God Can Use Anything

One time I went to visit a relative in the city and as I was sitting alone in the living room, his young son came in and found me reading a book. He told me, “That is my dad’s book.”

“Oh, great!”, I said jovially.

He didn’t seem to think it was so jovial. He looked blankly at me and said, “Put it down, you thief!”

I am no thief and in my tribe, the least form of punishment that I would have given that boy for insulting me was instant death.

But God gave me grace and I realized exactly what was happening. I realized God was checking to see what was in my heart.

God can use anything – even a small child – to show us what is in our hearts. Whenever something negative comes into our lives, we should beware that God has allowed it in order to uproot something that He does not like in our lives.

In my case, the Lord allowed me to see the mountain of pride that was in my heart. In fact, I was so humbled by what the Lord revealed to me that I became as small as a pin in that house and especially towards that boy. And by the time I left, he and I had become best of friends.

[God can use even a small child to check your pride level. And no, this is not the boy in the story]

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Grace Through Humility

7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 14:7-11

It could hardly be supposed that Jesus here  was talking about a mere wedding, or that He was setting out the seating protocol at weddings for people to follow; so what is this all about?

Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God! Notice that Jesus’s words here are a parable (v.7). Which means it is a teaching; a teaching for the Church. And Jesus’s message here was simple: when you come into the Kingdom of God, take the back-est seat possible. Desire to be the lowest person in God’s Kingdom.

Who do you think Jesus is referring to as “he that bade thee and him”? Who is the “he” here?

That “he” is God. Far from talking about a wedding in the natural, the Lord was talking about the totality of the Christian life. He was referring to the attitude that a Christian believer needs to have in his relationship with God; the attitude that the Church needs to carry in their hearts as children of God. It is this attitude that will cause God to raise us up.

Notice verses 8 and 9.

8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

In ministry especially, men are tempted to take “the highest room”. We want to be recognized! But the only person who counts is the “more honourable man”. And, pray, who is the “more honourable man” Jesus is talking of here?

We may not know this man. John the Baptist told the Jews,

“26… 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.”

The Jews thought John was the greatest.

This is a wake-up call to preachers. Leave off all those high-sounding titles and desire to become common servants of Christ. Above all, do not despise others, for you never know who is coming after you.

Thank God, John knew.

The “more honourable man”  is the man whom God alone acknowledges. It is not the man who thinks of himself as honorable, or he who advertises himself. Ought that not make us want to become smaller still in our own estimation of ourselves?

Desiring to be a nothing in the Kingdom of God is an attitude of heart. All our proclamations to the contrary, this is one of the hardest things for us to do as children of God. And the reason for this is because the flesh is involved. The heart of man is naturally puffed up.

The flesh works in tandem with the devil, who tried to take the position of God. It is written of the devil in Isaiah 14: 12-15:

“12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

But God answered Lucifer and said,

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Thank God for He controls everything. He looks upon the lowly heart, and uplifts them. He causes the poor (in spirit) to become rich.

The Psalmist, David, had a lot to write concerning the poor. In Psalm 69:29, David wrote:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”

David was not talking of material lack; the sorrow he refers to here is the sorrow of a man who seeks after the righteousness of God. Here he echoes the attitude of a broken man. That man, the Bible says, God will set “up on high”.

In Psalm 113:7-8 he writes also,

“7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, 8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.”

That scripture is talking about the “poor” and “needy” in spirit. God will always consider the humble in heart, and He will do something about it. But God will never consider the man who carries pride of any form in his heart.

During the charismatic era, I never really knew what this Psalm meant. Since I was poor materially, I thought it was referring to my natural state. But when we become children of God, God has better things for us. He desires to give the eternal things, which are spiritual, not the the material things, which are temporal. It is true He will also bless us with the material things if He so desires. But that is not where His heart is.

But the central point is that God gives the good things of the Spirit to the humble in heart.

Humility cannot be found in our hearts if we have not crucified the flesh. That is why the entirety of our Christian life revolves around the revelation of the cross in our hearts. The work of the cross is to crucify our flesh, for it is the flesh that desires to

“in the highest room”

But Paul writes in Galatians 5:24:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

So what happens when God raises us “out of the dust” and lifts us “out of the dunghill” in the Spirit? Do we become rich materially, or wise and strong in the flesh?

As we already noted, the answer is no. On the contrary, it simply means that God enriches us with His grace. We become carriers of the grace of God. We become men and women who carry in us the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote,

“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.”

Women In Ministry – Part 3

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5

[We should never lose sight of our key scripture above]

The second foundational scripture I want us to consider is 1 Peter 3-6.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your husbands… For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The Bible says Sarah called Abraham “lord”. Is that even possible? Yes, it is – in the Spirit. Just as it is possible for a spiritual man or woman to turn the other cheek, it is possible for a woman to call her husband “lord” in the Spirit. I never read in the Old Testament that Sarah called Abraham “lord”. But the apostles knew this fact by revelation. How so interesting scripture can become. And how so powerful our spiritual lives become when God’s order has been established!

What scripture means here is that Sarah acknowledged and honored Abraham in the Spirit, not because he was a great man of faith, but simply because he was her husband. She acknowledged and recognized the authority that he had over her in the Spirit, and she honored this authority by calling him “lord”. Sarah, being a woman of the Spirit, understood God’s order in the Spirit; and she chose to honor it.

But it was not just Sarah. The Bible declares:

“… in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

It was not just Sarah. In the old time, every Godly woman honored their husbands. In this scripture, the Bible emphatically establishes the fact that spiritual women of old had no problem with authority.

Man in his raw carnal nature has a problem with authority. Unfortunately, the issue of submission is a big problem in the church also. But the Apostle Peter exhorts us,

“Likewise, ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5)

Here, again, scripture establishes the fact that spiritual people, both men and women, old and young, have no problem submitting their lives.

This is an incredibly powerful spiritual understanding. If every believer could arrive here, God would not have the heartache that He has today. And the church would have so much grace and power and unity in the Spirit.

A true woman of God is not the woman ‘minister”. Rather, it is the woman who can humble herself and submit herself to her husband. That is what the Bible tells us in those words.

” For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

Not by strutting across the stage. Let a woman submit herself to her husband and she becomes the most powerful woman alive.

Finally, let us consider the Apostle Peter’s words in verse 6:

“whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

Who or what is Peter warning them to beware not to fear?

It is their own selves. Self is the greatest threat to doing the will of God. Here the Apostle Peter is telling Godly women, “If your lives are surrendered to God, you have nothing to fear.”

When our lives are nailed to the cross, we do not fear this Goliath called self. We do not fear the pride that would have us unable to humble ourselves. When our flesh is nailed to the cross we are free! We are free of any kind of fear.

That is why marriages work in the church. Both the husband and the wife having crucified their flesh can see far ahead in the Spirit into God’s grand plan (not their little self-ish whims). They discover they are mere cogs in the great wheel of God’s plan and they rejoice as they serve God in their very different (but complementary) capacities.

The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 1

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

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. 1:25-31

I grew up hearing the term “The Bishop of Canterbury”, and I recall being awed by the power that was attached to this title. The church has turned the word “bishop” – a Biblical term meaning “servant” – into a title that brings the greatest glory possible to men in church. And this has now crossed over into the Pentecostal church. Today, if you own a church (which nearly every preacher does), then you also own the top position, which is that of a bishop; a worldly bishop, I hasten to say, for in the Bible, the bishop is a person appointed by men to run the day-to-day affairs of the flock in a local church. He is a helper to the pastor. He is nowhere near the top rung of the Godly order of church leadership.

But, in today’s usage, the term “bishop” is a title carefully calculated to bring honor and respect to men. Fact is, generally speaking, the Biblical terms which otherwise denote the wonderful ministries of Jesus Christ in the church are today being used to bring glory and respect to men in the flesh. The five-fold ministry designations of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, having been stripped of their spiritual power and authority, have been turned into an outfit for men seeking after worldly glory. It is generally accepted that when you wear one of these titles you should be accorded respect and honor.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to bring worldly glory or respect to any man or woman. The church of Jesus Christ is the last place any man should seek glory. Neither the gospel nor the church were crafted for that. Where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it does only one thing. It does exactly the one thing no man would desire for… it crushes man and his pride. It comes to shame and crucify the flesh. The authority that the gospel has was crafted crafted to do exactly that.

The Bible says that God has chosen the foolish things and the weak things of this world. Think carefully about that. For what reason?

“to confound… to bring to nought the things that are”.

Just think about that for a minute. Don’t think about the proud people of this world; think about yourself. You might be surprised to realize that this scripture is talking about you!

We all think ourselves as being something. But, as much as this goes against our thinking, I have to say that thinking of ourselves as something is the one thing that God is against. The Bible says so right there.

Who or what are we? That is a question we would all love to answer in the affirmative. But God thinks otherwise. Thinking of ourselves as something comes from the flesh, and the power of the flesh is revealed in the fact that it is the most difficult thing to think of ourselves as nothing. In fact, we cannot. That is why we need the cross of Jesus Christ.

Notice verse 28:

“… yea, and things which are not (hath God chosen), to bring to nought things that are”.

God desires to bring to “nought” things that are.

This is something we should meditate upon. Unfortunately, man thinks too highly of himself, and he has always been fighting against the authority or rulership of God.

All the things we run after in this world are calculated to bring glory to the flesh.

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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It’s About Power!

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him. Ps. 27:14

I am thinking of asking whoever is involved to enter my name in the annals of history as one of the great pioneers of discovery. Actually, probably the greatest of them all. I haven’t read much, and if there is someone who has made this discovery ahead of me, I will gladly let go my claim to the title. But if not, may the record-keeper be kindly informed that I seriously need this recognition.

So, what discovery have I made? What have I pioneered that is so important as to deserve such distinction? It is this: I have made the singular discovery that the greatest desire in man, above any other, is the desire for power. I used to think that the love of material comforts, or the love of money, or the sexual urge were the most powerful forces in man. But no; all these come a distant second to the lust for power.

And you wouldn’t believe it, but I have made this discovery through observing my chickens. I have been raising chickens for the last four years, so I ought to know what I am talking about. It took a while, but through long-term observation, this realization finally dawned upon me. I will, however, divulge the secret of how I made the observation to you for your gift of a couple of million dollars. (Why not; every preacher is asking for these kinds of gifts).

Armed with this knowledge, it has therefore come as no surprise to me to learn that the struggle between God and man (i.e. man in the flesh) is a struggle for power above anything else. The flesh wants to usurp God’s power, God’s position and God’s authority.

Proverbs 27:14, therefore, does not mean that God is prohibiting us from greeting our neighbor aloud early in the morning. As a matter of fact, done in the right spirit, greeting your neighbor cheerily in the morning is one of the best things that you can do. The Bible says a merry heart is good medicine (Prov. 17:22).

But we must dig further to get a proper understanding of this scripture. What the Bible is talking about here is something entirely different. It is talking about pleasing men. You cannot please men and please God at the same time. One has to give way to the other in our lives.

Through even the seemingly innocuous things that we do daily, the flesh is engaged in a never-ending struggle to dethrone God; to dethrone Him from our hearts and from our entire lives. The flesh wants to be noticed, and to be applauded – at the expense of God. Our smiles, our good deeds, when not done in the Spirit, are an extension of our inner pride. Greeting your neighbor aloud in the morning is a very good deed; but if it done so your neighbor can see how good you are, that is putting the flesh ahead of God. It is the flesh usurping God’s position in our hearts – and in the eyes of men.

But God will have none of it. That is why God introduces the cross into our lives. The cross comes, first and foremost, to deal with our pride. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us not to seek to be seen by men in anything we do, whether it be prayer, fasting, giving, or our piety. We should strive to do things in the hidden inner man, where men do not see and give us acclamation, but where God sees and rewards us. Why? Because when we do things in the sight of God, it is a testimony that we are humbling ourselves before Him, and giving Him His due glory, honor and praise. In other words, we are proclaiming His power. In the same manner, therefore, when we do things to be seen of men, we are making the flesh our god! And God will not share His glory with man. When men praise us, our reward with God is gone.

This is a grave challenge to the flesh. But the flesh needs, not just to be challenged, but to be crucified on the cross. And herein lies the relevance of the Pauline revelation in 1 Cor. 2:2:

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When we do not have that revelation, we shall be doomed to doing obeisance to the flesh instead of God. And this translates into a curse upon our lives.

[A powerful lesson from the chickens]

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No Righteousness Of Our Own!

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

A brother said to me, “I have been saved 20 years, but this morning I woke up with the strangest feeling in my heart. I had this strange desire to say only one thing to God: ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ So I got out from my bed and knelt down and spoke to God those very words. The thought so pressed upon my heart that I was unable to say anything else. I kept saying, ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ And then… the most amazing thing happened. I felt this deep peace and joy within me like I have never felt before in my life!”

I said to the brother, “Actually, what you did was Biblical. Jesus praised the man who said those same words.”

I thought, ‘At 20 years old in our salvation, most of us cannot mouth the words, “I am a sinner.” Nor, “Forgive me”’.

Most of us hold arrogantly to our ‘righteousness’, and we end up self-justifying ourselves and despising others, like this Pharisee. This is especially so if we allow our thoughts to lead us to think we are of value to God in some way. If, for example, we have been saved for a long time, we tend to justify ourselves. We think that with the passage of time, we have become more righteous. But time does not justify us before God. What justifies us is our continued dependence on the righteousness of Christ Himself. That means that at no single moment are we allowed to lose sight of Jesus.

Just to pull the scope further on our attitudes, it is the same when we find ourselves taking up responsibility in church duties (I wouldn’t call them spiritual duties, for our spiritual duty is one: to die to the flesh).

When we become ‘something’ in the church, we think that justifies us before God. Today, some of the most brazenly arrogant people in church are church leaders, including preachers. On another level, people even boast in their hearts because they can pray more hours than others! They are even called ‘prayer warriors’. This same attitude goes for singers, etc.

But these are exactly the kind of attitudes that we ought not to have in our relationship with God. They are all of the flesh, and God hates the flesh. In ourselves, we are not righteous and we are not good. We are lousy and despicable when we are held up to God’s righteousness. It is not a matter of how long we have been saved, nor how good we have tried to be. On the contrary, it is a matter of humbling ourselves and realizing that we are, after all, nothing but sinners who need God’s forgiveness and mercy upon our lives, daily. We come away justified before God when we constantly walk before Him with this kind of attitude.

It is the heart! You can be anything; but watch your heart. Do not ever, ever allow it to rise up. Always make sure your heart keeps a low profile, for your justifier, Jesus Christ, is already standing tall for you.