God Can Use Anything

One time I went to visit a relative in the city and as I was sitting alone in the living room, his young son came in and found me reading a book. He told me, “That is my dad’s book.”

“Oh, great!”, I said jovially.

He didn’t seem to think it was so jovial. He looked blankly at me and said, “Put it down, you thief!”

I am no thief and in my tribe, the least form of punishment that I would have given that boy for insulting me was instant death.

But God gave me grace and I realized exactly what was happening. I realized God was checking to see what was in my heart.

God can use anything – even a small child – to show us what is in our hearts. Whenever something negative comes into our lives, we should beware that God has allowed it in order to uproot something that He does not like in our lives.

In my case, the Lord allowed me to see the mountain of pride that was in my heart. In fact, I was so humbled by what the Lord revealed to me that I became as small as a pin in that house and especially towards that boy. And by the time I left, he and I had become best of friends.

[God can use even a small child to check your pride level. And no, this is not the boy in the story]


The Believer’s Nightmare

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:18-25

The believer’s worst nightmare is to find him or her defending himself in time of suffering, and particularly when it is wrongful suffering. The most terrifying thing that can happen to a believer is not to meet the devil face to face. On the contrary, it is to find him/herself unable to humble himself as God requires him/her to do. This is the worst thing that a believer can experience.

The key verse in the passage above is v. 19:

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

Notice the words:

– “thankworthy”

– “conscience toward God”

– “endure”

– “grief”

– “suffering wrongfully”.

We are to take wrongful suffering patiently. That is God’s will for us as His children. There are people who teach that believers should not pass through an iota of trouble. That is not what the Bible says. Such a gospel is from the devil.

What exactly does it mean to “endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”? It means not to seek to set matters right when we are being persecuted wrongfully. It means not to react bitterly when wrongfully attacked, and not to seek vengeance. There are many believers who have a vengeance mentality. They walk about with thoughts of revenge for real and imagined wrongs. In every situation they want their pound of flesh.

But notice in this passage of scripture that it is when we take wrongful suffering “patiently” that we become “acceptable with God”. “Acceptable to God” means pleasing God by doing His will. It means becoming His children, real time, because it is the nature of God to endure suffering and thus to defeat evil with good. It is when we bless, instead of cursing in contrary situations, that we find ourselves doing God’s will. It is when, from our hearts, we do well to our persecutors, and do not repay evil for evil.

We are to seek to do well and to respond positively in the most contrary situations.

When they came to arrest Jesus, the Bible says that Peter took out his sword and cut off one of the Chief Priest’s servant’s ear. Peter’s heart was bitter – and faithless. But Jesus’ heart was different from Peter’s. In the first place, Jesus had no element of bitterness or vengeance in Him. Secondly, His heart was filled with kindness and mercy. And so, even as He knew the sufferings that these soldiers would put Him through, yet Jesus could only bless and do them well. He took the servant’s ear and put it back. He even took the trouble to inform us that the servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus made Malchus one of His special friends! Jesus loved those men!!

Then, after they had tortured and crucified Him, as He died on the cross, He could only think of blessing them. He said,

… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Lk. 23:34

Jesus was a Man who was acceptable to God. That means He pleased God highly.

But when we begin bad-mouthing our persecutors or murmuring about our wrongful sufferings or bad situations, or entertaining thoughts of vengeance, God is not pleased at all. The reason is that these attitudes are of the flesh. It is the flesh that likes defending itself. God does not defend Himself. On the contrary, He gives out His life. The Bible states of Jesus:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (v. 24-25)

Jesus did not defend Himself when He was wrongly accused and persecuted to death. He willingly gave away His life that we might live.

Jesus did not carry any grudges against anyone. We are always carrying grudges, one way or another. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, the Bible says, Jesus “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (v.23).

That means there was peace in His heart even as His rights were being taken away from Him. There was no grumbling or murmurings from Him. From the bottom of His heart, Jesus would not lift a finger to defend Himself. Instead, praise and thanksgiving flowed from Him towards God. And a good heart towards His enemies. Everything that Jesus did was acceptable with God.

I thank God that He has allowed me to live to see these truths. During the course of my life, I have fought and fought – for my rights. But God is not pleased with such attitudes because they are of the flesh, and carnal. I have discovered, much to my distress, that there is no worse place to be than when you are not pleasing God.

I cannot please God because I am Zakaria Mwita. God is not pleased with names or personalities. I cannot please God because people call me “Man of God”. I can only please God by doing His will. It is my prayer that God will give me the grace to never open my mouth or do anything to defend myself when I am suffering wrongfully. That is the time of my testing, and I can only do only ONE thing to pass that test: to carry a good heart.

[Below: A boon: The new face of public transportation in Dar es Salaam City]


Of Stars and the Resurrection Glory

41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:41-44

The subject of stars intrigues me exceedingly, and I keep coming back to this topic.

When you look up into the sky at night you will notice that all stars are not the same. Some shine brighter than others. There are some, even, which incessantly reflect off different colors, like a diamond turning in the light.

In the Bible, the stars speak of the sons of God. And the Bible says that at the resurrection of the dead, we will differ in our glory.

What determines how believers will shine in heaven is the subject of this portion of scripture. The keyword here is “sown”. It matters very much how we “sow” our lives in this world. This is what will determine how brightly we shine in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

It is natural for us in our human state to desire glory, honor, respect and admiration and everything this world can offer. These are things that we desire if we are not transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. But here the Bible tells us exactly what to seek for if we are to share in the resurrection of the dead in a powerful way – no glory, no honor, no admiration, no profit, no nothing, in this world.

On the contrary, we are to seek to lose.

Apart from the pain that He endured at His crucifixion, and the humiliation that He physically and verbally endured from men when He was here on earth, yet I daresay that the very thought of Him becoming man was probably the biggest affront to Jesus’s nature as a holy God. For this would require Him to put on the body of sinful flesh!

But Jesus humbled Himself and put on that body. And He came and He lived with and in that body of sin in this world of sin for 33 years, and He did not commit a single sin. The Bible says He was tried in every area of His life. Every area! Each part of His flesh was touched by temptation.

Y’know, I write this blog and a dear friend once commented to me that my face looks like the face of Jesus! True to my stupid nature, instead of crying I laughed! Probably the only saving grace is that I laughed out of bitterness.

I probably am more handsome than Jesus was in the flesh. But I am also assured that in the list of things that matter with God, a sweet face is not there. And my friend certainly had no way of knowing some things about me.

My friend had no way of knowing that one of the things that astounds me beyond belief is the depth of the pride in my heart. Not someone else’s, no, but mine. Scientists have declared that the universe is infinite, which means that only God can know the ends of it. In the same way, I also have come to the conclusion that the heart of man is unfathomable. Only God can plumb its depths.

That is why our Lord Jesus deserves so much glory, admiration and honor. Would you believe that the Lord Jesus did not have an iota of pride in Him? Nothing of it in what He thought, did or spoke. In His fathomless heart, Jesus had not an iota of pride or any kind of sin. Think about that.

There is no word sufficient to describe that state of affairs, or that kind of heart. The word “incredible” is a miserable understatement here. Jesus did what no man can even think of attaining to – and all while having on the very same body of sin that we have. And because He wrought this great victory on our behalf we, too, ought to walk in that same victory over sin as He did.

That is why we need to pray for a clearer and clearer revelation of the cross, so that we may learn to lose our lives more and more through the trying of our faith, for the express purpose of attaining to the hope of shining like one of the brightest stars in the heavens at the resurrection.

[Below: Some neighborly friends]

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Resurrection, stars, pride, Jesus, glory, humility

Defeating the Devil

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil. Eph. 4:26-27

This scripture is talking about anger and wrath. In the Swahili Bible, the word “wrath” is translated as “bitterness”.

Notice the scripture here warns us against “letting the sun go down upon your wrath”. That is not something we should take lightly. This is because the devil is mentioned right there. In fact, it says to not give place to the devil. That means the devil is pressing in against us. And the devil is not someone to tangle with. If we are weak, he will break into our lives – and destroy us!

If we “let the sun go down upon our wrath” we will lose the battle with the devil.

Anger and bitterness do not come out of the blue. They occur in our hearts when we have been offended, when we have been wronged in one way or another. But Jesus said, It is impossible but that offences will come…” (Lk. 17:1)

Notice Jesus’ use of language: It is impossible…” In other words, if offences do not come to challenge us, then we are outside of Jesus’ realm of operation! Of necessity, things will come to test our faith.

Now, if you tell me that you do not ever get angry, it will definitely be interesting to know who you are because even the Apostle Paul got angry (Acts 23:1-5)! We all come against situations that will make us angry, and sometimes bitter. The biggest challenge that we have as Christians is keeping our hearts pure when these offences come.

Let us take the example of the Christian who does not watch pornography, does not listen to worldly music, does not curse – indeed, someone who has kept themselves pure from the world. That is truly good and commendable in God’s sight.

But remember the devil is always looking for somewhere to latch a foothold in our lives. He will keep circling around us, looking for that “place”, or space.

My wife works as a nurse in a certain organisation in Dar es Salaam. I, on the other hand, live and work for our church in the town of Singida, 700 kilometers from my family. (Hopefully, by next year my family will have moved to join me in Singida, we are working on that.) That being the case, my wife and I get to see each other once in a blue moon.

Anyways, recently an opening occurred in the organisation where my wife works whereby some nurses were required to come to the very town that I am  in, to work for several weeks. My wife did not know about the mission – until the selection was done and the nurses were just about to leave!

Someone came to her desk and told her, “You were shortlisted for this project, but the manager vetoed against you going because she said she needed you here.” But this manager also knew (indeed, everyone within the organisation knew) that I was in Singida, and she knew  that this would have been as good an opportunity as any for my wife to be close to her husband!

And the lady who brought my wife the bad news added, “All of us who were involved in the selection process were very bitter when the manager crossed out your name. We all wanted you to go.”

My wife told me, “I knew it was a test of my heart, but God gave me grace. I stood steadfast. I told this lady it was okay and I went and bade my fellow workers goodbye with a good heart as they left. And I have not felt a tinge of bitterness in my heart.”

In other words, the devil wanted her to feel hurt, and to react.

I told my wife, “Flo, by keeping a pure heart in that situation, you have won a bigger victory in the Spirit than if you had come here. I am so happy you did not come.”

I felt a deep victory in my heart at the ‘loss’. I, too, did not feel any anger or bitterness at the manager. I am sure the Lord had prepared us long before against this attack of the enemy.

Much of the time, losing in the natural is the only way to gain in the Spirit. Sometimes, though, we are not so grace-full, and we are not ready to lose in the natural. Sometimes we lash out in anger or we harbor bitterness in our hearts, and when this happens we get robbed of the victory in the Spirit.

In such cases, we can chose to repent immediately, and regain our victory; or we can chose to “let the sun go down on our wrath” – and lose the battle. And when we lose the battle, the fruits are there. We begin ‘spreading the word’, an evil word. We want to tell people about our situation. We want to explain things. In extreme cases, we can even curse people, backbite – or even fight physically!

And when we arrive at such a place we suffer miserably at the hands of the enemy. Things like depression set in easily into our lives.

I am glad that God’s Word gives us the chance to not go through such a horrible experience.  We can easily walk in victory against the devil, 24/7, simply by guarding the purity of our hearts. This can only come about as we deliberately crucify the flesh and its lusts in our lives.

[Below: “My sister, guard your heart. And then the joy of the Lord shall fill you up!”]

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True Love – Part 2

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned 1 Timothy 1:5

The context of this scripture is walking in the “practicals” of the law of God as opposed to simply being filled with the “knowledge” of it and loving to preach it, which things are ineffectual. We shall be dealing with the broader aspects of this teaching in a later post.

In this post, however, I want to zero in on that part, “charity out of a pure heart”.

I wonder why Paul did not simply write “charity”; why would he need to add “out of a pure heart”? Why would he need to qualify the kind of love we need to have?

I am a slow learner and I am assured that the Lord has graciously allowed me to live these many years on this earth so I can learn a few more things. One of the things I have come to learn surprisingly is that much of our love does not come from a pure heart.

Have you ever read James 1:5 about how God gives wisdom to those who ask Him, “and upbraideth not”? That last part means He does not scold us. My computer’s Thesaurus, which is a tool of invaluable help to me, gives some additional “fire” for this phrase: “haul over the coals”, or “give a talking-to”. Those are pretty mean expressions, and the Bible is saying that God does not do any of those things to us.

But, alas! it is not so with us, or at least, most of us. I am of the firm belief that even with the best of us, loving with a pure heart is an uphill task. Now, don’t get me wrong; there are many instances where we find ourselves being quite capable of loving fully and unconditionally, but I am talking about those moments when our hearts are being tested. There will always come a time when our hearts are tested in this area.

I once lived with a man – a brother – who squeezed all the love out of me. The man had come to the city as a casual laborer and, as a brother, I took him in. But he had very many unsavory characteristics. He threw things about, and was generally quite disorderly. Personal hygiene was also a big challenge to him and, even though I made the importance of that aspect of life abundantly clear to him, there were times he would insist on going to bed without even taking a bath!

He also had a problem with money – which was unforgivable (at least, to me)! One needed a crowbar to just pull a shilling out of him. But, being the ‘kindly brother’ that I am, I took it all in my stride. I tried to right many of his wrongs without confronting him directly.  Even when he slept without bathing I would sit by his bedside and I would chide him lightly, “How can you get any sleep without bathing?” He would cheerily laugh himself to sleep and, sure enough, it would be me who would be awake in the middle of the night, listening to his snoring!

His actions would sometimes have some members of my family literally walking up the wall, but I would calm them with the call to love. Yes, I do remember I was very loving to this brother!

EXCEPT, I would constantly dig at him with the phrase, “You know, you village guys…” Now, there was nothing wrong with that “village” phrase, but there was everything wrong with my heart. Those words were laced with a hostility which I was trying to make light of. They were my way of hitting back at the brother for his primitive habits. They were, in effect, my defense against my inability to love him with a pure heart. In other words, I was telling him, sotto voce, that he had problems, and that these problems had to do with his uncultured roots.

Soon this “village” language became an established part of my verbal interactions with the brother. If he did anything that I did not like I would tell him it was because of his “village” upbringing. But the brother would only laugh when I talked to him in that way.

One day, the Lord confronted me about that phrase. I think the Lord gives us only so much rope… and then He suddenly pulls us up short. When that moment approaches, you know play time is up.

That was what happened with me. I knew it immediately the Lord confronted me. And I knew I had to repent and leave off carrying that attitude.

I don’t recall that I ever asked the brother to forgive me for pummelling him with the filth from my impure heart. But I do know I stopped using the “village” phrase right away.

And that set me free. It set me free to be able to serve my brother without any negative “heart” conditions. In fact, I went to the extent that I would clean his room and even wash his (really dirty) clothes while he was away. When he came back home in the evening, I would welcome him with an open heart. I was just there basically making sure all those “heart” lines in me were open.

It was the best experience I have ever had. My heart was filled with joy and a sense of great victory.

One day, the brother said to me, “Thank you, my brother, for all you are doing for me.”

He had never said that to me before and I knew exactly what he meant. He was not thanking me for anything that I had physically done for him. But he had seen the “room” I had made for him in my heart and he was thanking me for that.

But he hardly needed to thank me. It was I who had actually gained from the experience.

“No”, I told him. “Thank you!

The love that God calls us to does not have a choice in it. We cannot love the way we want. If we do that, we will come short because of our human failings. We must first lay down our lives, then take up our cross and follow Christ. We must first crucify the flesh. That way, we will love as God loves, which is out of a pure heart – a heart that “upbraideth not”.

[Below: This is as good an opportunity as any to introduce to my readers my elders, whom I mentioned in Part 1 of this post. Here are 3 of them – Eliya, Lazaro and Eli. These are the men under whom I serve. To the right is Lazaro’s wife, Leah. ]


Building Spiritual Character – Part 1

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Rom 5:1-5

The word ‘experience’ here could be substituted with the word ‘character’. In other words, we could say, “Patience builds character”, and still do justice to the above scripture. That word, ‘character’ is what I want to talk about today.

The path of a righteous man has never been easy, and it will never be. It is a costly one; and yet, it is this very costliness that gives God’s call on a man’s life its value: it makes the person to appreciate and respect God’s call upon their lives.

If you look at the lives of Saul and David in the Book of 1 Samuel, who both were kings of Israel, you notice a big difference in their characters. Saul was not a disciplined man. He lacked patience. He would, for example, not wait for the prophet Samuel to come and sacrifice as per God’s word but, unable to bear seeing his men leaving him, he went on and did the sacrifice himself.

Lacking in that inner discipline that comes from patience, Saul was also a severely temperamental man. He took badly to David’s victory against Goliath, and he allowed himself to develop a deep hatred towards David. He went on to hunt him down like an animal.

Time and time again Saul failed to obey God. He failed to respect God.

But, you know, we cannot blame Saul too much for this lack of a spiritual character in his person. Why? Because he was handed the kingdom without being prepared. He had not paid any price to receive it. He was handed it, as they say, on a silver platter. He did not know its worth or value. As a result, he failed to guard the position he was so graciously granted. In the end, God had no option but to take the Kingdom from his hands. The prophet Samuel told Saul, “The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.”1 Sam. 15:28

Notice the word ‘better’ there. You do not become ‘better’ because you have dimples on your cheeks.

When we look at David we see someone who, long before he became king, had to go through a very difficult period. In the first place, David knew and loved God. Secondly, he was humble enough to allow God to mold and shape him. Thus by the time he became king, David was ready to take his position and rule his people justly and in righteousness.

With the exception of the issue with Uriah’s wife, David was a capable and effective king who knew and taught God’s people the ways of the Lord. In many ways, David proved himself ‘better’ than Saul. He had been tested and tried.

In today’s Christian world, the virtue of character is lacking to a very great degree. There are many areas where this virtue is lacking. One area where this is clear is the area of marriage and divorce.

Even without salvation, our parents and grandparents never contemplated divorce. Poor folks, seems they were not civilized enough! Today’s generation, on the other hand, is a ‘liberated’ generation. In some countries I hear there is such ‘liberation’ that in some circles the word ‘marriage’ has been deleted from their vocabulary. It has been fossilized. Words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are unknown. Instead, there are ‘partners’. In these ultra-modern settings, people live together on a contractual basis, each ‘partner’ having their ‘rights’ fully guaranteed!

For those of us who still believe in marriage, we also are not safe. Women have been to Beijing and back, and they are now fully aware of and ready to fight for their ‘rights’. Men, on the other hand, have had their manhood so undermined to the extent that they take out their frustrations on the object nearest them – which invariably happens to be their wife!

All of the above is okay if you are of the world. But in church, we must talk a different language. Marriage is such a serious issue with God that He does not allow divorce unless under the most extreme of circumstances (adultery); and even then the wronged party, if they cannot forgive, are not allowed to re-marry until their spouse dies. Marriage is literally a “till death do us part” affair!

A Spiritual Relationship – Part 2

I know there was a time I did not care the least bit about my relationship with my wife. I would fight with her and seconds later I would kneel down and begin claiming God’s promises for my life! One Sunday morning, after our normal fight I hurriedly left home and headed straight for church, where I lay in wait for her at the pulpit. From my position at the pulpit I could see anyone coming in all the way from the gate. Half an hour after I had arrived I saw her turning in at the gate and I prepared to strike. The minute she entered the church door, I shot one well-aimed poison barb that I knew would cripple her right there and then. Of course, I was not so stupid as to mention anyone by name, but I could see I had hit the bull’s-eye because she faltered in her step. It was a miracle that she sat through that service!

It is not easy to love. That is something I have come to discover. The words “I love you” fill the air but much of the time we do not realize that true love can only come out of a mature Christian. It can only come out of a heart that has been tested and tried by God Himself. And we can be assured that when God tries a man’s heart, it is no lullaby. He grabs you by the neck and gives you a bear-shake. The Bible puts it this way: “… but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb 12:26,27).

I have a responsibility to “publish” the Good News first in my family – to my wife and children – before I can step out that door. It is neither an easy undertaking, nor is it one that I can take lightly. But I must. I need to depend on the grace of God daily to accomplish this.

This is the reason I am obsessed with my wife. God is working in both of us to bring us to a place where we can relate to one another spiritually. A place where “iron sharpens iron”. A place where God’s truth reigns supreme between us. A place where one can tell the other, “No, don’t take that road!” A place where we are willing to lay down our lives (read rights) for one another.

God is not interested in a conventional husband/wife relationship. He expects something more, something infinitely much deeper, something spiritual.

Can anyone deny that Ananias and Sapphira, of whom we read in Acts chapter 5, ‘loved’ each other. Oh, yes, they did – to the extent that they could gang up to do evil together! Theirs was not a spiritual relationship. But God wants us in the Church to have a spiritual relationship. If the revelation of the Cross of Christ is there in a relationship, that is the right, spiritual relationship. If that revelation is not there in a couple’s lives and they are not carrying the death of Christ, theirs cannot be considered a spiritual relationship. It will be a relationship all right, but it is not spiritual.

Lastly, I can confess that allowing my flesh to be dealt with is the most difficult thing in my life. But, on the other hand, it is also the sweetest of victories when I find myself winning even a tiny bit of the many battles that the Spirit wages against the flesh in me. My greatest consolation is that I can see the narrow road ahead. I cannot say I see the end of it now, but I am sure if I keep walking it one day I shall lay hold of the crown of Life that awaits me at the end of this road. What a relief – and a joy – that will be!

Seasons of Our Lives

Ecc 3:1-8  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Recently a brother from a church in a neighboring country visited our country on a business trip. We welcomed him into our house and he stayed with my family for a week. During that period of time, he and I were constantly together since he needed me to direct him to the various places he was to visit.

This brother amazed me in that he would not stop talking about me.  He would keep telling me things like:

“Brother, I am amazed at the grace you have!”

“Oh, you handled that situation so well!”

“What a wonderful family you have! There is so much freedom in your home!”

It was quite a revelation to me. I frankly did not know that much about myself!

Now, I am not so stupid as to allow myself to be carted off on the praises of a man, however sincere they may be. But, apart from that, it was the fact that I did not exactly see what this brother’s excitement was all about. We may be the ‘perfect’ family, but we are not exactly angels in my house and I was pretty sure there were quite a number of things he could notice in us that were not truly Christ-like; some of which, truth be said, were prominently displayed right on the doorpost! But the brother did not appear to notice any of these faults. On the contrary, he was quick and sincere in expressing his opinions about all the wonderful things that he saw in me and my family. The remarkable thing was that one could clearly feel the genuineness of his heart. My family and I were challenged by his positive outlook of things and we immensely enjoyed his stay with us.

But things have not always gone so well for me. There were times when I have been maligned, opposed and hit upon.

After this brother left, I reflected on what had been going on and the above scripture came to mind. I realized that there will be many different seasons in our spiritual lives. There will be good times and bad times; light times and heavy times; cheery times and sad times. There will be times when men will praise us and there will be times when they will revile us for Christ’s sake. The obvious fact here is that in all these circumstances it is our hearts that are being tested.

When things go well for us, as when that young man praised me so richly, something in my heart is being tested. I am being ‘shaken’. If anything good can be found in me, it is so that glory may be given to my Savior Lord Jesus, Who it is that has crafted me to that degree. It is a time for me to fall down in utter contempt of who I am without Him.

On the other hand, when men rise up against me, that same heart is being tested in another area: most likely the area of love.

This is what happened to the Apostle Paul in nearly every city that he preached in. The classic example involves the Galatian church which initially welcomed him into their midst “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” But not long afterwards these same men considered Paul an enemy because he stuck to the truth from which they were slowly sliding away from (vs 16). He had become their enemy! Can you see that?

But on all occasions in his dealings with them, Paul’s heart remained steadfast. He never allowed himself to feel uplifted by the praise of men, even when he knew that what they said about his ministry to them was true. And when people opposed Paul, he did not rave and rant or threaten them. Through the grace of God that was in him, Paul continued loving them and laying down his life for them. He tells the Galatians: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (vs 19).

That is the heart of Christ that we should carry always.

I wish you all a lovely Sunday!

Of Baptisms…

Mat_20:23:  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.

I hate being bogged down in theology, and the subject of baptism is one sure quicksand in that respect. But, despite the clear risks, I want to attempt to address something about this subject here.

Did you ever notice that during His earthly ministry Jesus never baptized anyone in water? The Bible does say in John 3:22 that “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized”; but in the very following chapter we read: “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)” John 4:1-2.

The reason Jesus personally did not baptize with water was because He had not come to baptize people with that baptism. He had another baptism with which He would baptize His followers. In Mat_3:11  we see John the Baptist contrasting his (water) baptism with the baptism that Jesus would administer: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Both Paul and John the Baptist caught the revelation of what Jesus would be coming to accomplish in men and women’s hearts. The difference, though, was that John, being of the older order, saw this revelation from afar, as it were – like the prophets of old. When he was in prison, he would begin doubting what he has seen of Jesus, for he had seen Him more in the natural than in the spirit. Paul, on the other hand, not only received a clearer and fuller spiritual revelation of who Jesus was and the work He was to accomplish, but he fully lived and experienced that revelation in the spirit. It consumed his entire being. The outcome of it is that today we are partakers of the fruits of Paul’s experiences through the gospel he received and lived. His gospel and life have enriched all believers’ lives. This was the same gospel that the Early Apostles and the Early Church lived.

Long before John the Baptist would talk of the Holy Spirit and fire, God had spoken these same words through Isaiah. Isaiah 43:2 says “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

We see that even under the Old Testament God had never promised His people that they would live a life free of trouble. He promised to baptize them.

John and James were two of Jesus’ closest disciples, yet He could tell them these same words. I doubt that we can expect anything less.

What is the fire the Bible is talking about? The reality of the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians is brought to our lives through the many trials and tests that we are made to go through daily. Through these we experience first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He moulds us into the image of Christ and enables us to live a holy and righteous life in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). When we live the revelation that Jesus brought and that Paul elucidates in his epistles, that is our true baptism.

We will be tempted and tried in many ways. Many of us, unaware of the need for this baptism, constantly cry out to God to set us free from these trials and temptations. But that is exactly the baptism that God desires to have us pass through: the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. We cannot expect, for example, to learn how to forgive if we are not hurt or wounded on the inside. We fear having our feelings hurt and yet that is the very area where God wants to touch our lives so that He may set us free from our selfish nature.

If there is an area in our lives where we are struggling in the flesh, we should stop everything and cry out to God to set us free. He will give us His Holy Spirit who will enable us to stand our ground as we are being put through the fire. That fire will purify us as we by faith anticipate the outcome, which is becoming worthy (golden) vessels to carry the Life of God, like the Apostles did.