“Touch Me Lord”

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Heb. 12:3

If there is one word I would rather not hear in my life, it is the word “endure”. That word implies trouble, suffering and discomfort. It implies also hardship; and one interpretation of the word “hardship” that I found in my Thesaurus says it is a lack of money. Well said, and this is the kind of hardship I could pray to God all day to never allow to come my way.

But none of the above would compare with what the Apostle Paul is talking of here (at least as I understand this scripture). Here he is not talking about hardships that the impersonal environment brings to us – things like hunger, sickness, or other deprivations, even tragedies, that we encounter in the normal course of our natural lives. These are hard enough to bear, but that is not what the Bible is talking about here. The Bible is warning us to be prepared to endure something far worse than this.

And what, pray, might that ‘something’ be? The Bible is talking of the time when people will rise up and say and do bad things against us. I don’t know about you, but I personally find it the most insufferable thing in my life when people rise up against me, whether rightly or wrongly. Generally, that translates into an attack on my pride and it is here, more than anywhere else, that my flesh literally “flies”  to respond in a way that God would not approve of.

But it is in this very situation that the Bible tells us to

“consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself”.

With Jesus, of course, things went way much further. One of the most painful things that can happen to someone is to have their friends betray them. This was exactly what happened to the Lord. Scripture says:

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zech. 13:6); and

“But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.” (Lk. 22:21)

The verse in Luke certainly refers to Judas Iscariot; but Zechariah might very well be referring to every man since Adam. Remember Adam was God’s friend before the fall: God would walk in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day and He and both Adam and Eve would converse  together. (Gen. 3:8)

And we know all the things that men did to Jesus since the day of His birth (He was denied a room to be born in and had to be born in a cattle shed) until that awful final night and in His crucifixion. But none of that could compare with men’s rejection of Him.

The Bible tells us we as Christian believers should be prepared for this same scenario in our lives. The notion of people praising us and telling us how wonderful we are is not Biblical. There are many things that men, both friend and foe, will do against us on account of Christ. No matter how ignorant we are of it, the fact is that the world is against the Son of God. Jesus Himself said,

“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Lk. 23:31)

In the Bible, it is men that comprise the world. The heart of man is so full of evil. But the Bible exhorts us as believers to “endure” this opposition to ourselves. It will come, but we should be prepared to carry a heart of love, patience and forgiveness.

This is where the need for an understanding – a revelation – of the cross of Jesus in our hearts is most urgent. This is where the need for sound doctrine, the very doctrine that Paul exhorted Timothy to never let go of, is needed (2 Tim. 4:2). It is here that we get to understand Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

Finally, let us look at verses 5 and 6:

“5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Notice that these verses are tied in with verse 3. In other words, when people rise up against us, it God who allows them to. They do so at God’s bidding, to the end that He might chastise us. Chastisement means, for example, crushing our pride.

In our key scripture above, the Swahili version uses the word “reflect” or “meditate upon” for the word “consider”.

Meditating is not something you can do in the blink of an eye. That is something you take time to do. That is why God’s work in our lives is not a one-time affair. On the contrary, it is a process that takes time as we patiently allow Him to mould and shape us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. To carry Christ’s grace. The Bible says of Jesus,

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17)

The Basis For Our Peace

I remember once, many years ago, when we had just began to hear the gospel of the cross, that a man of God came to our church and preached a message in which I remember only the words, “Put down your weapons!”

He repeated this phrase over and over in the course of his sermon.

Over the years, I have come to discover just how much to the point this man was. We have so much weaponry in our hearts it makes a mockery of all the munitions in the entire world. And the enormity of our weaponry is not just in its sheer size and abundance but, more ominously, in its power of annihilation. We have weaponry in us that can devastate a soul, something which all the worldly artillery does not have the capacity to do.

Just imagine what a misplaced word can do to a brother or a sister. Or, more appropriately, a deliberately well-aimed barb, sent in not to edify, but to destroy… to destroy someone’s soul.

Imagine what can be born out of a heart that is not well: Jesus listed the things that can come out of such a heart:

“21 evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mk. 7:21-22).

Imagine the damage that a single God-less thought can do, even to yourself.

The things that come from our unregenerate hearts will nearly always manifest themselves in the natural, and sometimes they will flare out into verbal or even physical violence.

There is so much violence in the human heart, so much war and uproar!

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. “ (Gen. 6:11)

The way of peace they know not…” (!s. 59:8).

One of the names of our Saviour, Jesus Christ is, “The Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6) All the violence in our hearts is there on account of the King of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, being denied His royal place in our hearts.

Somehow, we have got to make sure that our faith in Christ is just not in our words or in our minds. Our faith must have a tangible relationship to the lives we live. This can only come about when the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, is firmly enthroned in our hearts. And the Bible makes it clear that there is only one Christ: the crucified Christ, who also rose again (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2).

That is why we must have a revelation of the cross in our hearts. This revelation is the only thing that has the power to make us put down our carnal weapons. And when we put down our carnal weapons, there will be true peace in our hearts, which is the basis for true victory in the Spirit.

[Below: Once in a while you stumble upon a great song, beautifully sang]

CTMI East Africa Youth Camp 2016

This year’s youth camp was held in Tanzania, in the town of Musoma, which is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria. The campsite was located in a resort situated at the extreme end of the Musoma peninsula.

The camp ran for five days, from the evening of 13th to the morning of Sunday, 18th December. More than 700 young people attended the camp. They came from all over East Africa; but we also had delegates from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the UK.

The key speaker for the conference was Pastor Lenny Boy from Mauritius. His central message was two-fold:

  • a love for the cross, and;
  • becoming bearers of the spiritual inheritance.

Reading from the Book of Numbers chapter 21 verses 4 to 9, Pastor Lenny emphasized the danger of turning our backs on the cross especially in this rebellious generation.

“4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

East or west, north or south, our only hope of redemption is in the cross. The children of Israel had began to cultivate a love of (or, a return to) the world. They murmured against the way that God was taking them through. They did not like the long and difficult road one little bit, so they complained. Above all, and most displeasing to God, they “loatheth this light bread.”

But that “light bread” was Christ Himself! It had been given to them by God Himself, direct from heaven. But in their souls, they loathed this bread. In essence, they loathed Christ. They did not love the ways of the Lord. They wanted the bread and water of this world. God was deeply displeased with them, for they wanted their ways – the ways of this world – rather than the ways of the Lord.

In His anger, God brought fiery serpents in their midst, and many, many people died. When the people cried out to God, He gave them an antidote for the snakes’ poison; He instructed Moses to make a brass snake, and to set it up on a pole in the desert. Whoever got bitten and looked at the snake would live.

Brother Lenny told us that, in this adulterous generation, we are not to loathe the Christ who has been revealed to us, who is the crucified Christ. Our souls should not loathe the ways of the Lord. We should not tire of the cross. When we tire of the cross, sin quickly bites us.

But God is still merciful, and He has put a brass snake in the desert. When sin bites us, we can still turn to the cross and there find salvation and redemption when we repent and turn again to the Lord.

If we want to live in this rebellious and adulterous generation, we have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. East or west, our only hope of redemption is in the crucified Christ. If we fail to accept the ways of the Lord we shall die.

During the second part of this conference, Pastor Lenny also spoke of the need for the youth to desire to inherit the positions that the elders are leaving behind; not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Lenny spoke about “passing the baton”, referring to the 4×4 relay race. He spoke about the readiness and anticipation that the one who is receiving the baton has to have.

The youth, he said, need to have that same readiness in the Spirit. It is a preaparedness of the spirit. When the youth are thus prepared in their spirits, the elders can walk away into the twilight of their lives in the firm assurance that the gospel will continue to abound and prosper.

The real enemy against this preparedness is a love for the world. Pastor Lenny spoke about how today’s youth are keen on the ways of this world. They are extremely tech-savvy. They boast in how easily they can master every new technological app!

But God does not want us to be carried away by these things. He wants us to know His ways, which are the ways of the cross. To have a readiness in our hearts to suffer with Christ, and to be a light unto the world. That is the only way the youth can be prepared to take the baton from their elders.

The meetings were extremely charged with the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, on the last day, Sunday, there was a special session of prayer for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of young people came forward and got baptized in the Holy Spirit.

On that same Sunday, immediately after the morning service, there was a water baptism for those who had not yet been baptized. After all, we were right by the lake and there was much water!

Many young people came forward to be baptized, and there was much rejoicing.

And with that note, the camp came to a powerful ending. There was joy all around. But of even more importance, there were new resolutions made, new hope imparted and a true revival in the Spirit in the hearts of the young people.

God bless Pastor Lenny, God bless Pastor Stephen, God bless all the elders, God bless the youth!

[Below: The camp meeting in pictures]

Many traveled to the camp by bus:

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Lenny preaching the gospel:

God was at work in many young people’s hearts:

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A section of the large tent meeting:

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In the afternoons, it was time for games and recreation. Here, the young people prepare to go out to play…

… with the elders close in tow:

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In the playing fields, there was a wide variety of games:

In the meantime, the elders took time off to relax:

The scenic landscape of the Musoma peninsula…

… and a lovely sunset:

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The beautiful cottages of the Matvilla Beach Resort, where the camp was held:

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On Saturday evening, Brother Lenny made a special prayer for the sisters from Malawi:

And Pastor Stephen ministered briefly:

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The brethren who attended from Mauritius and the UK:

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The IT crew:

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The youth receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit!:

Scores of youth were also baptized in the waters of Lake Victoria:

And Bishop Elly Mpule was there to witness the occassion:

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Joe and I in a photo-op with Lenny:

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And, finally, the team from Singida…

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… who brought along some very original photo-shooting styles:

The Need For Sound Doctrine – Part 1

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 2 Tim. 4:1-5

What a charge Timothy had! And yet it is today, more than ever, that this charge needs to be carried out to the maximum, despite the dangers that accompany its execution. Dangers, yes, for Paul here tells Timothy that, once he set out to implement this charge he would “…endure afflictions”.

There was a time when I used to wonder at the present-day phenomenon of the mega-church. These are single churches with mass congregations of ten, twenty, or thirty thousand people. It is in most of these churches that the “pop” gospels of prosperity and other doctrines made up by man are preached. In these churches also is where you find a form of hype and sensationalism which would turn the world green with envy.

I used to wonder about these things, just as King David also wondered at how God could allow evil men to prosper (Ps. 73:16).

I used to wonder… until I read 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Mark the “they” in this scripture. “They” are God’s people and with this particular group of people lies the whole problem of the church. Not all, certainly, but the majority. With God’s people lies the problem of the church. That’s incongruous, to say the least.

Notice there is “sound doctrine”, or “truth”; and there are “fables”. A time would come, Paul told Timothy, when God’s people would not endure sound doctrine. You don’t endure good things; you endure bad or difficult situations. Apparently, therefore, sound doctrine is not good for the flesh. Paul’s reference to sound doctrine here is to the gospel of the cross. He was saying a time would come when people would not endure pain. They would not endure the hard choices that the cross offers. Instead, they would choose the broad and easy road of the flesh.

That’s hardly surprising today, with the feel-good gospels that are being preached in most churches today. That is why people are flocking to these churches. The sad fact, however, is that the people who go to church to hear feel-good sermons are not spiritual people; they are worldly-minded people.

If there was one person who should have had a mega-church here on earth, it was our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He had such a large following that, at one time he fed five thousand men, apart from the women and children. That means that the number of people who followed Jesus were in the tens of thousands. But these people were not the church.

On the day that Jesus decided to start His church, He turned to these same people and to spoke them these words:

“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.” (Jn. 6:53)

At this, His followers scattered like flies. They could not endure His hard words. Only 12 remained – the apostles. And they, too, hang on by a thread! (v. 67)

So, when Jesus was here on earth He had 12 members in His church! And we know that one of them was a devil. That left only eleven.

If things were so difficult in Jesus’ time, how can we possibly think that things are any different – or easier – today? The Bible expressly says that in the last days, the noose will get tighter. How can a man possibly claim to be breathing easier when the noose is getting tighter?

Today, we are living in times like the nation of Israel’s during Elijah’s time. At that time, the nation of Israel had forsaken God and they were worshipping pagan gods.

The nation of Israel is a type of the church. Now, we don’t want to make Elijah’s mistake and declare that there is no church in the world today. Even at the worst of times, God always has a remnant. And so it is even today. God has, within today’s apostate church,

“seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (1 Ki. 19:18)

And yet, you realize, seven thousand in a nation as big as Israel was is a very small number. The number was so small that Elijah had no idea these people existed!

Now, more than ever, true ministers of God ought to heed Paul’s exhortation to Timothy:

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine…

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

[Children play in a drain. They have absolutely no idea the danger they are in if flood waters came crashing through]

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The Road To Error

For in him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28

Most people think that cults are only those that are led by people with dreadlocks and who mumble unintelligible mumbo jumbo. But I can assure you that your average church could very easily be a cult. The Bible doesn’t mention the word “cult”; but the Biblical definition of a cult would be: “A place of worship – call it church or whatever – where men, and not Jesus, are placed on a pedestal”.

About 10 years ago, my friend Joshua and I were invited to preach in a certain church. I do not remember the exact details concerning the pastor of this church, but I do recall that we came away with the distinct impression that this was a man who was “full of himself”. He was in total control of everything and he presented himself in such a manner that he was revered tremendously.

To this day, Joshua and I still use the phrase “a man full of himself” since, in the course of our ministry, we have met many men of God who use their influence to draw attention to themselves.

Upon reading the Bible, however, it is evident that the Godly men of old did not talk about or draw attention to themselves. On the contrary, they talked of and represented God. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself being the prime example, talked so much about His Father that, one day, Philip said to Him,

“Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” (Jn. 14:8)

This scripture does not mean, as some people suppose, that Philip and the rest of the Apostles were telling Jesus off, or that they were tired of hearing Him constantly refer to His heavenly Father. On the contrary, it infers that they were so captivated by the kind of life that Jesus kept referring to as belonging to God the Father that they wanted to know, literally, what kind of God was this? And, could such a lifestyle be possible with man? It sounded so surreal!

Their jaws must have dropped when they learned, through Jesus’s answer that, in Him they were looking at the very God He was talking about!  Jesus confirmed to them that, through the kind of life that He had lived with them, He was God. His was a perfect, blameless life.

God, and not man, is the subject of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the ages, Godly men have been full of God, and not themselves.

After Jesus had ascended to heaven and after the apostles, through the Holy Spirit, had validated that Jesus indeed was God, thereafter, in the totality of their ministry and lives, they laid it thick on the Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ and on the Godhead of our Heavenly Father. At every opportunity, they emphasized only these two things.

But concerning themselves, they had only the most abasing things to say. The Apostle Paul, talking of himself, could only say:

“…I be nothing.” (2 Cor. 12:11)

Recently, I was watching a documentary about a cult called the Heaven’s Gate, where members were told that they would be transported to heaven by an alien spacecraft. That farce ended with the suicide of 39 of the sect’s members. Incredibly, some of those who escaped the collective suicide, speaking in the documentary, told of how they still believed in the man who organized it and in his teachings. Unbelievable, to say the least.

In November, 1978, the Jonestown cult orchestrated the forced suicide of more than 900 of its members. They had all been brainwashed by a madman called Jim Jones.

These and countless similar incidents all point to the dangers of believing in men. Men, hearkening to seducing spirits, have long been leading multitudes of men and women to hell through demonic teachings and ‘revelations’. Some years back, in our neighboring country of Uganda, a ‘prophet’ named Kibwetere directed his congregation to sell all their property and to prepare to go to heaven. After taking all their money, he then locked them in his ‘church’ and torched it from outside. Everyone died, and to this day Kibwetere’s whereabouts are unknown.

In Nigeria, just last year, over a hundred people, many of them South Africans, were crushed to death when a poorly-constructed building fell them. They died at the very place they had gone to seek healing for their bodies and other miracles. The list of such things is endless.

Let me reiterate that, however holy, however sincere, however ‘good’; even if a man has the best reputation both in heaven and on earth, still, he is nothing. Christ is all in all. True, we are called upon to follow men, but the men we are called upon to follow are men who have crucified their lives with Christ.

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1)

We need the revelation of the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ to discern such men, for many will come in sheep’s clothing, but on the inside they are ravenous wolves.

Christ is the foundation of our faith, not men. Today, people are putting men on a pedestal at the expense of Christ. The reason for this, of course, is what Jesus said in John 5:41-44:

“41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”

Men who love giving men honour also love receiving honor from men, and the Bible here tells us that such people have not the love of God in them. They do not love God, their claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Why should we want people to praise us, anyway? It is because we want to appropriate His glory for ourselves. Now, in worldly terms, that is called treason. And, in every country of the world, the punishment for treason is death. When you attempt to challenge the authority of the king, you arouse his highest level of wrath.

The same applies to God.

Many so-called churches today are nothing but cults. The reason is, simply, that men, and not Jesus, are exalted in these churches. And when we exalt men, we exalt nothing but the flesh.

But when we exalt Christ, we exalt Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And in Him alone who died and rose again is to be found the life of the Spirit.

Where is man in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified?

Here, man has been 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)

[There are a whole lot of fascinating things going on in this clip, from the shakings to the fakings. From the woman yelling, “Puuuuush!!” to ‘Manpower’. For me, though, it is the speed with which T.D. Jakes raises his hands as 1m. U.S. dollars closes in on him that generates the most interest]

“Whatsoever He Saith Unto You, Do It.”

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. Jn. 2:1-11

This scripture is without a doubt the best-loved  scripture in the entire world – but it is for all the wrong reasons. Many people imagine it is an advert for Heineken and other beers and wines, and the world loves this interpretation. But this scripture is not talking about beer or wine. This is God speaking, and God does not get drunk on beer or wine, for He is Spirit and holy. The Bible tells us:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

We are not to get drunk with wine because God does not get drunk with wine.

Everything that Jesus did while He was here on earth were metaphors – spiritual metaphors. We are to interpret everything that Jesus did in the Spirit and apply it to our hearts. If anything we read in scripture does not translate into something that has to do with our hearts, then we should realize we have neither grasped its meaning nor its significance.

That is why we are called to walk in the revelation that the Holy Spirit gives us (Eph. 3:3). If we do not walk in revelation, we shall interpret scripture just as the world interprets it – in its lusts.

And so here we see Jesus’ mother telling them to do “whatsoever he says to you”.

So what is the allegorical meaning of this scripture? It is that we are to do whatsoever Jesus tells us to do. The problem with us is that we do not do what the Lord Jesus tells us. If we did whatsoever Jesus told us to do, we would have the best lives ever. That does not mean we would have a problem-free life, no. It simply means we would have good lives spiritually – lives full of victory over sin, the devil and the world.

“Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

In these words, we realize that Mary knew what the Lord was capable of. And, sure enough, when the servants did what Jesus told them to do, the water was turned into the best wine ever! In fact, the wine was so sweet and rich that the ruler of the feast actually called over the bridegroom to ask him why he had saved such good wine for last!

If we did what Jesus told us to in any situation, we would get, not only the only meaningful results in our lives, but we would get the best ever! This is in our marriages, in our personal lives, in our relationships, in everything.

Where there is no peace, Jesus brings peace. Where there is no joy, Jesus brings unbounded joy.

As believers, we can know exactly what the Lord is telling us in each and every situation. Jesus is the master of detail and He gives us instructions to the smallest detail. The problem with us is that, unlike these servants in Cana, we do not do “whatsoever” He tells us. Much of the time we rely on our good sense of reasoning, like all the great philosophers have done. Nietzsche it was who declared, “God is dead”. Nietzsche was a famous philosopher and many people believed him. But in the Spirit, Nietzsche is unknown, and his philosophies count for nothing. The only thing that his philosophies accomplished was to make people to disobey Jesus, to their woe!

If we heed Jesus’ instructions, we will live. But we will not only live; we will live a rich life of peace, joy and satisfaction. The Psalmist said:

8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:8-11)

Notice verses 8 and 11:

“I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved… Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

This is our key to living a victorious life in the Spirit… setting the Lord before us, and heeding His every word. Our spiritual victory lies in our obedience to Christ.

[Below: A flock of long-tailed birds adorn a tree in Arusha]

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Building Christ’s Victorious Church – Part 1

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mat. 16:18

Notice in the above scripture that Jesus said He would build His church. That is extremely important for the church to understand. The reason for this is because Jesus knew men would try to build His church, and He knew that if men built His church, it would not stand. Unless Christ builds His church, it shall not be victorious against the gates of hell. The gates of hell refer to evil in its every form. If Christ does not build His church, evil will prevail against it. The church will not be holy as God wants it to be.

Why will evil prevail against the church? Evil will prevail against the church because the church will be weak. A weak church cannot stand, much less defend itself. A weak church is a baby church. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us what a baby church or Christian is:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” 1 Cor. 3:1-3

Thank God we begin as babies in Christ. That is as it should be. But after we have been born again in the Spirit, we ought to grow in that same Spirit. If we do not grow in the Spirit, we will forever remain babies in Christ, and we shall be overcome by evil.

Now, when many believers hear or read of the gates of hell or evil, they immediately think of the devil and his works. That is true, of course, but many do not realize that the only way that the devil works his works with any impact to the church is when believers have not crucified their flesh.

The knee-jerk reaction of a Christian who does not see in the Spirit is to think of the devil every time the word “evil” is mentioned. But for the believer who sees in the Spirit, he or she will understand that the gates of hell, or evil, refer nearly all the time to the works of the flesh in the believer. The devil may attack our bodies, but he cannot attack our spirit if the flesh is not alive in us.

The devil is not when my neighbor is persecuting me. In fact, in all likelihood, that is God at work. On the contrary, the devil works when I allow my old, carnal nature of the flesh to rule in me.

When the carnal nature is at work in me, I will exhibit the works of the flesh as laid out in Galatians 5:19-21:

“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Notice the fine script in verse 21: “and such like”. That means that the things listed here by no means comprise the exhaustive inventory of the works of the flesh. Just because you have a trait of the flesh that is not mentioned here does not mean you are not a carnal Christian.

The church cannot take even one effective step in its heaven-bound journey without understanding and acknowledging two things:

  1. Firstly, the flesh is the church’s number one enemy. When the devil was coming at Him with all his fury, Jesus said he “hath nothing in me.” (Jn. 14:30) Jesus’s flesh was not alive in Him.
  2. Secondly, it is Christ Himself who has to build the church.

So how does Christ build His church? More appropriately, however, let us begin by looking at how men try to build God’s church.

When men can quote scripture, when men know the Bible from one end to the other; when men have been to Bible school and have graduated with degrees; when men know all the Biblical doctrines about “repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1-2); when men know all these things BUT ARE NOT CHANGING; when men know all these things BUT REMAIN WITH THEIR CARNAL NATURES AND ATTRIBUTES yet continue going to church and continue ministering to God as if there is something fruitful going on in the Spirit, this is how men try to build Christ’s church.

When we think that our singing pleases God, and we go to extremes to make our worship experiences as beautiful and powerful as possible, BUT ARE NOT CHANGING INTO THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST, this is how men build God’s church.

When men boast in their power to pray and we even hear of “prayer warriors” in church, BUT MEN ARE NOT CHANGING, this is how men try to build Christ’s church.

When preaching becomes the focus of our calling; when miracles and “mighty works” of the Spirit become our focus; when we hear of ministries that go by men’s names, this is how men will try to build Christ’s church.

When we boast in mega-structures and mega-numbers in our churches; when we plaster our churches with such exotic names like “Helicopter Church”; this is how men build Christ’s church.

The result of all these things and many others like these; the result, as we see today, is a weak, defeated church. We can clearly tell from scripture that the early church was a strong, victorious church. Sin was dealt with firmly and effectively. But the church today is overcome by every kind of sin. To begin with, the true doctrine of the cross (“Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – 1 Cor. 2:1) has been removed from the church, and it has been supplanted by false doctrines.

The natural outcome of this is that the flesh has thrived in the church. It is noteworthy that preachers today exhibit every work of the flesh in their lives. The prosperity preachers top this list, of course. And they have a massive following, which means that a large proportion of the church is following after the flesh.

Man has tried to build Christ’s church and the result is that the church has not taken one productive step in its quest for the life of Christ both on earth and in heaven.

Christ, therefore, has to build His church for it to be strong and victorious against the gates of hell. Finally, we arrive at the critical question: how does Christ build His church?

We shall see the answer in the second part of this post.

[Below: Today’s church is largely a cosmetic affair]

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