It Pleased Them!

25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. Rom. 15:25-26

This morning, my mind is on the subject of giving – again! The scripture above tears at my heart.

First aways, notice the singular form of ministry mentioned in this scripture. It is the ministry of giving to the poor. It is not stated that Paul went to preach in Jerusalem. The purpose of his journey to Jerusalem was to deliver the Gentile churches’ contribution to the poor saints there. Whether he preached or not is not our subject here.

But the thing that sends my heart racing with excitement is the second part of this passage of the Bible. The Bible says it pleased the churches in Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the saints in Jerusalem.  It pleased them! Wow, the beauty of that!!

There is nothing as beautiful as something that is done from the heart. It is so powerful it reaches the ureachable parts of the heart. For this reason, the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:7:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

God loves a cheerful giver!

God loves things that are done with a willing heart. God loves a purposeful heart. To demonstrate this, God has even taken people who were terrible sinners and changed them and put them to serve Him mightily. They were men and women who were willing to do things from the heart. Chief amongst these is the Apostle Paul himself (1 Tim. 1:13-16).

No man in their right minds loves things that are half-done. With God, it is infinitely much less so.

As believers, we are to do things heartily. When you give, give heartily. Don’t allow your mind to pick nits and bits. Above all, do not count how many times you have given in the past. Give as if you have never given before!

In the same manner, when you forgive (for we are called to forgive whenever someone wrongs us) do so with a hearty heart. Don’t weigh the wrongs! Above all, do not count the former wrongs done to you by the person you are supposed to forgive.

Whatever we do, we are to do it heartily. In Ephesians 6:5-8, the Apostle Paul writes:

“5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Notice verse 6. Whether bond or free, we are to do things

“from the heart”!

From the heart. That’s not talking of any old heart. Rather, scripture here is talking of a willing and cheerful heart.

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Joseph’s Patience – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a revelation!

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

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

Yes, through the revelation that Moses received, he

“had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”

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

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

And many other men and women of faith.

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

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

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

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

Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 4

There is no denying that feeding “five thousand men, beside women and children” with five loaves of bread and two fishes was an incalculably extraordinary miracle. I haven’t heard of such a feat lately; and by lately I mean the fifty or so years that I have been about on this earth.

And now, finally, we can establish the real reason Jesus was so effective in His ministry. By effectiveness, it means doing things according to the will of God. In Jesus’s ministry, prayer was involved, yes. And so was faith. But you can have the gift of faith. This does not necessarily mean you are doing God’s will. Moreover, as we said earlier, when it comes to these things, Satan can turn himself into an angel of light. He can perform counterfeit miracles.

But Jesus performed genuine miracles. A while back I read of a certain preacher in Africa who decided to not let be (as most intelligent ‘power rangers’ do) and waded out into untested waters. He pronounced to his congregation that on a certain day, he would walk on top of the waters of a nearby croc-infested river. He spent the whole week fasting. Come Sunday, and he gathered his entire congregation by the river. It is not reported, but it requires no feat of imagination to surmise that the whole neighborhood had gotten wind of it and that they were on hand to witness the miracle of the century.

After uttering “Abracadabra!” or something, the man stepped onto the water and the last his loving congregation saw of him were two giant crocodiles tearing him to pieces.

Jesus, however, walked perfectly comfortably… on the stormy waters of a raging sea. And after He had entered the boat, He ordered the storm to cease. The storm ceased instantly.

Jesus not only performed these incredible miracles, but He was able to live a life that was fully pleasing to God. So, what was His secret? The reason Jesus was able to do live such a life with ease was because He denied Himself and lived according to the will of His Father. Jesus therefore was able to tell His disciples,

“12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:12-15)

The real reason men do not perform effectively in ministry as Jesus did and with the ease with which He did it is because we are not living fully according to God’s will. In other words, our lives are not fully surrendered to God. A man’s effectiveness in ministry cannot surpass his Godly way of life. We are not all called to be miracle-workers, so we cannot measure ministry by miracles. But we certainly can measure effectiveness in ministry. Whether one is called to be an apostle, or in any one of the five-fold ministries; or whether he is called to the ministries that Paul lists in Romans chapter 12, we can only perform effectively to the extent that we have given of our lives, i.e. the extent to which we are dying to self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

That is why the revelation of the cross is so important to the believer. It is in this revelation that the believer learns to die to self and to allow the God-life to reign fully in them.

It is when we are living this revelation that we can live a life of true obedience to God and find ourselves pleasing Him fully.

Christ was the perfect example in this regard. Through crucifying His flesh since before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus served God perfectly according to the calling that God had placed upon His life.

The Apostle Paul, who followed hard in the footsteps of Christ, wrote:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

[Ministry can be as simple as one-on-one evangelism. Our effectiveness in ministry is measured by our obedience to God through living the crucified life]

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A Man; And Money

1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:

2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:

4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;

13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Cor. 9:1-15

Today’s is a rather long post. I felt I should not cut it up into 2 or 3 parts but bring it up as a whole. So, belt up!

Notice also that the title of this post is “A Man; And Money”, not “A Man And His Money”. That is important for our understanding of what I want to share here.

I write a lot about money in this blog. Now, I will not say that the reason for this is because I do not love money… or that I do. I will not say anything about that here.

Aside from money, though, my readers will concur that I also write a lot about the Apostle Paul. But what could possibly be the connection between Paul and money?

Brother Miki Hardy, the head of our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) once called a meeting of pastors, both from the islands and from the African mainland. He told them, “Go tell your churches that we need only two things: we need a man; and we need money.”

I was not in that meeting, but when I heard that statement, in my spirit I knew exactly what Brother Miki was speaking about.

A man, not men. Getting that rare man who can fully carry the purpose of God in their hearts is no mean task, even for God Himself. The flesh, unfortunately, is a big barrier for many of God’s servants. The flesh is our most intractable enemy. That is why we can talk so loftily of the Apostle Paul. Through his ministry, Paul was able to set the standard of how a servant of God ought to be: his character, life and ministry. To arrive at this goal, Paul denied himself and gave himself fully to the call of God. He allowed God to mould him to fit His plan. Unfortunately, too many of God’s servants do not have Paul’s vision or heart. And, in our generation, God is still looking. He is looking for a man.

The case for a man is summed up in how God chose to use the Apostle Paul. Paul single-handedly and effectively took the gospel to over half the then living world. Physically. Not to mention the physical, psychological and spiritual torment he endured.

Secondly, God used Paul to write over two thirds of the Apostolic epistles, on which the entire apostolic gospel hinges.

And then there is the life that Paul lived. Faultless, and blameless. The Apostle Paul attests to what God can do with that rare man who is willing to sacrifice all for Christ.

Lastly, Paul had a heart for God’s people. He was a father to the churches. And this is the most difficult position to fill in God’s order of vacancies. Not many people have a true heart (God’s heart) for the church. One time, Paul could trust only Timothy in this regard! (Phil. 2:19-22) Incredible.

Money, on the other hand, is needed in church because it logistically helps to further the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring glory to God. Yes, money does bring glory to God if used well. Unfortunately, the love of money has created its own problems within the church. Notice the Bible says that not money, but the love of it, is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is clean. Our love of it is not. Money can accomplish a lot of good; our love of it brings only misery and tragedy, as is so evident in the world around us. When the love of money enters the church, its consequences are incalculable, and devastating.

We as the church need to understand these things.

Now, back to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a desperate lot. They were 1. Fornicators of the worst kind 2. Divisive and combative; and 3. They were very, very stingy. You would need a nutcracker to get a dime out of their pockets. (The Apostle Paul had to send an advance delegation to prepare these saints to collect money they had promised a year earlier!)

But all these things speak of the extent to which the Corinthians had allowed the works of the flesh into their lives. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the Apostle Paul addresses them thus:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal…”

We could laugh at the Corinthians were it not for the fact that we are also tempted in like manner; and I have never heard of a soldier who laughed at a fallen comrade. When we are walking in the flesh (which we do oftentimes), when we are not denying ourselves and taking up our cross, we automatically have all the works of the flesh in us, only in varying measures.

Apparently, the Corinthians were not poor folks money-wise, certainly not to the extent that the Macedonians were. But Paul had to write two whole chapters of the Bible to get them to give! And we will never know for sure whether they ever did give, for it is not recorded.

But the lesson that I want us to grasp in these verses is why we need money in church. We need money:

  1. In order that we “may abound to every good work”. The Bible says that one of the keystones to abounding to every good work means giving to the poor and meeting every good need. There are people who have a problem with giving to the poor. They call the poor “lazy”. Well, lazy or not, there are legitimately poor people, otherwise we would need to rip 2 Cor. 9:9 out of the Bible. When God blesses us and we are rich, we should not become complicated and conceited; we should remain plain and simple.
  2. Supplies the needs of the saints (v. 12). There are needs in the church. People need food, clothing, school fees for their children, etc. These are basic human needs when we are here on earth.
  3. Thanksgiving to God. When a need is met, God’s people give glory and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. They say, “Thank you, Lord, you have been so faithful!” And God loves it when His people glorify Him (For He alone truly is worthy).
  4. Prayers and Godly envy. “And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.” (v. 14) Godly people don’t envy your Ferrari. It is worldly people who will envy your material expansion. Godly people envy the grace of God upon your life.

And so, here, in Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we have the case for the need for a man, and for money, in the church.

I cannot end this post without pointing out the grace of God that was upon the Apostle Paul’s life. Notice he does not angrily lash out at the Corinthians for their sluggishness. Instead, he begins (v. 1 and 2) by praising their readiness to give, even though it is clear they did not demonstrate any. But Paul had faith in them. That talks of incredible faith, and love.

[God is still looking… for a man]

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The Apostle And Unity In The Church – Part 1

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God… Rom. 1:1

I often joke with my family. I tell them, “I am the most important person in this family. In fact, I am so important I don’t need to do anything else apart from just being about. My presence alone here is work enough!”

That might be me joking; but the position of fatherhood within the family is more important than we think. A household without a father is like a body without a head. It is uncontrollable. The father is the authority figure in the house. A household that has no father has very little authority – and, hence, little order or discipline – in it. This is by no means a love-less attack on single families, no. But we must uphold God’s truth despite the odds we encounter in this life, for God is in heaven.

The scenario I have just described above concerning the family is the same with the church. In the same way that the father is of paramount importance in the house, the ministry of the apostle is the most important ministry in the church. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes:

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

Why is this ministry paramount in the church? It is because this ministry is it that establishes the fatherhood of God in the church. The church is a household; and as we just saw there is no household without a father. The Bible talks of

“14 … the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).

In this scripture, the Swahili Bible substitutes the word “family” with “fatherhood”.

There are therefore fathers, and we cannot all be fathers. We thank God that we have a Father, God Himself. But God, through His manifold wisdom, has in Jesus Christ placed in the church men to represent Him in the office of fatherhood. These men are called apostles. Notice it is men, not women. There are no women in the 5-fold ministry. Women can work in other offices in the church, but not in the 5-fold ministry. Jesus set the precedent to this during His earthly ministry. There were no women among the 12 apostles that He chose.

The reason for this separation is because the 5 ministries encapsulated in the 5-fold ministry are ministries of authority; they represent the authority of God. Now, the Bible forbids a woman from exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). God could not therefore break his own rule by allowing women into the positions of authority that the 5 ministries of the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher carry.

This representation of God’s authority by men working on behalf of God, is evident in Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul writes:

“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.

When these ministries are in the church, the church can therefore become a true spiritual household. There is no longer any carnal independence because the church is now a family and each person is subject to one another in the fear of God. And the authority of God can be felt by God’s people because the father – the apostle – is there. This authority disciplines us to become true spiritual children, walking in the righteousness of God. This, in turn, creates the bond of unity that makes the church to become a body, the Body of Christ.

Today, the church is there all right; but it is a different church than the one God intended. There is little discipline in the church, and it is deeply fragmented because there is no authority. Today, any man can arise and do whatever seems right in their own eyes, all in the name of the Lord. There is no one to point the way; or to put a “STOP” sign where one is needed.

So, who is the apostle? Is it any man who declares himself to be one?

By no means, no. The apostle does not just declare himself to be an apostle. On the contrary, he is declared to be an apostle both by the ministry he carries of revealing the cross of Jesus Christ. This means he reveals the crucified Christ. And, pray, how does he do that? He does so by allowing the cross to work in his own life. This fact is of primary importance. The apostle is a man whose life has been crucified with Christ; he no longer has a life of his own. Rather, he is a bond-slave of Christ in the Spirit.

Secondly, he preaches no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross.

That was how Paul and the other apostles were declared to be apostles. Firstly, Paul states in 1 Cor. 1:22-23,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”

Today, the most important preacher is the miracle-worker. Not so in Paul’s day, as is so clear in his words above.

Secondly, Paul show us something else that is of even greater importance. In 1 Cor 2:2 he declares:

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

When he says “I determined not to know” he is talking, not just about his preaching, but his lifestyle also. Paul lived a crucified life among the Corinthians and through his life that was crucified with Christ he revealed the power of the cross to the church. He revealed the power of the cross in his life first!

There are many apostles today; but there were many apostles also during the Apostle Paul’s ministry. But there was a basic difference between Paul and these other men. In 2 Cor. 11:13 he writes:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”

Many of today’s apostles are exactly as Paul describes those of his time. They are false apostles. Why? Because they do not live the crucified life. They cannot reveal Christ because they have no revelation of Christ in them. Rather, they have a ‘revelation’ of the flesh. They live for and serve the flesh. Chief among these are the prosperity preachers.

But Paul had a revelation of Christ in his life. His life is a testimony to that. Let us take time to read Paul’s defense of his apostleship.

“23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 11:23-30)

That is the testimony of a man who has seen the crucified Christ in his spirit. Any other ‘revelation’ will produce something else.

For a lack of a father, therefore, the church today is fragmented. There is little discipline, order, love or unity within the church. In fact, we have gone to the extent that we glory in the non-existence of these things. We rejoice in our divisions, feeling proud of our denominations or groupings somehow thinking we had a monopoly with God.

So what’s the answer to this problem?

The answer is simple. The church must recognize and allow the true ministry of the apostle within its ranks. It must relinquish the position of the father to the true church fathers – men who have a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who manifest this revelation through living a life that is crucified with Christ, just as we have seen the Apostle Paul had. These men may be few, and few indeed they must be. But they are there even now, lurking somewhere in the background, just as John the Baptist told the Jews:

“26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn. 1:26-27)

They are unknown, yes. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are open and we see what we as the church need (and what we do not need), we will turn and we will see them. And when these ministries have been given their rightful place in the church, then true spiritual healing and growth will come into the church, and the church will be a true abode of God, bringing joy to His heart as He beholds her order and righteousness.

[The Great Rift Valley]

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It Is Of Grace!

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 1 Cor. 15:8-11

My wife and I arrived in Arusha this afternoon, where we will spend the night before departing tomorrow for Nairobi to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral. As I was relaxing in my room and savouring the cool Arusha weather, my spirit calmed down and I found myself reflecting on an incident that had taken place not too long ago.

A travelling brother had passed by my house and he had the sweetest words of praise for my work in Singida. But in speaking, he said something that my spirit utterly repelled against. He attempted to compare me to some of the other brethren we work with. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my spirit the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. And the Lord was impressing upon me that nothing done on His behalf was about us; that, on the contrary, it is all about the grace of God in us.

Through the words of the Apostle Paul, I realized that we are simply… nothing. Paul himself used the same word about himself: in 2 Cor. 12:11 he writes,

“… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

And here, in our key scripture, he says:

“… by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Concerning his ministry, Paul said, “not I”.

In fact, what Paul had to say about himself was interesting:

“8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v. 8-9)

Paul has a very negative view about himself without the grace of God. He was “as of one born out of due time… the least of the apostles… not meet to be called an apostle”.

But when the grace of God came into His life, it began working and the fruit of that work became evident; and thereafter it is this fruit of the Spirit alone that would matter in his life.

It is not us. We cannot claim to do God’s works. On the contrary, it is God’s grace in us that works the works of God. If it is us, then whatever we are doing is not God’s work; it is our work, and it not only has no lasting value and it is bound to perish but, even more ominously, it is an abomination to God.

With Paul, it was so much about the grace of God that, even though he worked more than the other apostles, yet he said:

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (v. 11)

Wow! In other words, Paul was saying, “It is not about me. It is not about them. Rather, it is about the grace of God in us.”

Neither Paul nor the other apostles were competing against one another.

Any other viewpoint breeds pride and competition. It produces the works of the flesh. The Spirit of God is not involved in such attitudes and, therefore, even though there might appear to be a big thing going on on the outside, yet it is all a work of the flesh and people’s spirits are not edified.

We are free to do whatever God has called us to. There is no law against the doing. But it is our attitude that is everything, for we must always give place to and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s working in us. And it is only through a revelation of the crucified Christ (as Paul had) that we can carry this heart and allow God to be what He desires to be in us – Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom alone be glory, honor and majesty.

[Does what you do bring glory to God – or to you?]

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Food For Thought

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Lk. 9:57-58

Y’know, I often think about Jesus’s words above, and I cannot imagine a grown man speaking such words in today’s world. Even in church, it would be anathema to speak such words. Had Jesus been in today’s hyper-materialistic church I know exactly what they would tell Him.

“You are lazy! Go work and put something over your head.”

And they would have turned away in disgust, muttering, “Stupid!”

They would do their best to shame Him.

But the Lord was about His Father’s business. He had no time, nor inclination, for the business of this world and the things that pertain to it and the flesh. Actually, Jesus did not speak those words because He needed a house. He was not soliciting for help. A house meant nothing to Jesus.

In Philippians 4:10-13 the Apostle Paul, who had the same heart as Jesus, writes:

“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“Not that I speak in respect of want”.

The spiritual men and women of old never lusted for the things of this world. When you are pursuing after spiritual things, you have absolutely no time for the trappings of this world, however ‘necessary’ they might be.

Isn’t a reproach for the church today that a person’s worth would be measured by what he owns material-wise? That a person with a car, a house, who has been to university, who is better dressed and who has all the symbols of this world upon him would be looked upon in church as someone? That’s the real shame – in the Spirit.

Jesus told Martha:

“41 Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41-42)

We are so careful and troubled about many things: but one thing only is needful: to see into God’s spiritual Kingdom and to live the life of the Spirit.

The good thing about Jesus, of course, was that, try as you might, you could not shame Him. He knew what He was about.

Do you know what you are about in God’s Kingdom? When you think about how unacceptable Jesus’s words are in today’s charismatic church setting, there’s much food for thought there.