To Dwell With God

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. Is. 66:1-3

I once heard the preacher of a large mega-church, as he was preparing to deliver a sermon, say to his congregation, “The Lord sent me here to feed someone this morning. I have been hand-selected; I have been divinely picked; I have been Holy Ghost- anointed; I have been designated for this time… I will not fail you!”

I said, “Wow!!” That sounded heretical to me and it did not appear as if this man had ever read God’s words here:

“… to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

But… The man was strutting all over the podium and the people were so overcome with emotion that, if God Himself had dropped in and said to that preacher, “Could you please stop talking and go sit down for a minute”, there would have been a riot in that church.

Anyways…

You would be forgiven to think that at my age it would be extremely difficult for one to decide who their best friend, or the person they love most, is. Indeed, it is. I have so many people who are incredibly close to me, so many whom my heart yearns for in the Lord; so many who have sacrificed so much for me. There are literally thousands of people who vie for the No. 1 slot in my heart.

But, still, I know with God the answer comes easily enough if you were to ask Him who He loves most. God loves a man who has a humble heart. I personally know of many such people. But today I will talk of only one such person. Actually, this man lives with me right here in Singida. I have come to love this man with all my heart. And my love for him is not because of his proximity to me. No. I love him for the same reason that God loves him.

This man is one of the pastors with whom I work here. Not too long after this pastor heard the gospel of the cross, his small church and our small church decided to merge together in order to save on the rent we were paying and in time have enough money to buy a church plot. One of the brothers in his church had given out a part of his plot where they have put up a half finished structure. This semi-finished building has no roof and they have to put up tarpaulins at every service to provide the shade from the sun.

When some of the pastors in town heard that we were merging churches, they ‘prophesied’ our doom. They said, “You will not last even a month together.”

But the men who have opened their hearts to the gospel of the cross here in Singida have seen something in the Spirit, and I already had a lot of respect for this particular brother. But one day, not too long ago, he did something that broke all bounds in my esteem for him. He stood up in church – his church – and said, “Ever since I heard the gospel of the cross I have felt myself only getting smaller and smaller; and I have desired to become smaller still. And I have arrived at a place where all I feel I am worthy to do in this church is to put up the tarpaulins and to bring them down after the service. I have therefore asked my fellow pastors to put me off preaching for now.”

It was not just the words he spoke; but the power of a broken spirit that attended them. Now, if there is anything that has power in the Spirit, it is a man or woman who is broken in the Spirit. You could be “handpicked” for all we know, but if you do not have a humble and contrite spirit, you have no power in the Spirit.

Not a soul moved when this pastor made this announcement. There was deathly quiet as we weighed in on the pride in our hearts after hearing these words from this simple man.

A humble heart has respect with God above anything else; therefore God dwells with a humble heart (Is. 57:15). This translates into the fact that God’s power is manifested in the humble spirit.

Notice in our key scripture above that there is nothing you can really do to ‘surprise’ God. God says:

“The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool”.

Just imagine: Heaven is God’s throne and the earth is His footstool. Now, if heaven is God’s throne, and earth merely His footstool, where are His upper body and head; in what ‘sphere’ do they reside?? And, pray, what can a mere earthling really do to surprise or please such a God?

Apparently, this pastor in Singida had stumbled upon the answer. It is humility of heart. We serve God with our humble hearts. That only, and nothing else. Thank God He does not look to the apostle, the prophet and to the many ‘mighty men of God’. On the contrary, He says:

“… but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

That’s simple and clear.

This pastor’s words: “All I feel I am worthy to do in this church is to put up the tarpaulins and to bring them down after the service” are branded on my heart as if with a hot iron. And I am sure they are equally branded in the hearts of those who heard him speak that day.

[A distant view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the east]

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Prosperity Gospel – The Bane of The True Gospel

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Pet. 2:1-3

Personally – and I ain’t too much of a person, but thank God for this blog, because here my voice can reach out from the wilderness – personally, the thing that riles me most in the church today are the prosperity preachers. Nothing vexes my spirit more than these people. In a word, they are charlatans. They are fraudsters and swindlers. And they have hoarded the gospel TV, where they are spilling out their shame for all the world to see and the world is having a field day slandering the Name of the LORD. (What do you think the world thinks when they see a larger-than-life preacher announcing on prime-time TV that he is divorcing his wife? C’mon!!)

These preachers are the curse of the gospel. People generally make fun of the devil, thinking he is a clownish old grandpa. But he is not. If these preachers originate from him – and they do – then the devil is not someone to fool with. He is deadly.

The Bible calls these jokers “false prophets”. Now, we all know that falsehood will not take you far. The prosperity gospel is not taking anybody anywhere. Just a few miles down the road, and they run into the quicksands. That is why there is so much sin stewing in these prosperity churches. There is so much divorce, and preachers themselves are divorcing and remarrying like the castanets.

Let a preacher teach and preach the gospel that the Apostle Paul preached, and I vouch that he will never go through this spiritual foolhardiness in his life, nor hear of it in his church. Sin will be dealt with! Paul told the sinning Corinthians, “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor. 14:21)

A rod? That was to deal with sin in the church. And Paul was speaking in the Spirit.

But, of course, I might as well be talking into the wind. This is because prosperity preachers are people who have come with a mission of their own and they are intent on carrying it out. Moreover, they have brought their agenda into the church stealthily, which proves that right from the beginning, they had never had any intention of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are, in fact, anti-Christ. The Bible said long aforetime that they “privily shall bring in damnable heresies”.

“Privily” means secretly. These people are in cahoots with the devil, and they know full well what they are doing.

What is their agenda, anyway? I heard one prosperity preacher say, “The notion that a preacher should be walking in sandals and riding on a bicycle is foolish!” In other words, they teach that a child of God should live the high life materially. That is their agenda. And they use the Bible to bring in these damnable heresies into the church.

“And many shall follow their pernicious ways…”

The word “many” here refers to the rise of the modern-day mega-church. God saw these things long before they would occur, and He described them exactly as we are seeing them today.

During the Early Church, the mega-church was the church of the cross, as we see from the Book of Acts and the apostolic epistles. But that was because the falsehoods had not yet been introduced into the church. Once the falsehoods came in, God’s people quickly embraced this easy gospel. Fewer and fewer were willing to pay the cost. And thus rose the new mega-church – the church of the un-cross.

Today, the mega-church is not a place where sin is dealt with. I am not saying they do not preach against sin. They do, but there is no power in these churches to deal with sin. Where the gospel of the cross is not being preached, there is no power to deal with sin. As a result, the gospel of Jesus Christ is maligned in the world because of sin within the church of Jesus Christ.

In the meantime, prosperity preachers spend their time teaching about the tithe!

Lastly, let us look at verse 3:

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

Why is it that God has reserved severe judgment against these preachers, a judgment which will unquestionably befall them, and swiftly? (With God, “swiftly” could be an entire lifetime!)

In the Old Testament God said,

“If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.” Deut. 24:7

With all their voracious Bible-searching, preachers still cannot put two and two together! But it is difficult to have your head on straight with the dollar sign swinging in front of you.

But notice:

2 Peter: “…make merchandise of you”;

And here, in Deutoronomy: “…maketh merchandise of him”.

These two statements are alike. They are talking of the same thing.

In the Old Testament, the general punishment for a thief was to pay double the amount he had stolen (Ex. 22:7, etc). But God made exception to the thief who would “…be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him”.

The punishment for that particular thief, God said, was death!

The situation today is far worse in the Spirit than it appears. Prosperity preachers – under the New Covenant – are not simply stealing from God’s people; they are stealing God’s people. What does that mean? It means that apart from stealing their property, they are also stealing their souls. When you preach a man a false gospel you are stealing his soul. And when you steal someone’s soul you effectively just killed them.

And for what reason are these preachers doing this? It is so they can become rich! Prosperity preachers are extremely wealthy. If you didn’t know that, you must have just dropped in from the moon!

One of these preachers is so rich he went to Rome to donate money to preserve the works of Michelangelo. Yes, the man supports the works of Michelangelo with money that he has taken from God’s people!

Personally, I think that for a man to do such a thing, there is a certain amount of arrogance involved. Another owns  a $16,000 dog. And so on and so forth…

People, these are facts! and they probably are among the less shocking ones.

But thank God, He is not deaf, He is not blind – and He certainly is not dead. Soon he will deal with these prosperity fraudsters who have brought their damnable heresies of money into the church. He will judge them, and throw them into hell. That’s what the Bible says.

Prosperity preachers have only one option: to repent. No excuses, no “You don’t know what my ministry is doing around the world” (a smokescreen); just repent and leave off deceiving God’s people. If you want to continue preaching the gospel, lose your life, and teach God’s people to do the same, for this is the revelation of the gospel that has come to the church under the New Covenant.

Jesus looked upon the Jews – God’s own people – and He grieved deeply because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Equally so today, God’s people – the church – are like sheep without a shepherd.

But the Shepherd of our souls calls out to us… He calls out to us through the revelation of the cross. There is only one true gospel: the narrow road that Jesus and the apostles taught. If we come to Christ but are unwilling to lose all, we will fall into the hands of the devil and he will destroy us.

But the gospel of the cross liberates us to serve the true living God, and to do so in freedom.

The gospel of the cross is the true mystery of God, and it was for this very reason that Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Mat. 11:15

Finally, I wish all my readers a lovely weekend.

[Below: The new Dar es Salaam – Bagamoyo Road]

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Instructed In God’s Ways

5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?
8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so… 1 Ki. 22:5-8
The surest sign that your life is not laid on the altar, that you are not taking up your cross and following Christ, is when all you want to hear is the good news. You don’t want to hear any bad news. You don’t want, for example, to hear someone scolding, rebuking, or correcting you. I personally have a problem when someone tries to do any one of those things to me. Something rises up in me … It took me a long time to realize that that “something” is the old man, who is still alive in me.
That’s not a good confession, but it is the truth about me. And man, am I glad to hear there is a first, second and third heaven! I am glad to know that at least in one sense God is so far from me. That makes me know that I still have a long road ahead of me; and yet, somehow, I love that challenge! I am learning to take up my cross and follow Christ.
There are many “challenges” in this world. But how about we hear about the challenge of the cross for a change?
Many people think the old man is fairy tales. But he is as real as you and me. And he lives in us, when our lives are not fully crucified with Christ on the cross.
When you are not taking up your cross and following Christ there are many things that you don’t want to hear. You don’t want to hear that your business is not going well, or to find yourself broke, penniless. You don’t want to be in lack… But the Apostle Paul says that he was “instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12).
Instructed. It took a long time, but a time did arrive when Paul was ready for any situation, good or bad, that God would allow in his life. He accepted any situation with joy. Many of the situations that people of God will tell you are from the devil, Paul knew were from God! That is the difference between a man whose life is laid on the altar, and one whose life is not.
In the scripture above, it says that as King Ahab happily downed goblet after goblet of the finest wine in the land, about 400 prophets stood before him and prophesied in the loftiest terms about the victory that would be his once he went to war against the king of Syria.
In contrast, King Jehoshaphat was a righteous man. This means that this man’s life was laid on the altar. That does not mean he was perfect; but he was a man who was daily taking up his cross and following Christ. This man therefore knew the ways of the Lord. He was instructed in God’s ways. And when he saw such a large number of prophets and heard them prophesying the same thing “with one mouth” (v.13) – and good news, at that – he immediately got suspicious.
But King Ahab was an evil man, and he did not know the ways of the Lord. He was particularly indisposed to hearing any bad news, which invariably came from only one man, the prophet Micaiah. King Ahab wanted only to hear good news.
Do you know that many people of God today are crisscrossing the face of the planet seeking for a favorable prophecy about a situation they are facing? And, personally, when I read this kind of scripture, I can begin to understand the reason for the rise of the mega-church: it is because the message preached in such churches is one generally of a positive, upbeat approach. Here it is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. All is good news – the gospel according to the flesh. Any bad news is out. Such news is not from God!
But if you read to the end of the saga in the above scripture, you will find that every prophecy that Micaiah made on that day (and it was all bad) came to be fulfilled. That means his was the Word of the Lord, bad news as it was.
When in the Spirit we identify our lives with Christ’s in His suffering and death, we will understand that God works both in the good and the bad. In both these situations we can learn to see God’s hand and allow Him to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish.

[Below: A storm hits the Musoma pier]

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