Our True Family

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mat. 12:46-50

This is a tough one. It is a very, very tough one. In a sense, probably the toughest of all of Jesus’s lessons.

In a nutshell, there can be no emotional attachments in God’s Kingdom, only spiritual ones. There could be no greater emotional attachment than the familial one; and here Jesus discards it. We are to seek after spiritual relationships. The Bible says that God is Spirit. There can therefore be no other relationships acceptable to Him other than a spiritual one.

The church may not be perfect, but it is the Body of Jesus Christ! And where else, aside from this congregation of mostly imperfect men and women can we grow to know the will of our Father in heaven? No, there is nowhere else. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our true family.

Yes, Peter still had a sword hidden in his inner robe, and we can imagine his thoughts were not so peaceful nor holy. Equally fierce and furious were James and John, who also harbored Napoleonic thoughts of conquering the world.

But, incredibly, Jesus  elevated these people above his earthly brothers, sisters and mother. He called them His family!

There are people who will value their flesh and blood kin over members of the Body of Christ. There are others who approve of people for various other reasons other than purely spiritual ones. But that attests to their inability to see in the Spirit. For when we see in the Spirit, we realize how truly valuable brethren in Christ are and how high our relating to them towers above earthly relationships, however close; and however weak our brethren in Christ may be.

It is best – before it gets too late and we come to realize the vanity of it all – that we as God’s children align ourselves fully with the church and stop appeasing other relationships, however important they might appear. There is a price to pay there; but, again, the gospel is all about paying the price.

God will give us grace and it is not as if we will stop loving our kith and kin in the flesh. Jesus Himself no doubt thought constantly and prayed for His family, a fact that is born out in John 19:25-27:

“25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

But, right to the very end, as we see here, Jesus’s thoughts about his mother and siblings were spiritual, not otherwise. His love for them was not emotional, but spiritual. In the end, through Jesus’s pursuit of only the spiritual, they, too, came to an understanding of the treasure that is God’s Kingdom. In the end, He bequeathed to them the true riches, heavenly ones.

[Powerful clip. Please go to “Settings”, click “Subtitles” for the English subtitles to appear]

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Receiving the Right Thing

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. Mat. 20:20-23

Notice that these sons of Zebedee and their mother came “worshipping” Jesus; but also desiring a certain thing of him.” So, these folks first worshipped Jesus, then presented their request to Him.

In other words, these folks worshipped Jesus because they wanted something from Him!

That is a dangerous combination, if ever there was one. If there is anything dangerous in church but which, alas! is going full steam ahead in many churches today, it is people going to church to “worship” the Lord because they want something of this world from Him. Many people are not aware of it, but this state of affairs is going on in their lives all the time!

Today, the 21st of December, 2014 is Sunday and this morning many folks are going to church ostensibly to worship the Lord. But God knows our hearts and He knows how many of us are truly going there to worship Him in truth and in the Spirit. He knows how many are going to church because all we want is the establishment of God’s Kingdom in our hearts. He knows how many of us are going there because we truly need an overhaul of the state of our spiritual lives.

He knows how many are going to church because we want to lose our lives more and to serve others more.

He also knows those who are going to worship Him simply for who He is.

But many, alas! are going to worship, but “desiring a certain thing” of Jesus – something of this world. They want the good things of this life. That is why they are going to church.

And today in many charismatic churches many preachers will end their sermons with an altar call where God’s children will be told to “Receive!” Many of God’s people will “receive” many things in church today.

Receiving is not a bad thing. We see Jesus also telling James and John to “Receive!” But what He told them to receive is vastly different from what many today will be “receiving” from their preachers.

Jesus told these gentlemen to prepare to receive only one thing: the cup and the baptism (Mk. 10). He did not promise to give them anything of this world. But we know they wanted something of this world. They wanted a place of honor in what they thought was Jesus’ impending worldly kingdom.

Today many people are going to church to receive the good things of this life. Personally I have no problem with a child of God receiving the good things of this life. I believe God also has no problem with that. But in reality, the things of this life are small change with God. That is why whether we receive the good things of this life or not is not a big deal with God; and it should not be with us. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians that he knew “both how to be abased, and… how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:12)

When it comes to receiving, there is something of far greater importance which we as the church ought to pay attention to. We should not miss this one. We may miss the good life, but we should not miss the one thing that Jesus wants us to receive.

What is this thing? It is what Jesus gave to James and John. It is what He told them to “Receive!” It is the cup and the baptism.

This is what we should all be going to church to receive this Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, many will be going to be entertained by the good music, or by the charismatic preacher. Many more will be going to seek and answer to their prayers – prayers for the things of this life.

But ours is a heavenly agenda. May God open our eyes to see the heavenly agenda. We will then worship Christ for who He is, not for what we want from Him.

Have a blessed Sunday service!

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My Mother Also

Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Rom. 16:13

I am sure that Rufus’ mother was not just lounging about singing lullabies for Paul and Co. whenever they would visit her home. She and Paul must have had a relationship that so touched Paul’s heart to the extent that he could say of her, “She is my mother also”. She probably did not do something physical, but that she did something, of that I am sure. Paul would not go about scattering compliments like confetti. (Today we do a lot of that, unfortunately, especially in Pentecostal circles.)

And right here I can tell you exactly what Rufus’ mother did: she gave her life. Many Christians have this idea that ‘giving your life’ to Christ only involves making that initial confession whereby they accept Jesus into their lives.

But actually, giving our lives to Jesus is living a sacrificial life. Rufus’ mother must have given her life to Paul in such a sacrificial manner that he could say of her, “She is my mother”. It was a pricey relationship.

When I began writing this blog about two years ago, I did not have a laptop. I had an old desktop, which gave up the ghost not long after I had purchased it. I would therefore work this blog and do all my other stuff on borrowed computers or in internet cafes.

When our Canadian friends Frank and Carol came over to visit us in February last year, I was asked by my church elders to go keep them company in the house they were staying in in the city of Mwanza. So I travelled all the way from Dar es Salaam to go stay with them.

On arrival I remember noticing Carol using this flashy-looking laptop, and I quickly performed an act of “deliverance” on myself to ward off the spirit of covetousness that I could feel creeping up on me.

After about a week I had forgotten all about the laptop (Carol would use it only minimally). Then one evening Carol got it out and said to me, “Mwita, this computer is for you”, or words to that effect. She then proceeded to tell me how she had managed to purchase it: she had sewn sweaters (she is an expert at the art), and with the money she got from selling them to friends she had bought me the laptop.

As you can expect, I was deeply moved. I will not tire you with the details of the many conflicting emotions that rose up in my heart on hearing this very unexpected news, but suffice it to say that today I write this blog and do many other things for God’s Kingdom on a brand new laptop.

I happen to know that this blog has been a blessing to one or two people, at the very least. And although I might not understand God’s ways very well, I am assured that if even one person might have come to a deeper knowledge of God through what is written herein, that is an incredible blessing.

I know also that Carol did not give me this laptop so I could write about her (she was not even aware that I was running a blog then), therefore I am not blowing anyone’s trumpet here and I am sure her reward is safe in heaven.

But what I want to say here is that whenever I think of any tiny thing that could have been attained for the Kingdom of God through using this laptop, I always think of Carol. I think of the heart that must have gone into doing what she did. Of course, having known each other for more than 20 years Carol and I have much that unites us; and yet it is the work that I do through this laptop that makes me think of her more than anything else.

I consider her my mother in the Spirit, just as much as she is many other people’s mother. I love her with all my heart. And I thank her exceedingly.

It is therefore with a deep sense of gratitude that I write this post and I feel deeply satisfied that I have finally found the grace to do so.

I know also that she and her husband have paid an incredible price in many different other ways for the Kingdom of God. But suffice it here to just mention this little act of kindness which has meant so much for me and, hopefully, for God’s Kingdom.

[Below: My mother, Carol]

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Mother’s Life – and Her Burial

Deep in the heart of Nairobi’s Central Business District there is a thoroughfare called Waiyaki Way that runs all the way beyond the Westlands suburb to join up with the Great North Road. That highway is named after Waiyaki wa Hinga, a great freedom fighter who opposed the British colonialists in the late 20th century. That Waiyaki was my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather. Although it is a documented fact that the British captured and killed him, nothing much is known about his death; but my mother told us that he was buried alive, head down.

During the war for independence in the 1950s (popularly known as the Mau Mau Uprising) my mother joined the fight and she also was captured by the British. She was brutally tortured and among the many things she told us the British did to her, was to string her upside down and flog her mercilessly.

After she was released from detention she met my dad, a Tanzanian ‘expatriate’ working in Kenya – he drove a milk delivery truck – who moved her to Tanzania to escape the threat of further capture by the British. They eventually got married in 1959. My mom’s father first came to Tanzania in 1962 to receive the dowry and he died a few years after going back home. During his visit, he blessed her.

In those days people lived non-nonsensical lives and soon my mother started the serious business of bearing and raising children, to which she would eventually give birth to 9 of us. I was born third in line, and I literally witnessed the birth of many of my younger siblings which was done mostly at home, right there in mother’s bedroom. Of course, our joy at having a new-born brother or sister was short-lived because soon we older children’s lives would be turned into a living hell as we became the bona-fide baby-sitters and had to carry out all the gory and hellish facets of child-rearing as well as the house chores.

My dad and mom were into other aspects of caring after the family.

In death as in life, mom was a tower of strength. Mom had a heart, and a BIG heart of faith. Many of the people who attended her burial were pastors, men who knew her since she got saved in 1978. During her burial yesterday, speaker after speaker had only one thing to say about her: her deep faith in Jesus Christ, and her incredible spirit and zest for life. Pastor Amas who presided over the funeral, spoke of how he would often go over to her house and sometimes he would find her undergoing an extreme bout of flu or something, and he would tell her, “Mama, let me bring you some medicine”, to which she would reply, “Pastor, if you preach faith, let us believe Jesus for my healing.”

“I’d be left praying for God to give me more faith!” exclaimed Amas.

Another brother said, “Whenever I’d feel low in the spirit, I’d wander over to Mama’s place because she always had a word of faith to encourage me with.”

As the clods of earth hit mother’s coffin, the reverberations of mom’s life could be felt all around. I have witnessed many burials and after the final prayer the mourners simply pack themselves into their cars and leave. At mom’s burial people were simply unable to leave the gravesite, engaging themselves in small groups and discussing all about what they knew about mom. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie and goodwill rather than sorrow.

I was amongst the last group that left her graveside, probably a good two hours later.

Mom has passed on

My brother called me today and informed me about the death of our mother which occurred today in the morning. She had been admitted at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya for 2 months (the exact period of time I had spent in Mauritius), suffering from diabetes. When I landed in Nairobi on my way back to Tanzania exactly one week ago, my wife, who had come to welcome me, and I spent 3 wonderful days with mother. We talked and she was in high spirits despite the pain.

I bid her goodbye and rushed to Dar es Salaam to see the rest of my family, planning to come back soon and watch over her progress.

But her kidneys failed suddenly and today she went to be with the Lord.

My siblings and I will miss her terribly since we have grown up under her wings all our lives. I cannot imagine the anguish that my dad will be experiencing at this moment, because he loved her dearly.

But I rejoice because I know she has gone to be with the Lord. Right now among the few things we know is that where she is there is no disease, no pain, no tears, no tiring… she has gone to heaven, and eternity. Above all, she is being comforted for all her labors of faith and love.

I thank God for His grace. My mom was once a beer brewer, but the Lord saved her, and He has sustained her by His grace all these years. She was a tower of faith in our family. When she was diagnosed with diabetes more than 10 years ago, she refused any form of medication and clung only to her faith in Jesus. I was living with both my parents at that time, and I remember one of my brothers telling me: “Tell that mad woman to take her medicine or she will die!” But she was adamant and finally we burnt all her medicine after it had expired. And she lived many more years than she would have lived with the medication. Up till the time she was admitted to hospital, and her life was wrested from her control, she had never taken so much as a pill in her mouth.

God is merciful and gracious. Through His mercy my mother has passed securely from death into life. May the Name of the Lord be blessed.