The Apostolic Message (Part 1)

You notice in the Bible that the word “apostle” is not there in the Old Testament. We find it only in the New Testament. That means that the ministry of the apostle begins under the New Covenant.

But before we get to that, let me first share something in connection with this.

We humans are wired in such a way that we want to understand things rationally. We want everything that comes our way to be explainable and to be understood by the human mind. That is okay as far as this world is concerned. We wouldn’t be where we are progress-wise without the great rational and deductive minds of this world.

But this human predisposition becomes a problem when we turn to God. Deduction and rationalization are hardly the ways to get to know God. God is Spirit, and the human mind is matter; how can it understand spirit? It is not possible. And man’s inclination to do just that has proved to be his undoing.

This is why especially intelligent people of the world have a problem understanding God. I can assure you that when we get to heaven we will find very few intelligent people up front. Now, I know someone is probably about to burst a neck vein over this statement, but notice I did not say there will not be intelligent people up front. All I said is that they will be very few, at least in proportion to the ‘dumb’ people that you normally find in church.

This is because it is the lowly people that God choses to be the heirs of His Kingdom!

The Apostle Paul tells the carnal-minded, intelligently puffed-up Corinthians: 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

In James 2:5, the Apostle James also echoes Paul’s words: Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”

Notice it is God who has chosen them.

Do you know the poor? Living in Africa, I know the poor. Being poor, of course, means, first, that they have nothing. Secondly, they are uneducated, and not very intelligent. Thirdly, they have absolutely no class. It requires a strenuous effort for someone who has class to even notice this group of people. These are people that no one has any need of.

I once knew of a certain rich man in my home town who would keep people – his own employees – standing outside his house the whole day waiting for him to get out and see them. And sometimes he would not come out at all.

Generally, however, worldly people are not so cruel. Most people do all sorts of kindly things for the poor. It is called philanthropy, and much of the time it comes from a true heart of compassion. More so in church we are taught to love others as we love ourselves. But let’s face it, there are very few even amongst the best of us who do not have a red line drawn somewhere deep in our subconsciousnesses where we do not allow certain classes of people to cross over.

But God is the great I AM, and He has no such qualms. He would laugh at our weak attitudes were it not for the fact they sadden Him so much. God is so rich in grace He can do things which we can only dream about. And to prove it, God reaches out and calls the very people that this world has no need of. Now, notice the Bible does not say that God first consults with the rich people of this world on whether He should call the poor, or which poor people He should call. No. Nor does He call up a panel of illustrious university professors and ask them to prepare a list of which uneducated folk He should share His deep mysteries with: (“Oh, y’know, I am not sure whether they can handle it.”)

God is above the high and mighty of this world, and He does not consult them.

God expressly calls and uses the ‘dumb’ and lowly. Some of the Old Testament prophets that we revere today were mere shepherds!

Even when God used educated people, in the spirit they first had to relinquish their stations in life. The great man of law, the Apostle Paul, says that he suffered the loss of all things”! (Phil. 3:8) All!! When he says all, it means even his intelligence, his doctrines and beliefs, his high office as a Pharisee; and even his very identity. Remember Paul was once known as Saul. He lost even that.

And why does God call and use “the foolish”, “the weak”, “the base” the “despised”, and “things which are not” and not “the wise”, “the… mighty”, or “things that are”?

It is so “that no flesh should glory in his presence”!

The biggest thing that mankind glories in is their mind. But we cannot presume to know God by our minds, however fine they are. We can only know God through our hearts and for that a miracle must happen in our hearts.

As we study the apostolic message, therefore, it is good to pray to God to open our spiritual eyes that we might understand His heart for the church, of whom we are a part.

[Below: In order to interact with God we must have humble hearts]


The Danger of Worldly Wisdom

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours… 1 Cor. 3:18-21

You would be surprised to learn that many of the warnings to God’s people in the Bible are directed, not to the foolish people amongst the saints, but to the intelligent, the learned, the educated, the enlightened, and the wise – in short, to anyone with brains. These are the people who are most easily deceived in church. They are more susceptible to deception than the foolish people in church.

Did you ever notice the kind of people who sit under such worldly (but supposedly Biblical) teachings like motivational teachings and ‘power of the mind’ (“As a man thinketh, so is he”) teachings, prosperity teachings and all other kinds of false teachings? They are all highly intelligent and educated people. You wouldn’t understand what motivational preaching was if you’d never seen the inside of a classroom, would you?

Another aspect of this issue is the kind of scriptures that these preachers chose to preach on. Motivational preachers love Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” They preach on it more than any other scripture. What they fail to realize is that the Bible is not talking about the grey matter within our skulls. On the contrary, the Bible is talking about the mind of the spirit. These are two completely divergent things, and they will never meet. The Bible talks of two different natures: the carnal nature and the spiritual nature. When we  unwittingly give life to the human mind through these teachings, we are building up the carnal nature in us.

I am sorry to say so, but highly intelligent people love to have their minds soothed by high-sounding philosophies. And most of them are not aware they are listening to worldly philosophies, not the Word of life.

That is why the scriptures specifically warn those people who rely on their minds. The Bible holds that the human mind is enmity to the Holy Spirit and to our spirits also (Gal. 5:17). God encourages us to desist from giving place to this enemy.

There are people who become very defensive when you touch negatively on the human mind. They have many scriptures to ‘prove’ that the human mind is needed to build up God’s Kingdom. But that can never be. Our human wisdom is worldly wisdom, and God cannot allow it to be involved in building His Kingdom, for it is spiritual. Instead of being defensive, therefore, we should strive for humility, for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jam. 4:6).

God speaks and deals with us through our spirits. The spirit, after all, is eternal; the human mind and human wisdom are temporal. Through the spiritual interaction God can transform our spirits into the image of Christ. It is only through our spirits that God can give the things that we truly need, things like humility…

[Below: Downtown Dar es Salaam]


Of Fine Minds…

There are some things that my spirit understands that I don’t. When I say “I”, I mean my mind. I am sure God has something against our intelligence which we still do not fully understand. But from reading scripture we can begin to get a grip on why God considers the human mind his enemy no.1.
I do not intend to go into that discussion here; I will do so in another post. For now, I just want to say how wonderful it is that there are things which my spirit understands perfectly well, but of which my mind is completely in the dark.
For example, I can find myself crying for no reason at all. That means my spirit understands something which my mind does not.
Sometimes I can feel led to do something which my mind is totally against. I can feel, sometimes, that I ought to leave EVERYTHING I am doing and get down on my knees and pray. At that time, my mind will tell me that the thing I am doing then is very, very important and that I should not pay attention to some whimsical feelings inside of me.
But at such times I know my spirit is ‘busy’. I know my spirit is communicating with God. And it is in times like these when I have answered that call that I have found myself addressing something of profound importance to the Kingdom or to someone’s life.
Many born-again believers (especially today, although such people have always been there, but more so today, with so-called advancement and education); most people have a certain reliance on their minds in many things concerning the gospel. In fact, there are now ‘branches’ of human intelligence that have been injected into the gospel (many beginning with the word ‘self-‘), and people are relying more on their fine minds to try and explain the things of God.
A fine human mind is not a bad thing, and it has many uses. But it should never be for spiritual matters.
We cannot and should never rely on our fine minds when it comes to spiritual matters. The Bible says God has rejected the human mind. He does not need our human intelligence to do what He needs to do. But we are so hard-headed (or, more appropriately, hard-hearted) that we continue to have a deep respect for our fine minds even when it comes to the things of God.
God deals with us through our hearts and especially the humble heart. If there is one thing that I can bet everything –everything – I have on, it is that God looks upon and busies Himself around the humble-hearted, not the fine-minded. You might not notice it, but God’s eye is always on such people.
Those of us with fine minds have an extra duty – to crucify those minds. Yes, crucify them! They are not an asset. They are a liability – and an incredibly huge one. In our human pride, we might be led to argue with God on this. But I am assured in my spirit that some of the people who know God really well are not the educated ones or even the Biblically-learned people. The Bible tells us in Romans 2:13-15 that there are people who do not even know the Bible but who know God perfectly well. Moreover, verses 23 through 29 show us clearly that the things that have to do with knowing God have to do with our hearts, not our minds.
The human mind has absolutely nothing to do with God’s Kingdom. On the contrary, it is an enemy. We should not boast of those fine minds.
When God gives us grace we simply get on our knees and tell God that we know nothing, we have nothing, we are nothing!!

[Below: Mind or no mind, God looks upon the human heart]


God’s Will Found In Suffering

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.

36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.

37 Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.

38 So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. 1 Kings 20:35-38

The lesson here is that we will not accomplish God’s plan in our lives without sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God chastens those He loves and scourges every son He receives. Hence the cross, where the sufferings and death of Christ are revealed in our hearts and where through this revelation we willingly give our lives to them, so that we may share in His resurrection life also.

The “neighbour” in this account is very much like today’s Christians. He could not understand why someone had to suffer. Thus rationalizing, he refused to beat the prophet of God as the man of God had requested him to do.

But notice it was “the voice of the Lord” that commanded him to beat up the prophet (v.36). And, apparently, the first man missed it. That’s the danger of the lack of revelation within the church.

Soon afterwards this man was killed by a lion.

If we lack revelation we cannot understand how the sufferings of Christ relate to our lives. And when we do not want to suffer with Christ, we die spiritually.

But imagine the second man! Can you imagine him hitting away at the man of God; in fact, he beat him so badly that he injured him.

We cannot try to reason or rationalize with God. We need to pray for a spiritual understanding of His ways. After all, it is His plans and purposes that really matter.

Probably the first man questioned, “But why? Why should I hit you?”

But the Bible says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Only through identifying our lives with the sufferings of Christ on the cross will we find ourselves doing that good and perfect will of God as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

I am sure this revelation was what the second man had. He therefore beat the prophet. He injured him. He made him to suffer!

What does that prophet suffering remind you of? Jesus, of course! It is so interesting how when God opens our eyes we see Christ in every scripture!

The Bible says in Isaiah 53:10 that “it pleased the LORD to bruise him”. The man who beat up the prophet was walking in this revelation.

Today’s generation has faith all right – but only for the blessings. You listen to contemporary Christian songs and they are (nearly) all talking of the goodness and provision of God. Today’s Christians have no faith for the suffering. They ask, “Why should I suffer? Christ died that I may live a comfortable life!”

They have a skewed ‘revelation’ of the cross. If suffering comes along they consider it to be of the devil. The hand of God is not revealed in their sufferings.

When we use human reasoning we will never arrive at an understanding of the Cross. Many Christians today know the cross only as a place where Jesus died for their sins. But they do not know it as a place where they, too, are supposed to suffer, die and resurrect with Christ.

But God has news for us. Even as we rejoice at what Christ accomplished for us at the cross, we will need to carry faith for something equally important – spiritual maturity. We will need to carry faith not even just for suffering, but for dying with Christ. Only when we have accomplished these will we be able to carry God’s plan in our hearts and lives.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:10: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

After this unnamed prophet had thus suffered, the Bible says he “departed, and waited for the king by the way”. Through suffering, God had prepared him to carry out His purpose.

[Below: Dar es Salaam coastline]



Memucan – Staying On The “KIng’s Highway” (Part 2)

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:19-21

So what is it about this Biblical prince, Memucan, that is so admirable?

After Queen Vashti developed ‘progressive’ ideas and refused to obey the king’s command to go show her sweet face to his guests, the king’s anger was kindled and he sought from his princes and advisers what he should do about the situation. It was so embarrassing for him as king to have his wife refuse to obey his command!

Memucan it was who provided the king with an answer that was deemed appropriate not only by all the other princes, but by King Ahasuerus himself.

Let us take time to read the entire account.

“10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.” Est. 1:10-22

Some biblical scholars have declared the king’s decree “silly” and Vashti has been exalted as a “bold” woman.

But King Ahasuerus is a type of the authority of God. We cannot bring in irreverent ideas like, “Oh, y’know, this man was drunk, and he had no right to dishonor an honorable woman!” I don’t even know whether he was drunk. The fact that he was the king, however, supersedes all else. (My dad used to be a drunk, and he never ceased to be my dad because of that!)

With man it might appear as if the king was dishonoring his queen, but with God, it was the king exercising his authority – and honoring his wife’s beauty.

I don’t see any indication in the least that King Ahasuerus lost anything after the saga had ultimately played out. Not his honor, nor his power, nor anything. If anything, the king gained – vastly – by marrying Esther. And throughout the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus stands tall to the end, a shining example of God’s authority and the defender of God’s people.

Actually it was Queen Vashti who lost out. She lost her position as queen and became a commoner.

God is still on His throne. He is still the King of kings and Lord of lords. Human wisdom will never remove him from that position. On the contrary, human wisdom will only lead man to sin against God, as we see it happened with Adam and Eve – and Vashti.

And when we sin, as we just saw, we lose. But Memucan helped the nation to stay on the King’s highway!

The Simplicity of Grace

Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world… Phil. 2:14-15

The Apostle Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history. All you need to do to prove this is to type “Paul” or “Apostle Paul” or “Saint Paul” into Google search or Youtube, and you will have material that you will be reading or watching or listening to for the rest of your life. That’s how important Paul is to history. The fame – or infamy – of Paul rests entirely on the fact that he attempted to bring about an understanding of or a ‘revelation’ of the grace of God. There are many Christians, even today, who are bothered by the amount of freedom that Paul allowed into the church, as well as many of his other teachings.

Now, considering the earth-shaking repercussions that Paul’s teachings have created in the last 2,000 years (in one place in the scriptures they declared that he and those with him had “turned the world upside down” – Acts 17:6, the Apostle Peter warned of “unlearned and unstable” men who would try to wrestle with Paul’s teachings – 2 Peter 3:16; and those were still early days); considering all his, you would expect Paul’s writings to comprise some of the most advanced, complex and thought-twisting doctrines found anywhere on the universe. This should be more so when you consider, as I have said, that Paul’s distinction has to do with trying to ‘reveal’ a subject as inscrutable and ‘philosophical’ as God.

And yet when one reads Paul’s writings, it is surprising to find that he wrote the simplest expositions on the nature of God and then proceeded to give us the most mundane instructions on how to live out that God-nature here on earth. The writings and directions of Paul are so simple that even a child can get to know exactly what Paul is talking about. They do not require anyone who attempts to understand them to have ever seen even the inside of a classroom.

Although Paul was a very learned man, he did not use his education or his mental capabilities to understand or explain God. He used his heart instead. All that we require to understand God is a recipient heart. Or, as the Bible says, a believing heart, a heart of faith.

Let us take the above scripture in Philippians as an example. In the context that Paul wrote this scripture, another word for “disputings” would be “rivalry”. And for “murmurings” we could substitute “complainings”. Both words speak of discontent.

In effect, therefore, this scripture says that when we live out our Christian lives without complainings and rivalry – that’s a contented heart – we will become blameless and harmless, which is how God’s children are meant to be.

Even in our basic human vocabulary, “blameless” and “harmless” are fairly simple words to understand. You can teach those words to children in Sunday school and they will understand exactly what you are telling them.

These two words are the most beautiful words in God’s Kingdom. They are words we need to meditate long on. The character they embody is what we have been called to embrace.

And yet, again, these two words are amongst the most difficult for us to accomplish. Living a blameless and harmless life might sound easy but it really is not. You don’t have to carry a gun to be harmful, y’know. Living that kind of life demands that we take up our cross and follow Christ. In other words, it requires a heart of grace. It is a spiritual thing, not a mental one.

To “lay my heart bare” as one blogger put it, I  must say that personally I have a problem with this scripture. I find I am still a good complainer. Woe is me! I pray for God’s grace!

Let me end with a testimony. I am proud to be associated with a certain simple, uneducated lady (who has now gone to be with the Lord) who many years ago took to task some young men who were backbiting their pastor in her presence. What actually happened was that there was a problem in the church. Seemingly out of nowhere, as it sometimes does happen, someone rose up with a grudge against the pastor and, through whisperings and murmurings, his discontent soon spread to some other unstable souls within the church.

The three young men who went to visit this old lady on this particular day happened to be in the group that had ganged against the pastor. As the dear sister prepared dinner for them, the young trio began to talk about the pastor. Totally ignoring the ‘inconsequential’ old woman, they ‘dug’ at the pastor to their satisfaction.

Well, these guys had made the mistake of their life. After eating their supper, one of them put on his religious mask and said in the most pious voice, “Dear, beloved brethren, let us now pray.”

At which the old lady said, “No, please, you cannot pray in here. What are you going to pray about, seeing that you have been back-biting the pastor all evening?”

The young men left deeply embarrassed. Inevitably, the story ‘went viral’, and through that single incident many parishioners were forced to reconsider the condition of their hearts. What followed was a wave of repentance within the church and God brought healing to that church. An old, unlearned woman had taught the church what Christianity was all about.

Today that church is one of the strongest amongst all our churches.

We may be very intelligent and know many things about God. We may have degrees, diplomas and many other exalted paperwork all to do God. We could know the Bible inside out, we could even manage to be reading it through once or twice each year. We could write new versions of the Bible, and books. We could be internationally- acclaimed preachers, and have big ministries. We could be all of these things and more.

All these things are commendable to the highest degree. If we can do them – and we should – so much the better for the Kingdom. But on a strictly personal level with God what is required of us is something far simpler than that. God requires a simple, humble heart above everything else. He requires a heart of grace. All else should come from that. Whatever proceeds out of such a heart is acceptable with God.

It sounds mind-twisting (and it should), but the truly deep things of the Spirit comprise a life simply and humbly lived.