Making It

The wife of a pastor friend of mine died yesterday afternoon, right after church. She was a woman whom I knew intimately. Just last Friday I was with her and her husband at their house. As we sat she complained of a headache, and her husband brought her some painkillers. No one thought anything else about it until she fell down in her sitting room and died. She died instantly.

It was a poor family and she lived a poor life. She never knew the good life.

Today, at her vigil, all the men were sitted outside and the women inside, as is customary when there is not enough space inside the house. Everyone’s thoughts were on what caused her sudden death. But, as her husband was narrating the ordeal, he said something that made me realize that the really important question was not what had caused her death, but where she’d gone.

A week ago, her 14-year old son had been involved in an accident. He had been riding a borrowed bicycle when he was broadsided by a motorcycle as he was making a turn. It was a ghastly accident, but luckily he came out largely unscathed. Within four days he was out running again. But the near-miss had shaken his mother badly.

Her husband told us, “My wife’s last words were to my son. She called him over and said to him, ‘Do you realize what could have happened to you in that accident? You could have died instantly. You should not play with going to church. Tell me you will not be missing church again.’

“At which”, proceeded the pastor, “the boy said, ‘I promise, mother.’”

It was then that his mother let him go. Not long afterwards, she collapsed inexplicably and died instantly.

As the pastor was speaking, we were sitted outside, under a clear, blue sky. Just about then, I glanced up and espied an airliner making its way across the sky. It was travelling from the north to the south. It was very high up, probably 30 – 40,000 feet. It was so high that were it not for the jetstream, I might not have noticed it.

Something told me, “No, she is not on that plane. She has left the splendors of this world that she never knew. But she is somewhere”.

And I knew, even as I looked up, beyond the airliner, that she had made it. Yes, she was finally with the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought was too tremendous for me to comprehend. It still is, even as I write.

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Dying To Live

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mat. 8:31-38
In the world, when men die, we say they’ve lost their lives. That is as it should be, for here we are speaking from a worldly point of view. It is fair and correct to say that someone has lost their life because they have no other life.
But when we believe in Jesus Christ, we gain another life. Not that we get to have more than one life like the proverbial cat. On the contrary, through losing this temporal earthly life we gain the eternal heavenly one. This is our singular calling as believers. Many believers know and are affirmed of the hope of eternal life. But there is the experiential grasping of this hope, which can only be achieved through losing our worldly life.
Unfortunately, many people do not have this revelation. Even after they have been born again, many believers are not aware that they need to lose this earthly life in order to gain the heavenly one. That is why they will fight and scrape for self-preservation in every sense of the word. They do not learn to lose their love for this life.
But losing or denying one’s self is not easy, as we see in Jesus’s example. It goes absolutely contrary to what we in our flesh would want to experience. Notice what Jesus stated would happen to Him:
“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed”.
Nothing in these words is easy by any standards. But with Jesus it went far beyond comprehension. He did not deserve to undergo any of this. Normally, after a terrorist attack you often here people say, “The terrorist killed innocent people”. But there is no such thing as an innocent person. All human beings are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).
The only Person to whom that word “innocent” ever applied in this world was our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible declares that “He did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).
Jesus therefore did not derserve to suffer in any way. On the contrary, He needed to be praised and exalted and lauded. But He suffered, and terribly. And for this reason – His sinlessness – our own suffering cannot be held in comparison to His.
But still the Bible exhorts us to have the mind of Christ,
“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)
It is not easy to have the mind of Christ. Such a mind will take you to places you wouldn’t want to be. It will lower you to levels you would not wish to be at. And sometimes it will cause you to suffer physical pain. That is why worldly-minded men will try to stop you from suffering for the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as Peter attempted to do to the Lord. I have heard believers say, “Being saved does not mean becoming a fool” as they attempt to justify fighting for their rights. That is why you will find them in the civil rights movements, etc.
But Jesus said clearly,
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it…”
May we learn to deny our selves. Denying ourselves means denying our own rights and whatever else the flesh craves. The flesh craves the world, literally. It has thousands and thousands of desires. But the cross comes to crucify these desires. It comes to reveal another glory, the heavenly glory. In the process, we count the glories of this world, including our rights and material comforts, as dung.
[In the world, dying is counted as losing. In the Spirit, it is gain]

A Ministry Of The Spirit! – Part 1

2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 2 Cor. 3:2-3

Many years ago, when I was under the charismatic gospel, I used to go to church meetings, conferences, etc., armed with pen and paper. These were my most important tools after my Bible. I had to write down everything that was taught.

Another thing had to do with my Bible. In those years, my Bible looked like a tattooed body. Underlining, highlighting, notes and comments were written all over my Bible. If I gave someone my Bible, they could not have been able to know what was originally written in the Bible; they would need a microscope to decipher what was of God and what was mine.

Another thing: I owned many different versions of the Bible, and my favorite pastime was to go through and compare all these versions against each other daily. I also had Bible concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, study guides and every kind of reference book that had to do with the Bible. And books… I loved to read books written by men of God. I loved the Lord with all my heart, and I did everything possible to get to know Him more.

Today I still love the Lord as I did those years back. But everything else has changed. Today, I have only two Bibles. One is the King James version; and the second one is the standard Swahili translation, Swahili being the language that we use in our part of the world. I have heard people say that the King James is difficult to read and hard to understand. I also used to think that in those days. Not any more. In fact, I find the King James Bible not only the easiest book to understand, but the most joyous to read.

I no longer carry pen and notebook into any service. That is, unless I want to take some information from someone, like their address. Or if I have an announcement to make in church. When I go into a church service I go only with my Bible.

I no longer use concordances, commentaries or any reference books. And I no longer study the old Biblical lands.

About my new Bible… I have had it since 2013 and I have written nothing inside save my name and address. There are no notes, no highlights, no underlining, no nothing. My Bible is just as it was when it came from the printers. If you open it, you would think I have never used it.

That’s the Swahili Bible. For the English Bible I have only my old King James version, which I once had considered getting rid of. And this Bible has no references in it. It is not a Study Bible.

(I have to say it here: there are some Bible versions which read like James Hadley Chase.)

I no longer read books, especially Christian ones. They no longer excite me. What excites me is the daily revelation that I get from God’s Word in the Bible.

So what is all this about? What has happened to me? Have I ran mad?

No. What has happened is that I have received the revelation of the gospel of the cross, which is the ONLY gospel ministered to by the Spirit. The revelation of Christ crucified ministers to the heart, not the mind. If you want to know that you are not under the ministry of the Spirit, all the proof you need to have is how much you feel you have to take and compare notes, read books, rely on study guides, references and commentaries, etc. The litmus test – as a friend of mine would say – of the fact whether you are or you are not under the ministry of the Spirit is when your life is cluttered with these things. It is the mind that relies on ink and paper; and the Spirit does not minister to the mind. The Spirit ministers to our spirits. The Bible says,

“Deep calleth unto deep…” (Ps. 42:7)

Notice verse 3 of 2 Corinthians 3.

“…ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

The Holy Spirit does not write His message with ink. Nor does He write it on paper. He writes it with life – God’s life. And He writes it on our hearts. Not on paper. All you need when you go to church is to have a right and receptive heart. And to make sure you are receving the right message.

We cannot become epistles of Christ if we are to rely on ink and paper. To become an epistle of Christ means to carry the life, and the grace, of Christ. Ink and paper go to the mind, and no work of the mind can produce this life in any man. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide despite having one of the greatest minds in the world.

Pen and paper. Throw those into the dustbin. Same with the ipad. Get a right and humble heart, and Christ will minister to you.

All the variant gospels, ministries and churches that have sprouted all over churchdom are a result of a lack of the ministry of the Spirit in the church. That is why you hear warped things like the gospel of prosperity, and worse.

But praise be to God for the gospel of the revelation of the cross. When the Holy Spirit ministers, He ministers through a revelation in our hearts. And the Holy Spirit does not reveal many things. He reveals only one thing: Christ and Him crucified. This is the ONLY gospel that the Holy Spirit ministers. He does not minister any other gospel for the simple reason that it is in this gospel alone that He dwells, the gospel where the precious blood of Jesus Christ was shed. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in any other gospel. Therefore, no other gospel can bring life to a man. No other gopel can transform a man to become an “epistle of Christ.”

How do I know this? It is because the Apostle Paul himself said,

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

If the Apostle Paul determined to know only one thing, then that’s the only thing worth knowing. It is the only thing any sincere believer should want to know.

Oh, to get a grip on the Pauline revelation! The gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is emphatically a ministry of the Holy Spirit, not of men’s minds.

Ultimately, this revelation is the only thing that a true believer can boast in, for it is what transforms him into the true image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, which is all that God is waiting for us to become.

Freedom In Christ – Part 1

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 The. 4:13-14

Oh, the liberty that the gospel brings!

One of the things that money cannot buy in this world is reprieve from sorrow. And, without a doubt, one of the most painful sorrows that affects us here on earth is the loss of a loved one. Imagine the pain that death brings to those who are left behind by the passing away of a loved one. It affects us in our deepest parts. It is bad enough when it is an ordinary death but, in today’s violent and unpredictable world in particular, death sometimes is attended with terror, pain, suddenness and a host of other additional calamities that make it all the more difficult for the deceased’s relatives to bear. I cannot imagine the pain that the violence that accompanies so many deaths in a place like the U.S. city of Chicago, for example, causes to those left behind. It is estimated that every day, 12 people are shot dead in Chicago.

It is in this light that we can better appreciate the Apostle Paul’s words here. This scripture makes it clear that people ignore Christ at their own spiritual peril. It is in Christ that both the dead and the living can enjoy this liberty. What Paul says in essence here is that when we lose a brother or sister in Christ there is no sense of loss on our part! The brother or sister is simply sleeping, he says! Who would mourn a person who was only sleeping?

What a blessing, to be set free from such incredible pain! Imagine being set free from the many bondages and hurts that death brings! It is an incredible thought.

But these things, though hard to comprehend, are true in the Spirit. Remember when Jesus was told that His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus did not break out wailing. He simply told His disicples:

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (Jn. 11:11)

Jesus said this because He was the resurrection and the life. He did, in fact, raise Lazarus from the dead.

Today, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life, and He will remain so unto eternity. We may grieve for a brother or sister who has died in the Lord in the short term, but that is due to our human weakness. In truth, however, that person has gone to a far better place – to be with the Lord.

This realization affords us incredible freedom – freedom from sorrow. And sorrow is one of our greatest enemies. Sorrow can hit us where nothing else can.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 8:36 ring out true and clear when held in this perspective.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

[Below: Women mourning at a funeral in rural Singida]

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The Price

… but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. Rom. 16:19

Do you know the price you need to pay to fulfill this scripture? You will have to give up many, many things. God will see to that, if you allow Him.

Evil, as spoken of here, is synonymous with the flesh. In other words, we need to be simple when it comes to the flesh. That is what this scripture is saying. Scripture is warning us here that if you decide to answer this high spiritual calling, you will, without a shadow of doubt, arrive at a place where you will not only live without many of the trappings of this world, but where also people will view you – and probably call you to your face – as stupid, a simpleton, poor, classless, a fool. Today, many of my brethren from Africa are losing limb and life (and marriages and children) in the desperate bid to get to the West to escape the so-called hard life. But, with the gospel, the hard life is exactly what we have been called to. A true child of God will not fear to live the hard life, nor to be viewed as, or called, any of those negative things, for the sake of the gospel.

Today I want to narrate to you the story of Mzee (Old man) Mgoloka. Mzee Mgoloka was a beauty in the Spirit, and he died leaving behind a legacy that shook all our churches at Zion Gospel Assembly.

Mzee Mgoloka was an elder in our church in Shinyanga. But he lived an interesting spiritual life; simple, frugal and extremely down-to-earth. The man did not even own a bicycle.

But Mzee Mgoloka had a working son and one day this young man decided to buy his father a truck so his father could relaxedly earn some income. The truck came complete with a driver.

Early the next morning after the hand-over, the truck was driven out to begin ‘rolling in the money’. But it hadn’t been gone ten minutes, though, when Mzee Mgoloka received a phone call from the driver.

“Hello, Mzee, please rush to such and such a place, I’ve just encountered a problem.”

“What problem?” Mzee Mgoloka enquired with surprise.

“Oh, just a small problem with the traffic police, sir”, the driver answered.

Within minutes, Mzee Mgoloka arrived on the scene. He went straight to the driver and asked him, “What’s the problem?”

“Oh, nothing, sir, except I didn’t come with any money.”

“What money? Money for what?” enquired the old man.

“Er, well, you know the way it is with the roads, Mzee.”

Immediately, it struck Mzee Mgoloka that in owning this truck, he had just stepped onto a very narrow road; but it was not the strait and narrow road that he had read in the Bible. This was a narrow road of a different kind. And he knew exactly where it led to.

BUT Mzee Mgoloka also knew what he needed to do.

He walked up to the traffic officer and addressed him.

“Sorry, sir”, he said, “I understand there is a problem with my truck. Please, sir, kindly, please, I beg you… if you can forgive an old man like me only this once, I promise to not bother you again.”

The traffic officer was fascinated by the old man’s show of humility and, after thinking it through, he granted him his request and waved the truck through.

Mzee Mgoloka got into the truck with the driver. He instructed the driver to turn around and head for his son’s house. When they arrived, Mzee Mgoloka asked the driver for the truck’s keys. He then got out of the vehicle and purposefully walked into the house. Once inside, he called out to his son.

When the young man arrived, Mzee Mgoloka handed him the truck’s keys.

“Son”, he said, “I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the good thoughts you have had towards me in buying me this truck. But I have perceived that this truck will take me straight to hell. This truck will prevent me from entering heaven, and I cannot allow that. So, here are the truck’s keys. And I thank you very much.”

The old man turned around and walked out of his son’s compound and that was the end of the matter. Not too long afterwards, Mzee Mgoloka died and went to heaven. He died on a Sunday afternoon, right after he had delivered a sermon in church. It was one of the rare Sundays that he had gotten the opportunity to preach in church. No doubt, God wanted this spiritual major-general to bid a proper farewell to the church.

Such is the price that we will need to pay to get to heaven. Mzee Mgoloka’s example might appear extreme, but in reality it is not. Not at all. On the contrary, that’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s how the simple, ordinary life of a spiritual person ought to be lived. The notion that such a lifestyle is ‘extreme’ is what has spawned the prosperity gospel and all the other gospels that cater to the flesh.

To this day, Mzee Mgoloka’s legacy stands, and it stands tall.

It is the flesh that fears to lose. Fear of this life is driving many of God’s children to do many spiritually regrettable things. The flesh wants to be coddled, and to receive the things of this world. But the spiritual person does not fear to lose. Remember Jesus’ words:

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

If we decide to cater to the Spirit, we must be prepared to lose. And, for some of us, we probably will need to lose more than what Mzee Mgoloka lost.

[Beginning today, for a while, I shall be posting here the old Hillsong gospel songs. They are timeless. I hope they will be a blessing to you]

 

Reflection

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Rom. 12:16

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in life is how insignificant I really am.

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The Church Today…

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.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:1-8

This entire portion of scripture ties in together.  When Paul tells Timothy:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”

he is telling him to do exactly what he did in order to receive what he will receive from God at his death. In other words, there is no other way for a preacher to fight the good fight than to do what Paul tells Timothy to do here, i.e., to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (v.2); and to

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

There is no short-cut to heaven.

More precisely, however, for our purposes today, let us zero in on verses 3 and 4; and, especially the phrase:

“For the time will come”.

In other words, the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy that it is not all times that people – God’s people – will turn their backs on sound doctrine in this manner. Even at the time when Paul was writing this there were false apostles, false prophets and all kinds of counterfeit preachers of the gospel. These people have been there throughout the entire history of the church, ever since Adam.

What Paul is talking of here is not a cranky preacher here and there; rather he is referring to something vastly monumental. He is referring to a time where the church as a whole (or at least most of it) will be overcome by the lusts of their flesh but, in order to keep a semblance of ‘church’, they will bring in preachers who will read from the Bible but who will preach/interpret scripture according to the lusts of the flesh. These preachers themselves will be men (and women) who have no heavenly agenda in them; their lives are centered on filling their bellies.

The Apostle here, by the power of the Holy Spirit, predicts a time in the future when God’s people will, wholesale and actively,

“not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (vs. 3-4)

The “they” Paul is talking of here is the church. The Bible explicitly says that God’s people will not endure sound doctrine! That’s incredible, to say the least.

Now, about the “time” that Paul is alluding to here. I very much doubt whether that “time” is not now. When you turn on Christian TV today, what do you see? Can you sincerely claim to find amongst all the teachings there any amount of preaching that has a bearing on the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you find there anything remotely related to Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”?

Sound doctrine is there, no doubt, but it is infinitesimal. Without a doubt, more than 90% of what you find on Christian TV are material, worldly teachings, much of it conveyed through so-called motivational teaching.

Even in third world countries like mine, all you hear on radio and television concerning the gospel is how to get rich or die trying; how to exorcise demons; tales of how people have been to hell (and heaven) and back; encounters with witches, etc. These are fables!

That means over 90% of the church is turning away from the truth and turning to fables.

I heard a preacher in the West say on TV, “Next is now!” She was preaching the false ‘new dimension/next level’ gospel.

I will take her phrase and use it here. The time Paul was talking of is now. At no other time have God’s people have had a sort of ‘herd mentality’ in running after materialistic teachings – “the good life”, etc.

That is why today – now – is the time to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” and to

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

That is the way it has to be with us today.

The word “watch” here is filled with meaning. It means not just to watch in prayer, but it also refers to carefully living a Godly lifestyle.

These are the two things that will bring Christ back into a dying church, and a dying world.

[Below: The church today is not much different from these wrecked vehicles. But there is comfort in Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus can resurrect the church if we turn to Him and receive the revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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