“Strive To Enter In”

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Jn. 6:26-27

In our culture, and I believe it is so in many other cultures as well, the bride cannot just be picked off the streets and straightaway handed over to the bridegroom. Once it has been established that she is the groom’s wife-to-be, great and meticulous care will be taken to prepare this young woman for her husband on the wedding day.

I have never heard of a bridegroom personally adorning or preparing his own bride. On the contrary, he engages the services of others, who mostly do it freely out of the love they have for him. The purpose is to present the bride to the bridegroom perfect and properly adorned. That is the joy of a wedding.

It would be a strange scenario indeed to find the bridegroom, all alone with his wife-to-be, cooped up in a room somewhere while he busily tries to scrub his bride for their upcoming wedding. It is not his job to make her ready for the wedding day. But there are friends of the bridegroom, people who are intent on bringing joy to the bridegroom. These are they who take it upon themselves to make sure the bride is well-prepared for the groom. And they don’t just pour buckets of water on her and put her out to dry in the sun. No, these people are professionals in the art of bride preparation. They will work on the bride until she is spotless and without wrinkle, perfect as perfect can be. Only then will she be ready to be presented to the groom on the wedding day.

Jesus engaged the services of His friends, the men who carry the five-fold ministry, to prepare His bride for Him (Ephesians chapters 3 & 4). Christ’s bride is the church.

There is no other gospel that can perfect the church except the apostolic gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. When I say the apostolic gospel I don’t mean, of course, that every person who calls themselves an apostle carries this gospel. A true apostle is someone who brings to light the gospel of a crucified life.

The gospel of the cross is the gospel that comes to deal the death blow to the flesh, that rot that is our carnal nature, so that we might be perfected in the spirit, and become men and women who comprise the church, Christ’s bride in the Spirit. Sin dwells in the flesh.

Jesus is neither going to marry a child bride, nor an imperfect bride. Every born-again believer will have to submit themselves to the exacting work of the cross in their lives in order to become a part of this Body.

The gospel of the cross was the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached, because it had been revealed to him that this was the only gospel that was guaranteed to bring the resultant perfecting of the saints.

The gospel of the cross is invested in the five-fold ministry. This is the ministry which Christ commissioned to reveal the crucified Christ in men’s hearts.

It is very interesting to note how many born-again believers today have embraced the charismatic gospel, which in reality is a spiritually hollow gospel based solely on miracles, healings and prosperity. Not that these things are bad in themselves, but when they come without a revelation of the cross, then they have no life in them. On the contrary, they feed the flesh. This is exactly what we see the charismatic gospel doing today. It has become a doctrine in itself, but this is not the doctrine of Chist.

Jesus did many miracles, but one day He turned on the very same crowds that were following Him. He realized exactly what they were doing. They were following Him for the loaves of bread. He had fed them the bread out of compassion, but they were now building a doctrine out of that.

And He turned on them and told them they would now have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”. Upon hearing this, they scattered like flies.

Why should we think that the people filling up today’s mega-churches are after Jesus’ flesh and blood; in other words, that they are there specifically because they want to identify their lives with Christ in His sufferings and death? Why not, rather, should we not accept the obvious truth that many of these people are in church because they are seeking after the things of the flesh?

And it is equally true that many of these churches offer gospels that cater fully to the flesh. It is no secret that many of these churches’ leaders are after money themselves. I hear that there are pastors who are listed in Forbes magazine!

I can assure you that when the true gospel of the cross of Christ is preached, very few people will remain in the pews – or in the ministry. Many will not be able to bear it.

When the gospel comes and tells you to forgive and the revelation of the cross is not in your heart, it is like switching off the sun at midday. You cannot find your bearings. That was exactly what happened to the Jews. Everything that Jesus said after that they found hard to swallow.

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:60)

If the Jews said that, I can assure you that not many among the rest of us will be willing to hear it. The gospel of the cross – our identification with Christ in His sufferings and death – is a hard saying indeed. Not many people can hear it. If at Gethsemane Peter fled and left Jesus alone, I can assure you that once the true gospel has been preached not many of us will be left around.

Someone once asked Jesus whether those who would be saved would be few. Jesus did not tell him whether they would be few or many. Instead, Jesus told him to strive to enter in at the strait gate.

Let us end this post by looking at this passage of scripture.

“23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” Lk. 13:23-30

“The strait gate”. This scripture is talking about the work of the cross in our lives. We can clearly see what will happen to those who will sidestep that work. They will be unable to cast off sin in their lives, and Jesus will disown them. They could not possibly become a part of His bride. The bride of Christ will comprise believers who have been worked on – worked on by the purifying work of the cross.

[Below: The bride, ready and prepared awaits, and is finally presented to the bridegroom]

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No Law, No Sin!

Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Romans 4:15

[This is a rather long post, but please read to the end]

What picture do you have of God? I am sure that however much we sing and preach and believe about a loving God, somewhere in the back of our minds we have a tiny, nagging picture of God as a strict (sometimes unforgiving) authoritarian. The way we are, it would require a lot of grace to see God in a totally different light.

One of the people who had the grace to see God as He really is was Abraham. Why do I say this? It is because the Bible calls him the father of all those who believe (Rom. 4:11). God said something to Abraham and the man believed, just like that. And the Bible declares that because of Abraham’s simple, unquestioning faith, God accounted him righteous in His sight.

Have you ever wondered why Abraham would believe God so easily? Why did Abraham believe – and ultimately inherit – God’s promises? I believe that in his spirit Abraham saw a different God than the one many of us see in the secret recesses of our hearts. I am convinced that Abraham saw a good God. Abraham saw the goodness of God, and when he saw this goodness, he was assured that because of this goodness God would do all that He had promised to do.

In other words, Abraham saw not the God of law, but the God of grace. In Romans 4:16 the Bible talks of the circumstances that surround our inheriting God’s promises: Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace”.

Notice the word ‘grace’ there. The faith that Abraham had was based on a vision of a God of grace.

Contrast that with Moses. Moses spent a considerable time arguing with God when God was commissioning him to go to Egypt. Moses also failed to circumcise his firstborn son and the Lord would have killed him on the way had it not be for the quick thinking of his wife who immediately took a stone and cut off her son’s foreskin. (Remember Abraham circumcised every male that was in his house, himself included, the very same day that God told him to do it. That is incredible obedience. It challenges me so much!)

No wonder, then, that this halting, questioning Moses was given the law to deliver to the children of Israel. I very much doubt that God would have given Abraham the law as He gave it to Moses. Written on tablets of stone. No way! Abraham had God’s law all right, but it was written elsewhere. Moses was, alas! a transitory figure. He came in at the wrong time, just when God had to introduce the law. But the law was for a time. Therefore Moses represented  a passing shadow, the law. Moses is a sad figure in the Bible. There is no joy about him. On the other hand, Abraham represented the bright light of the full knowledge of God, and of His grace.

And with the law, it was a complete clampdown on any freedoms the Israelites had. They had to obey that law to the letter – on pain of death.

Recently my eyes were opened to the meaning of this scripture (Romans 4:5) as I was evangelizing a certain lady. I told the lady that the way of salvation was through believing in God’s Son Jesus Christ whom God sent to become a propitiation for our sins.

“But your deeds are important”, she said.

“No”, I countered. I calmly told her that our righteousness with God is accounted to us solely on account of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I used scripture to show her that there was no way we could possibly please God until God Himself had intervened on our behalf.

“A person has to prove their ‘holiness’ by their righteous deeds!” she insisted. She couldn’t for the life of her imagine God accepting anyone unless they had first cleaned up their act.

The lady is a teacher, so I used an English expression. “You cannot put the cart before the horse”, I told her. I told her that I agreed with her that our deeds are important, but they come after the fact of the free gift of righteousness.

“Only believe”, I said.

As I spoke with this lady, the Lord opened my eyes to see something that I had not seen before. The question came at me out of nowhere: Why are we so angry at those we perceive to be sinners? Why does it rile us when we see the imperfections in others, or even in ourselves?

In that instant I glimpsed the indescribable grace and mercy of God. I saw the true character of God. I saw how in Jesus’ sacrifice, God put away His anger (represented by the law) and how in doing so He stopped seeing any sin in us. Being a just and righteous God, had He seen any sin in us, far from fulfilling any promise He had made to us, He would immediately have had us punished.

(This is most clearly seen in the strict observance with which God bound the children of Israel to uphold His laws. You can also read about what happened to the Egypto-Israelite boy who cursed God’s Name in Leviticus 24:10-14, 23. Or the man who was caught collecting firewood on the Sabbath – Numbers 15:32-36. For those of us who wonder at the cruelty that God allowed His people to mete out to the pagan tribes in their path, the answer is: law. There is a lot of anger in the Old Testament.)

The Bible says that God introduced the law to contain sin as the time was awaited for the appearance of Jesus Christ, who would not only bring eternal salvation, but also reveal the true character of the Father. During this time of law God could not do otherwise, other than become a God of law Himself, although His tender nature more often than not showed through.

But now, praise be to God because He sent His Son Jesus Christ, who came, not with law, but with truth and grace. And the truth that Jesus came to reveal is that our God is not an angry God. On the contrary, He is a loving Father, merciful, gentle and kind-hearted. In affirming this the Bible declares, For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”! (John 3:17)

Why are we so easily aware of sin? It is because we are still under law! We become angry at the sin we see in us and in other people because law has to do with anger and that law is still in us. Our hearts have neither comprehended fully nor grasped the grace of God.

The classic example of this in the Bible is the woman caught in adultery. Were it not that the Pharisees thought they could capitalize on this unfortunate woman’s plight by using her to challenge Jesus, they most likely would have stoned her at the scene of her crime; they were so mad at her!

Again in Luke 7:37 we read about a woman “which was a sinner”, who came and anointed Jesus’ feet with oil as He sat at dinner in a Pharisee’s house. The Bible says that the Pharisee, on seeing this ‘sinful’ woman touching Jesus’ feet, said to himself, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”

Clearly, he was not happy at seeing this woman in his house.

In both cases, Jesus welcomed the ‘sinful’ women and they experienced amazing grace as Jesus (as God) set them free by not only forgiving them of their sins, but liberating them from the power of sin! In the New Covenant that Jesus brought (the new dispensation that we are living in right now), that ought to be the reality of our everyday life – living a life of freedom ourselves and liberating others through forgiveness and tender-hearted care!

There are some Christians who live as if they are in prison. They have a prison mentality and they believe every Christian should be in their prison too.

I have even heard Christians say, “If God were to put me in charge of this world for just one second…” meaning they would do things differently. They would burn, they would raze, they would annihilate every ‘undesirable’ thing in the world!

Well, praise God He is not about to hand over the reins of control to anyone, and because of that there is freedom and opportunity for everyone. Sinners are getting saved every day and believers are being perfected every minute of their lives. Isn’t that wonderful!

Praise be to God that all this “is of faith… that it might be of grace”! It all begins with a simple act of faith – believing – after which grace is released to bring out the good works of Jesus in us and to perfect us, all in perfect joy and in total freedom.

It is no longer of anger nor of law. In 1 Corinthians 15:56, the Bible says that the strength of sin is the law. We cannot defeat sin by being men and women of law. We cannot defeat sin by being angry at it. In order to defeat sin we must carry the grace of God in our hearts. We must put on Christ (the man of grace) – fully!

A Tough Road (Part 2)

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:1,2

The sight of those trees standing defiant in such a hostile environment branded itself on my mind as though with a hot iron. I never forgot that scene. In fact, it was the most powerful scene on my mind from that point onwards. And to this day, it is still as powerful as it was on that day.

It reminded me with a clarity that I could not deny about our life as believers in this world. It is a tough, hostile environment indeed that we are called to bloom in. That is why the word “root” in the scripture above is so important. It talks about the strong, spiritual foundation that we need to have in order to not only survive but to thrive as a “tender shoot” in this world.

We are to be people who are full of tenderness, compassion, grace and mercy even in an environment that is not conducive for the ‘growth’ of such things.

The “root” mentioned here is the foundation for the church, which very thing concerned Apostle Paul more than anything else during his ministry. He made it clear what the true foundation was: it is the cross of Christ revealed in our hearts.

Without our dying on the cross and crucifying our flesh and its desires thereon, we cannot survive nor thrive spiritually; we shall perish. The enemy is just too strong for any other path that we would choose to take apart from taking up our cross and following Jesus.

The materialistic gospel of prosperity that is so popular today negates the very spirit of the above scripture! It is not a gospel that accepts suffering with Christ easily, nor walking the narrow road. Any gospel that does not teach that we ought to die with Christ is a gospel that advances the interests of the flesh above the interests of the Spirit. The revelation that we find in the scripture above condemns any gospel that is preached that does not teach God’s people to take up their cross and follow Christ.

Let no one try to tell you that salvation is a breeze. If we are truly serious about our salvation, we shall not underestimate our battleground. On the contrary, we shall put on the full armor of God, so that we may stand victorious.

I Must Be Dreaming!

Much of the time I want to believe that I am a mature, near-perfect Christian and my ego insists that that should be the face that I ought to proffer to the world. Indeed, I find myself doing that quite often, in spite of the fact that in my heart of hearts I know that I am not as spiritually mature as I would love everyone to believe.

On my blog I want to write challenging posts, mature stuff. I want to tackle the nitty-gritty of the ‘higher life’! In short, I desire to be the perfect, mature Christian and everywhere I want to present the perfect, mature Christian life. And I am sure that any serious Christian would support my quest without question. It is a truly noble one.

But… sometimes (like tonight) I stop in my mad dash for glory and sit overwhelmed as some very basic thoughts begin pummelling my mind. Sometimes the reality of what actually took place at Calvary tries to wriggle its way into my spiritual consciousness. Did God truly give His Son, His only Son, Jesus, to die for me? Did Jesus really come and live on this earth, this same earth that I live in? I mean, did God through His Son leave His abode in Heaven and come down and take on the form of a man and live on this planet? No! That is unthinkable! And is it true what I hear, that He did that just for me? That is even more improbable.

Did Jesus truly go through all the suffering that He went through specifically for me, that I would not be lost, but be saved? Did He really… or am I dreaming?

Am I worth any of that – leave alone all of that? Ha! Of course not! I certainly am not worth an iota of the trouble that God underwent. Had I been around I know exactly what I would have told God: “Please God, don’t! Go ahead if it’s for someone else; but if it’s for me, no.”

He might have asked, “Are you sure, Mwita?”

And I would have replied, “Lord, I have never been more sure of anything in my life.”

So God did it without asking me.

The proposition is an improbable one. But I am made to understand that this proposition is a solid reality. Maybe something else is at play here. Something outside of the realm that I as a human being knows, is at work here. No doubt there is a LOVE here, an INCOMPREHENSIBLE LOVE. It is a love that I, certainly, cannot comprehend.

Sometimes this basic fact of salvation alone overwhelms me more than all the ‘mature’ stuff I am racing to unearth. As I lay me down to sleep (it is well past midnight here) I gladly allow the tears to flood my eyes as I meditate upon the unthinkable.

I tell God, “God, this is a dream. A sweet dream; but a dream nonetheless.”

Brother Haji!

For those of you who follow this blog you will remember Haji’s story as I recounted it in “The Holy Spirit: Worthy Is He – Part 1”. I am sorry to inform you that yesterday Haji passed away. We buried him today.

Recently, my wife had intimated to me that as she was tending to Haji’s cancerous wound a few days back, she had seen what appeared to be a part of his brain sticking out! I shuddered throughout the day at the thought.

Haji came from a Muslim background. When my wife began attending his wound sometime early this year, though, she began talking to him about the hope of salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the power of Christ to heal. Miraculously, one day, Haji believed and gave his life to Christ. That was when my wife introduced him to the church. Henceforth many brothers and sisters carried Haji in their hearts. The entire church was deeply involved in praying for Haji.

As time passed Haji grew weak and was unable to come to the hospital where my wife works and where she had always attended him. My wife was therefore compelled to attend him at his home. Apart from his immediate family, Haji also lived with some of his relatives, including a doting, younger sister. Many of his relations who live within the city would often come to see him.

I had accompanied my wife on many of her regular visits to Haji’s home. Of all the people who dealt with Haji, his wife was the only other person who could look into his wound without fear. Whenever Flo was attending him everyone, including visitors, would be asked to leave the room. We would then lock the door before Flo proceeded to un-bandage Haji’s wound. Haji’s wife, Mama Zu (short for Zuhura, their youngest daughter) would sit on the sofa and watch intently or she would assist Flo in her proceedings. I, on the other hand, would sit in the farthest corner possible and, from that safe spot, would provide spiritual sustenance! Loh!

With time Haji grew to be more than a brother to us: he became a friend. He always called me ‘brother-in-law’ and we held many wonderful (albeit brief) conversations.  I cannot think of any other company that I have enjoyed in recent times as much as I did Haji’s. Just sitting there and talking to him about salvation and seeing him respond was a tremendous feeling. Sometimes, we would simply sit and not say anything, feeling contented just being with him! Probably the angels were busy preparing a place for him in heaven. Flo and I had agreed that whenever we visited him we would always make sure to keep his confession alive.

Surprisingly, Haji’s relatives, who are all Muslims, never attempted to prevent us from telling him the Good News. They would sit there quietly and listen in as we talked to Haji. Then they would join us in prayer and respond with loud “Amens!” We used this opportunity to talk to them also about salvation. Although none has yet responded to Christ’s love, yet we have gained a place in their hearts and they, too, have found a place in our hearts.

Naturally, there have been challenges in our love affair with the Haji family. They are a well-to-do family and some of the most conservative of his relatives attempted to use their clout to prevent Flo – a Christian – from attending Haji at home. When Haji heard of it he told them he would accept no other nurse apart from “Sister Flora”, as he referred to her. Haji had clout of his own! The wave of resistance rolled back but, more importantly, these same relatives increasingly opened their hearts to our presence.

One day, Haji’s wife told Flo about something Haji had said during one of their conversations. He had told her, “I dreamed that if I go to church I will be healed”. When my wife and I heard this we were both encouraged to see that God truly had a purpose with this man. Moreover, in all our conversations with Haji, there had never been an indication that he had reverted back to his Muslim faith.

The day before Haji died I went to see him. We sat there talking – me, his wife, mother and sister – as he lay snoring in a deep sleep. I left without having spoken a word with him. I did not know I was seeing him for the last time.

I would not want to romanticize Haji’s story. But it is my firm belief that (mainly due to God’s faithfulness and mercy) Haji went safely to heaven.

Today at the burial, there were only a handful of Christian men in attendance (women do not attend Muslim burials). Nearly everyone was dressed in Muslim garb and the whole process was steeped in deep, conservative Muslim ritual. As I observed the proceedings, I could not help wondering how far removed things were in the spirit from what was taking place here in the natural. I stood well back in the crowd and pondered the thought that these men were burying someone they probably had no connection with in the spirit.

Haji has passed on. A brother from our church sent me a text message saying, “Haji died a hero’s death.” I believe that with all my heart.

A Pleasant Surprise

During my recent visit to Kenya the Lord gave me a pleasant surprise. This is a story about George, the surprise.

Back in the 80s George and I were high school buddies, although we attended different schools. In fact, we met when George wanted some help in a certain subject and someone directed him to me. From the moment George and I met, we became inseparable. He was one of the most accommodating guys I had ever had the fortune to hook up with.

George was also a very handsome fellow and in 1987, after we finished high school, he applied and was automatically taken on as an air steward with Kenya Airways. From then on we would meet from time to time; but it was an encounter that took place three years later that really branded itself firmly on my mind. George had had an accident and was admitted in a private hospital in a Nairobi suburb. By then I was saved. On receiving news of his ill fate I visited him at the hospital. It was our first encounter since my salvation and I remember as I entered his room I had only one agenda: to tell him the Good News. We sat there, just the two of us, and I talked to him in clear terms about his soul and the redemption that was available to him.

George listened patiently but in the end he declined my invitation to get saved. I left not a little discouraged. But I never stopped thinking about him and he always had a comfortable place in my prayers.

I moved back to Tanzania in 1993 and in those days when telecommunication was a pre-historic affair George and I quickly lost contact with one another.

Twenty years later, in May of this year, George and I met again in Nairobi as I was travelling to Mauritius. We had re-connected through Facebook! It was a beautiful, grand re-union. Nothing had changed between us. Our friendship had weathered the test of time and we found we still yearned after each other like in the old days.

George took me and a friend out for lunch. I was fascinated by his choice of restaurant because right across the street was a hotel where, many years back, in one of its bars, the Lord had confronted me at 3 a.m. one night and set off my journey to salvation. I told George and my friend this interesting piece of news and we silently appreciated the coincidence – and the meal – together.

Ultimately, I asked George whether he had given his life to Christ yet.

“Er, no, although there is a church that I attend”, was his reply.

I told him that no amount of church attendance would atone for his sins; that he needed to make an unequivocal commitment to Christ as the Bible says in Romans 10:10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

I told him, “George, I cannot rest in my spirit until you give your life to Christ.” He laughed at my seriousness but, unknown to him, i loved him dearly and I could not contemplate the thought of him ending up in hell.

While I was in Mauritius he would write often. That helped keep me in remembrance of him in my prayers. When I arrived back in Nairobi two months later George was on hand to welcome me and we set a date for me to visit him at his house.

In August I traveled to Nairobi again. George came to pick me in his car. As he drove I looked across at him and there was this strange feeling inside of me. I said to him, “George, I have this deep love for you, almost the kind you feel for a woman.”

He turned and looked at me and said, “Same here Zack! And that has been always.” It was an incredible moment. Still, in my heart I was unsettled because I knew that as long as he was unsaved there would always be a note of discord between us.

We arrived at his big bungalow in one of the upper-class suburbs and his lovely wife and two kids were on hand to welcome me. In the course of our conversation, I was surprised to learn that George’s wife was also saved. Then she said, “Even he got saved a month ago.” I thought she meant her son, but then she had indicated George!

I could see a big smile begin to brighten George’s handsome face as he sat back in his seat and said in his usual patient manner, “I wanted to tell you on the way here, Zack, but I decided to surprise you!”

Well, surprised I truly was – and pleasantly so! George said, “Ever since I received Jesus into my heart I have felt this big, unexplainable change in my heart. I feel peace, joy…”

I knew what he meant. God was confirming His work in his heart.

We spent the better part of the afternoon looking into God’s Word as George hungrily devoured every word that I had to say.

Much later, I would reflect on God’s faithfulness. When we pray God hears and answers prayer. George’s wife had intimated to me that many people had been praying for George’s salvation. For me, George’s story is one of a happy ending. My prayer to the Lord is that He may grant that it remains so till the very end.

The Holy Spirit – Worthy is He! (Part 2)

I want to use Haji’s story to illustrate our spiritual condition, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Many Christians are not aware that it was God Himself who, through the Holy Spirit, initiated and accomplished the very act of our salvation the day we knelt down and accepted Jesus. It had nothing to do with us! Our spiritual condition was as terrible as Haji’s physical condition is and we had no help, either from ourselves, or from anyone else. It took me many years to come to this realization, and I was stunned! I had always had this smug feeling that it was I that accepted Christ. Well, no. We were all like lost sheep, and the Loving Shepherd Himself, of His own accord, came looking for us.

And not only that, but He paid a price in order to do that. A price of astonishing love, of loving the unlovable.

If I remember correctly, I did not even want to get saved. They came at me late in the afternoon, the preachers. After they had preached to me I more than they all was surprised when I heard myself say, “Ok, pray for me”. In fact, the minute I uttered those words my mind immediately shifted gear and I was in the process of reversing that statement; but they were much faster than I (in those days people were fast!) and they jumped on me like lightning and started praying over me. I remember that even as they prayed I was kicking and wanted to get from under the hands that they were laying on me. But the Lord held me down until they said the last ‘Amen!’, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The minute they said that ‘Amen’ over me the Lord transformed me. I don’t know what happened but within an instant I had been turned from a roaring lion to a mewing pussycat. The Lord saved me in spite of himself.

But, equally important, is the fact that, even after we find ourselves in the fold, we are constantly going astray in our spiritual ways, and once again it is the Holy Spirit who is constantly coming after us and lovingly turning us back.

In all these 24 years that I have been saved it is the Holy Spirit who has kept me safe in Christ – and that, again, in spite of myself.

Dear reader, do you realize how much the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives every second of the day, protecting us against the enemy, sustaining us spiritually, building us up in our spirits, gently showing us the will of the Father; in general, shepherding us just like a shepherd lovingly watches over his flock. I believe that the Holy Spirit’s most difficult task is protecting us against ourselves – and in spite of ourselves. We like to imagine we are very spiritual, God-loving people, but in reality it is the Holy Spirit’s work in us that makes us so. Left on our own we would eventually turn into a big piece of rot. The Bible in Romans 8 says that the carnal nature is enmity against God; it does not nor can it submit to God’s will. That’s who we are without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told the Jews, “My Father is even now still at work!”

We should be constantly on our knees in reverence and thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I was traveling back to Dar by bus from Nairobi and we passed some cattlemen who were herding their cattle by the roadside with guns. With guns! Can you imagine that? How much more jealously do you think the Holy Spirit is watching over us?

The Holy Spirit does infinitely more for us than what these herdsmen were doing for their cattle, although we are hardly aware of it! Much of the time we think it is our efforts, or our prayers: ‘If I don’t pray this or that won’t happen’. Who said it won’t happen? How dare we compare our human labour with what only God can do? That is why in the end, if anything does happen – and much does happen because our God is our true Father, loving and merciful – we try to claim a part of the credit. At the same time we despise those who are not doing the same things we are doing or getting the same results as us.

That is why the Apostle Paul got the revelation that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of grace. Not of works, but of grace. Hallelujah!

We should be humble enough to acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit alone who is fighting all our battles and winning all our victories. From the tiniest to the greatest victory, all is a work of the Holy Spirit alone, and we have absolutely no part in it. In fact, if we are to have any part, it is in kneeling in gratitude and thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit for His ministry to us.

The Holy Spirit is the One whom Jesus promised to send to be with us, and He did send Him on the day of Pentecost, 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit has never left us and He is very busy behind the scenes (physically speaking), on our behalf.

He deserves our recognition. And He is worthy of all our praise and adoration. Indeed, more than worthy is He!

The Holy Spirit – Worthy is He! (Part 1)

My wife is a nurse. One day I was near the hospital where she works, and I called her on the phone and she said, “Come over to such and such a room, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

I walked over to the hospital and entered the room she had directed me to, and as I walked in her back was turned to me, and I said “Hi” and looked over her shoulder to see the person whom she was attending. He was lying on the bed and she was working on his face; she moved slightly aside and my eyes came into contact with a big, gaping hole in the place where someone’s face should have been.

I was completely caught off-guard and, thoroughly shaken, I staggered into an adjacent waiting room and sank into a chair. My brain went blank, my stomach became one tight, frigid ball and my whole body visibly shook as I struggled to digest what I had seen. It was not possible that the ‘person’ I had just seen lying there was alive!

From the adjoining room I heard my wife making the introductions. “There’s your brother-in-law”, I heard her say to the man lying on the bed. Then she raised her voice to me, “This is Haji, Bwana! He is the brother I was telling you about…”

Haji was a patient whom she began attending while I was away on one of my trips. Although she had intimated to me the seriousness of his condition nothing had prepared me for what I had just seen. Had I known I would see what I saw that day I most likely would not have agreed to make that visit.

Haji has cancer of the face. One side of his face is completely eaten off, and the entire half, from his scalp down to the upper jawbone, is simply a raw, messy gaping hole. That was all I saw in that one chance glance. I knew I could never look upon that face again on my own volition.

Believe me, I had seen cancer cases before and, in fact, I had visited cancer patients at the main cancer hospital in Dar es Salaam, but I had never seen anything like this.

I listened in as Flo patiently attended to Haji. Once in a while I would hear him cry out in pain. All the while she was speaking comforting words to him.

But there was something else. My wife had informed me that she had shared with Haji about the gospel, and he had given his life to Jesus. That was why she wanted me to meet him…

As I sat trembling in the waiting room, every once in a while I would call out, “Are you closing him up now?” Nothing, in heaven or on earth would take me back into that operating room before she closed up Haji’s wound.

At last she was done, and as she cleaned up she invited me to have a word with Haji. I entered in ever so cautiously, my gaze intent only on his face, ready to bolt lest my wife was playing a trick on me and had left that face uncovered. My stomach muscles loosened slightly when I saw his face bandaged up. He greeted me cheerfully, although I could see he was in a lot of pain. I could see that the cancer was eating into the rest of his face and despite Flo’s careful attempts to cover him there were some areas where the massing of the cancerous flesh was clearly visible.

I was so off balance that it took me quite a while to get my spiritual bearings. In fact, had I seen someone shot to death right before my very eyes I doubt I would have been more shaken.

At last I found the right words and I talked to him about the hope of salvation. We talked on until his regular 3-wheeled ‘cab’ came to pick him up.

Afterwards my wife and I went out to have a cup of tea. She said simply: “I called you because I wanted you to see Haji’s face.” She knew the effect it would have on me. Then she told me something very chilling. All the nurses at the hospital, she said, had refused to attend to Haji. Not because they did not love him, but because, as one of them said, “I could faint while attending a patient, which is unprofessional”. Their nerves, though trained, could simply not stand up to his condition. Not even the hospital’s matron would make them.

It appeared even other hospitals had given up on him.

“So we make appointments by phone, me and him, and he comes in only when I am on duty”, Flo said. “I am the only one who can attend him, and he cannot stand the fact of my being away from the hospital for any considerable amount of time”.

I looked at my wife and told her frankly: “Flo, from what I saw today, you are a truly exceptional woman!”

A Life Celebrated

Deep in the heart of Nairobi’s Central Business District there is a thoroughfare called Waiyaki Way that runs all the way beyond the Westlands suburb to join up with the Great North Road. That highway is named after Waiyaki wa Hinga, a great freedom fighter who opposed the British colonialists in the late 20th century. That Waiyaki was my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather. Although it is a documented fact that the British captured and killed him, nothing much is known about his death; but my mother told us that he was buried alive, head down.

During the war for independence in the 1950s (popularly known as the Mau Mau Uprising) my mother joined the fight and she also was captured by the British. She was brutally tortured and among the many things she told us the British did to her, was to string her upside down and flog her mercilessly.

After she was released from detention she met my dad, a Tanzanian ‘expatriate’ working in Kenya – he drove a milk delivery truck – who moved her to Tanzania to escape the threat of further capture by the British. They eventually got married in 1959. My mom’s father first came to Tanzania in 1962 to receive the dowry and he died a few years after going back home. During his visit, he blessed her.

In those days people lived non-nonsensical lives and soon my mother started the serious business of bearing and raising children, to which she would eventually give birth to 9 of us. I was born third in line, and I literally witnessed the birth of many of my younger siblings which was done mostly at home, right there in mother’s bedroom. Of course, our joy at having a new-born brother or sister was short-lived because soon we older children’s lives would be turned into a living hell as we became the bona-fide baby-sitters and had to carry out all the gory and hellish facets of child-rearing as well as the house chores.

My dad and mom were into other aspects of caring after the family.

In death as in life, mom was a tower of strength. Mom had a heart, and a BIG heart of faith. Many of the people who attended her burial were pastors, men who knew her since she got saved in 1978. During her burial yesterday, speaker after speaker had only one thing to say about her: her deep faith in Jesus Christ, and her incredible spirit and zest for life. Pastor Amas who presided over the funeral, spoke of how he would often go over to her house and sometimes he would find her undergoing an extreme bout of flu or something, and he would tell her, “Mama, let me bring you some medicine”, to which she would reply, “Pastor, if you preach faith, let us believe Jesus for my healing.”

“I’d be left praying for God to give me more faith!” exclaimed Amas.

Another brother said, “Whenever I’d feel low in the spirit, I’d wander over to Mama’s place because she always had a word of faith to encourage me with.”

As the clods of earth hit mother’s coffin, the reverberations of mom’s life could be felt all around. I have witnessed many burials and after the final prayer the mourners simply pack themselves into their cars and leave. At mom’s burial people were simply unable to leave the gravesite, engaging themselves in small groups and discussing all about what they knew about mom. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie and goodwill rather than sorrow.

I was amongst the last group that left her graveside, probably a good two hours later.

The Foundation of our Faith – the Pauline Doctrine (Pt. 4)

We are now in chapter 4 and any intrepid reader who is still following my ramblings must be wondering whether I am lost…. Well, I am not, and in fact I will be finishing in the next post. I just want to fill in the gaps, a job I am not sure I am doing too well. Nonetheless, I am trusting the Lord every step of the way. And let me thank each one of you individually for your love and patience, and for your encouragement.

In this chapter we will look at how Paul’s gospel was ‘different’ from the other Apostles’ gospel and what the implications of this are for us today.

Trouble for the gospel began early enough, in fact right after the birth of the Early Church in Jerusalem. The Bible says: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Act 6:1 Lines were drawn within the Church of Christ ! But the Apostles handled it swiftly and wisely, choosing spiritually mature men to oversee the “serving of tables”.

But another disturbing scenario crops up not long afterwards. In Acts 11:19 we are told that after Saul’s persecution of the Church began at Jerusalem, the believers who fled to the diaspora preached the gospel all right but “unto the Jews only.” Demarcation lines were drawn once again, by believers. Clearly, the Jerusalem Church had a problem understanding the universal nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soon it was time for the Apostles themselves to be tested. Although Peter knew and understood what the Scriptures said about salvation for the Gentiles (Acts 10:43), yet when God wanted to send him to take the gospel to Cornelius – and, by extension, to the Gentiles – we see in Acts chapter 10 that the Lord Himself had to appear to him in a vision in order to persuade him to accept the truth that salvation was for the Gentiles also!

(After he had preached to them the gospel, God promptly confirmed His acceptance of them by pouring upon them His Holy Spirit.)

When news of the fact that Peter had entered a Gentile home reached the Apostles at Jerusalem, they summoned him before them to explain why he had “crossed the boundary”. After Peter explained to them that it was God and not him, the Bible says “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Act 11:18)

After reading the above Scripture, and hearing Peter’s proclamati0ns you would think that the Apostles were in full agreement with God about accepting the Gentiles as equal heirs with them of the Kingdom of God. But you will be surprised at what happened later, as we read in Galatians 2:12-13:  “For before that certain came from James, (Peter) did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

The Bible here is saying that Peter feared a delegation that was coming from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Why? Because they would do him in for consorting with uncircumcised Gentiles.  In other words, in spite of what they knew from Scripture and from Peter’s experience with Cornelius these Jews were not ready to accept any stranger in their midst merely on the supposition of grace. For them keeping the Law of Moses was paramount!

In short, it was like this: the Apostles had received the gospel all right, but at heart they were still Torah hardliners!

I want us to look at one last scene before we get done with this chapter. When Paul went to Jerusalem on his final journey, his host, the Apostle James  together with the other elders met him and told him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” (Act 21:20) In other words, even though the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ had been preached in Jerusalem for a long time and many Jews had accepted Jesus into their hearts the fact of salvation by grace without works was proving to be a thorn in the flesh for many of them.

But if the Apostles themselves had a problem with this truth, as we have seen, they most likely would have been preaching a gospel tainted with law and it is no wonder, therefore, that Jerusalem was crawling with samurai-wielding believers!

And it was not only in Jerusalem. The Jews were creating havoc wherever the Word of salvation reached out to people, even amongst the Gentiles.

And here you have the basic difference between Paul and the Apostles at Jerusalem. You see, right from the beginning Paul never had any problem accepting what the Lord had revealed to him about salvation being for every man who believed on the Lord Jesus, Jew or Greek, and that it was by grace and grace alone.

Paul understood grace perfectly well. The Apostles at Jerusalem were limited in their understanding of it.

Many years later, after more light had entered Peter’s heart, he would affirm to the Church that the Apostle Paul received far greater “wisdom” than what he and his compatriots received from the Lord (2 Peter 3:15). Peter here was not talking about intellectual or human wisdom. The Bible never refers to human intellect because God is spirit. I am sure Peter was talking about the grace that Paul received from the Lord, and the power that came with that grace to not only bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, high and low, but to also set them free from the power of the flesh and to perfect them in the image of Christ.

We conclude in the next post!