Grace! – the Macedonian Example (Part 1)

[I have changed the title slightly from the original]

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 2 Cor. 8:1-4

No, we haven’t read that clearly enough, have we? Let’s read this scripture once more.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia…”

In modern English, Paul is saying: “Brothers, we want to tell you about the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia”.

Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful sentence in the entire universe. When I was in school, there was a certain type of punishment that a student would be given if they failed to complete a given task. They were commanded to write any sentence that the teacher dictated, a hundred times or more. They would be told, for example, to write “I will never come late to class again” – a hundred times!

That meant that while everyone else was outside enjoying their morning break, you would be cooped up in class trying to hold your brains in. Talk of torture! The equivalent to that today is water-boarding.

But I will tell you one thing: re-writing 2 Corinthians 8:1 is one ‘punishment’ I would be extremely happy to undertake. I could gladly write that sentence a million times over and once I had finished, I would be ready to do it all over again… and again…. and again.

In fact, let me just say that I could never tire of this scripture. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever read.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia…”

But what, pray, is so delightful about this scripture? Actually, what this scripture is saying should knock each one of us off our feet. What it is saying is stupefying. It is telling us that the Macedonian churches received the grace of God! The grace of God!

We will see later on that we probably have a very small idea of what the grace of God really is. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that in an arrogant sort of way. Let’s all just cool our heels and wait and see what I mean.

Kindly notice that these Macedonians did not receive expensive mansions or bundles of money, nor anything of this world. No, sir; they received the grace of God!

Grace is the most beautiful thing that you can own in this world. There are many wonderful things that we would love to own, but nothing – absolutely nothing – comes even close to comparing to the grace of God in beauty and importance.

There are, for example, many beautiful women in the world. But the truly beautiful woman is the woman who has the grace of God in her heart.

There are also many extremely rich men in this world. But no man is richer than the man who carries God’s grace in their heart.

Tomorrow we will look further at this interesting scripture. But let us, right now, pray that we would be men and women who desire the grace of God in our lives above anything else .

[Below: Even in our modern age, the broken mirror still defines an African woman’s beauty]

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The Simplicity of Godly Men

10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Gen. 28:10-22

It is incredible how simple the men and women who knew God in the Bible were. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would meet God face to face and the only thing he could think to ask of God was safe passage, food and raiment. But this was exactly what this great partriarch did.

And he did it for a reason: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

These men did not desire a simple life for simplicity’s sake; rather, it was because they had their sights on something else.

It is so interesting how the men in the Bible had a singular vision. They did not see “all over the world”. They had a singular focus. And their focus was not on worldly things, however ‘spiritual’ they might appear. They focused on something heavenly, something truly spiritual.

Here we see Jacob’s singular vision: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

We need to understand that scripture cannot be interpreted in the natural. This is why our minds have absolutely no place in God’s plan of revealing things. The “father’s house” that Jacob is referring to is the land that was given to Abraham and his offspring by God through a promise; and anything that is promised by or given by or is of God in any way is spiritual. That is why a born-again believer is spiritual throughout, and if we are not we need to be.

And Jacob says, ‘That I go back there in peace’.

The Godly men and women of old had only one reason for living in this world: to accomplish God’s righteousness in their lives. As far as this world was concerned, all Jacob wanted were the bare necessities. He had his sights elsewhere: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”. That is a spiritual statement, if ever there was one!

Today, the concept of “bare necessities” has been bashed into submission by a materially-minded gospel. I once actually saw a prominent preacher say on television: “God wants you to have ten houses!” That’s not a fable; it is a fact.

If you are poor or if you are deficient in anything of this world today, you are labeled: ‘You have no faith!’

And yet we see Jacob praying to God, ‘If you will only give me safe passage in this world, food and raiment’, that was enough.

The men and women who knew God in the Bible did not think too much of this world. They knew God could bless them with the things of this world if He so desired. But they did not set their hearts on those things. They looked for something spiritual. That is the bottom line: they looked for something spiritual.

In Hebrews 11:9-10 the Bible speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the following manner: “9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

These three men looked for something spiritual.

The Apostle Paul humbly says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Paul uses the same language Jacob used. The apostles looked for something spiritual!

And yet, all these simple men were the truly great men of this world. The Bible says that these were men “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

The great men of God did not look for the great things of this world. They looked for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They looked for that deep inner work of the cross in their hearts.

How far away the church has gone that we cannot use the same language today that these men used! It is so sad how the church has left the spiritual path and has turned into a carnal entity, believing that the things it justifies itself in seeking after are what is in God’s heart.

God in His magnanimity has no problem with us owning these things, and probably they are good for this world.

But even after we receive them we should hold onto them with our fingertips, because they are things that God will not allow into heaven. You cannot drive a Hummer into God’s heavenly Kingdom. And not even a healthy body will be allowed into that Kingdom. God will gladly welcome a healthy spirit into His Kingdom, but not a body, however healthy. The Bible in 1 Cor. 15:50 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it takes us eons to finally believe the Word of God!

There are ‘ministries’ today which have turned healing into the de facto Kingdom message.

But the message of the Kingdom of God is the singular message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I love the gospel of the cross. You can go to heaven and back, but you will not find any other gospel that zeroes in on what God wants to do in our lives.

I thank God for the revelation that He gave to the Apostle Paul: “Christ, and him crucified”!

[Below: I give you praise, Lord, for health and strength and for the revelation of the cross in my life]

The Simplicity of Godly Men

10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Gen. 28:10-22

It is incredible how simple the men and women who knew God in the Bible were. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would meet God face to face and the only thing he could think to ask of God was safe passage, food and raiment. But this was exactly what this great partriarch did.

And he did it for a reason: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

These men did not desire a simple life for simplicity’s sake; rather, it was because they had their sights on something else.

It is so interesting how the men in the Bible had a singular vision. They did not see “all over the world”. They had a singular focus. And their focus was not on worldly things, however ‘spiritual’ they might appear. They focused on something heavenly, something truly spiritual.

Here we see Jacob’s singular vision: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

We need to understand that scripture cannot be interpreted in the natural. This is why our minds have absolutely no place in God’s plan of revealing things. The “father’s house” that Jacob is referring to is the land that was given to Abraham and his offspring by God through a promise; and anything that is promised by or given by or is of God in any way is spiritual. That is why a born-again believer is spiritual throughout, and if we are not we need to be.

And Jacob says, ‘That I go back there in peace’.

The Godly men and women of old had only one reason for living in this world: to accomplish God’s righteousness in their lives. As far as this world was concerned, all Jacob wanted were the bare necessities. He had his sights elsewhere: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”. That is a spiritual statement, if ever there was one!

Today, the concept of “bare necessities” has been bashed into submission by a materially-minded gospel. I once actually saw a prominent preacher say on television: “God wants you to have ten houses!” That’s not a fable; it is a fact.

If you are poor or if you are deficient in anything of this world today, you are labeled: ‘You have no faith!’

And yet we see Jacob praying to God, ‘If you will only give me safe passage in this world, food and raiment’, that was enough.

The men and women who knew God in the Bible did not think too much of this world. They knew God could bless them with the things of this world if He so desired. But they did not set their hearts on those things. They looked for something spiritual. That is the bottom line: they looked for something spiritual.

In Hebrews 11:9-10 the Bible speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the following manner: “9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

These three men looked for something spiritual.

The Apostle Paul humbly says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Paul uses the same language Jacob used. The apostles looked for something spiritual!

And yet, all these simple men were the truly great men of this world. The Bible says that these were men “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

The great men of God did not look for the great things of this world. They looked for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They looked for that deep inner work of the cross in their hearts.

How far away the church has gone that we cannot use the same language today that these men used! It is so sad how the church has left the spiritual path and has turned into a carnal entity, believing that the things it justifies itself in seeking after are what is in God’s heart.

God in His magnanimity has no problem with us owning these things, and probably they are good for this world.

But even after we receive them we should hold onto them with our fingertips, because they are things that God will not allow into heaven. You cannot drive a Hummer into God’s heavenly Kingdom. And not even a healthy body will be allowed into that Kingdom. God will gladly welcome a healthy spirit into His Kingdom, but not a body, however healthy.

There are ‘ministries’ today which have turned healing into the de facto Kingdom message.

But the message of the Kingdom of God is the singular message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I love the gospel of the cross. You can go to heaven and back, but you will not find any other gospel that zeroes in on what God wants to do in our lives.

I thank God for the revelation that He gave to the Apostle Paul: “Christ, and him crucified”!

[Below: I give you praise, Lord, for the revelation of the cross]

What You See…

44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46

A brother and I were discussing this verse recently and he asked me whether I had ever seen a pearl. I told him no. He told me he had also never seen one.

To our amazement we found that neither of us had ever even heard of anyone who had seen a pearl, let alone own one.

From the scripture above, it appears that a pearl is something of incredibly great value. Jesus compared it with hidden treasure. He also said this pearl was something for which someone – in one instance an astute merchant man – was willing to go sell all that he had to come buy it.

You notice also that the men mentioned in these verses of scripture were seeking after something – something of value. And when they found it, they let go of everything they had, that they might gain this thing, which was the object of their heart’s desire.

I might never live to see a pearl in the natural. But I do know that I saw something the day I heard the gospel of the cross preached. There is no doubt about that. I found what my heart had been seeking for all my life long. In the revelation of the cross I found Truth.

When I heard the gospel of the cross, it shook me. I will be forever grateful to God for enabling me to see something of value in the cross. When I say “me” I mean my spirit, of course. Were I dependent on my mind, I would have run away from it, it shook me so bad. But I saw something. I can never explain what it was that made me to stay around after I had heard a gospel that brought the sword to my heart. But I am sure my spirit saw something, and that was why I stayed. And I am still right there.

One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for the churches was that their spiritual eyes might be opened. “What you see is what you get”, they say.

I once heard of an ‘apostle of money’. In other words, this ‘apostle’ sees money, and he preaches money. No doubt his followers also see money.

Today there are ‘apostles’ for every commodity, on earth and in heaven.

But the revelation of the cross causes you to focus on the all-important aspect of the gospel – the crucifixion of the flesh.

A lack of this revelation leads to a gratification of the flesh. There are many Christians today gratifying the flesh “in the Name of Jesus”.

The Apostle Paul knew where to find the life: it was in identifying his life with the sufferings and death of Christ. Have you ever wondered why Paul would want to “know” nothing among the Corinthians “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2) There is much food for thought there.

Ever since my heart grasped the revelation of the cross, my focus has been drastically changed. I desire only one thing: to know Him and His sufferings and death that “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). It is the life of Christ that I seek after. I am not perfect, which makes me wonder how long it took these gentlemen to “sell all they had”. Certainly not as long as I am taking; but I am assured in my heart that as long as my eyes stay focused on that pearl – the cross and the grace to be found therein – I will one day find myself in God’s perfect will.

[Below: God’s Kingdom is way deep down in a man’s heart]

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A Sinner’s Worth

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Mat. 18:11-13

How much is a person’s life worth? The Bible says that God gave up ALL He had because He considered each sinner’s life worth that much. The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Our lives were worth all that God had. You cannot lay a price to such a revelation.

But it is the individual touch that speaks volumes about God’s compassion, mercy and grace.

Beyond the fact that God sent His only Son Jesus to come to die for us, the scripture we just read in Matthew 18 gives us an even more amazing description of the incredible worth that God attaches to a sinner. Two factors are revealed here. One is that God goes for the sinner as if he were the only person in the universe. The second, even more incredible thing is that God goes after that person Himself, personally.

I remember, many years ago, how one night the Lord came calling at my heart’s door. This is how it happened. I was in my final year at the university. But I was also a sinner of the most frightful sort. That night I was all alone in my room when all of a sudden I felt a deep, indescribable grief welling up in my heart. There was no preamble; just as suddenly it was there, and without a thought the tears began rolling from my eyes. The grief was so overwhelming that it shook me till I thought I would tear apart.

Having never experienced anything of the sort before, I thought it was a sickness. But it was past midnight and the dispensary would be closed! So I lay in my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, till morning.

In the morning, I felt all right again, so I did not bother to go to the dispensary.

Thereafter, every night after that, the Lord would come and stand in my room. And then He would softly call out to me. You appreciate, of course, that I did not know then that it was the Lord. I neither heard a Voice, nor did I see any Body. I did not even feel a Presence. In fact, having established that it was not an illness, I decided it was just a feeling, and I was convinced it would soon go away!

It was long after I got saved that I came to understand the surreal drama that had been unfolding in my room those many nights back then.

I cannot remember for how long this went on, but on countless nights until the semester ended, I would spend half the night (and sometimes the entire night) standing under the showers, crying my heart out. I would cry till the tears had completely dried from my tears. Even after I had stopped crying I would continue standing under the shower, savoring a strange kind of peace. I must have cost the university a neat bundle with the water bill!

When I went home for the vacation, the Lord made His final call. I had continued living my old sinful life, of course, since I had no way of knowing that the Lord had been calling. Then, one day a pastor and three young men passed by our home. They found me there all by myself, just as I was finalizing my ‘plans’ for the evening. I would never have guessed that that would be the end of the road for the Mwita that I was then; but it was. By the time these blessed men left our house an hour later, I was back in the Lord’s fold.

It happened so suddenly, and no other member of my family was even around.

To this day, I can never fathom what it was that drew the Lord to me. I cannot understand what it was that caused Him to come looking for me. However hard I look, I cannot find anything of worth in me that could have attracted the Lord to me. I can only accept His gift of faith which teaches that He did all that out of love. Not because there was anything good in me, nor because there was any ‘worthiness’ in me, no. Indeed, I am convinced (and the Bible affirms it) that it was because of my very unworthiness that He was so overcome with compassion and mercy that He decided to give me worth.

And He did not give me any old worth; He gave us – me and you – His very own worthiness! He gave us the best that He had, the best of the best!

I give my Lord and Savior praise and glory and honor and thanksgiving for the incomprehensible grace and mercy that He showed me then, and which He continues to show to me today. And there is also something more… My heart yearns with all its strength for such a heart of love and compassion as my Lord’s. A heart that can give the best that I have. A heart that can deal with an individual person as if he or she were the only person in the world.

In reality, this is a commandment. We are commanded by Jesus Himself to love people in that manner. It is an incredibly enormous responsibility we have been shouldered with, and we are hardly up to the task. We need to cry out to God for His grace in our lives.

If I had only one prayer to make, I would not ask for any other thing. I know exactly what I want from the Lord: that particular heart of love and compassion. Somehow, in my heart, I know that those are the only true riches, the only real treasure – and therein is the richest contentment.

Of Worldly Wealth And God’s Kingdom – Part 1

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mat 19:21

We all know the sad ending to this story. The Bible says that the rich man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.”

Actually, I think Jesus ought to have called that young man back. He ought to have called him back and worked out a bargain with him. That is what I think. I mean, you can’t be too tough on a man! The problem, I think, was that Jesus had never owned wealth, and He had no idea how difficult it was for people to make money. And for Him to casually ask one to go throw all his life’s savings into the lake was a bit insensitive, to say the least.

But, anyway, considering that Jesus did not call the young man back, let us see how we can handle His words. The words appear a bit difficult to carry out exactly as set out here, so let us look at the options. The good thing about scripture is that you can turn it any way you want, so let us turn it slightly sideways and see whether we cannot arrive at the conclusion that probably Jesus wanted this man to sell his property, keep the money, but to make sure no poor soul ever passed by his door without getting help from him? or any other conclusion except that Jesus wanted this young man to go SELL HIS PROPERTY, GIVE ALL THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE POOR AND REMAIN WITH ONLY THE CLOTHES ON HIS BACK – and then he could come follow Jesus.

There is nothing as frustrating as missing the nail’s head when you are hitting it. If you keep missing, the head becomes bent and from there on the hammer will keep slipping off the head.

Jesus never, ever made that mistake. He always made sure to hit the nail on the head.

I remember also one time in school we had an archery competition. I was in one of the teams and as the competition got underway, the situation gradually inched towards the point of near-certainty that none of us would be picking the prize because half the arrows landed everywhere on the target board except where they were needed. The other half missed the target board entirely. The spectators had to be pushed way back to a safe distance when it became clear the arrows could land anywhere!

And then, by a stroke of luck, one of my arrows hit the bulls-eye, dead in the center. The rest, as they say, is history. Had I won the presidency of the United States of America, I doubt I would have won the recognition that I did that day…

It is not easy to hit the bulls-eye. Nor is it easy to hit the spiritual mark, either. But Jesus always hit the mark. In this case He hit it big. In fact, He hit it so big that His disciples, on hearing His words, “were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” verse 19:25. In other words, they were astounded beyond belief.

But Jesus was not seeking to make ‘history’ by His statements. The fact is, He could scarcely have said anything different. He spoke those words only because there was nothing different for Him to say. Had there been, He would have said it. Had there been a ‘softer’ way for Jesus to show this rich, young man into the Kingdom of God, you can bet your last dollar He would have said it.

The lure of money is formidable and few people are willing to tamper with this powerful force! It is not easy to hear these words of Jesus spoken in any pulpit today. That doesn’t mean there are not men of God who can and who do stand up against the god of money. But it is an uphill task.

Jesus’ words are bad news to our flesh, just as it was bad news for the rich young ruler. In essence, Jesus was making the point (both to the young ruler and to His disciples) that worldly wealth has no place in the Kingdom of God. “Go ditch it and come follow me”. That was the unfortunate news He was ‘leaking’ out.

Jesus was showing this young man the way of the cross. But it proved just too hard for him.

And Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither… In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22).

The Apostle Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:35-36).

Do I see the word “death” there? I am convinced that God has a few more things He wants us to give up in order to gain His Kingdom. Maybe even our very lives! We just aren’t aware.

Alas! I, too, am all too human. There are times when I find myself dreaming of ‘all that money’ and I have to kick myself awake. Money can easily blind one to the things of the Kingdom of God.

It is a great day indeed when I can find myself going through any slight hardship or discomfort for the Kingdom and to rejoice therein. There is no greater indicator for me that I am in the perfect will of God.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.