Abigail’s Beauty – Part 2

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

Many years ago, when I was a small boy, my school organized an expedition for some of us to visit a ship at the coast. When we arrived, the ship’s captain led us on a tour of the big ship; but I do recall that the one thing that made a permanent mark on my mind was the engine room. It was huge. When we walked down there, it was like we had entered a different world altogether. At that young, impressionable age, the engines appeared to be a hundred stories high! Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on down there. In fact, I recall it was like we found no one down there. Just the large engines powerfully humming away by themselves.

Then the captain spoke to us about the engines. I remember the word he used. He said, “The engine room is the heart of the ship.”

The engines, he told us, drove everything on that ship. Nothing could work on that ship if the engines were dead. The engines were the life of the ship. In other words, the engines made the ship to become a ship! Without the engines, that ship was just a big piece of scrap metal sitting uselessly (and possibly dangerously) on top of the ocean waters.

It is the same with us. The heart is our engine room. It is our very life. Our heart controls everything we do. And God, in his infinite wisdom, is concerned only with what issues from our hearts, for this is where our life is. As far as God is concerned, if we are to do things without the heart, we might as well not do them. God does not regard anything that is not done from the heart. That was exactly what He meant when He told Samuel:

“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

The man who wrote the Book of Proverbs probably received one of the greatest insights into God’s working, for he wrote:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Out of a man’s heart comes every issue of his life. His character comes out of his life; and so does his success, his prosperity – and even his beauty. And, in more ways than one, this inner life comes out and brightens a man’s exterior life.

That said, we cannot, as spiritual people, measure success, beauty or prosperity in material terms. No, we measure these things through what comes out of a man’s heart.

Consider Joseph. The Bible says of him,

“And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.” (Gen. 39:6)

What does the Bible mean by “goodly”? Does it mean he was good-looking, handsome? He might have been, but that is not what the Bible is talking of here.

Or, “well favoured”; what does that mean? Does it mean Joseph was built like Hercules? By no means. We might not even have any inkling of Joseph’s physique, for that is not what the Bible is referring to here.

The Bible is not interested in these things. Rather, in using these terms, the Bible is trying to show us the kind of heart that Jospeh had. Joseph had a “goodly” heart (not physique); and the term “well favoured” means he had the grace of God in him. And, through having this kind of heart, Joseph prospered.

How about Moses? The Bible record about Moses states:

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23)

Does that mean that Moses was more handsome than his siblings and that his parents therefore gave more consideration to him than to the others?

Hardly. On the contrary, the writer here is talking in the Spirit. In the Spirit, Moses’s parents saw into his heart. They somehow saw, in the Spirit, that this boy would turn out to be a vessel in God’s hands. And for that reason (for they were people of faith), “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”; and they hid Moses.

Finally, let us consider the life of what most people regard as the Bible’s favorite character, David. In most people’s imagination, as well as in folklore and in countless modern-day movies on the subject, David is given the character of a strapping, handsome young man. My guess is that all this comes from what people read about David in 1 Samuel 16:12:

“… Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

But th church has no place for Hollywood’s portrayal of a Biblical figure. All the attributes that the Bible lays out here talk, not of David’s physical appearance, but of his heart. Yes, the commendations that this particular scripture places on David are many, but that is because the heart of David had so many credentials to it.

Many of us would love to have such credentials attached to our names in God’s heavenly Kingdom;  but there is a price to pay. And these men and and women were willing to pay the price.

The price we have to pay to become beautiful in our spirits, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, is to guard our hearts. And, when it comes to guarding our hearts, there is no way around it apart from denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Christ.

Need we wonder, then, why the Apostle Paul would preach such a singular gospel,

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2)

It was because he realized the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul said,

“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29)

Christ worked in Paul’s heart mightily. The Apostle Paul was one of the most beautiful people spiritually. It was because he allowed the cross to work in him. When our hearts are well, we are the most beautiful people in the world.

Joseph’s Patience – Part 2

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. Gen. 37:5

It goes without saying that in any race, the contestants endure because they are aware of the nature of the reward awaiting them. There needs to be a catalyst for one to endure any hardship. The catalyst for Joseph’s perseverance was because he had a dream. Yes, one day, Joseph dreamed a dream. In fact, he dreamed a series of dreams. I am glad to say that Joseph did not day-dream, and it is important for us to make note of that difference. Joseph dreamed an actual dream.

We all know that day-dreaming amounts to nothing. Day-dreaming, as it is popularly known, is another word for wishful thinking. But an actual dream can indicate something tangible.

In spiritual terms, we could liken day-dreaming to the desires for this material life that most believers have. Dreams like “coming to America”. “Coming to America” is like going to heaven for most people. Here in Africa, that is Dream No. 1. But going to America is a material dream and, in the Spirit, this amounts to wishful thinking for God does not reside in America. God is everywhere; but the even more important fact is that God desires to live in us, wherever we are.

On the other hand, we could liken an actual dream (under the Old Covenant) to a spiritual vision. A spiritual vision talks of having our spiritual eyes enlightened. A spiritual vision shows us the riches of God’s heavenly Kingdom – in us! Can you visualize that? Not just seeing God’s heavenly riches; but having those riches in us. Such a realization is way beyond what we can humanly imagine; it needs the hand of God to reveal these things. That is why the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians:

“1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:1-5)

It is a revelation!

In other words, therefore, we can say that Joseph had a spiritual revelation. This is the same revelation that Moses had:

“24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Heb. 11:24-26

Yes, through the revelation that Moses received, he

“had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”

We could go on to talk of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

And many other men and women of faith.

It was the spiritual vision that made all these men and women to endure suffering. They understood God’s plan for their lives and, for that, reason, they persevered. There is a worldly plan and there is a heavenly plan, for our lives. We need to choose the right plan.

We cannot wait, like Joseph, for a dream in the night to lead us to a heavenly vision of God’s plan for our lives. Such a dream may or may not come. In any case, Joseph is an Old Testament character, and there are so many things that we under the New Covenant cannot carry on in the same fashion as the Old Testament figures did.

Under the New Covenant, we have the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit gives us our dream, the heavenly dream. This is what will enable us to persevere. We need that spiritual dream in order to persevere. Most believers have only a material dream. They have dreams of worldly riches, and worldly success. Such cannot persevere. When persecution comes, they easily crumble.

But a spiritual vision will have us standing tall and strong no matter how hard the winds of this world may howl.

Of Joseph, and Jacob

17 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. Ps. 105:17-19

It is rare that I can read the story of Joseph without tears streaming down my cheeks. It is incredible the suffering the saints of old endured in order to carry through and keep alive God’s plan and purpose through the ages until Christ’s time should come.

All the more reason that we should consider it a privilege when we suffer for Christ’s sake. And it is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul would write:

“8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9)

If any man preach any other gospel than the singular gospel that Paul preached – (“But we preach Christ crucified…” 1 Cor. 1:23) – let that man be accursed.

For Christ has called us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. Jesus also said,

“13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Mat. 7:13-15)

Many false prophets will rise up in the last days who will show a different way, the easy way; but it leads to destruction. But the only way to eternal life is the way that Joseph, Jacob and the early saints, walked – the way of suffering.


Jacob’s ‘Mistake’

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Gen. 48:13-20

What a contrast! A man who can see God’s plan in the Spirit, and one who does not. And, we see here what happens when someone does not see in the Spirit and is confronted. Notice Joseph was “displeased” by his father Jacob’s actions.

In our country, my tribe is renowned. It is famous for all the wrong reasons, notably anger. I heard there is an anger management centre in New York. What is needed is for my entire tribe (which is very small, actually; this is affordable) to be airlifted to that centre in New York, NY and be given a crash program in anger management. I personally wouldn’t mind such a trip since I would get the chance to set my foot in the land of opportunity (although, truth be told, I was watching a clip of a street in Philadelphia recently and my conclusion was that some part of this great country has gone to the dogs).

Anyways, I was telling you about my tribe. In my country, when you introduce yourself as coming from my tribe, people generally step back a pace or two just to feel safe. We are feared that much.

With such a record-setting reputation, it makes it that much harder for someone from my tribe to have their right taken from them. They will fight to the death to hold on to their right. Nor do they take censure lying down.

That is how it has been for a big part of my life. I have been a fighter, and it was not the good fight of our faith. It took me a long time to finally come to the realization that I had a problem with people generally, but with my wife especially. It started out slowly, but I would criticize whatever she said or did. Nearly nothing she said seemed right or praiseworthy. I reached a point where even the slightest mistake on her part became a Mt. Everest for me. I was blowing up 24/7.

One time we had visitors at home and in the course of their stay, we took them to do some shopping in town. They wanted to buy a certain item, and my wife had already told them the price of the item, without my knowledge. When we arrived in town, they found to their dismay that the actual price of this item far exceeded the money they carried with them.

I asked them, “Who gave you the price?”

They said, “Mama” (my wife).

I was livid. I knew the right price and my wife had given them the wrong price without consulting with me! I took it personally that she would do something without consulting me.

Neither the visitors nor my wife had the additional money needed to purchase the item. I had the extra money; but in my heart I vowed I wouldn’t give out a dime. I vowed to let her suffer for her ‘stupidity’. I therefore whistled my way around the stalls as, from the corner of my eye, I watched my wife, visibly distressed,  haggling with the dealer for a price reduction. I felt extremely satisfied when the shopkeeper firmly kept repeating that a price reduction on that particular item was not possible.

If there is one person who can say that God is merciful and mean it, that person is me. At that particular moment that I was looking at my wife, God opened my eyes to see a vista of sorts. Deep inside me something stirred and I saw that God had all along been trying to do something to or for me through my wife’s many seeming mistakes, missteps, miscalculations, and oversights. Yes, the Lord showed me that it was He who was at work in all those things in my wife’s actions that were displeasing to me.

As children of God, we must acknowledge that nothing happens in our lives is by chance. More importantly still, we must realize that what appears displeasing to us in other people’s actions towards us is actually God at work. Joseph was “displeased”; but it was God at work in his father’s actions! And God works all for our good. It was all for Joseph and his sons’ good – and for the good of God’s Kingdom.

What displeases us in our natural ‘habitat’ is what we see in the natural. In the Spirit, though, what appears harmful to us in the natural is, in nearly every case, good and profitable to us in the Spirit. In the natural, Manasseh was the firstborn and there was absolutely no reason for Jacob to overstep him. But Jacob did overlook Manasseh – because he was answering God’s call in the Spirit.

When God sets out to do things His way, He does not need our permission. Our wills, our plans and our purposes are all twisted, and God is out to put things straight in our lives. God knows what is best for His Kingdom – and for us.

To end my saga now… As I stood watching my wife desperately trying to save an unsavable situation, and as the Lord put his finger on my pride and spiritual blindness, I broke down. Deeply humbled, I walked up to my wife and asked her, straight up, “How much do we need to add?”

“Five thousand”, she said.

I dipped into my pocket and came up with the money and humbly handed it to the shopkeeper.

Ever since that time, I have been very much aware of God’s dealings with me through my wife. I realized I had gone ‘overboard’ in the way I viewed and dealt with her and there is a lot of backtracking I have had to do in that regard since that day.

[Below: My wife is bound to make many mistakes; but God uses her actions to chastise me]


Unity In The Body Of Christ

So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way. Gen. 45:24

What does the phrase “to fall out” mean? It means to separate, to be in disunity. The Swahili version puts this scripture this way, “And do not quarrel among yourselves along the way.”

You may wonder why Joseph would need to tell his brothers, grown men, not to quarrel among themselves. Such a statement seems even out of place in the Bible!

But I can assure you that nothing that is written in the Bible can ever be considered “out of place”. The seemingly trivial and irrelevant statement that Joseph made here has very powerful implications in the Spirit.

At last, now, Joseph was in a position where he could speak to his brothers and they would listen to him. There was a time when they would not listen to him and they had even sold him into slavery.

But with God persecution is momentary. Soon Joseph was in a position of such authority that his brothers better take heed to every word that came out of his mouth if they wished to live!

It is so with our Lord Jesus and His church today. We cannot take Jesus’ words lightly today. He has passed through death and He is Lord over all, throughout eternity. Jesus’ words carry life. If we pay heed to them we will live. If we do not heed Jesus’ words we will die spiritually.

You see, Joseph was a type of Jesus and what is happening here with Joseph’s words is that Jesus is admonishing the church – us – to grow to the level of maturity where we as members of the Body of Christ no longer quarrel and fight amongst ourselves.

It is no doubt a matter of shame, and we do much to cover up the fact, but the truth is that we as believers squabble and quarrel among ourselves more than we show love and tolerance to one another. Even worse is the fact that we are not aware of the gravity of the negative attitudes that we carry. But they are not a small thing with God. Divisiveness and wrangling within the Body of Christ tears at the core of the Kingdom of God that Christ came to establish in men’s hearts.

Notice the flow of the scripture in this particular verse:

“So he sent his brethren away, and they departed…”

We, too, have been sent by Christ. We have departed; we are on a mission to save the world and establish the church. We are busy! But the mission that Christ has sent us on requires, not just “busy-ness”, but transformed hearts, transformed attitudes, and transformed lives.

And so,

“… and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.”

These words were Joseph’s final admonition to His brethren. As much as he loved them, yet he warned them because he wanted them to forge a true brotherhood.

Christ’s chief desire for His church is for it to grow and become mature and united. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time and energy evangelizing; but his chiefest concern was for the church to be perfected – perfected in unity. That fact is reflected in his writings.

In one of his epic writings on the subject, Paul writes the Corinthians:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ… 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)

The Body of Christ is about unity in the Spirit. The church, therefore must grow in the Spirit. We must desire to walk in the revelation of the cross, where we are daily submitting to Christ. Remember, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Mat. 11:28)

Jesus had a meek and humble spirit! How about us?

If we choose any other way that way will simply be “another Jesus”,  “another spirit”, and “another gospel” – things we have not received from Christ Himself (2 Cor. 11:4). Such a ‘gospel’ might appear attractive and fulfilling, but its appeal is only to the flesh. It has absolutely no power in the Spirit to transform the inner man. If we hearken to it we forever remain carnal believers – men and women of the flesh.

But the revelation of the cross – where we have the mind of Christ, and are daily denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ – this gospel has power to bring us to true spiritual maturity, into the character of Christ, and hence unity in the Spirit.

Like Joseph did with his brothers, Christ therefore warns us. He warns us to take up our cross and follow Him. Christ’s warning is not a trivial warning, and we cannot take it lightly. It is something that we should heed with alacrity, for it is very life.

[Below: A meek and humble spirit brings true unity among brethren]


The Gospel Brings Persecution

6 … And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.

17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:

18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. Gen. 39:6-20

More often than not, the devil comes dressed as a woman. And if you refuse his advances, he has only one option for you: persecution.

It would have been the easiest of things for Potiphar’s wife to let things be, after Joseph had fled from her. But she would not. Through this action Joseph had proved that he would never lie with her, and she vowed in her heart to make him ‘see red’.

And red he did see, even though not to the extent she probably had intended. As a slave, he ought to have been killed immediately. But God’s hand was upon Joseph, and He was working all things for his good. Instead, Joseph was thrown into the king’s prison, and there he languished for 13 long years!

As children of God, persecution is the only thing that awaits us in this world. I realize that is not exactly ‘good news’; but it is the news of the hour – and the hour is now. If you have been hearing the gospel of how much God only wants to bless you and how He will not allow the devil to touch you even with his small finger, I can assure you that you have been hearing the wrong gospel. Actually, there is nothing in the Bible to support such beliefs. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus said,

“I am come to send fire on the earth…” (Lk. 12:49)

He also said,

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Mat. 10:34)

Where do we get the idea that Jesus brought peace and prosperity?

Right at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God had told the serpent:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

In other words, God said He would allow the devil to do something against us!

In the Bible, we see that this happened with Job, the Apostle Paul and all the men and women who walked with God. They all followed in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuted!

The problem with the church today, of course, is that it is complacent and worldly. In other words, it is world-friendly. But that is no position for the church. It can only be so for a church that is avoiding persecution. Persecution refers to a person who has turned their back on the world and its ways. The Bible says about Joseph:

And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.” (v. 10)

In the days that we are living especially, persecution is bound to increase. The world has so suddenly become emboldened against God it’s almost surreal. We will have a choice to make.

That is why we need to have the mind of Christ in us. That statement, “To have the mind of Christ” might have appeared banal a few years back, but today it is imperative. Having the mind of Christ means denying yourself, taking up our cross and following Christ.

And that is exactly why any other gospel simply will not do! Nothing apart from the gospel of the cross can prepare us for what is coming.

Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem, knowing He would suffer and die there. Nothing would turn Him back. But again He knew it was the will of the Father that he undergo the suffering. Resurrection life would come out of that suffering.

We, too, must accept and be willing to undergo suffering in this world. We must be prepared to undergo opposition of every sort, for the enemy’s anger against us has been kindled. And yet… the enemy is inconsequential here. It is God who is in control of everything, and He uses even the enemy’s anger for His purposes. That is why scripture says that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28).

We therefore need not fear as we go through persecution. On the contrary, we should be emboldened and strengthened in hope of receiving something far much better.

As Joseph would prove later, in dying we live – and live big!

[Below: The sun sets over Dar es Salaam City]


The 5-Fold Ministry: Benjamin, or Joseph’s Half-brothers?

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him. Gen 43:34

Notice that Benjamin was given five times as many portions of food as his other brothers were given by Joseph. That is truly spiritual language!

Let us also consider Genesis 45:22: “To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.” Here again, Joseph gave gifts to his brothers (whom I deliberately call half-brothers), but the Bible takes the pain to tell us that Joseph gave to Benjamin “three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.”

Benjamin was Joseph’s true brother, born of the same mother, Rachel. Joseph’s actions in both these scriptures demonstrated his love for Benjamin. Joseph loved his other brothers also, but he loved Benjamin infinitely more. He therefore favoured him far above his brethren, and gave him gifts of far greater worth than the rest of his brethren.

While Joseph is a type of Christ, Benjamin is a type of the church, and the number “five” in both these scriptures speaks of the five-fold ministry – the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. Christ’s love for the church is revealed in that He gave these five ministries to the church. The riches and privileges that Christ has for the church that are to be found in the operation of all these ministries, working together as a team within the church. The incredibly rich treasures that Christ has given to His church through the operation of these ministries are, simply, indescribable. The five-fold ministry is packed!

If Jesus had not intended for all these ministries to operate within the church in their totality, He would have given one, or two, or three. But He gave five.

That can only mean that when we talk of these ministries we must talk of them as one ministry. Hence, the five-fold ministry. The reference is right and true.

There is no place for the lone wolf ministry within the Body of Christ.

In Ephesians 3:14-21, the Apostle Paul makes a prayer for the Ephesian church. But notice that the apostle’s prayer that the Ephesians “might be filled with all the fulness of God” (v. 19) is directly linked to the operation of the five-fold ministry in their midst (Ephesians 4).

God’s intended goal for the church is for it to walk in “the fulness of God”, no less. And, pray, what is “the fulness of God”? It is that God’s people may mature in the Spirit, unto perfect men and women in Christ. The church can only be perfected through circumcising of our hearts and putting to death all the works of the flesh in our lives. It is a deep work of the Spirit, which can only be brought about by the revelation of the cross in our hearts. That is“the fulness of God”!

This revelation is something that only the five-fold ministry can accomplish (Eph. 3:1-12).

The five-fold ministry talks of teamwork. These five ministries – undergirded by the foundational ministry of the apostle – form a team. For Christ’s goal for the church to be realized these ministries must work as a team.

Today, much of what we see of God’s church are disembodied ‘ministries’ and denominations scattered all over the spiritual landscape. People think this is God’s plan for the church, and they cheer these ministries on. But no, that is not the church and we should stop cheering. Just from reading this scripture, we can tell that the concept of “church” without the five-fold ministry –working as a team – is simply not there. That word, “church”, is out of order where the five-fold ministry is not operational.

Single ministries, however ‘powerful’ are simply not God’s plan for the church. God is gracious and merciful and He will bless us here and there, in small ways and in big ways. There are many ways in which God could and does bless us. According to His magnanimous nature, therefore, God allows these single ministries to be there and to do a thing or two. But whatever these lone ministries do will never come close to the fullness of what God has for the church.

Any one ministry is a blessing to the church. But when the church is operating under a single ministry – be it a prophet, a pastor, or even an apostle – and not within the totality of the five-fold ministry, it in effect becomes like one of Joseph’s half-brothers, receiving piece-meal portions. Did Joseph’s brothers rejoice at his gifts? They did, of course! The gifts were big! But what they received was nothing compared to what Benjamin received. He received five portions – “the fulness of God”!

It is sad – and a shame – that men start ministries or churches which they turn into their own property. They establish personal ‘church dynasties’, where they operate their ministries single-handedly and after they move on they hand their ministries to their sons and grandsons. It is a vicious cycle designed to keep out the vitality of the Holy Spirit to touch people’s lives through allowing the five-fold ministry to operate within the church.

Christ loves His people. But if they will not allow the five-fold ministry to minister to them, there is no way He can perfect them and therefore God’s people will forever remain babes in the spirit. They will never mature spiritually. They will rejoice at the solitary “portions” that are handed to them – material needs, healing, lone ministries operating here and there – but they will never know the deep riches that Christ has for His church, the working of the cross in their lives to mature them, to perfect them, and to unite them in the Spirit. This is something that God’s people need to seriously desire in their lives.

We could say that the church’s sole calling is to operate under the five-fold ministry (Col. 1:24-29).

On their part, God’s servants need to seek for a revelation of the cross in their own lives so that they can humble themselves and see their need to seek other true ministries with which they can unite together to build the Body of Christ.

[Below: Sunsets are incredibly beautiful. Here, the sun sets in Dar es Salaam]


Acknowledging Christ

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. Genesis 37:3-11

This scripture refers to the church. We see here that Joseph saw a vision, or a dream. And this dream, though maligned by his brethren and over which Joseph would suffer much – this dream would become the ultimate reality. Everything would work out exactly according to the dream that Joseph had been given.

Likewise, we see that, just like Joseph received God’s plan or revelation of Christ, the apostles also received the gospel through revelation. The word ‘revelation’ is spiritual vocabulary. Even before the church proper had begun, Jesus set the foundation upon which the church would be built: it was upon the revelation of Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The word “Christ” is not a name. It is a title, and it talks about Jesus the Son of God, who would come and suffer and die to take away the sins of people.

The revelation of Christ is the foundation of the church. Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12, “11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Just like Joseph, this revelation would not be an easy gospel for the apostles to carry; they would suffer much for it. The Lord told Paul as much through Ananias: “… For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Act 9:16

Just like Joseph, the apostles would suffer at the hands of their own brethren, the Jews, for something that was revealed to them by God!

But we also need to understand that what was revealed to the apostles was not just a teaching, but a way of life, a life that would go against the worldly current. The revelation that the apostles received concerned God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in whom is the totality of life: the suffering, the dying and the resurrection life.

I am of the firm opinion that ultimately the church will have to acknowledge God’s Son, Jesus Christ, just as Jacob’s sons did with Joseph. Now, I am not talking about the initial acknowledgement where we confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. I met a girl recently and as I was sharing the gospel with her she told me, “Pastor, I have received Jesus into my life already, but I am still living a life of sin.”

Clearly, something was missing in her life.

Acknowledging Christ here means living the crucified life. It is this life that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Galatians 2:20: “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”;

And, in Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

The word “ultimately” means “eventually”, “finally”, “in the end” (thanks to my Thesaurus).

That means that initially, and in-between, the church will have all the freedom to run after every other doctrine they wish to run after – just like Joseph’s brothers did. When you read the above account in full, you will see that while Joseph was suffering in Egypt, Judah was gallivanting all over the land and doing the most abominable things. None of the other brothers’ lives are revealed, but I imagine that if Judah was (as the Bible indicates) the noblest of them all, then the other guys’ lives likely must have been open sewers! (Except, of course, Benjamin, who stayed steadfastly close to his father’s side).

You cannot walk in victory over sin if you are not walking in the revelation of the cross!

It is an undeniable fact that there are many options – many doctrines – that are open to the church today, and nearly all are designed to allow the Christian to walk freely on the broad and wide road (Mat. 7:14).

God’s people will run after miracles and signs and wonders. They will dance all the way to the bank under the influence of the gospel of prosperity. They will declare that as the “King’s Kids”, they have every “right” to this and that. They will hearken to many other things, things of the flesh.

But above all, they will reject the gospel of the cross. It will not be attractive to them. Some even, failing to catch the revelation, will claim it is a cult.

But God’s plan and purpose is right there, in the cross. The gospel that will finally take the Bride, the church to the Bridegroom, Jesus, will be the gospel of revelation of the cross, where men and women learn to deny self, crucify the flesh and live the resurrection life.

This is the gospel that I am convinced that the church will ultimately have to bow down and acknowledge – the gospel of the cross, because you cannot detach Jesus from the cross.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not an easy life. The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13-16: “13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 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.”

We are called to live a holy life, and that holiness is found in the revelation of Jesus Christ. In Him – in denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ – we find the grace to live the kind of life that pleases God, a holy life wherein when the Bridegroom comes for us He will find us without blemish, spot or wrinkle. Hallelujah!

Heavenly vs Earthly Glory

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Cor. 15:51

It is difficult for me to not cry whenever I read the story of Joseph in the Bible. The scene where Joseph is taken out of prison and into Pharaoh’s presence, and the events that follow, is particularly tough on me, and many are the times I have found myself crying so violently on reading it, that my body would shake and rattle like it was about to break apart. I take precautions when I am reading this explosive account because one time I bawled so loudly the neighbors came to see what was wrong.

I always wondered why I should grieve so intensely whenever I read Joseph’s account. There was a voice in my head telling me that because I was raised in a poor family, therefore I could identify with poor Joseph, and that was why I cried. In other words, this was a psychological reaction and I was empathizing with my physical situation. This line of thinking seemed plausible to me, and with time I even found myself reproaching myself whenever I was tempted to cry reading that story.

And then one day the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see what it was about this part of Joseph’s story that was so powerful. That was the day that I came to realize what made me cry so hard. The revelation hit me like a freight train, as they say, and that day I knew without a doubt that God had spoken to my heart. On that day, I came to understand the deep spiritual significance of Joseph’s instant promotion at the court of Pharaoh.

I also came to know that God called us to a spiritual purpose and that when He moves or touches our hearts it is always for a spiritual purpose. We should never interpret it otherwise.

What I understood from the story of Joseph was so contrary to the cheap ‘promotion’ gospels that we hear peddled in Church today. You know, today you will hear adverts on Christian radio and TV about the ‘uplifting’ work of Jesus: Jesus wants to promote you at your place of work, in your finances, in your studies, in your health; He wants to give you a wife, etc., etc.

It is hard for many believers to accept the truth of the Gospel because they have been taught that we get saved in order to live like ‘King’s kids’ here on earth; even though the Bible itself clearly negates that notion. Today there is another gospel, another Jesus and another spirit being preached and believers are paying heed to these things (2 Cor. 11:4).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with whether you are rich or poor; whether you sleep with a full tummy or an empty one.

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with material things, for God is our Father and He wants to do us good even in this world. But that is not the blessing we are called to look to. The Apostle Paul said: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. 15:19

God showed me that the true value of this account of Joseph was in showing us how in the twinkling of an eye we will be taken out of our physical bodies and into the glory of the living God at the last Day. That account is about our initiation into the heavenly glory. It is a spiritual account. The Bible tells us how things will be at the end: For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Cor. 15:27-28

There was none above Joseph in all of Egypt except Pharaoh. Likewise, above Christ and His Body, the Church, there will be only One – God the Father.

The account of Joseph’s promotion has nothing to do with anything of this world. We await an incomparably far greater glory, one that far outweighs anything that our mortal minds could dare to think. It is a spiritual glory. We need to cry to God for this revelation. Such revelation will put us eons ahead of this present world, and enable us to see spiritual things that are “afar off” (2 Pet. 1:9). Consequently, we can rejoice in the present suffering we are undergoing in anticipation of that which only our spirits know about.