My Wife!

My wife has a way of talking in my presence as if I don’t exist. One day, many years ago, she was preparing to travel to a ladies’ conference in a neighboring country, and we were in the bedroom packing and having some pleasant talk when all of a sudden she straightened up and said, “Oh, dear me! I wonder if I will get someone to help me heave these bags over to the bus stop….”

I almost burst a vein. The “Oh” had come out in a long, drawn-out sigh which clearly meant that she did not consider she had anyone to assist her in moving those bags to the bus stand.

Here I was, enjoying my final moments with my wife – and with one artless remark she had thrown a spanner into the whole works.

“Flo”, I said in deep frustration, “here I am, waiting to help you with your luggage, and you go about moaning as if you don’t have a husband!”

“Oh, I am sorry”, she replied, blissfully oblivious to the volcano that was building up right next to her. “I just meant these bags are heavy, you know….”

I flipped. “No! No! You don’t get my point!”

She looked at me in a manner which clearly stated she understood my point all right. Pride is pretty pointed, and it would take a moron to miss it.

Finally, she saw the light.  “OK, forgive me”, she said meekly.

Which did not seem like an admission to me, but I grudgingly assented. “You are forgiven”, I replied as my pressure gauge slowly dropped down to a few hundred bars above normal. At least I had made my point.

That experience is nothing to boast of, and yet I can thank God for it. If there is one thing I am eternally grateful to God for, it is the wife He gave me, Flo. She is a true “helper”. She “helps” cut down my pride. God uses her very effectively in confronting my particular brand of pride and in showing me the narrow path.

Initially I was a very poor learner. I would constantly “kick against the pricks”, savagely battering down all her admonitions and attempting to impose my will in every situation. Needless to say, all my “victories” were won at great personal cost.

But now I thank God that, through the revelation of the Cross in my life, it is easier for me to back down. And the fruit I reap is unbounded peace and joy.

To this day, my wife still talks in my presence as if I were a long-dead fossil. She does it involuntarily (must be a genetic defect), and no harm is meant, of course; yet it is sometimes enough to raise my “manly” hackles to the limit. But by the grace of God a strong undergirding of a given, surrendered life has gradually taken over, and through an understanding of the Cross of Christ I can finally wrestle down the flesh. I am not implying it is easy; but the Cross has become the joy of both our lives.

Today, in our 18 years of marriage my wife and I both know that we are in the best relationship we have ever been in.

And I couldn’t possibly end this post without thanking Brother Miki from the bottom of my heart for bringing us the revelation of the grace of God that has brought such mighty healing to the entire spectrum of our spiritual lives!

Naomi pt.3

The Church today appears to be turning against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to explain the fact that whereas the scriptures admonish us to Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8), the majority of the Church is busy declaring themselves the “King’s Kids” and “possessing” whatever it is they can. We have been taught to “confess”, and to “possess”.

Consider this: Jesus lost; the Church is amassing. Jesus willingly let go of fame and material comfort; the Church is demanding these things, and using the crudest methods possible to obtain them. Jesus humbled Himself; the Church is proud and judgmental. What a paradox! And yet the scriptures tell us to Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”.

If we are serious in our relationship with God, then we must align ourselves with His Word. We must make sure we are in plain sight so He can take good aim at us, to deal with our pride, and the various degrees of sin in our lives. This leaves little room for us to contemplate the glory of this world.

Hebrews 12:6 says: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth”.

The word “suffering” does not go down well with our pleasure- loving generation. In fact, the Church today is a rationalizing, not a believing one. We wonder aloud: “Why should we suffer?”

But we forget that the ways of God are not our ways. It “pleased” God to “bruise” His Son, and no matter how hard Jesus cried to Him God would not relent. We cannot presume to enter in through an easier door.

The saints of old knew this and they were willing and ready to take up their cross and follow Jesus in the Spirit.

In light of this I wish to end our discussion by pointing out one last aspect of Naomi’s suffering which is so important for us as born-again believers to understand. When Naomi suffered in a strange land, no doubt she actively sought to please God. But it may well be that she did not expect any reward; she just persevered out of obedience and love for her God.

We know that later on God blessed her with Ruth, who bore her Obed. (The Bible declares that Obed was reckoned to be Naomi’s son: And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David” – Ruth 4:17). Much later, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world – Naomi’s ultimate prize – was born of David’s line.

A belated blessing for Naomi? No. It could not possibly be belated since it is an eternal one.

When we surrender our lives to God, when we lose everything for the sake of Christ, there is no telling the magnitude of the blessing He has in store for us. It is a far greater reward than we could possibly imagine. The scriptures say, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). God does not promise us earthly rewards, for the Bible clearly says these are things “which none of the princes of this world knew” (v.8). I am not suggesting that God is not concerned with our earthly needs. However, we know the princes of this world control all that this world has to offer, and it is utterly foolish for us to try and compete with them. We need to have a different mindset. We should rather look to another reward, a heavenly one, which is of far greater glory than any earthly treasure!

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

There is no greater treasure than to have Jesus rooted firmly in our hearts and enabling us to walk that righteous and holy walk that is so invaluable in God’s sight.

I am sure we are all called to gain a reward equal to Naomi’s – the fullness of Jesus Christ in our lives – if only we are faithful enough.

Naomi pt.1

Some days ago my fellow pastor Joshua and I went to visit a couple who had recently been blessed with a baby girl. When we inquired what the new baby’s name was, the mother replied, “Naomi!” I looked at Joshua and we exchanged broad smiles. The story of Naomi had been featuring prominently in our conversations lately, and we were both struck by the coincidence of it all.

When we told the couple the source of our rejoicing, they were exceedingly happy. We took time to thank God for His grace, for we felt His hand was upon this child.

We are living in a time when the Book of Ruth, and particularly the life of Naomi, is so very relevant for the Church. I would like to take some time this week to meditate on some of the lessons that we learn from this great book. To begin with, let me point out that the Biblical Book of Ruth is actually the story of Naomi. Without Naomi there would have been no Ruth. It is also a story about perseverance. Through her perseverance Naomi caused Ruth to live another life and come into the line of bringing our Savior Jesus Christ into the world.

Naomi lost her husband and her two only children in the land of Moab. She was left with nothing. There is nothing remarkable about Naomi losing her entire family. Misfortunes of this sort affect people in every generation. But, you see, when we take up our cross in circumstances that God allows into our lives, God is able to move on many different fronts. Nothing is written about Naomi’s lifestyle, but I am convinced the Godly life that she lived in the sight of her two Moabite daughters-in-law is central to the message in the Book of Ruth.

Ruth must have watched closely Naomi’s lifestyle. She must have watched as she lost, first her husband, then her two sons, one after the other. During these times of tragedy, many things must have happened. Maybe words were discreetly spoken behind her back. Questioning glances thrown her way. After each burial, her Moabite neighbors would no doubt go back home wondering about this “cursed” woman.

The pain and sorrow in Naomi’s life must have been plain for Orpah and Ruth to see.

And yet, Ruth must have seen something else in Naomi’s life as she struggled with her misfortunes: faith in a living God. Most likely Naomi did not react in the natural, like other people. She probably sang songs of praise to God like Paul and Silas would do much later in prison. She probably called in her two daughters-in-laws after every tragedy, and consoled them, and told them of hope in God, and of life after death.

Through her resoluteness Naomi proved her faith in a living God. Her beautiful faith was clear to all. Probably Orpah did not look hard enough, and when the opportunity came to separate from Naomi, she quickly exited the scene.

For Ruth, however, when that moment arrived, her decision was firm. She would follow Naomi. “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17). 

When we take up our Cross and follow Jesus, God works miracles. Through that living faith we allow others into God’s Kingdom. Evangelizing, preaching and witnessing for Jesus are all vital components in bringing people to Christ, but what will get people firmly rooted and attain to the full realization of God’s purpose in their Christian lives is the divine power that can only come from lives that are totally surrendered to the Lord; lives that are suffering and dying daily with Christ.

The Apostle Paul explains it this way: “So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). We all have our share of worldly tribulations, tests, trials and temptations. But these all occur so we may learn to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 Paul says: “…being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat.” Why would the early apostles go into all this trouble? The answer is: to bring life to others. There is no other means to achieve this other than to lose our lives through the revelation of the Cross. Had there been an easier way, Jesus would most definitely have taken it.

Are we living for ourselves, or for others? We cannot have our cake and eat it. If we are to live for others then we must die; and when we die, we reap a glorious, heavenly reward far beyond our wildest dreams.

God’s Purpose for Our Lives – And How to Achieve It!

45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. (John 11:45-52).

The Bible states clearly that Caiaphas spoke under the direction of God. Therefore, the words that he spoke were not his, but God’s. The man that Caiaphas spoke about was Jesus, and Jesus underwent all what Caiaphas had prophesied. He died and was crucified on the Cross for the sins of the entire world.

It is interesting to note that the days that Jesus and the Apostles lived in are identical to our own in many ways. In Jesus’ days God’s people boasted in outward appearances. They boasted in their education, their mode of dress, their flawless knowledge of the Law. They even prayed publicly at the crossroads! We could say they gloried in the flesh.

And yet, at the time of Jesus’ birth the nation of Israel was in a time of deep spiritual darkness. They “sat in darkness … in the region and shadow of death” (Mat. 4:16). It was a period of deep spiritual darkness in Israel, which meant that sin was rife.

In our own generation, the Church has grown exceedingly rich in many areas: financial and material prosperity, education, magnificent buildings, growing TV coverage. Today we even have Christian multi-millionaire pastors. In the spirit realm, miracles occur, and healings take place.

Yet alas! Despite all these outward ‘riches’ the Church is in a deep mess. Sin is commonplace. ‘Prosperous’ Christians and pastors are sinning. Depression and defeat pervades the Church.

Miracles will not bring victory in the Church. Indeed, miracles are not meant for the Church, so we cannot boast in them. Remember, the Corinthian church “came short in no spiritual gift” – yet it was a shamefully carnal Church! All our knowledge and materialism cannot fulfill God’s purpose in the Church and on the earth.

But the Cross will fulfill that purpose!. Caiaphas prophesied that someone had to die in order for something important to happen in the spirit. To fulfill that prophesy Jesus died on the Cross.

Jesus had a difficult time getting a place to be born in in Bethlehem. Today, He is having a difficult time indeed getting born in men’s hearts. Am I saying people are not getting saved? Certainly not! But I am talking about that extra all-important step, taking up our Cross and following Jesus.

In Jesus’ day, God fulfilled His purpose through Jesus’ obedience. Today, He wants to fulfill it through our obedience.

Many Christians know the Bible, but if they do not crucify the flesh, this knowledge will not profit them.

If every Christian would partake of the death of the Cross by denying self and losing our lives for the sake of Christ, then the life of Christ will be found in the Church, and we won’t need to make so much noise nor will we need to explain ourselves to people because the grace of God and the anointing on our lives will attract men and women to us.

When we die to self, God Himself will bring in His people, who are scattered all over the world, into our churches. They will come into our churches and they will know they have arrived home. In our CTMI congregations we have witnessed this happening many times. Someone comes into church, and the minute they experience the life inside and hear the sound teaching, they announce: “This is what I have been searching for all my life!”

Neither good, Biblical explanations, nor a Bible college education will build the Church of Christ. Jesus said He Himself would build His Church (Mat. 16:18). It is time we allowed Christ to build His Church by allowing the work of the Cross in our lives.

Why was Paul so effective in building the Church? The answer lies in Galatians 1:16 Paul says the minute he believed in Christ, he did not “confer with flesh and blood”. In other words, he carried the Cross from day one, and he never put it down. He did not ever use his education again. In fact he threw it away, like dung. This is so humbling! Today’s Church needs to throw away so much stuff. There are too many things we are boasting in, but which are not profitable in the least to our spiritual growth.

The day men and women of God begin boasting with Paul in ONE thing only: “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), then we shall witness the purpose of God -to gather His people together in unity of spirit – accomplished in our generation.