A Given Life – Part 2

But there is another interesting aspect to living a sacrificial life. Remember when Jesus sent two of his disciples to get him an ass to ride into Jerusalem on? In fact, let us read the entire account as St. Luke tells it.

“29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him thither. 31 And if any man ask you, why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they sat Jesus thereon.” (Lk. 19:29-35)

Mark finishes off this account thus:

“… and they let them go.” (Mk. 11:6)

The owners let the disciples go. Without another word. I love that. Loosing the colt without the owners’ permission was the setting for a conflagration that could have turned “nuclear” at any moment. But the owners let the disciples go. What had happened? Had some form of hypnosis gotten hold on these men?

By no means. What had happened was that God had prepared these simple village men long beforehand; and, on this day, when God’s call finally came upon their lives, they answered it. They answered it to the full. How did they answer it to the full? By not speaking another word. When they heard it was going to the Lord, they let the colt go without hesitation, without a word.

Do we realize how wordy we are when we are faced with a trial and are not willing to take up our cross? Not realizing we have been called to lose our lives, in a situation like this we would have asked a few more questions, even if we knew well who the colt was going to. Losing is not easy. But these men simply

“… let them go.”

Again, Wow! What a heart! When men surrender their lives fully to the Lord, they are ready to let go anything; and to do so without hesitation. They are like men under hypnosis. Why? Because they are dead. They are dead to self.

Do you not wonder at how these men just let the disciples take away the colt without questioning them further? What kind of men were they? It talks of men whom God had prepared.

What a life!! Would you not want to meet these men when you get to heaven? I certainly would.

[At the height of the dry season, baobab trees shed their leaves and straddle the central Tanzanian plateaus like gigantic scarecrows]

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It Pleased Them!

25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. Rom. 15:25-26

This morning, my mind is on the subject of giving – again! The scripture above tears at my heart.

First aways, notice the singular form of ministry mentioned in this scripture. It is the ministry of giving to the poor. It is not stated that Paul went to preach in Jerusalem. The purpose of his journey to Jerusalem was to deliver the Gentile churches’ contribution to the poor saints there. Whether he preached or not is not our subject here.

But the thing that sends my heart racing with excitement is the second part of this passage of the Bible. The Bible says it pleased the churches in Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the saints in Jerusalem.  It pleased them! Wow, the beauty of that!!

There is nothing as beautiful as something that is done from the heart. It is so powerful it reaches the ureachable parts of the heart. For this reason, the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:7:

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

God loves a cheerful giver!

God loves things that are done with a willing heart. God loves a purposeful heart. To demonstrate this, God has even taken people who were terrible sinners and changed them and put them to serve Him mightily. They were men and women who were willing to do things from the heart. Chief amongst these is the Apostle Paul himself (1 Tim. 1:13-16).

No man in their right minds loves things that are half-done. With God, it is infinitely much less so.

As believers, we are to do things heartily. When you give, give heartily. Don’t allow your mind to pick nits and bits. Above all, do not count how many times you have given in the past. Give as if you have never given before!

In the same manner, when you forgive (for we are called to forgive whenever someone wrongs us) do so with a hearty heart. Don’t weigh the wrongs! Above all, do not count the former wrongs done to you by the person you are supposed to forgive.

Whatever we do, we are to do it heartily. In Ephesians 6:5-8, the Apostle Paul writes:

“5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Notice verse 6. Whether bond or free, we are to do things

“from the heart”!

From the heart. That’s not talking of any old heart. Rather, scripture here is talking of a willing and cheerful heart.

The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 1)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15
Early on, notice the word “shoulders” in this scripture. Shoulders speak of responsibility. Mark that.
But first, let us set a background for what we want to learn from this scripture.
In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 we read:
“1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. 3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.”
This account is repeated in 1 Chronicles chapter 13.
Had David made a new cart for himself to ride upon, God would have had absolutely no problem with that. But David made the cardinal error of trying to set the ark of God’s covenant with Israel on the new cart he had made. But God is not served by human hands, and this act was extremely displeasing to Him. His anger boiled over when Uzzah stretched out his hand to touch the ark as it threatened to topple over in its doomed crossing. God killed Uzzah right there and then.
The ark never arrived at its destination, the holy city of Jerusalem. The mission to bring back the ark to Jerusalem came to a disgraceful and tragic end midway in its execution, and David had to leave the ark – and all the blessings that went with it – at Obededom’s house.
In 1 Chronicles chapter 15, we see David bringing the ark to Jerusalem the right way, the way God wanted it done: carried on the shoulders of the priests and Levites.
Notice that in both expeditions to bring back the ark, it is stated that there was singing and dancing. In the first attempt, the Bible even says that “David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.”
But God had never intended for “all the house of Israel” to play these instruments. He had chosen specific men to play these instruments. God had given very specific instructions to Moses about who was to do what in Israel’s service to God. David over-rode that directive and he allowed “all the house of Israel” to play every kind of instrument before the Lord.
Moreover, as we have already seen, God had chosen men, not new carts, to bear the ark of the covenant upon their shoulders. God had told Moses that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by men, the priests and Levites. But David chose to ignore that directive and he built a new cart for the Lord’s ark.
David’s actions cost a man his life.

[Below: God is above all!]

A Greater Than John!

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Up till the time of Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever walked this earth. He was the man who baptized God. When Jesus came to be baptized by him, John realized the enormity of what Jesus wanted him to do and he would not do it. He had earlier stated, “one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose” (Luk. 3:16). John was a truly humble man.

A small conversation ensued in the water between the two men. Few in the crowd heard or even understood what was going on. In the end John was persuaded, and he baptized his Lord and God. It must have been an incredible moment for John. In the entire crowd that stood there that day, only he knew the significance of what he had done.

Jesus said of John, Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” (Mat. 11:11).

But in the same breath He made a momentous statement: “… notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mat. 11:11).

Why would Jesus say these words? Because He also said in John 14:23, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

God in us! That truly beats John baptizing Jesus! But there is a condition attached to this becoming a reality in our lives: we must love God and keep His words. When we do that we will see a greater manifestation of God’s glory in our lives.

What does it mean to love God? Is it the daily dose of “I love you, Jesus” that we say in our prayers? When we see the early church and the kind of lives that they lived, we understand what loving God really means. They identified their lives with the sufferings and death of Christ. As a result they provided a powerful testimony of the presence of God living in them, working out His good will in their lives.

When the church is not walking in the revelation of the cross that the early church had, it will receive teachings of every kind – except the right one. Just as in today’s gospels where the teaching is about blessings, blessings with no end in sight.

Because of a lack of this revelation, the flesh is not accosted and crucified and therefore, in very subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways, it controls God’s people’s lives.

One of the foremost things you notice within the Body of Christ today is pride. We do not have the time here to describe the many different shades of pride that exist in the church. But it is there in a very great degree. In fact, in some circles pride is equated with righteousness!

But all these things come from hearts that have not been circumcised, Christians who will not allow the mighty hand of God to mould them into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. They just want the good life.

When Jesus was about to enter the holy city, Jerusalem, the Bible says that He stood and wept. He wept for that city.“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luk. 19:41-42).

There were things hidden from their eyes! Why would today’s church think that it knows everything? Why would it allow itself to live a comfortable life? Why would we be content with a shallow gospel that clearly ministers to the flesh more than it does the spirit? If we accept to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, we shall see the fullness of the Godly character revealed in us since God and His Son Jesus will love us and come and live in us.

The Foundation of our Faith – the Pauline Doctrine (Pt. 4)

We are now in chapter 4 and any intrepid reader who is still following my ramblings must be wondering whether I am lost…. Well, I am not, and in fact I will be finishing in the next post. I just want to fill in the gaps, a job I am not sure I am doing too well. Nonetheless, I am trusting the Lord every step of the way. And let me thank each one of you individually for your love and patience, and for your encouragement.

In this chapter we will look at how Paul’s gospel was ‘different’ from the other Apostles’ gospel and what the implications of this are for us today.

Trouble for the gospel began early enough, in fact right after the birth of the Early Church in Jerusalem. The Bible says: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Act 6:1 Lines were drawn within the Church of Christ ! But the Apostles handled it swiftly and wisely, choosing spiritually mature men to oversee the “serving of tables”.

But another disturbing scenario crops up not long afterwards. In Acts 11:19 we are told that after Saul’s persecution of the Church began at Jerusalem, the believers who fled to the diaspora preached the gospel all right but “unto the Jews only.” Demarcation lines were drawn once again, by believers. Clearly, the Jerusalem Church had a problem understanding the universal nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soon it was time for the Apostles themselves to be tested. Although Peter knew and understood what the Scriptures said about salvation for the Gentiles (Acts 10:43), yet when God wanted to send him to take the gospel to Cornelius – and, by extension, to the Gentiles – we see in Acts chapter 10 that the Lord Himself had to appear to him in a vision in order to persuade him to accept the truth that salvation was for the Gentiles also!

(After he had preached to them the gospel, God promptly confirmed His acceptance of them by pouring upon them His Holy Spirit.)

When news of the fact that Peter had entered a Gentile home reached the Apostles at Jerusalem, they summoned him before them to explain why he had “crossed the boundary”. After Peter explained to them that it was God and not him, the Bible says “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Act 11:18)

After reading the above Scripture, and hearing Peter’s proclamati0ns you would think that the Apostles were in full agreement with God about accepting the Gentiles as equal heirs with them of the Kingdom of God. But you will be surprised at what happened later, as we read in Galatians 2:12-13:  “For before that certain came from James, (Peter) did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

The Bible here is saying that Peter feared a delegation that was coming from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Why? Because they would do him in for consorting with uncircumcised Gentiles.  In other words, in spite of what they knew from Scripture and from Peter’s experience with Cornelius these Jews were not ready to accept any stranger in their midst merely on the supposition of grace. For them keeping the Law of Moses was paramount!

In short, it was like this: the Apostles had received the gospel all right, but at heart they were still Torah hardliners!

I want us to look at one last scene before we get done with this chapter. When Paul went to Jerusalem on his final journey, his host, the Apostle James  together with the other elders met him and told him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” (Act 21:20) In other words, even though the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ had been preached in Jerusalem for a long time and many Jews had accepted Jesus into their hearts the fact of salvation by grace without works was proving to be a thorn in the flesh for many of them.

But if the Apostles themselves had a problem with this truth, as we have seen, they most likely would have been preaching a gospel tainted with law and it is no wonder, therefore, that Jerusalem was crawling with samurai-wielding believers!

And it was not only in Jerusalem. The Jews were creating havoc wherever the Word of salvation reached out to people, even amongst the Gentiles.

And here you have the basic difference between Paul and the Apostles at Jerusalem. You see, right from the beginning Paul never had any problem accepting what the Lord had revealed to him about salvation being for every man who believed on the Lord Jesus, Jew or Greek, and that it was by grace and grace alone.

Paul understood grace perfectly well. The Apostles at Jerusalem were limited in their understanding of it.

Many years later, after more light had entered Peter’s heart, he would affirm to the Church that the Apostle Paul received far greater “wisdom” than what he and his compatriots received from the Lord (2 Peter 3:15). Peter here was not talking about intellectual or human wisdom. The Bible never refers to human intellect because God is spirit. I am sure Peter was talking about the grace that Paul received from the Lord, and the power that came with that grace to not only bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, high and low, but to also set them free from the power of the flesh and to perfect them in the image of Christ.

We conclude in the next post!