Welcome, 2019

… for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Mat. 5:45

On this particular day, 1st January 2019, I feel a great sense of thanksgiving to God. The reason for this is because I feel He has been overly gracious to me. I can plainly say that during the last year, I cannot put myself anywhere near those who have been “good” and “just”. I have not only not done many things that I ought to have done; but I have also done things that I ought not to have done. And yet, come the year 2019, and I can clearly hear God whispering in my ear, “I love you.”

In Psalms 51:10-13, David wrote:

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

After David had confessed his sin, he was given the chance to start doing anew what he loved doing best: teaching transgressors the ways of the Lord, and converting people to the Lord.

I feel forgiven, re-born, and ready to start anew. It is a difficult mountain to climb, this way of the cross. But through His Holy Spirit the Lord gives us a love for such a challenge. I cannot comprehend the joy that awaits me as I return again to the place of restoration, and to serving the Lord wholeheartedly.

It is therefore with a deep sense of thanksgiving  that I welcome the year 2019.

[I kick off this year with my favorite song]

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King Asa vs President Obama

In the Book of 1 Kings chapter 15, verses 11 and 12, we read: “AND ASA DID THAT WHICH WAS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD, AS DID DAVID HIS FATHER.  AND HE TOOK AWAY THE SODOMITES OUT OF THE LAND, AND REMOVED ALL THE IDOLS THAT HIS FATHERS HAD MADE.”

Notice the Bible says that King Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord because, among other things, he removed homosexuals from the land of Israel. King Asa uprooted the sin of sodomy from his land.

That can definitely not be said of the current president of the United States of America, who wants his entire country to be awash with homosexuals, LBGTs and all kinds of inverted sexual practitioners. Moreover, and worse, is the fact that he is coercing other nations, including African countries, to institute these “human rights”, as he considers them, within their borders. His Secretary of State, John Kerry recently threatened to withhold aid to the Ugandan government for decreeing stringent anti-gay laws in the country.

In inference, therefore, President Obama wants the whole world to accommodate homosexuals.

At the very outset, let us keep in mind that God deeply loves homosexual people, as He does President Obama. And we, too, ought to go out to them with the highest level of the love of Christ. (Actually, a person who is living in sin is a person who is worthy of all our compassion for, unawares – or probably knowingly – they suffer terribly).

But we cannot ignore the fact that God is at war with sin. That’s a fact. God’s love for mankind is therefore not a ticket to live in sin. God’s love for humankind is actually revealed in His fight against sin.

The “human rights” that Obama is championing are certainly not God’s rights or preferences. In fact, they are the exact reverse. These “rights” originate from sin. They are Satanic, demonic.

President Obama says he is a Christian, and I even read that he attends church. I am left wondering whether he actually reads the Bible! The above scriptures prove that in going to church and in saying that he is a Christian, this particular “king” neither knows what he is doing nor what he is saying. More alarming for him, though, is that one day he will stand before God and account for all the people that he led away from God’s law.

In the final analysis, it would have been so much better for him to not say anything than to say and advocate something which is so clearly against God’s righteousness.

Y’know, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to ask one of my readers in the U.S. to meet up with President Obama and ask him to read 1 Kings 15:11-12. And to mull it over.

7 THE LAW OF THE LORD IS PERFECT, CONVERTING THE SOUL: THE TESTIMONY OF THE LORD IS SURE, MAKING WISE THE SIMPLE.

8 THE STATUTES OF THE LORD ARE RIGHT, REJOICING THE HEART: THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD IS PURE, ENLIGHTENING THE EYES.

9 THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS CLEAN, ENDURING FOR EVER: THE JUDGMENTS OF THE LORD ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS ALTOGETHER.

10 MORE TO BE DESIRED ARE THEY THAN GOLD, YEA, THAN MUCH FINE GOLD: SWEETER ALSO THAN HONEY AND THE HONEYCOMB.

11 MOREOVER BY THEM IS THY SERVANT WARNED: AND IN KEEPING OF THEM THERE IS GREAT REWARD. Psalm 19:7-11

[Below:]

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Free!

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. Jn. 9:1-7

In the above scripture, the progression of events is of greater significance than anything else. Notice Jesus said something, then He did something. Jesus told His disciples: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents”! Then, He healed the man.

So what happened here? Jesus healed the man, sure. But first He set him free in his spirit.

People don’t read the Bible enough, especially the New Testament. Actually, many more Christians today read the Old Testament more than the New, and it just leaves them feeling old on the inside!

Much of the Old Testament is about law. There is very little there about God’s grace. And if you build your spiritual life upon the precepts of the Old Testament, you will never come to an understanding of God’s grace. You will never understand freedom. You will become a person of law. You will become hard as a doorknail. That is why there is so much law in the church today. People love putting law on other people, and they love putting it on themselves also – and this is destroying the church. This is especially so when it comes to teachings on healing and material blessings.

When we read what the Apostle John says in 1 John 3:8, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” and relate it to Jesus’ words here, it is clear that God is not involved in putting misfortunes on people; the devil is. It is impossible that “the works of the devil” can also be “the works of God”! And Jesus was about the Father’s works, which is defeating Satan’s works of darkness, be it sin or disease. Nowhere in the New Testament is it recorded that someone’s illness or disease or whatever hard luck came upon them came about because they had sinned. It is true that Jesus told someone, after He had healed him, to sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (Jn. 5:14); but that does not mean it would be God who would be putting that “worse thing” upon that person. In fact, in John 9, where Jesus’ disciples sought to associate the man’s blindness with himself or his ancestors, Jesus did the exact opposite: He dis-associated the man from the affliction!

This brings us to the subject of “generational curses”, which is a topic that is taught in African (and probably Western) churches as naturally as breathing air. They teach that God punishes us for our sins up to the fourth generation. I never saw that in the New Testament. I think I saw it somewhere in the Old Testament. They also teach that you need to be ‘delivered’ from these curses. I also have never seen that in the New Testament. But these things are being taught in church today, and they are killing God’s people.

But from Jesus words in John 9, such a teaching is unscriptural. Does it mean this blind man, of whom Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents” had never actually sinned? Never an unseemly word left his mouth, nor an evil thought his mind? Absolutely not! This man and his parents were as much sinners as anybody else was.

But Jesus came to reveal God for who He truly was, a God of grace (Jn. 1:17). Jesus never revealed God as a God of law. Law talks of anger and retribution. There was a lot of that under the Old Covenant. But under the new, there was to be only grace.

Wonders…! Under the new dispensation, the dispensation of grace, Jesus exonerated the man and his parents from any wrongdoing in relation to his affliction! What freedom!

When we who live under the New Covenant in any way make it look like God is making or allowing people to suffer because they have sinned against Him, we are implying that God is still living in the Old Testament; that God is a still a God of law. In the same way, when we walk around putting law on people and trying to make them feel guilty or sorry for themselves because they have not gotten healed or because they have not been ‘blessed’ in a certain manner, by telling them they have no faith, then we are walking under the Old Covenant. We are men and women of law and we want to put people under law, in bondage!

Well, we could remain under the Old Covenant and under law, but God is no longer there. Through the shedding of the blood of His Son Jesus, God has inaugurated a New Covenant for all who will believe on Him. And this New Covenant talks of freedom above anything else. Total, perfect freedom, not half, or bits and pieces of freedom. Happy is the man who, under any circumstances, be they good or bad, be they fortunes or misfortunes, does not feel judged, but rather feels free and loved by God. That means that the man who receives healing from God can rejoice in his healing in total freedom and thanksgiving to God. In the same manner, the man who walks away from an open-air meeting without having received his healing can go home still thankful to God because he is free in his spirit. This is faith.

It is true we must cast out the works of the enemy. Jesus said, I must work the works of him that sent me” – to destroy the works of the devil. But we must do it in a spirit of freedom, in the knowledge that God is on our side, not against us. What, then, if we do not have enough faith to effectively resist the devil? Are we ‘guilty’ of anything in God’s sight because of this? Hardly. We are still free. God is still our Father, and we are still as beloved in His sight as if we had all the faith in the world.

Why? Simply because we now live under grace, not law!

And what if we do sin? There is still no condemnation. Why? Because we live under grace, not law!

Not that God is happy when we sin; but still He will not allow Himself to relate to us in the spirit of law. He will continue loving us till we repent. More importantly, God’s grace is more than sufficient to set us free from our sin.

We cannot limit God’s grace!

[Below: In Christ Jesus, the well and the unwell, the sinner as well as the sinless, the rich and the poor – whatever state we are in – we are all free, in Him!]

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God’s Magnanimous Heart

Genesis 2 reveals a bit of the nature of God. Let us see what it has to say.

We read that after God had created man He planted a garden in the east of Eden and put the man He had created there.

Verse 9 says that after God had put man in the garden, He made to grow in the garden “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”

Notice the words “pleasant” and “good” there. “Pleasant to the sight and good for food.” And that was all for Adam to enjoy!

In verse 16 we also read, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…” (Except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for a special reason).

Notice the word “freely” there. It speaks volumes about the heart of God.

The Swahili translation reads: “You may eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden of Eden”. That is total freedom.

Then in verse 18 God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

God was thinking about the welfare of His good man all the time! And so God got busy for Adam.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” v.19

I can see God lovingly creating all these animals – just for Adam. Then He gathered them all together and brought them into Adam’s presence. What royal treatment!

Then He told Adam to give them names.

“And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” That’s a big ‘wow’ there! “Whatsoever” the man called any animal “that was the name thereof”.

God lovingly and patiently stood by as Adam took all the time in the world to name the animals. And he never intervened.

Had it been us, it would have been difficult for us in our legalistic makeup to stand there the whole day and watch such a process. And you can imagine there would most likely have been a row of no small proportions as we probably would not have agreed to some of the names that Adam gave to the animals, for example, crocodile. ‘What kind of a name is that, man?!’ we probably would have railed, after we had walked round the Garden a couple of rounds to take a breather.

But God stood there joyfully and let Adam do all naming.

“And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” Total, perfect liberty.

But, alas, among these animals “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” v.20

And so God got busy again.

“21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

We can easily visualize God tenderly putting Adam to sleep and lovingly forming that beautiful creation, woman with all her tender physical and emotional composition. Then – the most delightful part – God presented her to Adam.

God enjoyed doing things for Adam. But it is the freedom that God gave to Adam that I am most enamoured with. With the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which for a special reason God instructed him not to eat, God gave to Adam free rein in the kingdom that He had created for him in Eden.

Lastly, of course, we see that Adam and Eve lived happily after, for some time. And the Bible says that they, knowing neither good nor evil “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” v. 25

That’s paradise.

We only wish the story would have ended at Genesis 2. But we know there are a few things that Adam would soon get to know, and things would soon turn horribly ugly.

But that’s a story for another day. For today let us just meditate on the magnanimity of God. And as we meditate on God’s heart, let us remember the Apostle Peter’s words: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” 1 Pet. 2:21

If Jesus left us an example to follow, you can be sure that God’s magnanimous heart is also an example for us to follow.

We as believers ought to have the same heart of magnanimity towards others that God had towards Adam.

[Below: Under the New Covenant we, unlike Adam, enjoy God’s magnanimity in the true sense, for in Christ we have learned our lesson]

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Brother Haji!

For those of you who follow this blog you will remember Haji’s story as I recounted it in “The Holy Spirit: Worthy Is He – Part 1”. I am sorry to inform you that yesterday Haji passed away. We buried him today.

Recently, my wife had intimated to me that as she was tending to Haji’s cancerous wound a few days back, she had seen what appeared to be a part of his brain sticking out! I shuddered throughout the day at the thought.

Haji came from a Muslim background. When my wife began attending his wound sometime early this year, though, she began talking to him about the hope of salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the power of Christ to heal. Miraculously, one day, Haji believed and gave his life to Christ. That was when my wife introduced him to the church. Henceforth many brothers and sisters carried Haji in their hearts. The entire church was deeply involved in praying for Haji.

As time passed Haji grew weak and was unable to come to the hospital where my wife works and where she had always attended him. My wife was therefore compelled to attend him at his home. Apart from his immediate family, Haji also lived with some of his relatives, including a doting, younger sister. Many of his relations who live within the city would often come to see him.

I had accompanied my wife on many of her regular visits to Haji’s home. Of all the people who dealt with Haji, his wife was the only other person who could look into his wound without fear. Whenever Flo was attending him everyone, including visitors, would be asked to leave the room. We would then lock the door before Flo proceeded to un-bandage Haji’s wound. Haji’s wife, Mama Zu (short for Zuhura, their youngest daughter) would sit on the sofa and watch intently or she would assist Flo in her proceedings. I, on the other hand, would sit in the farthest corner possible and, from that safe spot, would provide spiritual sustenance! Loh!

With time Haji grew to be more than a brother to us: he became a friend. He always called me ‘brother-in-law’ and we held many wonderful (albeit brief) conversations.  I cannot think of any other company that I have enjoyed in recent times as much as I did Haji’s. Just sitting there and talking to him about salvation and seeing him respond was a tremendous feeling. Sometimes, we would simply sit and not say anything, feeling contented just being with him! Probably the angels were busy preparing a place for him in heaven. Flo and I had agreed that whenever we visited him we would always make sure to keep his confession alive.

Surprisingly, Haji’s relatives, who are all Muslims, never attempted to prevent us from telling him the Good News. They would sit there quietly and listen in as we talked to Haji. Then they would join us in prayer and respond with loud “Amens!” We used this opportunity to talk to them also about salvation. Although none has yet responded to Christ’s love, yet we have gained a place in their hearts and they, too, have found a place in our hearts.

Naturally, there have been challenges in our love affair with the Haji family. They are a well-to-do family and some of the most conservative of his relatives attempted to use their clout to prevent Flo – a Christian – from attending Haji at home. When Haji heard of it he told them he would accept no other nurse apart from “Sister Flora”, as he referred to her. Haji had clout of his own! The wave of resistance rolled back but, more importantly, these same relatives increasingly opened their hearts to our presence.

One day, Haji’s wife told Flo about something Haji had said during one of their conversations. He had told her, “I dreamed that if I go to church I will be healed”. When my wife and I heard this we were both encouraged to see that God truly had a purpose with this man. Moreover, in all our conversations with Haji, there had never been an indication that he had reverted back to his Muslim faith.

The day before Haji died I went to see him. We sat there talking – me, his wife, mother and sister – as he lay snoring in a deep sleep. I left without having spoken a word with him. I did not know I was seeing him for the last time.

I would not want to romanticize Haji’s story. But it is my firm belief that (mainly due to God’s faithfulness and mercy) Haji went safely to heaven.

Today at the burial, there were only a handful of Christian men in attendance (women do not attend Muslim burials). Nearly everyone was dressed in Muslim garb and the whole process was steeped in deep, conservative Muslim ritual. As I observed the proceedings, I could not help wondering how far removed things were in the spirit from what was taking place here in the natural. I stood well back in the crowd and pondered the thought that these men were burying someone they probably had no connection with in the spirit.

Haji has passed on. A brother from our church sent me a text message saying, “Haji died a hero’s death.” I believe that with all my heart.