There’s Balm In Gilead!

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jer. 8:22

I love the Apostle Paul with all my heart! The Apostle Paul is not someone you can love emotionally. He is not a rock star. You can only love the Apostle Paul in the Spirit, and I thank God for that.

Paul was he who paid the price to bring the life of Jesus Christ to the church. He suffered with Christ. And through his ministry, today there is healing balm in Gilead! There is healing balm in the church.

For that very reason, if any man cannot love the Apostle Paul, let him be accursed. Yes, let him be accursed.

The Israelite people in Jeremiah’s time underwent an extremely rough time. There came a time when there was no balm in Gilead! The spiritual health of an entire nation was appalling! And the Prophet Jeremiah lamented for the nation of Israel, God’s own people.

You may not believe it, but today the spiritual situation of God’s people is even worse. And yet, under the New Covenant, the answer to the question, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?”

is a resounding “Yes!” There is healing balm and there is a Physician in Gilead! Praise God for that!

But the enemy is also at work. I know of preachers who sell oil and claim it is the balm of Gilead. But God in Jeremiah is not talking about these conmen. He is talking about the things of the Spirit, and the things of men’s hearts. If someone can give or sell you oil that can deal with the things of your heart, then he will have nailed it for you. But I can assure right here that if you are ever going to meet up with such a preacher, he will not be selling you oil in a bottle. In any case, true preachers of God’s Word are not easy to come by. In fact, considering that today’s church has almost been totally over-ran by the enemy, the chances of finding such a man are getting exponentially more difficult to attain.

The church is filled with conmen masquerading as bearers of God’s healing balm…

But once in a while God comes across a good man, like He did with Paul. With God, of course, the good man is the man who is willing to be crucified with Christ. And God takes such a man and, through the cross of Christ, shapes him into His sharp instrument.

Isaiah saw that in the Spirit, for he says: “15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. 16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Is. 41:15-16)

This new instrument that God creates has teeth! In other words, it is effective. It has power in the Spirit, and it performs God’s work fully, effectively.

I truly thank God for the Apostle Paul. Paul put himself under the workmanship of God under the cross, and the result is that he brought life to the church. Oh, that the entire church were as willing to face the cross as the Apostle Paul was! There would be a spiritual revolution the world over.

But that is not the case. Actually, in light of the New Covenant, Jeremiah was prophesying about the modern church, and he was lamenting its state. He asks, “… why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”

Which translates to, “Why is the church walking in sin? why are God’s people walking in spiritual defeat?”

That is the question we need to ask ourselves today. We are not to be bothered with, “Why do I have no food on my table?”, or, “Why have my children been sent home for lack of school fees?” for these are the things that seem to concern the modern church the most.

In truth, the real concern of the gospel is to change the inner character of those who would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our real task is in the Spirit, to walk in the revelation of the cross.

And so I wholeheartedly thank God for the Apostle Paul. This was the man whom God prepared in order that he might bring life to the church. Paul brought life to the church by allowing the cross to work in him. God invested in him the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God, the healing balm that would heal the wound of God’s people.

The wound of God’s people, the church, is sin. The gospel of the cross of Jesus carries the life of Christ, which is the balm that heals the wound of sin in the church. When God’s people are daily confronted by the cross, they learn to deal with the carnal nature of their lives, and thus defeat sin in their lives.

Today, the church is deceived, and they spend all their time casting out demons of every sort in their lives. They cast out demons of fear, demons of theft, demons of anger, demons of witchcraft, etc.

But the Bible says that these things dwell in our hearts. And we cannot “cast out” these things from our hearts with a word. On the contrary, we must face the knife and have them circumcised from our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The only thing, therefore, that can deal with the things of a man’s heart is the cross of Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul, writing to the Corinthians, reminded them that when he went to preach them the gospel at the first: “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

I root for that with all my heart. I can imagine the determination in Paul’s heart. In the face of every kind of opposition, “… I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”!

How truly wonderful.


God’s Work In Us!

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor.1:25

This scripture here simply means that the littlest thing that God can do in a man is infinitely greater than anything that can be witnessed or accomplished in the natural, however big or powerful it might be. The word “men” in this scripture stands for supernatural manifestations, even if they originate with God. But the most important thing this scripture is saying is that the tiniest touch, the slightest change that can be effected in our lives through God’s hand working upon our hearts is infinitely more valuable than these manifestations.

In other words, God wants to draw a very strict line between the deep work of the Spirit and miracles (signs and wonders). This is because this work brings a transformation in a person, and it is this transformation that God is interested in. This is His real business with us.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Gal.6:15

By now, we know that the only way that God works upon a man’s heart is through the revelation of the cross, that spiritual circumcision, the stripping away of “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19).

People are easily moved by miracles and other manifestations of God’s power. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But God’s working upon a man’s heart to transform them is more powerful than the greatest miracle; it is more important than the healing of our bodies; more needful than food on the table; and more exciting than any kind of prosperity agenda.

Ultimately, the things listed above only end up ministering to us in the natural realm. Their initial impact might be big, but it gradually peters out. If you received healing, for example, ten years down the road you might have forgotten about the healing, but you will still be required to take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

In our last post we discussed Elijah and we saw the extent to which this man knew God in that he waited until he heard God’s “still small voice”, and that was when he went out, for he knew then that he would meet God. He wasn’t moved in the least by the outer manifestations of God’s power – the wind, the earthquake, nor the fire.

Had it been us, we most probably would have rushed out at the first powerful sign of God’s presence. We wouldn’t have known to wait for anything else. We wouldn’t have waited and witnessed the true power of God in His “still small voice”, which is the quiet working of the Holy Spirit upon the inner man of the spirit.

This assertion is confirmed today by the huge number of believers who are rushing after the outer manifestations of God’s power. Today, God’s people are running all over the planet looking for miracles. They are paying millions of dollars to cross vast tracts of sea and land, seeking for healing miracles in some far-flung “schools of healing” and assorted “ministries”.

And there are people who, if God does not heal them physically, or if God does not meet them at their point of need on some issue, they lose their hope and trust in God. They lose their joy. But that should not be so.

Let me tell you where the real miracle should be taking place: it is in your heart, if you will allow God’s hand to work in you. You don’t even need to leave your living room! You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to attend a “healing school”. The greatest miracle can happen right there, in your living room. This is because the real miracle is not a physical one, but a spiritual one; and the answer to you owning this immeasurable miracle lies, simply, in your heart!

People are sadly unaware that God wants to do a spiritual miracle in them. God doesn’t want to work on the body, He wants to work on the heart!

In 1 Cor. 14:22 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians: Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

Every outer manifestation of God’s power is for the unbelievers, that they might see and believe. But with us, these things are hardly meant to grab our true attention. On the contrary, the things that truly minister to us are things that deal with the issues of our hearts – as here Paul tells us in disclosing the importance of the gift of prophecy in church.

In other words, although miracles, healings, prophesyings, etc. are good and desirable, yet God expects us to see and to desire something incalculably more precious – the transforming work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts and lives. The two are not mutually exclusive; and yet the one is decidedly greater than the other.

So, once again, where is God? Is He in the miracles? Is He in the healings and other powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit?

The bold answer is, Hardly. God is not there. God is in men’s hearts, working to transform them.

People dance with joy when they receive miracles from God. But that God can actually do a work in our hearts – that is what should throw us into throes of ecstasy.

But sometimes we are hard of heart, and we put our hands to our ears, not wanting to hear anything other than what we want to hear; having no desire to possess anything other than what we want to possess.
But it is in possessing a humble heart that we will receive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9), the victory over sin

[Below: They might appear out of place on the sleek tarmac, but for the many otherwise inaccessible parts of the Tanzanian hinterland the Toyota Dyna is a much-valued and indispensable workhorse]

Image10821 Image8497

Identifying With Christ

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:66

This is, incidentally, one of the few scriptures embedded with the dreaded 666 logo; and it probably is no coincidence, for what happened here is indeed disturbing.

Y’know, you can be reading the Bible for a hundred years and you won’t notice some things until one day God pulls aside the curtain, and it hits you like the Chicago Express.

The problem, of course, is that we have a tendency to romanticize things. You might, for example, have some really idyllic ideas about the writer of this blog; but after you meet him, you might begin noticing things that will make you to become less cozy with him. That is called reality.

In the same vein, we could read a scripture like the one above and drop our jaws in “utter disbelief” that people could leave off from following our Lord Jesus Christ. But the reality closer home could be that we are also walking “no more with him.”

The Bible says that “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (Eccl. 7:8). When it came time for the Lord to reveal the end of His calling to His disciples, for many of His followers it was not “better”, but rather the exact opposite! Notice that not a few, but “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

As much as Christ desires that all men be saved, still the church is not about numbers. When the church begins to understand the true message of Jesus Christ, not many will remain true to their calling. For the truth is that our calling to follow Christ is not so rosy in the flesh.

The cold fact is that many today are in church to get things from God. There are many who are after riches, material things. Others are after vain glory. (There are many false apostles, prophets and teachers within the church today, and all they are seeking after is the glory.)

Many, many more people are following after Jesus to receive bodily healing and such-like things. But few are there to identify their lives with Christ’s by taking up their cross and following Christ in His sufferings and death.

That is why we thank God for the Apostles who, led by Peter, stayed put and endured the difficult prospect that was staring them in the face. By then, they probably had began to understand that even though Jesus had entered Jerusalem “triumphantly”, ultimately He would lose His life right there.

Today, more than ever, we need to walk in the reality of our relationship with our Lord Jesus… the reality of living a crucified life, the reality of losing our life, however difficult and painful it might be.

Jesus said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Lk. 17:33).

We need to marry our lives to that very principle.

[Below: A pride of lionesses in the Serengeti National Park. Needless to say, lions have incredibly fast reflexes and are not to be tangled with]


Photo Credit: Prisca Ambe

Two Messages

I once saw a man of God do a fund-raising campaign on TV and he said the money was for “spread(ing) the message of healing to the world.” By this he indicated that healing is to be preached as a message. But I hold that the healing ministry, although genuine, cannot stand alone and survive unless it is built upon the foundational message of the cross of Christ. Indeed, any message which is not built upon that foundation is a weak message indeed, and it is bound to fall.

The prosperity message, on the other hand, is of God to the extent that He promises to meet our daily needs. Any teaching beyond that is carnal, and of the flesh. The foundational message of God’s provision teaches that “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 1 Tim. 6:8

But the true, foundational message of the apostles was “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. 1 Cor. 2:2

Any message outside of the message of the cross is a weak message because it will invariably cater to the flesh. The prophetic, healing, deliverance and prosperity ministries, operating as they do without the underlying message of the cross, all fall into this category. They carry a message of self-preservation, and they will ultimately fall.

That was why Jesus told the Jews, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth…” Jn 6:27

The weak character of these gospels is revealed especially in the way they are “spread” or preached by the charismatic preachers, for it in no way resembles the way Jesus and the apostles of the Early Church preached the gospel. The message of healing, as I have seen it conducted by many preachers, seeks to advertise itself, literally.

Many years ago, I was in the neighboring country of Kenya and I saw an advertisement that read: “A man of miracles comes back to Nairobi.”

The flesh loves advertising itself.

Jesus, on the other hand, never advertised Himself. He never allowed the cameras to roll on Him during ministry. In fact, He did the exact opposite: He suppressed any “news” about His miracles. Even when, during His open-air meetings, miracles were happening right, left and centre, Jesus quickly sought to part with the crowd and go to the mountains to pray alone!

On reading the gospels we find an incredible number of instances where Jesus literally ordered those He healed not to publicise the miracles they had received. In one particularly interesting case in the gospel of Mark 8 Jesus healed a man and in verse 26 it says that after Jesus had healed him, “he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”

I first saw this scripture in the Swahili version, and there it says: “He took him right up to his house and told him, ‘Do not even enter the village!’” Jesus led this man all the way to his home just so he would not tell anyone that he had been healed by Him!

How could Jesus tell people not to broadcast His healings and we do the exact opposite? Aren’t we missing something here?

I believe all this lust for publicity is carnal. It is a thirst for fleshly glory. When the flesh is alive in a man, he wants to be recognized as a great man of God, a man of power.

And when people seek after earthly glory, it is because the flesh is alive in them. Whatever is going on in these ministries is nothing other than the spirit of the world, and it should not be confused with giving any glory to God. God is given glory when we are partaking of the sufferings of Christ, period. There is only one thing for which Jesus was not shy of being recognized. He was not afraid of being recognized as a man of grace. And for this to happen He had to die.

When we are being lifted on the world stage, that is something utterly worldly, carnal, and of our own making.

Many other things follow in the wake of this seeking after worldly glory. The love for money easily comes in. The healing message, like kindred other messages, is accompanied by much lobbying for money. Fundraising becomes an auxiliary but established message within the main healing message. In some cases, it becomes the main message!

And then there is the issue of bodyguards. In all my saved experience, I have never understood why a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ would ever need to walk about with a bodyguard. I once heard of a man who went to preach in the Sinai region of Egypt and the Egyptian government insisted on giving him security personnel. That I can understand. But today, even in environments that would not need a night watchman, many prominent and respectable men of God have bodyguards. What message, pray, are these people sending to the Body of Christ? No wonder recently I read of a pastor in the U.S. who shot a man with a gun! That’s a pastor walking with a gun there. He was probably defending an American right, Americans have so many rights!

I doubt if Jesus carried these attitudes whether He would have allowed Himself to be nailed on that cross. Jesus did not seek to publicize Himself, nor did He defend Himself. On the contrary, we see that the only thing that Jesus did with all His strength was to preach and to live that foundational gospel of repentance and of a transformed life. Jesus preached the message of the new birth and of the Kingdom of God: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And this was the same message that the apostles would also later preach. That is not a message that you can live by simply “falling under the power” or by driving the latest Mercedes Benz car. Living that message requires a revelation of the cross in one’s spirit. Jesus and the apostles preached about the victory that would be found in identifying our lives with Christ’s life on the cross. In fact, Jesus and the apostles spoke of this identification infinitely more than anything else. It was their sole message.

In his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 2:2 the Apostle Paul informed them pointblank that this was the singular message that he carried: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Ditto to the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal 3:1) Notice Paul says that Jesus Christ was clearly revealed to the Galatians as “crucified among you”.

I cannot find anywhere in the scriptures where it says that Paul or the other apostles preached any other message apart from the message of the cross, the believer’s identification with the sufferings and death of Christ.

And with this message there is nothing about self-preservation. This message talks about losing your life, period.

I have every reason to believe that the message of prosperity is totally carnal. It brings competition, division and pride. God never said He would make us rich in material things. He did promise, though, to meet our daily needs.

And the message of healing, while genuine, is not the message that Jesus brought. In fact, as we just saw, Jesus suppressed this message. But He was very vocal with the message of the new birth and of the cross. And so were the apostles. The message of the cross covers the entirety of the New Testament, like a blanket. It is the singular message of the New Testament.

Any other message apart from this is a carnal message of self-preservation and self-gratification. Such a gospel will ultimately destroy its adherents. Jesus said to lose your life in order to gain it.

[Below: In the city of Mwanza during the non-rush hours, a daladala conductor has to ‘advertise’ the worthiness of his vehicle to lure passengers in]

image737 image738 image739 image742 image743

Beware Herodias!

6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.

9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. Mat. 14:6-11

I used to think King Herod’s promise to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask” was just old-time parlance, or language – until it dawned on me that the king actually meant it. He was ready to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask”.

Whatsoever she would ask!

And, y’know, she just goes and asks for John the Baptist’s head!

In Africa, we love meat so much that even the heads of the animals we slaughter are used to prepare soup.

But, pray, of what profit can a human head be to anyone? You cannot even make soup out of it! It is worthless.

My heart goes out to this little girl. I don’t know how old she was, but she must have been very young in age – and very talented. Imagine how beautiful she must have appeared as she danced for her dad’s assembled guests. Probably she had practised and practised for days in her room or somewhere, her pure heart imagining the joy that she would give to her parents and their guests. She probably wasn’t even thinking of getting a present.

But an incredible opportunity presented itself. The king was so pleased with her display that he bound himself with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. Mark’s account says that he promised to give her even unto half his kingdom!

I know in our ignorance we pooh-pooh these kinds of things; but stop for a moment and think of what a kingdom is. Take even five minutes. You can even check an encyclopedia if you need to. (Sometimes I wonder where we are hurrying to; and we miss out so much on God’s true blessings!)

The point here is to get the feel of what this girl had been promised by her father. In that instant she could have inherited the world. But she chose to ask for John the Baptist’s head!

What, pray, could possibly have made this lovely, wonderful girl to ask for a human head?

Verse 8 gives us the clue to this all-important question. It says she was instructed by her mother to do so.

The gospel of Mark puts it even clearer: “And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist” (Mk. 6:24).

In other words, she consulted with her mother. It was a deadly mistake.

Herodias had sat there the whole evening, brooding inwardly. All she wanted was John dead. No human mind could possibly “sound the depths” of the evil that lay in this woman’s heart.

The devil is so cruel! This girl’s mother robbed her of not only the chance to inherit half her father’s kingdom; she ended up with something which was of absolutely no value to her.

Probably beheading John was of value to her mother, but it was of absolutely no value to this girl!

The Prophet Jeremiah under the anointing of the Holy Spirit spoke thus of the nation of Israel: “10 For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:10-13).

It was such a horror what the Israelites had done, to seek after other gods (which were no gods) and to seek for a glory that would not profit. Even the heavens were astonished!

And that was exactly what Herod’s daughter did. She not only asked for something that would not profit her, but she asked for something that brought horror to everyone who would hear of it.

And it must have killed her spiritually. I cannot begin to imagine the nightly – and probably daytime – nightmares that followed after that.

Even her father Herod who in his own right was a by-name for cruelty was shocked by his daughter’s request. Had he been in a position to refuse her request, he most certainly would. But he had bound himself with an oath, upon which he could not renege.

And I can imagine with everyone else “shocked” would have been a monumental understatement.

Apart from shocking everyone to death, of course, the little girl also lost the opportunity to inherit half her father’s kingdom.

All this happened because this little girl consulted her mother! Herodias is a metaphor for evil. She hated the man of God with all her heart.

There are worldly gospels out there, and we better be careful. Paul warns us against these gospels in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. We need to be very careful what gospel we are consulting with or submitting ourselves to. If we submit ourselves to a worldly gospel, it will kill us spiritually.

A worldly gospel caters to the lusts of the flesh. It does not have a heavenly agenda. A heavenly agenda deals with the condition of our hearts.

And before we move on from here let me point out that a worldly gospel is a deceiving gospel, which means it is so subtle even the elect get caught in its snares.

Let me illustrate. If I preach that because I was faithful in giving God this and that amount of money, God therefore blessed me with this and that material blessing, what am I catering to? The flesh, of course! There is absolutely no heavenly agenda there.

If we tie in giving with “reaping” material blessings we have moved from the heart condition to the natural realm. If we preach this gospel in church, the man sitting in the pews who is blessed materially will be feeling comfortable and the one who has nothing will feel he has failed spiritually.

The only “catering to the spirit” that I see in that scenario is that people will die spiritually. The rich man will die of pride, and the poor man will die of a broken heart. The bitter irony is that the poor man could have given to the Lord all right, but his giving is now taken from his heart and tied in with his outside circumstances. And preachers today find no problem making such declarations openly. One prominent preacher here said on TV: “You cannot come to my church riding the back of a motor-cycle” – which is the normal mode of public transport here. He added, “You are supposed to come driving your own car, since I have prayed for you to be blessed!”

At the root of such a gospel is a worldly, not heavenly agenda, and it will kill people!

I also talked in one of my earlier posts about a man of God – a prominent, internationally-acclaimed TV preacher – who told a man as he was praying over him, “You have won a land case”, and that in full public view.

There is no heavenly agenda in such a statement. That would make God a worldly judge, a “divider” of worldly property. But Jesus in Luke 12:14 said He had not come to do such things.

There are a thousand ways that a worldly gospel can kill us. Even the healing ministry can kill you.

Can you see the ‘progression’ there: apostate Israel, Herod’s daughter, and finally us!

That is why we should not listen to or submit ourselves to any gospel except the one single gospel that the apostles paid such a great price to bring to light – the gospel of the cross of Jesus. This is the only gospel wherein the Holy Spirit can break us and bring us to our true inheritance – spiritual maturity, and reigning with Christ in heavenly places.

This is the gospel that deals with the issues of our hearts. And God is all about our hearts. All these things that these gospels promise are good, but they become a Herodias when they are preached in the natural realm, outside of the heart. They are not the subject. Our hearts are. And only the cross can deal with that.

I love the word “determined” in Paul’s words, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2. That would mean there were other, strange gospels that were clamoring for his attention; but he ignored them.

Herod’s daughter ought never to have listened to her mother. That simple action turned her daylight into night.

[Below: In Africa, poverty can sometimes go to extremes: here, somebody’s “shop” – literally!]


The Simplicity of Godly Men

10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Gen. 28:10-22

It is incredible how simple the men and women who knew God in the Bible were. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would meet God face to face and the only thing he could think to ask of God was safe passage, food and raiment. But this was exactly what this great partriarch did.

And he did it for a reason: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

These men did not desire a simple life for simplicity’s sake; rather, it was because they had their sights on something else.

It is so interesting how the men in the Bible had a singular vision. They did not see “all over the world”. They had a singular focus. And their focus was not on worldly things, however ‘spiritual’ they might appear. They focused on something heavenly, something truly spiritual.

Here we see Jacob’s singular vision: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

We need to understand that scripture cannot be interpreted in the natural. This is why our minds have absolutely no place in God’s plan of revealing things. The “father’s house” that Jacob is referring to is the land that was given to Abraham and his offspring by God through a promise; and anything that is promised by or given by or is of God in any way is spiritual. That is why a born-again believer is spiritual throughout, and if we are not we need to be.

And Jacob says, ‘That I go back there in peace’.

The Godly men and women of old had only one reason for living in this world: to accomplish God’s righteousness in their lives. As far as this world was concerned, all Jacob wanted were the bare necessities. He had his sights elsewhere: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”. That is a spiritual statement, if ever there was one!

Today, the concept of “bare necessities” has been bashed into submission by a materially-minded gospel. I once actually saw a prominent preacher say on television: “God wants you to have ten houses!” That’s not a fable; it is a fact.

If you are poor or if you are deficient in anything of this world today, you are labeled: ‘You have no faith!’

And yet we see Jacob praying to God, ‘If you will only give me safe passage in this world, food and raiment’, that was enough.

The men and women who knew God in the Bible did not think too much of this world. They knew God could bless them with the things of this world if He so desired. But they did not set their hearts on those things. They looked for something spiritual. That is the bottom line: they looked for something spiritual.

In Hebrews 11:9-10 the Bible speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the following manner: “9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

These three men looked for something spiritual.

The Apostle Paul humbly says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Paul uses the same language Jacob used. The apostles looked for something spiritual!

And yet, all these simple men were the truly great men of this world. The Bible says that these were men “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

The great men of God did not look for the great things of this world. They looked for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They looked for that deep inner work of the cross in their hearts.

How far away the church has gone that we cannot use the same language today that these men used! It is so sad how the church has left the spiritual path and has turned into a carnal entity, believing that the things it justifies itself in seeking after are what is in God’s heart.

God in His magnanimity has no problem with us owning these things, and probably they are good for this world.

But even after we receive them we should hold onto them with our fingertips, because they are things that God will not allow into heaven. You cannot drive a Hummer into God’s heavenly Kingdom. And not even a healthy body will be allowed into that Kingdom. God will gladly welcome a healthy spirit into His Kingdom, but not a body, however healthy. The Bible in 1 Cor. 15:50 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it takes us eons to finally believe the Word of God!

There are ‘ministries’ today which have turned healing into the de facto Kingdom message.

But the message of the Kingdom of God is the singular message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I love the gospel of the cross. You can go to heaven and back, but you will not find any other gospel that zeroes in on what God wants to do in our lives.

I thank God for the revelation that He gave to the Apostle Paul: “Christ, and him crucified”!

[Below: I give you praise, Lord, for health and strength and for the revelation of the cross in my life]

A Sobering Thought

In 1977 U.S. scientists launched a spacecraft, Voyager, into space to take images of our solar system, including the planets within. It was a one-way mission; the spacecraft would never return to earth.

In 1990, the scientists commanded Voyager to turn around and take snapshots, in a panoramic view, of everything that it had covered on its way so far. By that time, the spacecraft was over 3 and a half billion miles away from the earth!

We could hardly claim to have gone that far with 1 Corinthians 2, so we will turn back and take one last look at this scripture.

Let us look up close, in particular, verse 3:

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

These are words that we should take very seriously. Not unless, of course, we choose to underestimate Paul. (We haven’t even touched on God here yet!)

Y’know, in several places Paul asks the church to consider him a fool. But Paul is trapping us!

Paul was no fool. He had more physical, mental and spiritual clout than any man that we know of. Indeed, Paul is the father of the modern church.

It is therefore wise and safe for us to heed every word that Paul says.

Now here Paul says that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

Why would Paul do so? It was because he feared to bring in something different from that which he had been commissioned to bring. You see, Paul was a bond slave of Jesus Christ, and in his desire to please his Master, he feared lest he deviate from the message that he had been sent to deliver – the singular message of the cross.

This, of course, was tied in with the fact that Paul loved the church with the love of Christ and he knew that the only thing that would bring it to the perfection that Christ purposed for it to arrive at was the gospel of the cross.

He writes to the Colossians: “1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:1-3).

That was Christ’s love at work in Paul’s heart.

I believe that if we are serious with God, we too should fear and tremble. We should fear and tremble lest we are carrying and working on and glorifying something other than the singular message that the Apostle Paul carried – the message of the cross.

Not that we are not going to pray for the sick or that we are not going to desire miracles and other manifestations of God’s power in our midst. We definitely will. But we must first be settled on the right foundation – the foundation of the cross.

Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

There can be no other foundation for the church apart from that which has been laid by the true apostles of Jesus Christ, which is none other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

We cannot make the physical manifestations of God’s power to be the foundation upon which a mature and perfect church is going to be built. Jesus told the Canaanite woman that the manifestations of God’s power are “children’s bread”! (Matt. 15:26)

But the Apostle Paul talks of something else. He says that there is strong meat which “belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

Notice the words “full age” in this scripture. Paul is here talking about the gospel that he carried, the gospel of the cross, which alone had the ability to bring God’s children into maturity.

We should fear and tremble lest we build on a gospel that will never bring God’s people to spiritual maturity, which is any other gospel apart from that singular gospel that Paul carried, the gospel of the cross.

[Below: Passengers board the bus that is to take us from Mwanza to Musoma…


A bus conductor checks tickets on the bus…



And we are finally on our way]


The True Manifestation of God’s Power

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2:1-5

Scientists have finally admitted that the universe is infinite. They have come to the conclusion that there is no end to space.

They believe that with all the scientific advancement at their disposal and with all the astounding “light year” discoveries they have made so far, they have barely scraped at the outer frontiers of the known universe!

I am saying this because there may be some readers who might have come to the conclusion that I have harped on 1 Corinthians 2:2 almost to tatters. But I am of the opinion that we probably have not even scratched at its surface! Such is the richness of God’s Word that we cannot claim to have studied any one scripture “enough”.

So, let us have another go at 1 Corinthians 2…

There are Christians, especially among Pentecostals, who have a wrong perception of the words “power of God”. Many Pentecostals especially associate these words with the hype that is generally to be found in many charismatic churches.

I am convinced that God can and He does move in many ways. In other words, there are aunthentic external manifestations of God’s power, in miracles, in healings, in His provision to us and in countless other ways that God chooses to manifest His power.

But ever since the days of the apostles there have always been false manipulations of the power of God as well within the church, manipulations which Paul in his epistles associated with the forces of darkness. We can clearly see this in 2 Cor. 11:13-15 where he warned the church against the practitioners of these manipulations: “13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

Today, in particular, the ante has been upped on the hype and manipulations, and there is little spiritual discernment of what is and what is not of God.The church, lacking in such discernment and desiring to gratify the flesh more than God, follows after the glamour and hype that these men offer. In Africa in particular, many charismatic churches have turned into circuses which the devil himself would envy.

But in the context of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul is not talking about any physical manifestation of God’s power, real or imagined. Indeed, nothing he says there has anything to do with the outer working of the gifts of the Holy Spirit nor, more so, with the empty, carnal emotionalism that is associated with the phrase “power of God” today.

In the context of this scripture Paul is talking about the ability of God’s power to change people’s hearts and to bring them into a resemblance in character with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, power to change us into the image of Jesus Christ.

The most powerful demonstration of God’s power, Paul is saying, can only be found in its ability to make a person to live a holy life. Paul was so concerned with this that he “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”!

In other words, Paul bound himself to this one purpose, the effecting of that change in men and women’s lives where men and women are set free from the power of sin to live a holy, sinless life. This goal – being set free from the power of sin – must have been very, very important, for someone of the spiritual (and even mental and physical!) calibre of Paul to purpose to “not know anything” else!!

In 2 Corinthians 13:2-3 he writes the Corinthians: “2 I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: 3 Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.”

In other words, he was telling the Corinthians that the power of the gospel that he carried was in its ability to deal with sin. If the gospel someone was carrying encouraged them to sin, then Paul would deal with the person and his ‘gospel’. Paul was a man who carried the power and authority of the gospel because he lived a crucified life. And here he was warning the Corinthians that they better straighten their act, before he arrived. Apparently, he had warned them severally, but the self-styled ‘apostles and prophets’ in that church continued living in sin while hiding beneath their ‘powerful ministries’.

Paul was warning everyone to stop sinning. Period.

I repeat here: there is no greater demonstration of God’s power in a Christian’s life than for him to stop sinning and reflect the totality of the character of Jesus Christ in his or her life.

[Below: As I waited for the bus in Shinyanga, I struggled to get a clear shot of an African queen]

Image1546 Image1548 Image1550 Image1551

A Singular Gospel – Part 2

When I married my wife I was working in a certain company. Every day, immediately I left the office I would head straight for home, to see my heart’s desire. I did not pass by the coffee shop or the library or even at a friend’s house. I went straight home. And I can assure you that when I would enter that house and set my eyes on my wife, I would feel something like a “full stop” in my heart. I knew I had arrived home.

Incidentally, that love between me and my wife has simply grown with the passage of time, so you can go ahead and give us a round of applause before you continue reading!

I love the singular focus that the apostles had. The Apostle Paul expressly says, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. I love that. I love the singular focus that this man of God had.

The apostles did not go meandering all over, touching on this and that and the other ‘subject’. There is a difference between a drunken man and a sober man. A sober man can walk in a straight line; a drunk cannot.

In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul talks of “another Jesus”, “another spirit”, and “another gospel”. There are actually heaps of gospels out there! People are preaching on everything!!

I have been hearing the message of the cross preached for close to 20 years and in all that time I have never heard healing taught in our church. And yet we pray for the sick and they get healed.

I have never heard prosperity taught in our churches – and yet the Lord blesses us and meets our needs.

Let me tell you, church: we really need to hear only one message. Only one message – the message of the cross. We don’t need all the topics that are taught in church today. There are teachings even on health and countless other harmless topics, which are probably profitable somehow. But these are of no value to the spiritual man. They are things that are “not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

Now, let’s wind up this discussion by seeing what it was about this cross that the apostles focused on. It is good to be singularly focused; but it is even better to know you are focused on something profitable. We need to understand that the apostles did not focus on the cross just for focus’s sake!


On the flip side, they also knew that a lack of this revelation in the church guaranteed that the flesh would come back wholesale, and the church would never arrive at what Christ had died for.

Take the example of the Corinthians. They were so full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they needed to be told to wait in line on one another during ministry times. In other words, that church was literally bursting at the seams with the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Not many churches today would boast of the arsenal that this church had.

And yet, sin was very much alive in this church. What a contradiction! And it was the same with the Galatian church.

But remember the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13 that “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” Which means that God faithfully continued working in the midst of these people even though they were unfaithful to Him.

In the same manner, there are preachers today who have robust ministries but who are living in sin.

God is against sin. Any true apostle understands that and he will bring to the church something that sets the people of God free from sin and brings them into the liberty of the true sons and daughters of God. He will bring a revelation of the cross. In other words the message of the cross is the only message that does not compromise with the flesh. All other gospels, in one way or another, compromise with the flesh. Every other gospel has a hidden or open pact with the flesh.

The Apostle Peter writes: “15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15,16).

Our goal is a holy, sinless life. A life of humility, true love and unity within the Body of Christ.

To be able to arrive at that goal, we need one single thing – that singular revelation of the cross.

[Below: In this church I reminded them of the single, uncompromising message of the cross, the only message that can deal with the flesh]

Image1446 Image1464 Image1479 Image1511

A Singular Gospel – Part 1

(This post is based on a message that I delivered at Pastor Eli’s church in Shinyanga on Sunday)

When we read the Pauline gospels, we find that two churches clearly backslid: the Corinthian church and the Galatian church. Apparently, the Jews also – to whom the Book of Hebrews is addressed (probably the Jerusalem church) – had also begun to lose steam.

To the first two churches, Paul bluntly pointed out the singular gospel that he had preached to them. To the Corinthians he said: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

To the Galatians he wrote: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal.1:1).

Notice the singular message that had been preached to these churches.

And to the Hebrews he wrote: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:32-34).

When the Hebrews first heard the gospel they had joyfully borne their cross and followed after Christ. But apparently, they needed to be reminded once again to crucify their lives.

In my earlier posts I have made it abundantly clear that the revelation of the crucified Christ that Paul and the other apostles received was more than the basic understanding that Christ died for our sins on the cross. It was an understanding of how we, too, have been crucified with Him on that cross.

I find myself captivated by the singularity of the gospel that Paul preached. He did not preach ‘around the world’. He focused on one thing: the cross.

Let us pause here and ask ourselves: How can we preach any other gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached? Can we truly?

Maybe we think it is important to show God’s power in the miracles He works in our midst. Paul was a man who performed many miracles in the course of his ministry. But you can hardly find him mentioning any of that in his epistles. Through his ministry many people were healed. But he desists from harping on that, too. He barely – barely – mentions these things in Galatians chapter 3.

In fact, on reading through Paul’s epistles, you would think the power of God was lacking in his life. His closest associates were getting ill and almost dying!

On his part the Apostle Peter even raised the dead. But you will not find that mentioned in his letters.

Today, there are ministries built around miracles and healings. God is at work in all this, of course, but we should want to know what it was that so concerned the early apostles that they desisted from basking in these things but instead chose to talk about one thing: the work of the cross in a man’s heart.

The apostles, however, were following in the footsteps of Jesus. In John 6:14 and 15 we read, “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”

In other words, those men wanted to make Jesus king solely on account of the miracle they had seen Him perform. But Jesus withdrew himself from them.

The next day Jesus confronted them and told them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (Joh 6:53).

And the Bible records that “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

How sad! Jesus wanted to inform them about the gospel that had the Life in it. But they did not want that. They wanted the miracles! (In a way miracles minister to the flesh; Jesus told them to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” – Jn. 6:27).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about healings and miracles all right; but it is certainly more than that. That “more” is what the church has always needed to understand – and more so today when dark spiritual forces are pressing ever so hard against the gates of God’s Kingdom.

When Lazarus was raised from the dead, I am sure he did not walk about like a hero or something of the sort. Somehow, Jesus must have made him to understand that he needed to take up his cross and follow Him just like everybody else, raised from the dead or not.