is headed with that kind of ‘freedom’. We all know that Islam is absolutely against the Judeo-Christian faith.

No good can come out of a nation that seeks to forsake the sound foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith on which it began.

The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and the president of the United States, Donald Trump may not be perfect men. But their unwavering stand support for the Judeo-Christian principles will make them to find grace in the sight of God. And may they and their countrymen find even more grace in the eyes of God.

[Just expressing my undying love for the old Hillsong songs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clearer video on the internet]

God’s Grace And Mercy

29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Ps. 107:29-30

Every so often, something grabs at my heart: the mercy and power of God towards us.

[Captain Tammie Jo Shults: “Thank you Lord. Thank you, thank, you, thank you, Lord.”]

God’s True Purpose – Part 1

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and in wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12, 13

Let’s see that again.

“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and in wonders, and mighty deeds.”

Did I read that correctly? No; this cannot be true. It cannot be possibly true what Paul is saying here. Where is the evidence of all these things that he claims he did? Where else has he talked about this? He could not have done all these things – signs, wonders, mighty deeds –  and not let us know about it in the loudest terms possible. I mean, this is the news; it should be all over his epistles! No, no, no. If Paul did these things, then these accounts are what should fill his epistles.

But it is not so. Paul says nothing more about his exploits in his epistles. Paul single-handedly, so to speak, wrote more than half the entire New Testament (14 out of 27 books). Now, considering the fact that the Bible is God’s handiwork, i.e., it was God who allowed what would enter and what would not be entered into the Bible, it was God, therefore, who moved Paul to write as he wrote. No doubt Paul would have wanted to write more about his exploits; but God stayed his hand. The Bible is God’s voice, not man’s. It is God talking, telling us all about Himself. Paul’s writings therefore tell us tons about not just the character of God, but also about God’s priorities. Considering, therefore, that in his epistles Paul makes only passing mention of the mighty deeds that he accomplished in his ministry, it is clear that God is trying to tell us something here. Indeed, here, God makes it clear as day that His priority is not signs and wonders and mighty deeds. Nor is His boasting in these things. God’s priorities and boasting are elsewhere. Far, far elsewhere.

So what is all this obsession that Christians today have with signs and wonders and mighty deeds? I mean, today every two-bit preacher wants to gain recognition through the ‘mighty deeds’ they do on behalf of God. So much so that, unable to get the real thing, many have crossed over into trickery, deception and outright witchcraft, the extremes that we see today in Pentecostalism. People trying to prove how ‘powerful’ or ‘anointed’ they are. And yet we see God, who is supposedly the power behind these preachers’ farcical ‘miracles’, He Himself did not make any such claims through the Apostle Paul.

Paul himself was following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. On countless occasions, after Jesus had done a simple miracle as healing someone, He strictly forbade them from trumpeting  it abroad. One of the most interesting among these accounts is the well-known story of the blind man whom Jesus touched twice to have him healed. The man who saw men walking as trees. The account in Mark 8:26 states, after Jesus had healed the man:

“And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”

The Swahili version tells it even better:

“And he took him to his house, and told him, Do not enter even into the village.”

In other words, Jesus took the man right up to his house. Probably locked him in for a while. Just to make sure the man would not begin broadcasting what had happened.

I am wondering whether I would have been capable of such restraint as Jesus had. Wouldn’t it be so much more wonderful to have people knowing about and wow-ing at my accomplishments? Wouldn’t it also be a way of advertising God’s power? But this kind of approach is far removed from God’s character and will.

For this reason, therefore, every preacher who wants to be recognized for their ‘handiwork’ – miracles, signs and mighty deeds and, indeed, every other kind of recognition – is outside of God’s will. God is not happy with what these preachers are doing. They are leading God’s people away from God’s true purpose in calling them to Him, for God does not call us to come and receive miracles from Him. God calls us for a completely different purpose.

Who Dwells With God?

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Is. 57:15

A friend of mine and I were walking in the street when we passed someone talking on the phone, and as we passed by we overheard him saying into the phone, “You know, forgiving someone is the most difficult thing to do in this world.”

When we had walked clear of the man, I said to my friend, “I think asking for forgiveness is even harder, because you are required to humble yourself in order to do so.”

As we walked we thought a lot about that. We came to the conclusion that in many of our dealings with people we are called upon to have a humble spirit, otherwise we cannot please God. And we will hurt people.

It is incredible what the Bible states in Isaiah. The Bible says that God inhabits eternity. Just think about that. Moreover, it says His Name is “Holy”. And who does scripture say God dwells with in His eternal and holy abode? The Bible does not say that God dwells with the holy; but rather it says He dwells with the humble and contrite in heart. In the simplest terms, it means that God is solidly on the side of the man who can humble himself.

Why, pray, not with the holy?

I am sure that, more than anything else, God would love to dwell with the holy man/woman. That means a man or woman who does not sin. But there actually is nothing like a man or woman who is sinless. The Bible declares that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All!

There is only one Man whom the Bible testifies that He did not sin, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Him,

“Who did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).

That is perfectly clear. Jesus did no sin. There is nowhere in the Bible you will find that written about anyone else. Every other man and woman has sinned. Even the men whom God boasts of in the Bible sinned. Abraham went in to a concubine. As for King David, the man whose heart singularly pleased the Lord, well… we don’t want him feeling bad up there, so let’s cut the talk.

Many believers are trying hard to live a sinless life. That is commendable. But many forget the crucial ingredient that God looks for in a man’s heart. God looks for humility. A humble man pleases God more than anything else, and he will go far, even in this world, because God is on his side.

A humble man is one who has a soft, malleable heart and who quickly falls down and repents. That was the case with King David. When the Prophet Nathan showed him his sin, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

He did not add or deduct from those all-important words.

Many of us cannot curl our tongues around such words. Some of us would rather die even rather than utter such words. And yet, it came naturally with King David.

We read of other kings who, when they were confronted, had the man of God locked away. And many of us are like that. But not David.

A humble and contrite spirit is the first pre-requisite with God. Don’t press God about the fact that you are His child, etc. He is not interested in such self-righteousness. When Jesus began His ministry here on earth, the Bible tells us the first words that came out of His mouth.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat. 4:17)

He was talking of a humble, repentant heart.

There is a safe passage in this unsafe world. The passage is in our hearts – our humble hearts. God will fight ferociously for the humble man. That is an indisputable fact, and it is borne out in many lives of men and women who have humbled themselves in this world.

There is a shortcut to where God is. We can easily jump over in one leap and be with God. It is simply by wearing a humble heart. God welcomes a heart that is clothed in humility. For this reason the Bible says,

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Yes. God gives grace to the humble. But He resists the proud.

Whatever you are engaged in, just calm down. Even if you are successful, do not allow success to get into you; lie low like an envelope. Wear humility like a garland around your neck. Own up and surrender whoever you are to God. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself…” (Mat. 16:24).

Surrender your will to God.

Whatever battles you are going through, humble yourself, and God will give you the victory.

That, beloved, is the gospel of the cross that the Apostle Paul preached. It is only through this gospel that we can say with Paul,

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

God Makes His Way

No great victory can ever be won without a great battle. The bigger the battle, the bigger the victory. For this very reason, God takes our weaknesses and defeats, and He turns them into victories. The weaker one is in the flesh, the stronger they are with God. The bigger the loss in the natural, the greater the victory in the Spirit.

One of the stories that captivated the world in recent years is famously known as “The Bali 9”. The Bali 9 were nine young men from Australia who in 2005 were arrested in Indonesia on drugs charges. Two of those young men who were identified as the ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to die by firing squad. The sentence was duly carried out in 2015 in the face of great international emotion. Many high-profile appeals had been made in and out of court. The Australian government went even so far as to threaten the Indonesian government with sanctions.

It was clear from the testimonies that were given by the other members of the Bali 9 that Andrew and Myuran were brutal, cold-blooded gangsters who would go to any lengths to enforce their will upon others. This made the judges to impose on them the toughest sentence possible: the death sentence. But in the ten years that they were incarcerated, the two young men on death row turned their lives around and became such role models that, during their final appeals, even the prison governor came to their defense. He told the judges that it would be “a shame” to execute the two young convicts. But the Indonesian government would not be swayed, and two fine young men lost their lives in the most appalling manner possible. Due to the political situation in the country at the time, the world viewed the senseless execution as a case of a weak government trying to appear tough in the eyes of its people.

As I pointed out, the case of ‘The Bali 9’ garnered great international attention. But in the midst of all the uproar and clamor that attended this incredibly emotional case there was one detail that the world did not have reason to dwell on too much. It was the fact that while in prison, both Andrew Chan and Myuran had converted and given their lives to Jesus. When the duo were transferred to the island fortress where they were to be executed, Andrew carried only his Bible, a symbol of his conviction and faith.

The Bible says,

“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Lk. 15:10)

God’s ways are so different from ours. The world wailed and mourned at the execution of these two young men; but heaven rejoiced. Through a long, torturous road – drugs, violence, death – these sinners received the ultimate gift: eternal life.

It goes without saying that these once callous men would never have had a chance of even thinking about heaven. So God made a way, His way. On that early morning of April 2015, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and six other men stood looking into the cold barrels of a dozen guns. As they stood there, they sang “Amazing Grace”. And, in heaven, Jesus stood up to welcome them to His eternal Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul also was fashioned from similar circumstances. Once a brutal enforcer of Judaism, through much suffering God turned him around and he not only obtained eternal life himself, but became an invaluable asset to the Kingdom of God.

We should not fear to suffer for the sake of Christ. It is out of suffering alone that true spiritual victory can be achieved. For this reason, the Apostle Paul did not seek to unchain himself from suffering for the sake of the gospel. He himself wrote:

“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. 12:10)

[God Makes A Way]