We Must Leave Our Comfort Zones!

When I was in Mauritius a few months ago I met – or, rather, I saw – a couple in church, a blind couple. I saw them in church one day from afar, wearing heavily dark glasses, and I felt threatened. I was glad I had spotted them from a distance and I purposed to keep it that way. I did not know what I would do with two blind people, so I decided the safest thing was to keep my distance. Whenever I walked into church I would keep my eyes peeled, just so I would not bump into them and be forced into a very compromising situation, and in church I always made sure I located them first so I would sit as far away from them as possible. Inevitably I would breathe a sigh of relief whenever I saw them safely packed into a car for the trip back to wherever they were staying.

God is merciful, and in His love He always takes us back to the Cross.

One day, a car stopped outside the house I was staying in. I was in my room upstairs and when I glanced down whom do I see being helped out of the car but the two blind folks! I stood frozen at the window, thoroughly petrified. I just could not believe it! My mind hurriedly told me they must have come for a quick lunch; but the thought was immediately snuffed out when I saw the couple who had brought them take out bags from the car boot. With a sinking feeling in my heart, I knew they had come to stay.

A nightmare of the worst proportions was unfolding right in front of my eyes. I seriously wished that that day should have been the day of my flight back home!

I stayed in my room for as long as possible; but soon enough I had to go down for lunch. Now, my host’s wife happened to be one of the best cooks I had ever met and meals in this house were something that I always looked forward to. She had introduced me to so many specialities. I especially enjoyed the dessert, which much of the time was chocolate ice- cream.

But on this particular day, my stomach felt tight and I did not feel hungry.

I sat at table with the visitors and my hosts. The man had removed his dark sunglasses and I could clearly see that he was totally blind. His partner wore hers and she appeared to be staring straight at me. I shifted uncomfortably on my seat, sure that she was looking straight into my rotten heart.

The lady of the house, the most cheerful woman I had ever seen, stood and made the introductions.

“Zakaria, meet Patrick! Meet Gina! These are our brethren from Reunion.”

Then she spoke to them in French, which I supposed was my introduction. They were looking my way and all of a sudden, they both flashed the brightest smiles I had ever seen. I smiled sheepishly back, not really understanding that they were seeing absolutely nothing. We shook hands and sat down for our lunch.

For many weeks I stayed with this blind couple. I slowly came to realize that these people were as normal as anyone else. In fact, we developed such an intimate relationship that whenever I would go to church, coming from wherever I had spent the day, my first thing was to seek them out and go greet them.

I would holler out: “Patrick!”, or “Gina!” (I could not speak any French, and Patrick and Gina hardly spoke English. Names were the only things we could properly do with each other.)

They would holler back, “Zakaria!”, all the time sporting their larger-than-life smiles. Then we would hug or shake hands. These were always intensely intimate moments.

Patrick knew a little English, though, and we used that to share our experiences. Whenever we were at home, Patrick loved having someone to talk with, and I was always willing, although it was very difficult. I came to know about his life, and even how he and Gina met.

Sometimes I would find one or both of them seated quietly on the sofa. After the customary hollering of each other’s names, I would ask them what they were doing.

“Just resting”, they would reply. “And listening.”

“Listening to what?” I would ask.

“To God.”

One day, I saw them both walking in town, just the two of them. I could hardly believe it! I had always thought they had to be driven to town, if they ever needed to go there. I watched in amazement as they walked closely bunched together, their white sticks hitting the concrete ahead of them. Curepipe is a pretty big town and I was simply unable to comprehend how they could know their way about, let alone avoid the traffic.

In the evening I asked Patrick all about it. He told me, “Zakaria, we always know where we are going. Today, for example, when you saw us, we were going to church; and we went and came back without incident. I know the direction to church and I simply follow the road.”

He then told me something very profound. He said, “Zakaria, I see things. I see on the inside. I can tell, for example, that such and such is a linen shop; or even a jewellery shop, without anybody telling me so. I can also tell exactly the distance a car is from where I am and even the speed it is travelling.”

Then he said, “I have had many experiences of real angels ministering to me. There are times when I want to cross the road – all is calm and I am sure there is no car coming – but suddenly I feel Someone physically holding me back. Then, just when I would have been crossing the road, a car comes roaring past; and I realize an angel of the Lord just saved my life.”

Soon – all too soon – the time for my flight home arrived. By then I had moved to another friend’s house, so I went to say goodbye to Patrick and Gina. It was an emotional farewell. We had become intertwined in our hearts. Poor me, I had not thought of leaving them a souvenir; but Gina walked purposely into her room and came out with possibly her most treasured possession – a bar of rare chocolate!

She said, “Zakaria, this is for you!”

Curepipe is damp and wet during winter. This incredibly wonderful blind couple had provided much of the light and warmth for me during my winter stay in Curepipe.

They had also taught me a valuable lesson. We love the comfort zone, but we will never know true comfort until we learn to lose our lives for others.Image

Father Is In The House!

Many times in church we hear the phrase: “Jesus is in the house tonight!” I am sure many of us would be surprised to hear a pastor say: “Father is in the house!” We most likely would think, ‘That is cult language!’

And yet it is truly the spirit of fatherhood that we need in Church. The Apostle Paul, talking about God’s family, puts it this way: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…” Eph 3:14-15. The Bible says clearly that Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father to us. It is the voice of the father that we need to hear in Church. It is the presence of the father that we need. Fatherhood is the most important institution on earth and in heaven!

One of the biggest curses that today’s generation is burdened with is the fatherless family unit. Many factors lead to this – fathers who abdicate their responsibilities, early pregnancies, divorce. Sometimes, the father dies early; but here the Bible gives the option for the widow to get married (1 Tim. 5:14).

Another contributing factor is that today’s generation is simply a rebellious generation and for some, single motherhood is actually a fashion statement! It is their way of saying ‘No’ to God’s order for humankind.

And yet it is a fact that a family without a father is simply a broken family. The father is the voice of authority in the family. The father brings stability, direction and security in the family. My wife is a strong woman by any standards, but once in a while, when I have been away from home for a long time she will call me and say: “Please talk to your daughter, she’s become too much for me to handle!” And I will speak a few words into the phone – probably of warning, or beseeching – and there will be order in that house until I return home.

There is no meaning to the word ‘family’ without a father. That is the way God made things to be. We cannot substitute God’s ways with our vain human wisdoms.

During the just-ended CTMI Leaders’ Conference in Nairobi we heard the voice of the father. Personally, I was challenged, warned, rebuked and given direction. Brother Miki talked to us about the importance of relationship within the Body of Christ. He clearly showed us that there cannot be true relationships when we are not each taking our proper place in the Body of Christ, something which can only happen through a revelation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

Most important of all, however, was that Brother Miki confronted us in the many areas that we had begun slipping back since we received the gospel of the Cross, some 10 or 20 years ago. He reminded us how our lives had been when the gospel first found us – we had many things on the outside, but little life on the inside. The revelation of the Cross and what it came to do brought light and life into our hearts and lives. Initially, when we heard the message of the Cross, we surrendered our lives and allowed that work in our hearts. But, Miki said, many of us had drawn back from that surrendered life and had begun walking as if we were our own masters, without a father. Our lives had reverted back to being our own.

Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians was clearly ours today: “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you”! (1Co 4:8)

The result? Our former manner of life, the old man of the flesh, had crept back into our lives. Slowly but surely, there were now murmurings, dissensions and warrings amongst us. Not far down along the road, every kind of sin will soon find its way into our midst.

Brother Miki reminded us that we have to go back to the Cross, where Jesus will reveal the spirit of the Father to us.

The conference message was a bittersweet experience for me – tough on the flesh, but music to my spirit. I needed to hear that!

I went back home refreshed, chastised and humbled. I had seen, once again, God’s plan for my life and I had been given reason again to lay down my life and allow Christ to reign fully in me.

A Life is Required

During his first meeting at the Nairobi Leaders’ Conference tonight Brother Miki Hardy spoke about relationships, drawing from the fact that this was a leaders’ conference, and there is no way we can talk about church leadership without there being true, solid relationships.

He read from Philippians chapter 1 verse Php 1:3-7 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,  Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

Miki said he would be talking on Paul’s words, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all…”

Paul could not have carried that kind of heart if he had a judgmental, critical attitude. It was not as if the Philippians were perfect. But Paul had faith for them, even if they were weak. He could see ahead and have patience with their weaknesses, trusting God for them. It was the same with his relationship with the Corinthians. Most striking was Paul’s attitude towards the Galatians who had backslidden completely and for whom he had every reason to despair. But we see him willing to start with them from scratch as he declares in Gal 4:19: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”.

As Miki spoke the Holy Spirit quickened me and I saw clearly why Abraham was called the father of faith. The faith of Abraham had nothing to do with material things! It had a lot to do with his Godly character. It had to do with his being a patient man, as we see him in his dealings with his nephew Lot. He surrendered all his rights to Lot. Abraham’s faith also had much more to do with how we see him sacrificing his life by going to rescue Lot from his captors.

That is what Biblical faith is all about! It is about laying down our lives so that others may gain life! It has nothing to do with material prosperity at all – for those who harbor such thoughts about Abraham’s faith! Personally, I would hate to think that God would consider someone a great man of faith simply because he owned a herd of smelly camels!

I prefer to think that there was something else, much more profound, that made God to consider Abraham a great man of faith. And since God is spirit, that means that Abraham’s faith was spiritual. It had to do with matters of the heart, not material things. Otherwise, scripture would contradict itself!!

I could see that it was for the same reason that Paul, too, became a spiritual father to many, including Timothy. It was not just because he preached to them the gospel, but it was due to the manner of life that he lived among them, being an example himself of the Godly life.

If there is one thing lacking in Church today it is men and women of God who are willing to lay down their lives and be an example for others to follow. There are too many “servants”, but few “fathers”. Fathers give their lives. In many of the cases where preachers decide to become examples it is all in the wrong things: prosperity, success, etc. But Paul became an example in the things that pertain to Godliness. He says in 2Ti 3:10-11: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured…”

If there is a preacher today who can stand up and claim the words of Paul for himself through the life that he lives then we can begin to see the beginnings of the Church of Christ.