The Greatest Promise Of All

11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him… (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

What powerful words! What an incredible promise! And right here, as an aside, let me say that I have heard both powerful and unpowerful preachers enumerate the promises that God has for us in the Bible, and I have never heard them mention this one. You wonder, What are Christians being taught in churches today? Aren’t Christians being taken for a ride by the very preachers they have entrusted their souls to? And it is a ride straight to hell.

But let us embark on our lesson today by looking at another incredibly powerful scripture.

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:24

That’s talking of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture here plainly states that it was not possible that death could hold Jesus.

If language is anything to go by, the words “not possible” mean something, don’t they? Another word for “not possible” is “impossible”; and other words for “impossible are, “impracticable”, “unachievable”, “out of the question”.

It is clear, therefore, that there are some things that death can achieve; and there are others that it cannot. That’s interesting, because even the Bible makes clear the power of death, for in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, we read:

“25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Death is an incredibly powerful enemy. No man is free from the grip of death. Even the great partriarch David was held by death, as the Bible says in Acts 13:36,

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”

But of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible states:

“But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (Acts 13:37)

Death had no power over Jesus simply because it was not possible for it to have power over Him!

“not possible”. What beautiful words! In the context they are in, they probably are the sweetest words in the Bible. But they are not just beautiful; they are also powerful. The power in those words is incomprehensible. And the stratospheric question here is, Why was it not possible that Jesus should be held by death?

The Bible says it is because God would not allow it.

“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 13:35)

God would not suffer, or allow Jesus to be held by the power of death. Again, that is awe-inspiring. How could that be so? Why?

You see, God is the determiner of everything. He is the I AM. All things exist in Him. All things and everything therefore is easily under the control of God. So when God says or does or even so much as wishes something (for He always does so according to His irrefutable wisdom), there is NOTHING that can rebuff Him. In fact, it is much more than that. When God was creating the universe, He just wished it, and it was so.

In the same manner, God did not wish Jesus to see corruption – and it was so.

So how come that every man since Adam has seen corruption but not Jesus? What made Jesus so special? Why would God wish and therefore not allow Jesus to be held by death? Was it on a whim?

Certainly not. The reason why God would not allow Jesus to see corruption is, simply, because Jesus obeyed God! It is that simple; and yet, again, it is not that simple. The price that Jesus paid to obey God is uncomprehendable. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:12 that

“because he hath poured out his soul unto death”.

Jesus poured out his soul unto death. The Bible is full of the sufferings and ultimate ignoble death of Jesus. Jesus lived the kind of life that we find practically impossible to live here on earth.

It is in this context therefore that the Apostle Paul makes clear the importance of our identification with Christ. He tells us that in order for us to achieve anything of value in the Spirit, we MUST identify our lives with the sufferings and death of Christ.

“11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

Notice the sequence of events here. If we die to self as Christ died to self, we shall have the life of Christ in us here on earth. As the Apostle Paul says,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20)

If we suffer with Christ here on earth, we shall reign with Him in heaven.

And pray, what, exactly, is suffering with Jesus?

The words of Jesus Himself explain this best.

“39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

[God’s call to the church is to crucify self just as Christ did]


Circumcision vs The Cross – Part 2

There is no other way of becoming spiritual other than crucifying the mind of the flesh together with its lusts (Gal. 5:24). That is the singular most importance understanding that a believer can have in his or her life

We can therefore see the significance of Paul’s words in verse 11:

“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.”

We can understand why he would want to put everything else aside and emphasise the importance of this revelation to the Galatians. The revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) was the singular most important thing that they could grasp in their lives.

When we lack that revelation in our hearts, we look to form, tradition and anything that can be grasped with our human understanding. The Galatians looked to circumcision.

There are so many things that believers today think are important in their lives; but which are not.

The Apostle Paul puts it out so clearly the single most valuable thing in a believer’s life:

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Not tradition or form; but a work of the Spirit in someone’s heart.

[The work of the Holy Spirit in us transforms us]


Grasping The Eternal – Part 1

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mat. 16:5-12

The disciples of Jesus (if they had any wits about them) must have thought that Jesus was about to start a cult – THE CULT OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, it would have been called. Yes, it appeared that was the direction Jesus was headed. Now, if it had turned out to be so – which, bless the Lord, it turned out not to be the case – that would have been an Old Testament cult. Unfortunately, today, in Christianity, there are so many such cults, cults that are embedded in the Old Testament. There are people today who will defend the old covenant to their death at the expense of the new covenant. Well-meaning men, but who have no idea of the work of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross. Such men, such churches, are steeped in law.

I heard one ‘apostle’ from Philadelphia, in the U.S., claim he bars men in his church from sitting together with women in the pews for the sake of discipline. Yep, those were his very words. He doesn’t want the men in his church, he said, looking down strange women’s exposed cleavages, or have them dropping their pens every now and then in a desperate attempt to look at their female counterparts’ beautifully-formed ankles and leg calves!

The Old Testament law, under which many churches today are entrenched, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, law works; but it works the exact opposite of Godliness. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:3:

“But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”

All law does is to remind one of sin. Or, to put it more clearly, it makes you aware of sin. That is what it says also, very clearly, in Romans 7:7-11:

“7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

It couldn’t be stated clearer than that.

I love this preacher from Philly, he is a well-meaning man, but he has got it all wrong. He does not have the revelation of the gospel of grace. By doing what he is doing, he is putting law on God’s people. And you cannot lead people into God’s righteousness by harnessing them under Old Testament law. By his own admission, all the men seated in his church are unrepentant sinners who need the law to keep them from committing sin! His ‘church’ therefore ceases to be the church, but a cult.

On the other hand, the gospel of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) – which the Apostle Paul preached, glory to God! – is solid gold. It is the power of God. God’s grace, that comes through the working of the cross, breaks the power of sin in our lives. If, say, a short-skirted woman were to sit next to me, a man, who is being ministered to under the new covenant (the true gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby I am crucifying my flesh daily) that short-skirted lady would not make the slightest difference to me in the natural. If she had the most visible cleavage, still it wouldn’t make any difference. The likely scenario is that I would yearn for her in a Godly manner. On the other hand, when you are under the ministry of law, in such a situation you would not be free. You would be under pressure. Your un-crucified flesh would give you problems. The very thought of looking at that woman would have you beginning to fret. That is the difference between law and grace. Grace sets people free; law binds them. Preachers are stunting and ultimately killing God’s people spiritually by preaching law instead of grace to them. The law cannot set anyone free from sin.

Anyways, back to Jesus and His disciples…

[To know Christ is to understand grace]

Dead Or Half-Dead? Part 2

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

We saw in the first part of this post that Jesus loved this man; but it is his soul, or spirit, that Jesus loved. He did not love him in the natural, carnal way that we are accustomed to. It is for this reason that the prosperity preacher got it right in one way when he said God wants us to prosper in our spirits. But the gospel is about one thing only and we cannot bring in a concoction of eveything else and claim it is the gospel.

For now, let me tell you a story, the story from which I got the title for this post. This is a true story.

There are some communities in my country that eat donkeys. Yes, they eat donkeys just like you and I eat beef. One of these communities are even my neighbors. Actually, the incident I am about to narrate took place not too far from where I live.

Now, donkeys are not in as much supply as cattle anywhere in the world and with the voracity with which these tribesmen were consuming this particular delicacy, the government soon awoke to the fact that before long there would be no donkeys in this country. So one day the prime minister of that time decided to pay one of these communities a visit, and as chance would have it, he chose to visit my next-door neighbors. He came with a large contingent of government ministers because most people require to see big government for any point to sink in. Flanked by top government officials, the prime minister in effect banned the wholesale slaughter of donkeys that was going on in that community. The people agreed to the ban and the slaughter ended there. But the truce was only temporary. Now, hardly three years or so down the path, the slaughter has started all over again. Obviously, these people’s appetite for their favorite “beef” is too overpowering.

Anyways, on the particular day that I am recounting of here, some men were slaughtering a donkey. The man handling the machete had slit the throat completely, but the donkey is a very powerful animal and in order to kill it, you need to cut the neck vertebrae also. The man was about to do this when the donkey, in the initial stages of its death throes, gave out a kick that was so violent that it threw the men holding him down completely off balance. They let go and that is when the impossible happened. The donkey got up on its four legs and began running about, with its head swinging from its neck!

It was an incredibly horrific and gruesome sight. Blood and gore was spattering all over the place as the animal banged itself about. People scattered. Unable to really make a run for it, the donkey kept running around in ever-tightening circles until it tired itself out and fell to the ground with a thud.

It was a sight to turn your stomach.

I have brought this story up because I thought it was so apt a description of what happens when a believer fails to allow the cross to have its way in their lives. A believer without the cross is a believer who does not have the death of Christ working in them. And this is the greatest tragedy in Christianity.

Had the donkey allowed itself to die peacefully, he would not have created so much inconvenience for himself and for the people handling him. We create all kinds of havoc in the Spirit when we refuse to accept to die to our carnal ways.

Moreover, the life of Christ is sadly lacking in such a life.

But, really, who can willingly allow themselves to be slaughtered without making a fuss? Obviously, this rich man was not able to.

Well, Jesus did. Jesus Himself stated:

“17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (Jn. 10:17-18)

But scripture goes beyond that and states that Jesus was slaughtered even before the foundations of the world were laid (1 Pet. 1:19-20). That fact alone is central to our calling as believers.

Moreover, Isaiah 53:7 says that as Jesus was being slaughtered, He opened not His mouth.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

You can be taken down to the slaughterhouse and, like this rich man, not allow yourself to die. He was a wonderful man, full of zeal for the Lord. But he was spiritually deficient in that he had no revelation of the cross in his life. When Jesus therefore began to tell him to deny himself, he stumbled at this word. He did not allow God’s machete to go far enough, and he stumbled away from the scene of the slaughter, wounded but not dead. The Bible states that he

“went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (v.22).

The man had tempered himself since his youth… for nothing.

What a sad commentary on this young man’s life! But this is the same sad commentary that is written of our lives when we fail to take up the cross. When the cross is absent in our lives, we are still short of the Kingdom of God despite all our religiosity. Something needed to die in this young man. He needed to have his neck vertebrae cut. And so do we.

[Below: Deep in central Tanzania, I found the most picturesque bathroom!]


God’s Kingdom – In Us!

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Lk. 17:20-21

The inspiration for this post came from a conversation I had this morning with an elderly neighbour. I was out sweeping my front yard when my neighbour showed up and asked me, “Pastor, are you not going to church today?”

“No, madam, why?” I asked.

“Today is Good Friday!” she answered with surprise in her voice.

“Well”, I told her. “I know it is Good Friday all right but today I am not going to church.”

“Doesn’t your church hold a service on Good Friday”, she asked, clearly taken aback.

“No, we don’t”, I said simply.

“How come.”

This lady and I are very good friends, so I took the liberty to preach to her a proper Good Friday sermon. In as few words as I could, of course.

“Lady”, I said, “ever since Jesus came into this world, there is only one religious observance that we are called to and it is the purity of our hearts.”

Today, Good Friday, there will be so much activity going on in churches all over the world in honor of the crucifixion of Christ. I even know of people who will not be eating meat today as part of their religious observance. There is nothing wrong in all these things. The only thing we could fault them with is that the Kingdom of God is not found there.

The Apostle Paul preached one singular thing: the cross. Notice his words in 1 Corinthians 1:17:

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

But I probably am getting ahead of myself… There is still much to talk about this religious observances.

When Jesus said, “Lo here! or, lo there!” He was referring to the entire spectrum of religious observances that people carry on with in church. And when it comes to religious observances in church in general, they are too many to mention here.

I remember one time, many years back, Pastor Amas and I had gone to a certain village to preach the gospel. In those days, unlike today when even in the most impassable routes there are motorcycle taxis, in those days much travelling into the villages had to be done on foot. So, on this particular occasion, after we had dropped off the bus, we had to walk for a full hour and a half to reach our destination.

As we were walking along the road we saw afar off a man approaching us. From afar we noticed he was wearing a suit and tie. Deep in the village! Even before we had got anywhere near him, I said, “That’s a pastor.” And true enough, when we finally met him, he was carrying a Bible. He was probably going to preach in the city.

Yes, wearing suits was once – and it still is in some circles – considered a religious duty, just as wearing a gown and crucifix is considered a fulfilment of some religious role in some denominations. There are churches where one cannot preach without wearing a suit and tie.

The list of Christian religious duties and observances, as I just said, is too long to write down here. People are looking for God in every nook and cranny. There are some who are looking for Him in form. Many more are looking for Him in miracles and signs and wonders. But the Kingdom of God is not found in these things. Jesus told us exactly where the Kingdom of God is to be found:

“…behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

What did Jesus mean by these words?

He meant that the Kingdom of God is the life that we live. We as the church should be very careful that we do not get carried away by all the “star-spangled” (to borrow a phrase) shows and goings-on that men can put out in the natural. Nor even in signs and wonders. Instead, our sole duty is look deep into our hearts and to make sure there is a work going on there – the work of the cross! The Apostle Paul said,

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

To which he added,

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

Are we crucified to the world and is the world crucified to us? Have we become new creatures, not in name, but in truth and fact? Do we live transformed lives?

These are the central questions that we need to ask ourselves, not whether we can do a little gardening on a Sunday afternoon or not.

[Water geese at the Musoma pier]


The Compassion of Jesus

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Jn. 20:18-20

For the purposes of this post, notice that last line: “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” But first…

Have you ever done or accomplished a certain task fully to its end? Normally, when we do that, we want to sit back and relax and have our favorite cup of coffee! (Being the original African, I prefer a hot bowl of red millet porridge). We want to take a holiday! We want to ‘let off steam’ or something. More importantly, of course, we consider it our ‘hard-earned’ right to take such a breather.

How long did it take the Lord Jesus Christ to present His blood, His own, eternal sacrificial blood, to the Father? We cannot know because with the Lord time is not time as we know it. But in GMT time, within approximately 10 hours, Jesus had presented His own blood to the Father and, having accomplished all of His Father’s will to perfection, in a jiffy He was back with His disciples!

Jesus had accomplished His mission; He ought to have rested. Can you imagine, that same evening, He was back on earth with His disciples! Had it been me I probably would have taken a year off and played heavenly golf or something. But not Jesus.

Indeed, it is interesting that we do not read anywhere where Jesus was able to take a vacation or holiday or anything like that. I am sure He must have desired to, but circumstances would not allow.

We read of another instance, when after the Lord Jesus had sent forth the twelve apostles to minister and they came back and He desired that they should go and seek a place to rest. In other words, Jesus attempted to go on vacation. Let us see in detail what the scriptures say here.

30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. 34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: 36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. 37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? 38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. 39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. 41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. 42 And they did all eat, and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. 44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men. Mk. 6:30-44

There is no doubt in this account of scripture that Jesus and His disciples needed a rest. The Bible says, “for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat”! So Jesus ordered a vacation.

But when Jesus saw the people who had gathered again, He had compassion on them. He abandoned His ‘holiday’ and went to minister to them. And He did not only minister to them with the Word, but He also gave them food to eat.

In the light of these two examples, can we possibly think that we are sacrificing too much time, money or energy for people? Hardly! The love of God ought to constrain us more and more and drive us to give of our lives to people more and more.

But more importantly, we need to know what it was that drove Jesus to do these things. It was love. Right here I can confidently say that our understanding of God’s love is less than 50% – and that is probably overstating it still. Imagine Jesus (in the first scripture), having gone back to the glories of heaven, and not thinking about them, but instead thinking of some inconsequential, sinful, disreputable humans back down on earth? And just imagine, His heart literally ached for them!

Jesus must have said to God, “Father, I just have to go back!”

And God (for conversation’s sake): “Where to, Son?”

“I yearn for my brethren, my disciples.”

“OK, Son, you go right ahead”, God would have answered. “I am with you.”

Much of our ‘service’ is done out of a dry sense of duty. But I can assure you it was compassion that drove Jesus so fast from heaven to come down and comfort His distraught disciples. Notice, “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews”. Jesus’ disciples were fearful! But Jesus came down and appeared to them and said to them, “Peace be unto you.” And when they had established that it was Jesus, they were comforted. “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” 

It is sometimes so easy for us, so far removed in time and space from the situation that Jesus’ disciples were in, to not see it in its gravity. But God’s heart is super-sensitive towards His church.

Yes, Jesus came back for many things, but we can clearly see the chief reason He came back immediately at that particular time was to comfort His disciples. Can we possibly yearn for our brothers and sisters to the extent that we are willing to leave our comforts and rights and privileges and go and ‘be with them’ in even the simplest of gestures?

And do you know what? Jesus has not taken any vacation yet. He is in heaven right now, at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us (Heb. 7:25)! What love! What compassion! What incredible sacrifice!

[Below: A Kurya homestead in the Serengeti; but it’s the brethren, up close in the second pic, who are more interesting!]



“Pure Religion and Undefiled”!


10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Jn. 20:10-17

Jesus told Mary, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” Jesus was on a mission. In fact He was on the greatest ‘ministry’ that will ever be carried out on earth, and probably in heaven.

It would appear that Jesus had just resurrected and He was on His way to Heaven. He was on His way to do something that we cannot possibly describe in human terms: He was about to present His own blood to God the Father as the sacrifice God was awaiting in order to forgive humankind’s sins, past present and future (Heb. 9:12).

Jesus was about to ascend to God the Father! He was about to perform the greatest act of all time, the presentation of His blood to God.

The mission Jesus was on was so important and it was so far removed from the human realm that He could tell Mary, “Touch me not!” And it is the very act of revealing Himself to Mary at such a spiritually ‘sensitive’ time that brings the profundity of it all out.

Why would Jesus who was on this very sensitive heavenly mission reveal Himself to Mary at that particular moment? He could have let the angels deal with her, and they would have ministered to her satisfactorily.

But there are small things that Jesus notices, which we sometimes don’t. Just as He was about to ascend, Jesus saw Mary weeping. He saw deep into her heart, and He felt her grieving. And no, Jesus would not leave a grieving Mary. Jesus must have told God the Father, “Father, I know this is way outside the assignment at hand, but please bear with me; I need to minister to someone here.”

God is love. I am aware of preachers today who are so ‘holy’ they are no earthly good. I saw one self-styled prophet in my country telling someone on live TV, “Go look for another pastor to deal with your problem, if you are not ready to reveal your need in public!” The man was thinking more about his ‘prophetic’ ministry than that sister, whom he pushed away so rudely. His ministry involves ‘confirming’ what people tell him, and he makes sure every detail is clearly filmed on TV. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But God is not about theatrics or vain glory. God is love. Jesus felt Mary’s grief, and it touched His heart. And His love for her was so much that He could not just leave her there grieving. He revealed Himself to her and in that manner offered her the biggest comfort and consolation she could ever imagine!

And He loved His disciples so much He just had to give Mary a personal message for them.

What heart do we have towards people? Are we so very ‘holy’? We couldn’t possibly be holier than Jesus was at that very moment that He ministered to Mary; and we couldn’t possibly have a more important ‘ministry’ (towards God) than Jesus had at that particular moment. And yet at that very moment (and probably breaking every rule in heaven) Jesus thought of Mary and His disciples above everything else! What love! What ministry!

Let us be men and women who carry the heart of Jesus. Religion without love is dead. Actually, the Apostle James ties a holy life to our actions towards those who are in need or suffering. In James 1:27 he says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

That’s the heavenly combination: living a holy life and ‘visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction.’ It is not one without the other. The two complement each other.

[Below: No ‘ministry’ is greater than feeling someone’s heart]


The Light of The Spiritual Man

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Mat 6:22-23

What this scripture is saying here is simply that the light in our hearts, the purity of our hearts, is the light of the spiritual man. You can have religion up to your neck, but if you are not maintaining a pure heart, your whole spiritual body is full of darkness.

When we had our second baby, my wife and I decided that two kids were enough and that we should get on with the business of serving the Lord. So we went to have a tubal ligation. This is a simple surgical procedure whereby they make a small hole below the woman’s navel, cut the fallopian tubes, tie them up and after 5 minutes of rest the patient can go home. The purpose of it is so that she should never be able to conceive again.

I was sitting outside the operating room as the doctor and his nurse performed the procedure on my wife. When he was done, the doctor called me inside and he said to me, “Your wife has the clearest birth tubes I have ever seen. They are so clear you can see to the other side!”

We all laughed with relief – and I with pompous pride. But I never forgot the doctor’s words. Somehow they stuck to my mind and the Lord has used them many times to remind me about the condition of my heart.

Later on my wife was employed by that same organisation and during the course of her work cutting and binding women’s fallopian tubes she would tell me things that made me to appreciate the significance of what the doctor who operated on her had told us. My wife would tell me about the women they operated on, how the tubes of many of them were clogged with ‘dirt’; some to the extent that they had to go back home and use medication first before they would be operated on.

Through these lessons I came to appreciate the importance of the heart as far as our relationship with God is concerned.

The condition of our hearts is so important I wonder what preachers are preaching today! In the final analysis, there can be only one of two things in our hearts: light or darkness, and these things in our hearts are all that God is really concerned about. The Bible says two things about the nature of God. By nature I mean composition; in other words, what God is composed of (just as we are composed of dust, etc). The Bible states that God is:

  1. Light
  2. Love

The light the Bible is talking of here is not sunlight, of course. The Bible is talking about light in the spirit realm. It involves things like holiness, and righteousness. In the same way, God being love is not the worldly love we know of. It is something much more profound. It involves things like forgiveness, and compassion.

Out of this composition we get all the characteristics of God that we read of in the Bible. Just as God is light our hearts should also be full of light. We may not know many things, and we may not have many things, but we are called upon to please God by carrying a pure heart.

Some people simply have religion, and not the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wonder that we know so many things, so much scripture; and yet we keep impure hearts! The Apostle John speaks to us on the importance of keeping a pure heart. He says: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7)

Notice the scripture there acknowledges that we will sin, even in our born-again state. But the important thing with God is that we keep our hearts open and pure, so that the blood of Jesus can continually cleanse us from our sins, which we commit daily.

Let us desire to be simple folk. Religion produces some of the most complicated and difficult people on this earth. But the grace of God in our hearts produces humble men and women in whom the love of God can truly reside. In the final analysis we ought to be men and women whom God can “see through to the other side”!

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