Christ Crucified, Our Firm Foundation

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured… 2 Tim. 3:10-11

Unravel. That’s one word you would not to hear in connection with your life. There you are, your life all neat and tied down pat and, all of a sudden, it begins to unravel. I wouldn’t wish that for myself nor for anyone else.

But many lives have unravelled in this world. One of the lives that unravelled horribly fast was that of a man in the U.S. called Joe Paterno. The sequence of events that led to Joe’s life unravelling was started by a man called Jerry Sandusky. Jerry Sandusky preyed on young boys and sodomized them. But then, Joe and Jerry worked on the same team. Joe was – had been for decades – the much-celebrated coach of the powerful Penn State college football team and Jerry was Joe’s technical assistant. The story goes that Paterno & co. knew about Jerry’s evil deeds but they firmly put a lid on it, unwilling to divulge Jerry’s dark secrets and end up compromising the sports image their team held, over the fate of a few boys. But one day, in the natural course of such events, the pressure forced the lid to fly off, and all that was known (and not known) about Jerry’s rot became public news, including what Joe and and his other assistants knew. Sandusky was jailed, of course but, within a few months of the publicizing of the allegations, Joe Paterno, one of the greatest legends of the sporting world, died of a broken heart, leaving behind a legacy forever tainted and a name irreparably damaged.

There is nothing to rejoice over such news. In fact, this is news that should break the hearts of each one of us. It is extremely depressing news.

Not all lives will unravel in this world. But in heaven, every life that is not built upon the sure foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, will unravel. That is exactly the thing to avoid.

One of the best lines in the scriptures is found in 2 Timothy 4:7. It was written by the Apostle Paul. It says:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”

This is a line that each one of us should desire to have written for our lives.

Notice, “I have finished my course”.

This is one man whose life will never unravel in this life, nor in the next. The reason is because he fought the good fight, he kept the faith. But pray, how did Paul keep the faith?

It was through the life he lived. His life was an open book. There were no folds where he hid things in his life. Nothing was hidden from view. He laid out his life for all to see, and among the people who would see Paul’s open life would be his young disciple, Timothy.

But Paul’s was also a victorious Christian life. That was what made the difference.

I wish I could speak to my family, without wincing, the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

“10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 persecutions, afflictions…”

Unravel. This is a word that is designed to send fear and terror down our spines. But it ought not to. There is a place of safety from the terror this word inspires. It is in the cross. Here we are free from such terrors. When we accept to deny ourselves by taking up our cross and following Christ, we are assured that here on earth we can walk in the greatest liberty of spirit. We have nothing to hide, for we have become more than victors over sin. And, when we get to heaven, we will stand tall in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and before His holy angels.

I wish I could become more of an example to my wife, my children, and to those around me. I wish people would see more of Christ in me. That was what the Apostle Paul accomplished. That was what guaranteed that his life would never unravel. Paul denied himself and took up his cross in order that he might show forth in his body the only life that would not unravel, the life of Christ, Christ crucified.

[Below: Arusha is the most well-known of Tanzania’s towns. Little-known Singida is some 300km down south]

Image17272

The Challenge To Obey God

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Rom 8:13

The first man to die was Adam, and here scripture gives us the reason why he died. Adam died because he followed after his flesh rather than obeying God. This scripture also brings us to realize that what has always troubled the church then and now is the flesh. Much as we would love to blame the devil for the church’s woes, yet it is far much safer to stay with what the Bible says; and here the Bible states that the real enemy of God’s church is the flesh. If that is the case, therefore, there is no doubting the fact that every other gospel preached has missed the mark, except one – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ, as it was revealed to the Apostle Paul – “For the preaching of the cross… is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is the singular gospel that has power to deal death to the flesh, and to enable those who are called by God to inherit eternal life (Gal. 6:14).

To find ourselves even beginning to understand this revelation is an indescribable grace!

Now, before we go on, let us make sure that we understand perfectly clearly what the Bible means by the word flesh. The Bible itself gives us the meaning right here in Romans 8:13: the flesh, it says, are “the deeds of the body”. Again, the “body” mentioned here is not the physical flesh and blood body that we know of. Rather, it is the innermost part of man, his soul. In Bible language, the “body” is that unregenerate nature of man.

A list of the body’s “deeds” is written down in Galatians 5:19-21:

“19 … adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”

These are the things that the Bible refers to as the flesh. They are the things that we absolutely must put off from our hearts in order to enter heaven.  God has given us His Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

The Holy Spirit is more than sufficient for this task while, on the other hand, on our own we are completely useless. So what is our role in all this? Our responsibility is to humble our wills to the working of the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to deal with these “deeds” in our hearts. To carry a humble heart is the singular greatest responsibility that man has before God.

I find it interesting that many born-again believers think that they will enter heaven with their carnal ways just as long as they have done some things on the outside… fulfilling some church roles, or obeying some laws and regulations.  And yet, throughout scripture, we find that the singular condition for us to be ushered into God’s heavenly Kingdom is for us to put off the old man of the flesh and its lusts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are people who will counter that this “requirement” implies works rather than grace. But no. This requirement is not of works nor, indeed, can you do away with the flesh through works. There is no power that can defeat the works of the flesh, except one – the power of God, the Holy Spirit. But God has given us this same Holy Spirit to come live in us. The power of the Holy Spirit, which saved us in the first place, is even more capable of dealing with our sinful nature.

Living in sin or appeasing the flesh is therefore a denial of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life.

That is why the Bible insists that we must be transformed. In other words, the Bible reasons, seeing God has given us His Holy Spirit, there is no reason for a believer to not be transformed into the image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, for which very purpose God has given us His Holy Spirit!

The church wants to ride the sugar train of the flesh and also inherit God’s spiritual Kingdom? No way! And yet today, increasingly, Christians want it that way. They want to sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” and raise a racket in church while embracing the lusts and passions of the flesh. But God is more interested in us putting off the carnal nature in us than in our singing. God is more interested in a pure heart, for example. He is also interested in us living a morally pure and holy life. God is interested in a heart of mercy, and a heart that can easily forgive. There are many things that God is interested in, and they can only be found in us if we have crucified the flesh and allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.

Paul in Galatians provides us with a list of the things that please God in a man.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (5:22-23).

Such people – people who have crucified their flesh – are free! They are free from any laws. You cannot even tell such a person, “Obey God!” because he has already obeyed Him by putting off the works of the flesh. Praise God!!

Many believers have been taught spiritual warfare, to war against the devil. They boast in being able to confine the devil in the bottomless pit and many other places. But few know how to defeat the flesh. Incidentally, I haven’t read anywhere where it says that if you confine the devil to the bottomless pit you will go to heaven.

But the cross of Jesus Christ teaches us exactly what is needed to please God: it is the mortification of the flesh. Moreover, through the revelation of the cross, when it comes to the devil we learn that, once we have defeated the flesh, we have in effect defeated the devil (Eph. 6:10-18). He cannot touch us.

The Bible is an interesting Book because it does not use half-way words like “maybe” or “probably” or “just might”. But when the Bible says that we will die if we live according to the flesh, it means just that. When God told Adam he should not eat of the fruit that God had told him not to eat for he would die the minute he ate it, Adam thought God had said “just might”. But God had not said that. When therefore Adam ate that fruit, he died immediately.

How much more do you think we shall die spiritually if we fail to deal with our carnal natures? Much more so, I am sure. And yet believers walk about with this mindset of testing God. For that reason, many believers today are dead spiritually, and the Bible declares that some have even died physically as a direct result of choosing to walk in sin (1 Cor. 11:30-32).

That is why we must crucify the flesh. I believe that the first business of the church is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The power of the Holy Spirit is readily available to us, and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore Him. Even worse, of course, is that when the church fails to take the way of the cross, it fails to grow and become the bride that Christ is awaiting.

The church today appears larger-than-life, and yet it is all a façade. Before we boast of our mega-churches, we must crucify the flesh. God is not really bothered about the size of someone’s church.

Before we sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” we must crucify the flesh. I haven’t read anywhere in the New Testament where it says that I have to absolutely sing “Glory, hallelujah!”, but I certainly have read that I need to crucify the flesh if I hope to one day make it to heaven.

This is our challenge to obey God.

A Tender Heart

… he humbled himself Phil. 2:8

Did you read that? Probably you need to read it again. That scripture is talking about our Lord Jesus Christ. It says our Lord Jesus “humbled himself”.

The unspoken implication in this scripture is that many of us are bigger than the Lord Jesus Himself. Whenever we fail to humble ourselves, we are declaring, unwittingly, that we are greater than our Lord, who humbled Himself. Can you imagine that? The only reason God does not immediately blast us off the face of the earth is because He is a merciful and compassionate God, and full of patience.

Having meditated on the ways of the Lord for over 20 years, I have come to the indisputable conclusion that God is more interested in a tender heart than anything else. You may have all the faith in the world, you may have the most profound revelations, or you could have the biggest ministry on earth; but if you do not have a tender heart, somehow you will have missed it with God.

A tender heart is just that – tender. It is quick to repent, quick to forgive, and quick to make amends. In every aspect, it is quick to obey God. Tenderness of heart and humility are synonymous.

In every situation, we are called upon to humble ourselves. All the warfare in our churches is a result of men and women who have failed to humble themselves. All the conniving, all the pride and bigotry, all the envy, all the sin, these things are a testimony to our hard, unyielding hearts. If we had tender hearts, these things would not be there in our midst because, at the first sign of “trouble”, we would immediately humble ourselves and obey God.

It might sound rather extreme, but I believe we should stop everything we are doing “for the Lord” and first examine our hearts. If we do not have that single ingredient of tenderness, I wonder how we can feel at peace with God? If we are not ready to obey God, then we should know and acknowledge that we are in trouble with God.

The problem with many of us, of course, is that we are more willing to listen to and are more keenly aware of what people think or say about us. But that is a very deceptive road to take. Many people will tell us what we want to hear. There are very few people who are willing to tell us the truth about ourselves. You just attend any Christian meeting or conference and you will find people slapping you on the back and telling you what a good guy you are! That could be true, but who is there to tell you about the pride in your heart? Who is there to point to the envy that is eating away at your soul? And how about that anger and bitterness – bitterness even towards God for perceived “injustices”? Or the covetousness, the adultery, and the many other sins in your life that are threatening to derail your very salvation?

There probably is no man to tell you of these things, but it is not necessary that men tell us. God through the Holy Spirit will most certainly point out these things to us. It is our responsibility to carry that tender heart where we are quick to humble ourselves and obey God in every area.

There are believers who struggle with a certain sin for years. Then, finally, they give up and allow themselves to live with that sin as a part of their lives.

But no! We should fight with all the strength that we have in the Spirit. We should be striving to humble ourselves and obey God at every opportunity. One day, we will achieve the victory.

[Below: Where a tender heart is, there is total peace in our spirits and we can live in perfect harmony]

Image9654

The Cross Reveals God’s Glory

12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments…

18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? Jdg. 14:12-18

In the Bible, honey is a symbol of the revelation of Christ. In other words, therefore, according to this scripture, what is sweeter than revelation to the soul of man?

Moreover, the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is the single most potent force on earth, and, I believe, in heaven also. We know that one day, finally, Christ Himself will become “subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28); but at present there is nothing in heaven or on the earth that supersedes the work that Christ accomplished at Calvary.

Have you ever looked at the midday, or even the morning sun? Even a casual direct glance at this solar ball is enough to momentarily blind you, it is so bright. The sun is a testament to the power of God. And that is just in the natural.

At night also, in the natural, God awes us with the power and splendour of the starry sky. Astronomers tell us that this exquisite heavenly tapestry, the universe, is endless.

And have you ever seen the heaving ocean? It is formidable.

There are so many things in the natural that tell of the power and grandeur of God.

Now, just imagine this God who can amaze us so in the natural, just how much more can He accomplish in the Spirit? Much more, I believe.

But God amazes even more. For, in the Spirit, God in His wisdom chose to show forth His power through weakness, through the breaking of the flesh. Remember when we break bread during communion we are symbolically breaking the body of Jesus Christ. At the cross, Jesus showed the power of God by breaking His flesh thereon.

Today, the church teaches us to covet earthly riches, but in the natural, Jesus was not a rich man. Today the church teaches power and influence; but Jesus the Son of God was made baser than the most ignoble of us. When He was taken to Caiaphas’ house, even the house servants slapped Him in the face! (Mk. 14:65) Ultimately Jesus gave up His earthly life at the cross.

That is why the church needs to understand the cross. In other words, the church needs a revelation of the cross. Actually, that is all that the church needs.

The cross is where the power of the flesh is broken. It is where the spiritual man is formed and made whole.

And may God bless the soul of His servant, Paul, who would preach nothing else apart from this great revelation. Throughout the centuries, the enemy has tried to bury this revelation, and he has brought in “damnable heresies” into the church (2 Pet. 2:1).

But in our day, God is again bringing to light His wisdom and power through His servants the apostles and prophets – the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. If there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain today, it is that God’s plan and purpose is again gaining the ascendancy over these heresies that have held the modern church captive all these years.

The church would do well to desire to humble itself and to prayerfully seek out this revelation instead of continuing to rush to nowhere with its much-publicised wisdoms which are nothing but a manifestation of man’s pride.

[Below: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork…” (Ps. 19:1)]

Image9940

Revelation for Grace!

24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.

25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.

26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.

27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.

28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint.

29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.

30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? 1 Sam. 14:24-30

This scripture is talking about revelation. Without revelation there is no victory for the church. Without revelation – the Pauline revelation of the cross – there is no hope for the church. That is a fact that ought to be branded with fire on our hearts.

Notice in this scripture that Jonathan was the only man in the entire Israeli army whose eyes were enlightened.  Jonathan “tasted a little of this honey”, and all of a sudden his eyes were enlightened! How so incredibly fantastic!!

Then notice what Jonathan says about his father, Saul: “My father hath troubled the land…”

Religion without revelation is so stifling. There is no freedom, hence no growth and no spiritual victory. Saul had effectively bound his men to frustration and, ultimately, defeat. That would certainly have been so had it not been for Jonathan’s intervention.

In verses 1 through 23 we read about the incredible feat that Jonathan had pulled off against the enemies of Israel. Jonathan accomplished so much all by himself because he was a free man. The Bible says that he did not hear when his father gave out the order that no one should eat anything that day. Jonathan was free in his spirit.

There was honey dropping from the woods! Through His servants God has brought about the revelation of the cross of Christ. That revelation is freely flowing and available to the church today. It is the revelation that will bring victory to the church, victory in every sense of that word.

But, unfortunately, old man religion and his servants stand there issuing edict after edict, and preventing God’s people from partaking of the one thing that will enlighten their eyes and give them the victory over the enemy. Have you ever heard in church about “ten steps” to achieving this and that? I once even saw a book titled: “Fifty Steps To…(can’t remember what)”. Can you imagine that? Fifty steps!

Jonathan never heard his father’s edict! There is so much stuff the church is hearing today that it shouldn’t be hearing. There is so much law. But that law is couched in such intellectual language that it is difficult for one to see it as law.

And the church remains weak, lying helpless at the feet of sin.

I love what the Apostle Paul says: “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.” (Gal. 6:14)

That was a man who was walking in the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. And the entire world, both friend and foe, are all too aware of the incredible life that Paul lived through the grace that was to be found in that revelation. No wonder Paul is the most misunderstood and maligned apostle that ever lived. If only one man, Jonathan, could receive enlightenment in the entire Israeli army, then we can also expect that today not many believers will receive the clear revelation that Paul so powerfully brought out in his epistles. That is painful to admit, but it is the truth. Not many.

Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mat. 7:14 Notice that word there, “few”. I wonder how on earth we can change that word to read “many”.

The only revelation the church will ever receive is of Christ, Christ crucified. It is the revelation that St. Paul received and lived. It is the honey that, many centuries ago, a young man called Jonathan actually tasted in the flesh.

[Below: The true apostles of Christ bring forth the revelation of the cross of Christ to the church: Brother Eliya Amas from Musoma, Tanzania]

10475673_687920747928016_6373907658369947860_n

Photo Credit: Carol Lanthier

Faith!

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Rev. 2:10

“… be thou faithful unto death.”

Yesterday in our church service the Lord reminded us concerning faith. He taught us that our faith in Him must increase.

He reminded us that we have been saved by faith and that we must continue in that same faith. But the Lord also reminded us that our faith is based on one single fact: that Christ is risen.

Christ is risen! He is alive!

That speaks volumes. There is so much that is based on the single fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the reasons that undergirds our faith in Christ is that He is always with us, and that nothing – absolutely nothing – can defeat or overcome us as long as we are in Him, not even death. He has triumphed over all the powers of darkness.

In Colossians 2:15 it says: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

When He confronted Satan after His death and resurrection, our Lord Jesus made a complete rout of Satan and all his powers. Absolutely nothing can triumph against against us. Nothing! Neither sin, our present dreaded enemy, nor even death, the final enemy, has any power over us. Just as He defeated death, we too will defeat death when we finally arrive at its gates.

Yet, since we are still in the world, we will be constantly assaulted by our relentless enemy, the devil, with all his spiritual machinery.

“… in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses…” – 2 Cor. 12:10

And scripture further affirms: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:35-39

In all these things we are to stand firm in our faith, secure in the knowledge that at that particular moment of our trial Jesus is there with us and His strength is sufficient for that particular situation, because He has triumphed over it. That is exactly what Jesus meant when He said to take up our cross and follow Him.

Colossians says He utterly spoiled Satan and all his diabolical powers! Utterly!! Then He dragged them up from whatever hole they had been residing and “he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them”!

Nothing, either in heaven or on earth has any power over us. Nothing – except the love of Christ. As long as we are denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily – the same cross through which He triumphed against Satan – we have no reason to fear; but rather, we ought to be more grounded, more confident in our faith in Him.

So yesterday we sang songs of praise to our God, and of faith in Him. And we purposed to trust Him more, for He has conquered on our behalf.

He is alive!!

Love Believes All Things!

(Love)… believeth all things… 1 Cor. 13:7

One of the most incredibly precious people that God has placed in my life is a young man by the name Elinty Ibrahim. Recently when I was in Dar es Salaam, this brother came to visit me in my house, and we spent the better part of the evening reminiscing about the first few days when our paths first crossed.

In the course of our conversation, this young friend said something that opened my eyes to see a very astonishing aspect about our God. What God revealed to me through Elinty’s words astounded me beyond belief. It is incredible how we can be saved for decades and somehow think we know God and then one day the Lord opens our eyes to see something so ‘basic’ about Him which we had no idea about! That was exactly what the Lord did with me. Elinty (or ‘Ibra’, as he is popularly known) said something that opened my eyes to see something that had been under my nose all along, but which I had never seen clearly in my spirit.

But before I continue let me first provide a background of sorts…

Three years ago we at CTMI began publishing Brother Miki Hardy’s teachings about the cross and the grace of God in a local Christian weekly called ‘Msemakweli’. Soon after people began reading our articles, a young man in Dar es Salaam called me on the phone and asked to see me. We met at a busy intersection in the city and we just stood there with the traffic swirling about us and I opened my mouth and started sharing the gospel of the cross right there with him. Our meeting was so powerful that none of us contemplated the thought of moving even an inch from where we were standing. I could feel the presence of God all around us.

The young man’s name was Elinty Ibrahim, and he was an undergraduate student at a local university. He was also a member of one of the biggest charismatic churches in the city. Soon after we met, however, he began attending our church services and hearing the gospel of the cross. But his experience was akin to that of a drug addict who is trying to kick the habit. He had been raised on a constant diet of high-powered charismatic teachings (his room was filled with Christian books and publications); and although he now could see something in the gospel of the cross, still he struggled to accommodate it in his heart.

He struggled so much that on more than one occassion he walked up to me after service and told me he would not be coming to our church again. But I loved ‘Ibra’ dearly and I could not bear the thought of losing him. I knew since the day he called me that he had grasped something of the precious treasure to be found in the gospel of the cross.

Throughout this very shaky period of our relationship somehow the Lord gave me grace and I clung to Ibra in every way possible. Sometimes he would claim he did not have bus fare to attend the next service; I would make sure he got the bus fare. Other times I organized for teams of young people to go visit him at the single rented room he was living in. He was my prized possession and I had no intention of losing him.

Today, thankfully, all that is history. The Lord proved faithful and and Ibra finally saw things clearly, and when he did, it was full steam ahead! Today Ibra has grown in his perception of the gospel and he has become one of the most dependable young people in the church. This was demonstrated to me recently when I was in Dar es Salaam and I learned that the local church board had selected him to represent the youth in the upcoming East African regional CTMI youth conference to be held in Mugumu, in the Serengeti. He has become an indispensable part of the church.

I have written all this as a background to what I intend to write in this post, because it is so important…

On this day that he came to visit me Ibra said, “During the days when I was struggling with the gospel what I remember above everything else is your trust in me. You believed in me completely. It was like you could see something in me which I could not see. I had never seen anyone put so much trust in me, and because of that I purposed in my heart that I would not let you down! I know you are not aware of it, but that was the reason I held on.”

Now, my readers must understand that this post is not a PR stunt on my part, nor am I trying to raise my popularity ratings. Actually, I had never even considered the issue in the light that Ibra saw it. I cannot recall ever “believing” in anyone to the extent that Ibra spoke of; I probably did things very much out of a formal routine!

But it was what God revealed to me through Ibra’s words that truly knocked me over. The thought came, ‘If old, rotten me can believe in someone, how much more does God believe in us?’ I had never seen it this way, but on this day I saw it clearly: God believes in us. But I also saw something else. I saw that God does not believe in us the way we believe in people. On the contrary, God believes in us the way a child would believe – with absolute trust. In other words, God has child-like faith in us. And the really awesome thing about it is not that God is stupid, no; but God has faith.

The more we get to know God the more God surprises us – by His simplicity.

In 1 Corinthians 13:7 the Bible says that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. What an absolutely incredible scripture! What incredible strength this love has! Here I can actually see God believing in us fully despite our weaknesses and our failures.

Did you ever realize how difficult it is to believe in people? In fact, the more ‘enlightened’ and the ‘stronger’ we become, the less inclined we are to trust others!! We get to know their weaknesses and their failings, and our trust in them sort of begins to fade away. That is how weak the flesh is. In our human strength we are the weakest of men!

But God is nowhere close to that scenario. Though infinitely much more knowledgeable and stronger than we, yet God comes down to our level, He even gets beneath us and favors us with this incredible trust which we do not even come close to deserving.

And even after He comes to check on us and finds we have blown our chances, He does not say, “How stupid can you get?!”

Instead He says, “Don’t worry, I will clean up the mess. Let’s try this once more.” And He will do that a million more times, as long as we keep out hearts open.

This is grace! This is spiritual maturity. This is love. And that’s who God is because God is love.

I would give anything to be able to have the simplicity – the grace – of God in me. That’s true liberty, that’s true strength. The truly strong man is the man who can believe in all things, as God does, even the weak things.

No wonder the Apostle Paul would preach no other gospel than the gospel of the cross (1 Cor. 2:2). For it is at the cross that such grace can be found. At the cross we learn to put off our body of the flesh, the single stumbling block to living the God kind of life. At the cross we get to know Christ more – the crucified Christ. That is how we get closer to true freedom and true spiritual victory.

[Below: I am proud that Ibra (to the right) is a part of our family]

Image3656 1905201141619052011341

“Death to the Flesh!”

I am currently on furlough in Musoma. At the same time there is a brother from the church in Dar es Salaam who is on leave and, having visited us here, he is keeping me company in my house. We share many stories with Director (that is his real name) particularly in the evenings when we are alone together. Recently, he told me an incident concerning an anthill that he witnessed when he was a small child. He says there was an anthill on their farm and his father thought that it was drying up the crops. He therefore ordered his elder sons to flatten it. They did so but within a week it was back again, big as ever. They flattened it again, but within no time the ants had built it up again exactly as it was before.

One day their grandmother saw them digging up the anthill. She had seen them dig up the anthill again and again without success. On that particular day she called out to the young men: “That anthill will never go away until you dig up and kill their queen!”

The boys seemed to understand her meaning and the next day they attacked the anthill in earnest. It took them two days to excavate the entire anthill. They dug until they reached far down where they found the ant ‘queen’ whom they brought up and laid out in the sun to dry. All the young children, Director included, came to watch the big, fat, shiny object as it lay writhing on the bare ground.

“It was the ugliest thing I ever saw”, concluded Director.

Which brings us to the subject of the flesh. The flesh may appear beautiful and desirable to the natural eye, but in the spirit it is the ugliest thing. Not only so, but it is a silent killer. The flesh will have you hollering “Hallelujah!”, but you are an empty shell on the inside, full of every kind of wickedness. And, as with the ant ‘queen’ it is hidden far deep within us. Comfortably wrapped up in a cloak of religious ‘holiness’ we are hardly likely to realize it when we are walking in the flesh. It requires a revelation from God and a deep work of some sort to uproot it from our system. The bottom line is that there is no way to arrive at true spiritual victory without dealing permanently with the flesh.

That is why we need a spiritual understanding of the Cross of Jesus. Let us see what the Apostle Peter has to say in 1 Peter:

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1:11

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 4:13

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” 5:1

Peter talks a lot about suffering in these verses. Suffering is a word we would rather not hear. And yet, a revelation of the Church is a revelation of the Cross of Christ, which in turn points to the sufferings of Christ – and His death. All the men and women whom the Lord used throughout history to bring out His purpose in the Spirit were men and women who saw and experienced the sufferings of Christ in one way or another. Our father, Abraham, obtained his son Isaac when he was “as good as dead” Heb. 11:12. God went beyond there and demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac on the altar.

Many of the apostles died in martyrdom. They should have retired with great honor and better ‘benefits’, but they expired in ignominy.

The Bible, however, states that these men experienced a far greater glory in the eternal Kingdom by going through these experiences.

These are things that the Church today ought to consider very carefully. The Church should consider the role of the Cross in their lives. Logically speaking, if there is no revelation of the Cross in our lives, then we might as well forget the life of Christ springing forth from us. Yes, we will still be Christians, but carnal ones.

Nowadays you hear self-styled prophets ‘prophesying’ about this and that successful venture over hapless Christians. These are false apostles, men who answer to the call of the flesh. That is why there are so many manifestations of the flesh – and even demonic ones – in the Church today!

The true ministries of Christ will confront and uproot completely the flesh and all its works in the Church. We need to arrive at the place where we have truly died with Christ (Col.2:20); a place where, since we are still living in this sinful world, of necessity death is daily working in us (1 Cor. 15:31) to bring out that Christ-like character (Php 3:11) that caused the early saints to be called Christians by the Antiochians.

The Cross Our Strength.

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9

The earth’s magnetic north is described as “the direction a compass needle always points”. Man has his magnetic north, which is the flesh. That is a fact, lest we boast. Man’s desires, aspirations and actions all gravitate towards self, the flesh. That is why when Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).Those are our original parents, and that’s quite a statement the Bible is making there!

Many aspects of our ‘self’ nature are so well-hidden we are not aware of them. We see only the surface of things. We see the good deeds we do. Sometimes we do such remarkable deeds that we are tempted to believe in the ‘goodness’ of man.

But nothing we do can fool God. God knows what is in the heart of man, and the fact is, we are rotten to the core. The Bible in Romans 3 provides us with our ‘charge sheet’, as it were, and in verse19 it concludes that the entire world is “guilty before God”!

We dare not boast. On the contrary, we can thank God for His grace in giving us a Savior, Jesus Christ His Son. He alone was the sacrifice considered worthy enough by God to take away our sins.

The flesh does not go away just because we are saved. The ‘magnetic north’ instinct hounds us to our deathbed, and woe to the man who thinks he is so spiritual as to ignore that fact. We are not called to ignore it but to defeat it. True, God does a lot for us at salvation; but, just as a father would help a child to cross a street then let go his hand, God also calls us to responsibility in the Kingdom. And by allowing us to carry the Cross God gives us the privilege of being a part of the winning team, of which He is the Captain! What an honor!

Losing our lives is the challenge. The call of God in our lives is to partake of Christ’s victory by participating in His death. That is the heart of the message of the Cross. That is what the Apostles talked about in their epistles. God and the Apostles knew that if we are victorious over the flesh, no other enemy can defeat us. The Apostle Peter says: “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” 1 Pet. 3:13. He is talking about spiritual victory.

The charismatic gospel that is prevalent in the Church today will never deal with the flesh. Actually it is a gospel of ‘me’. Recently I saw an advertisement that said simply, ‘You. First.’ How apt!

 Miracles and healings, though a work of the Spirit, can never bring a man to spiritual maturity. God intended something else to bring the Church to maturity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

Spiritual maturity is what God wants the Church to arrive at. He is looking for sons and daughters, not spiritual babes. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

You might notice that the Corinthian church had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in their midst, but the Apostle Paul still referred to them as spiritual babes.

The Apostle Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, but still Paul chided him for his immature behavior.

It is the revelation of the Cross of Christ only that can deal with the carnal nature of man. That was why Paul would preach no other gospel other than “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And when he says he would boast in nothing else apart from that Cross “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14) there is nothing of false humility with Paul there. Rather, he is testifying to a real work in his heart. Paul knew where the power of the gospel lay:  it was in the Cross working in his life! What Paul means by ‘weaknesses’ in 2 Cor. 12:9 are the sufferings of Christ through which he would partake of the power of God.

That is why the Church today needs a spiritual understanding, or a revelation of the Cross of Christ.  And that is why in our day we can thank God for men like Miki Hardy, in whom the Lord has invested such a revelation.

Anyone who has the chance to hear the preaching of the gospel that addresses their flesh should be grateful to God for that grace and privilege. In the midst of the many gospels being preached today, and where the flesh is either not dealt with or is even celebrated, it is truly a grace from God to hear the one gospel that confronts head-on this most indefatigable of God’s enemies.

I thank God that I do not only write this blog or preach, but that I am a partaker of the most important aspect of our calling, which is to carry my Cross and follow after Christ!

Of Proclamations and Our Worship of God – Pt. 1

If you come to our church, you will find I probably shout the loudest “Hallelujahs!”, “Praise the Lord!”s and “Amens!” than anyone else. If we were talking in the natural, this state of affairs could be attributed directly to the fact that in the tribe which I come from we yell instead of speaking. In our village it is perfectly normal for two people to talk across a valley while they are a good 3 or 4 nautical miles apart. If a neighbor is passing by your house, he prefers to greet you from the other side of the road so he can express himself more satisfactorily. That means the whole village will know so-and-so is passing by. The favorite evening activity in our village is young men letting out great war cries which can be heard several villages away.

When members of my tribe come to the big cities we are a real problem to the cultured people there because we cannot talk quietly. One man from my tribe can silence an entire bus when he is talking on the phone.

But my tribal heritage really has little clout in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The real reason I shout and sing so loudly in church is simply because I love the Lord, and it is always in my heart to want to express my love and gratitude to Him with all my strength. During worship I will clap my hands and sing with all my might, telling of the goodness and love of God to me, and declaring my love to Him in return. And once the preacher begins preaching I shout “Amen!” regularly, assenting to his every word with all my heart. If I am in a quiet church I have to be quiet, of course, but I feel restrained! That does not mean I consider quiet people less spiritual, no! It is simply that I feel I want to express myself in a certain way, and I do.

Apart from my loud proclamations of love to my God in church I am also the perfect Christian, and it would require a long shot for anyone to point an accusing finger at me. Of course, there are small imperfections even a few brethren are aware of, but the bulk of the people whom I come into contact with would be forgiven to think I am perfect, considering the ‘perfect’ carriage I proffer!

And yet… even though I make such vocal declarations of love to my God, and in spite of my perfect conduct on the outside, I know the many areas in my life where I have failed the Lord and where I continue to fail Him. And they are not the small areas like anger against my wife or kids, but even in really big things.

Consider the fact, for example, that there was a time in my Christian life where I found myself looking at other women apart from my wife with a lustful eye. Now, looking is a different thing, but I went even further and actually began thinking about them. The Bible calls that sin adultery. You know, there are some things in the Bible that Jesus or the Apostles talked specifically only to men about and there are others that they talked to women about (For example, there are women who want to take charge at home or in the church and they are more than a thorn in the flesh, and they bring a dishonor to the gospel of Jesus Christ). With men, I believe they have a bigger problem with sexual sin in church than women.

These were sins that I would hide deep in my heart, and I would not allow the slightest hint of them to be known by anyone. The fact that I had not physically touched any woman gave me a sense of relief; but on the inside I knew it was a false one.

But I will tell you something more important that happened. The Lord knew what was going on in my heart and one day, by His grace He showed His light into my heart. When He did that I cried out. When the Lord showed me the rotten nature of my heart, I remember saying, “Lord, what have I done? How could I do this to you?” I did not ask God “How could I sin against You?” because I am always sinning; but it was more like, “How could I be so ungrateful as to go this far from You?” I felt helpless and dirty.

But an even more important thing happened. I repented of this sin. I tell you I repented. It was not in my power to stop this sin, but it was in my power to repent, and repent I did. I poured out my heart to God and asked for forgiveness and strength.

If you ask me how what happened after happened, I will tell you I do not know. But I do know something deep and tangible happened in my heart. And I do know it was a work of the Holy Spirit. After I had repented, I felt a cleansing, and I experienced total victory in my life. By ‘total’ I do not mean that I have not been tempted since, no. What I mean is that today I can go anywhere, and I can be away from my wife, and every day and in whatever situation I feel that victory in my life, strong and alive. I can look at any woman, and I can see beyond the outer sheen of her beauty and see the need in her heart.

That, my friend, whatever you call it I call it victory. And I tell you, there are many women out there who desperately need spiritual help, and we can only help them if we are walking in victory over the flesh. Otherwise, as is so often the case nowadays, we will take advantage of them. Or we will keep away from them, which is not much help!

You see, women will always be there, and if you are a carnal man you could waste your entire life moaning about why God put women on earth, etc. But I tell you, we must face the Cross and allow Christ to strip the body of sin from us. The Bible says clearly in Romans 8:3 that God (in) sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”.

It is when we come into contact with the right gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Jesus and what it came to do in our lives, that we are set free. When we hear the right gospel, we will have victory over sin. That’s a fact. The true gospel brings us to a place of true repentance. And true repentance brings true victory, be it a ‘big’ sin or a ‘small’ sin. Why? Because it allows the Holy Spirit to come work in our hearts, to transform us and give us that victory. Paul tells Timothy: Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” 1 Tim. 4:16. What is that about? He is talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is able to deliver men and women from sin’s power.

How can we be born-again believers and continue to live under sin, or to walk under the power of sin? It is totally unacceptable to God. Probably it is acceptable to us and that is why we spend so much time wringing our hands about this or that. But Christ came for just one purpose: to defeat the works of the enemy, which works are sin.

The whole problem with Christianity today lies in the fact that we want to have victory over the devil but not over sin.

We conclude tomorrow.