The Greatest Promise Of All

11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him… (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

What powerful words! What an incredible promise! And right here, as an aside, let me say that I have heard both powerful and unpowerful preachers enumerate the promises that God has for us in the Bible, and I have never heard them mention this one. You wonder, What are Christians being taught in churches today? Aren’t Christians being taken for a ride by the very preachers they have entrusted their souls to? And it is a ride straight to hell.

But let us embark on our lesson today by looking at another incredibly powerful scripture.

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:24

That’s talking of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture here plainly states that it was not possible that death could hold Jesus.

If language is anything to go by, the words “not possible” mean something, don’t they? Another word for “not possible” is “impossible”; and other words for “impossible are, “impracticable”, “unachievable”, “out of the question”.

It is clear, therefore, that there are some things that death can achieve; and there are others that it cannot. That’s interesting, because even the Bible makes clear the power of death, for in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, we read:

“25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Death is an incredibly powerful enemy. No man is free from the grip of death. Even the great partriarch David was held by death, as the Bible says in Acts 13:36,

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”

But of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible states:

“But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (Acts 13:37)

Death had no power over Jesus simply because it was not possible for it to have power over Him!

“not possible”. What beautiful words! In the context they are in, they probably are the sweetest words in the Bible. But they are not just beautiful; they are also powerful. The power in those words is incomprehensible. And the stratospheric question here is, Why was it not possible that Jesus should be held by death?

The Bible says it is because God would not allow it.

“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 13:35)

God would not suffer, or allow Jesus to be held by the power of death. Again, that is awe-inspiring. How could that be so? Why?

You see, God is the determiner of everything. He is the I AM. All things exist in Him. All things and everything therefore is easily under the control of God. So when God says or does or even so much as wishes something (for He always does so according to His irrefutable wisdom), there is NOTHING that can rebuff Him. In fact, it is much more than that. When God was creating the universe, He just wished it, and it was so.

In the same manner, God did not wish Jesus to see corruption – and it was so.

So how come that every man since Adam has seen corruption but not Jesus? What made Jesus so special? Why would God wish and therefore not allow Jesus to be held by death? Was it on a whim?

Certainly not. The reason why God would not allow Jesus to see corruption is, simply, because Jesus obeyed God! It is that simple; and yet, again, it is not that simple. The price that Jesus paid to obey God is uncomprehendable. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:12 that

“because he hath poured out his soul unto death”.

Jesus poured out his soul unto death. The Bible is full of the sufferings and ultimate ignoble death of Jesus. Jesus lived the kind of life that we find practically impossible to live here on earth.

It is in this context therefore that the Apostle Paul makes clear the importance of our identification with Christ. He tells us that in order for us to achieve anything of value in the Spirit, we MUST identify our lives with the sufferings and death of Christ.

“11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

Notice the sequence of events here. If we die to self as Christ died to self, we shall have the life of Christ in us here on earth. As the Apostle Paul says,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20)

If we suffer with Christ here on earth, we shall reign with Him in heaven.

And pray, what, exactly, is suffering with Jesus?

The words of Jesus Himself explain this best.

“39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

[God’s call to the church is to crucify self just as Christ did]

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“I am Crucified With Christ”

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20

The former president of the United States, Barack Obama is famously reported to have stated that the sweetest sound he has ever heard is the Moslem call to prayer, or the “muezzin”. That call has been there since Mohamed; and the Moslems never tire of hearing it.

What about us? What is the sweetest sound that we have ever heard, and that we should never tire of hearing? What are the words that we should daily welcome enthusiastically into our hearts and lives until the end of time?

My vote goes to the words by the Apostle Paul,

“I am crucified with Christ.”

These are the sweetest words that could sincerely come out of the mouth of a Christian believer. After all the singing, after all the praying, after all the preaching, after all our service to God and man; our ultimate destination is to find ourselves crucified with Christ. If we did all of the above without crucifying our flesh, it would amount to nothing.

Indeed, the above words by the Apostle Paul ought to get sweeter and sweeter to the believer’s ear by the day. They ought to be a daily call in our lives, a call that we relish and eagerly look forward to every day of our lives: to absolutely lose self, that the life of Christ may be found in us.

Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ said so Himself. In Luke 9:23 we read:

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

There is much ado in the church today. Unfortunately, a disproportionate amount is much ado about nothing, for the church has a singular calling, which is to crucify the flesh to the end that Christ may live in us.

[The beautiful land of central Tanzania]

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Dying With Christ

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteousle: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Pet. 2:24

In those early days when we were being taught how to receive by faith, we used to hear preachers say, “You know that you know that you know…” In other words, we were to know deep down in our hearts that we had received whatever we had asked God for. That principle still stands with regard to our faith.

But, today, under the ministry of the revelation of the cross of Jesus, I have come to know something more. I have come to know that faith goes beyond just receiving. Actually, I have come to learn that faith is all about giving; and giving of the highest scale possible.

In this light, therefore, I have come to learn one of the most important lessons that I will ever learn as a believer. And what, pray, might that lesson be?

It is that, whenever someone forces their way with me and I feel bad about it, I always know where the problem lies: it is with me. THE PROBLEM is not that other person, and it does not matter what it is they have done to me. It does not matter whether they have insulted me or beaten me or taken away my things. If my heart is not right any time someone has their way with me, the problem is with me, not them.

You see, the revelation of the cross teaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about giving our lives, just as Christ gave His. It is dying to self. Once self has died, it does not hurt. Who is affected when we are hurt? It is self.

Dying to self. What else do you think Jesus meant when He said to deny ourselves? (Mat. 16:18). It is the giving up of who we are.

It is in marriage especially that the denial of our rights is tested most. A man of God once said that half the cup that we are to partake in salvation is in marriage. In marriage, you have with you someone who is guaranteed to constantly chafe you the wrong way. Unless you are married to Jesus Christ Himself (but no, He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father), you are guaranteed to have someone with the same weaknesses as you have and who therefore will fail you much of the time. Just as you yourself fail them, although we somehow gloss over that.

But, whatever situation arises to confront us, we are called upon to give up “our seats”. Yes, those lofty seats that we have allocated to this fellow called self, we are called to give them up if we would be like Jesus. The Bible says He left us an example to follow. So we need to ask ourselves, even as we fight tooth and nail to retain our rights, what example are we following? We ought to ask ourselves, are we dying with Christ, or are we fighting to keep the flesh alive. But remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (Jn. 12:24)

Many Christians today are alone. This means they are profit-less in the Kingdom of God. Oh, isn’t that so, so, so very sad?

And the reason?

The reason for one abiding alone is simply because they are holding onto their lives.

Let us end by looking closely at verse 24 above.

“24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

The Bible makes no mistakes; and here it clearly states that Jesus gave His own body at Calvary. Jesus did not fight for self. No, on the contrary, He gave up His body.

And here we see what happens when we give up our bodies; when we crucify self. Life comes to the world! Life comes to those around us… and even to the furthest reaches of the world. Amen and Amen!!

[Give your life!]

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Paul – A True Servant

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cencrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. 13 Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, and Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you…. 21 Timotheus, my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in  the Lord. 23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. Rom. 16:1-23

Ah, the Apostle Paul! Paul’s life is a study in the working of the grace of God in every way.

Notice how close and personal Paul was to the people he ministered to. This was another grace that he had, apart from the grace to preach the gospel. Paul had the grace to live, interact with and know God’s people. He knew each one of them intimately. Of course, Paul did not Google their profiles. On the contrary, he paid the price to get to know them in as fine details as he did.

Notice also Paul’s salutation in his epistle to Philemon.

“1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearlly beloved, and fellowlabourer, 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house…” (Phlm. 1:1-2)

How did Paul come to relate to God’s people in such an intimate way?

Paul lived with the people of God. One of the things that I love about the Apostle Paul was that he did not end up in 5-star hotels when he visited the churches. Rather, he lodged in brethren’s houses. Here he tells us who his host was. It was Gaius, a brother in the local church.

In that way, Paul got to know each one of God’s people individually.

You cannot get to know people intimately if you are a hotel-based preacher. Preachers always tell people how much they need to have that all-important privacy in order to be with the Lord, etc. My reckoning is that you should spend all the time you need to be with the Lord before you go to the conference or meeting. Once you join up with God’s people, you are their property and you should avail yourself to them fully. You are not, for example, to come to the service just in time to be welcomed to the pulpit with the reasoning that you could not have come earlier because you did not want your anointing to be tainted, etc. You couldn’t possibly be more anointed than the Apostle Paul was!

Some preachers, especially here in Africa, stay in their hotel rooms long after the services have began. Meanwhile, God’s people are forced to sing for hours just waiting for the man (or woman) of God to show up!

Again, if you, a preacher has any intention of relating to God’s people, you are not to be whisked away in air-conditioned cars – sometimes a whole procession of them – and treated with gloved hands as if you are the most important person in that meeting. The most important person in that meeting are the people God has sent you to minister to. As a matter of fact, you should make every effort to sacrifice as much of your time, energy, money, comfort and freedom as possible for the sake of God’s people.

If possible, walk with the people of God to their homes.

A true servant of God is he who will serve God’s people. He will spend time with God’s people, serving them in whatever way they need to be served. Above all, he will not desire, nor encourage red-carpet treatment for himself. He will desire to walk the narrow road in every sense of the word to the end that he may be an example of what the given Christian life ought to be. To this end he will be like our Lord Jesus Christ who had

“not where to lay his head.” (Lk. 9:58)

If anyone deserved to be lodged in a 5-star hotel, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But He even did not have a place to lay his head.

And pray, what will your reward be for living such a sacrificial life? There is the heavenly reward, of course. But apart from that God will reward you with the joy of knowing your brothers and sisters in greater intimacy, as we see Paul here. Here we see Paul’s joy as he connects with each brother and sister whom he has known in Rome. In verse 15 he even says,

“Salute… Nereus, and his sister…”

I am sure that if Paul knew of Nereus’ sister’s name, he would have addressed her by name. It could well be (conjecture on my part) that Nereus’ sister was not even a member of the church; but Paul got to know this family real close and he therefore includes her in his greetings.

The point is, Paul was a man who knew his people well. God’s people were not just numbers to him. He does not say, “I am glad to hear you have 200 members in the church in Rome”; as desirable as having a large number of church members is.

In sacrificing his life for the sake of God’s people in this way, Paul perfected his service to Christ.

[Paul lived with the people of God and he took the trouble to know every one of them individually]

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Of A Nation And God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ And The Church

1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. Rev. 4:2-4

These scriptures show the importance that God attaches to two groups of people. Twelve of the twenty four elders mentioned here represent the nation of Israel. These are the twelve fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Notice,

“I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

This means that the nation of Israel plays a major role in the Kingdom of God right to the end of time. There is much spoken in the Bible concerning the nation of Israel. Israel is and will remain central to the heart of God right to the end of time. For this reason, Israel deserves only awe and respect from the rest of the world. It does not do anyone any good to oppose Israel. For this reason also, Israel will always come out victorious against anyone who declares themselves their enemy.

The other twelve elders described above are the twelve apostles that we read of in the Bible. They had to remain twelve; that is why when Judas Iscariot died, the disciples of Jesus went into the trouble of casting lots to appoint another man to replace him (Acts 1:12-26). God’s proportions are incredibly strict. The apostles had to be twelve to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. And this shows, amongst other things, how much God respected our spiritual fathers, the men whom He not only chose, but who also walked according to His ways.

The nation of Israel, and the church. Notice also that these 24 elders

“had on their heads crowns of gold.”

These two groups of people represent everything that God has to do with. Anyone who is not in either of these groups is outside of the realm of God’s dealings.

For many in the church, showing respect and awe for the nation of Israel is easy enough. But it is with the church itself that many have problems. Many within the church do not realize the importance that God attaches to the church. They therefore have a worldly approach to the church. They have almost the same approach to the church that the world has.

But we need to realize that the church is the apple of God’s eye. We therefore need a very careful approach to the church. The church is God’s chosen people in the Spirit. Every member of the church is therefore extremely important to God. The church is represented in the face of God by twelve apostles.

The term “apostle” is first mentioned in the New Testament. So is “church”. These are entirely new names for a completely new dispensation. It is the Church, the Bride of Christ. That is why Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep”. At one stage He told him,

“Feed my lambs.” (Jn. 21:15)

In many cultures, people show affection for their loved ones by calling them by their initials or other affectionate abbreviations. And they use other tender names like “Babe”, etc.

It was so with Jesus. By calling His sheep “lambs” He was showing His extreme love and affection for His church.

The attitude that Jesus has for His church is the same attitude that we need to have towards one another in the church, the real life brothers and sisters that we rub shoulders with. In Colossians 3:12-14 it says:

“12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

It is all about loving Christ’s church.

Despising Shame

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us rub with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:1-2

So many things here. But today I just want to address one thing here. But just before I do that, did you notice that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses? They are listed in Hebrews chapter 11. These are men and women who made it. By the grace of God they saw the reward in the Spirit and surrendered their lives that they might receive it.

But today I want to talk about ‘despising the shame’. The Bible says this was what Jesus did.

At first it did not catch my eye. I never understood what shame Jesus despised. Then, slowly, the Lord taught me.

Have you ever had situations in your life where you were shamed? I mean raw, ordinary shame. I would be surprised if you said “No”.

However well set we are, somewhere in life we all will have situations where we will be put to some form of shame. I can recall many times in my life where I have been shamed. Being shamed was the single most difficult spiritual trial in my life. Probably because it began since childhood…

Anyways, long into my salvation, I still reacted against being shamed. I never realized that our Lord Jesus Christ was also shamed. Then, one day, the Lord opened my eyes. I saw clearly that what I was fighting against was the same thing that the Lord despised. Shame. Our Lord not only endured the cross, He despised shame.

Wow! I had never seen it that way. The ordinary situations that we think are unconnected with the gospel. For me, a simple thing like my wife saying something to me in front of people which I considered offensive or ‘disrepectful’ (and she is a pro at that because she never really minds speaking the truth to whoever she needs to speak it to); something like that could start a conflagration that would have all heaven ceasing every activity to wonder at with open mouths.

But one day I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me. It was very clear. I was all alone when the Lord led me to that scripture. He asked me, “Is the word ‘shame’ there or is it not.”

I said, “It is there.”

The Lord said, “How come you behave as if you have never seen it?”

I said, “As a matter of fact, Lord, I had never seen it. This is my very first time to see it.”

He said, “This is exactly what that scripture is talking about. You must despise shame. Shame of every kind. That is what the cross is for.”

I had never heard anything so clearly. And I knew, just hearing that in my spirit, that I had taken one of the biggest steps in my spiritual walk. That I could despise shame! I had never thought I should.

Ever since that day, I know I not only should despise shame; but I can, too. I am not always able to; in fact, I fail often. But I realize I can laugh at shame. And whenever I manage to do so, what sweet victory!

So many situations rise up to shame me. But the realization that this was the very thing that my Lord Jesus despised gives me the strength to do the same.

What say you? Don’t you think we ought to despise shame? Shame of every kind? There are so many versions of shame, but we ought to despise every kind of shame.

But we cannot do that without the revelation of the cross in our hearts. Without that revelation, we will fight for our pride and rights.

While this applies to every believer, yet I cannot help thinking about many of today’s preachers in this respect. Those who have no revelation of the cross. Many today are so big they are bigger than God Himself. Today’s apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and whoever. The self-proclaimed ones. I cannot help thinking about them. They have a long way to go… down.

I don’t know about you. But me, I want to welcome and rejoice at any and every opportunity that rises for me to be shamed. It’s the only road we have as believers.