Interlude: The Last Days… (Part 1)

11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. Amos 8:11-12

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified… 1 Cor. 1:22-23

“SURELY, THESE ARE THE DAYS OF HIS DREADFUL SERVANT”.

Really?! Unless you are talking of the dreadlocks.

The truth is that these are the days of the fulfillment of Amos’s prophecy in Amos 8:11-12 This prophecy is being fulfilled right before our eyes. Imagine all these millions of people waiting… for nothing. Even if the fire had come (no sign of it in the video) still it wouldn’t change them, for God is no longer in the signs and wonders, but in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the revelation of the cross, working mightily in us.

The church in these last days would do well to stay put and pray for the revelation that the Apostle Paul had.

These are the days when an astonishing number of false prophets shall rise up to deceive the elect. But these are also the days of the truth of God’s Word.

Advertisements

The Testimony Of Philemon – Part 1

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mat. 5:6)

The week following our visit to the churches in Lighwa (see my recent post, “An Unforgettable ‘Safari’”), the Lord granted me the immense pleasure of visiting yet another village. This time, it was the church in Minyughe, where our very first village church is located. I was delivering on a promise I had made to the local pastor, Paul Dude, some months back. This church is growing at a very satisfactory rate, both in numbers and in spiritual stature and we regularly send pastors from our pastorate in Singida Town to minister there. But I personally had not visited for a considerable while, and it was with much pleasure that I finally found myself on a bus headed to Minyughe.

When I arrived, Pastor Dude took me to see Brother Philemon and his wife, two of the people that we have ‘fished’ from the big charismatic denominations. We fish out –without apologies – people who are tired of going to these and other dead or dying churches. These are people who are tired of all the lifeless hype and the twisting of scripture to serve men’s selfish purposes that goes on in these churches. For this reason, we have become enemies of very big church people here – pastors, bishops, self-appointed apostles and every kind of self-serving preacher. But we march on unfaltering and unfazed.

That does not mean we do not evangelize and bring in brand new converts, people who are receiving Jesus into their lives for the first time. But it is the former group that I wish to talk on for a while. Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mat. 5:6)

There are two groups of believers: those who hunger for the truth; and those who don’t. According to scripture, there people in church who will hunger after other things other than the righteousness of God. That is what it says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

That scripture right there is talking about people who are in church! But the gospel of Jesus Christ is for those who thirst and hunger for the truth. There are people who hunger for the truth of God’s Word, praise God! These people are not satisfied by the lies and theatrics that go on in much of so-called churchdom. Nor by the signs and wonders. Of signs and wonders, Jesus said tiredly,

“Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mk. 8:12)

In fact, let us read the entire account.

“11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.” (Mk. 8:11-13)

Notice verse 12. So tiring, this business of seeking after miracles.

Notice also verse 13. It says He left the sign seekers. It does not say that He left them and came back some time later.

When someone who thirsts and hungers for the truth hears God’s Word – the gospel of the cross (as so clearly stated forth by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23) – they throw off everything and go for it with all their hearts. Such a man is Philemon and his wife.

I arrived late in Minyughe and Pastor Dude took me to see Philemon that same evening. Even before we arrived at his house, the stars had already began peeking out of the clear sky. In the fading light of the evening we found Philemon seated outside, shaving his daughter’s head ready for school the next day. How happy he was to see us, and how glad we were to see him! It was like an old family reunion.

We thought we would be staying at his house for ten minutes or so, but we ended up staying for more than an hour. Philemon had a story he wanted to narrate to me. He wanted to tell me the story of his conversion, and I gladly obliged. I blocked out everything else, including the time of night, and gave myself wholly to his audience. The following is Philemon’s testimony of his salvation, told in his own words.

[Night had already began setting in when we went to see Philemon]

Image18984

[We found Philemon shaving his daughter’s head]

Image18995

Itching Ears vs God’s Word – Part 1

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim. 4:1-4

[Before saying anything, let me express my heartfelt condolences and empathy to the victims and relatives of all who who were killed or injured during the Bastille Day terrorist attack this Thursday in France. Mine are not mere words, but my heart is torn apart by the violence that we are witnessing in every corner of the world on an almost daily basis. France has been hit particularly hard by terrorists, and my heart goes out to this lovely nation. May God bless and comfort you all.

All said and done, it is time for everyone to turn to God through believing the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.]

Now, to the main article…

The Apostle Paul wrote many warnings and many “charges”, or commandments, to his spiritual son Timothy. This was because Paul, being an apostle and a prophet, saw in the Spirit things that would happen in the future, and what he saw troubled him greatly. He saw a time of great apostasy within the church, when God’s people would shun the truth and hanker after doctrines that would cater to the flesh. And it was revealed to him that there would be no shortage of preachers to lead God’s people down that road.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy there would come “perilous” times (1 Tim. 3:1), and that these times would occur on Timothy’s watch. “Perilous” means dangerous. Dangerous times for the church would come in Timothy’s time.

And so here we see Paul charging Timothy, and that before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to… “Preach the word”. Then he adds something else there: preach “sound doctrine”.

What is “the word”? The Word of God is scripture. In our case, it is the Bible. The Bible is the reference point of everything we say or do. This was the same Book that was there in the early church’s time, even if not in its entirety. Jesus Himself stuck to scripture.

Here Paul was therefore telling Timothy: “You must be a stickler to the holy scriptures”.

I love that with all my heart. Sticking to the Bible seems to be a problematic thing with believers in our day. People read out the Bible all right, but they cannot seem to align their words (and actions) to what the Word says. More so, sound doctrine is lacking in an even greater extent in today’s church. People prefer to hear things that tickle them. But, if we are to believe Paul’s words here (which we should), sound doctrine has been lacking in the church for a long, long time. Two thousand years, to be exact.

Do you believe that Timothy met with the state of affairs that Paul describes in his two letters to him? I believe he did.

And so, therefore, Paul commands Timothy to “preach the Word”. God’s Word would be the answer to the coming apostasy.

It is incredible how the Word of God has been compromised today. I once attended a burial service in our town and the preacher who was to deliver the sermon, a man whom I knew well, read a scripture from the Book of Philippians. There was a huge crowd there that day and when it came to hearing the Word of God, there was dead silence. In our country, people respect the Word of God. They may not necessarily believe it, but they have a primitive fear of God.

The air was absolutely clear and, as the man read the scripture, I could feel every word dropping into my heart. So much so that I could also feel the hairs on my body stand. The Word of God, when read under certain circumstances, is tremendously powerful. I am sure that God wanted to speak to the sea of people there that day, and that He gave the man that particular scripture to read. God loves His people, and He wanted to bless them.

But it was not to be. It is beyond belief what happened the minute the preacher began his sermon. The minute he closed his Bible and began preaching, the man of God shot off on a tangent and from the first sentence to the last, nothing he said had any connection with the powerful scripture he had just read.

Utterly deflated and shocked, I looked for some shade and sat down. But I was not entirely surprised. I had known for some time that many preachers today read the Word of God in church only as a formality, but what they speak afterwards is the fruit of their mind rather than obeying God’s command to “preach the word”.

Amongst the more progressive circles within the church today, motivational speaking takes the place of preaching the Word. Preachers say things which have no basis in the Word of God and they expand on them to invent doctrines. The Bible calls these things “fables”. Motivational speaking in church creates “fables”. And here we are talking of Pentecostal churches.

This was what Paul warned Timothy about. In other words, he commanded Timothy to stick to the Word. He instructed him not to give heed to fanciful ideas that might come from his head – and from a lustful heart.

Let me end by saying that if there was a way to force preachers to stick to the Word of God, many – very many – would drop from ministry. Probably out of every ten preachers only one would remain. The situation is that serious. This is because these preachers would find in the Word truths that they are currently not aware of, either due to a lack of revelation, or simply because they cannot “endure sound doctrine” and they deliberately ignore Biblical truth. They would find that there are many things that they cannot speak and do. They would find, for example, that the Word of God curtails the freedom that they exercise in formulating their own doctrines. They would find, too, that the church is not there to amass worldly wealth. The church is not to say, “We are blessed” simply because someone has purchased a new car or a new private jet.

In the early days of my salvation, in the 1990s, preachers were attracted to a Korean car called Musso Ssangyong. Urban-based preachers competed to own a Musso. That was the “blessing” in those years. Many years later I would meet with those same Mussos, now very old, spewing smoke on the road like furnaces, and dragging to one side.

Today’s “blessings” amongst preachers consist of private jets and private estates. They, too, will pass away.

True blessings, however, are of the Spirit. It says so in Ephesians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

You don’t see a private jet mentioned there, do you? That is the heart of God.

[This is one of my favorite songs. I hope you enjoy it]

Seeing Men Through God’s Eyes

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Rom. 12:16

At my age I know a thing or two about the world we live in, and one of those things is that this particular scripture is one of the hardest things to achieve in this world. And here I do not need to go very far; all I have to do is to look at myself and I see how difficult it is to condescend to men of lower estate than I. It is one of the most testing tasks.

It is all right for the world to have such high-level attitudes as are described in this scripture because the world is not the paradise most people think it is; on the contrary, the Bible calls it “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). The world is an evil place and here men take it as a matter of course to condescend to men of high estate, but not to men of low estate.

Again, notice that man has nothing good but his “own conceits”. That talks of the pride in our hearts. Pride makes us to think we are better than others. It also makes us to differentiate between men.

But that state of affairs ought not to occur in church. The Bible in 1 Tim. 3:15 calls the church “the pillar and ground of the truth.”

And what, pray, is the truth?

The truth of God’s Word is stated in Luke 3:5-6:

“5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The church is level. The Bible exhorts us to be “… of the same mind one toward another.” Here there are no ‘touchables’ and ‘untouchables’. There are no learned and unlearned. There are no rich and poor, no privileged and unprivileged. There are no white and black, yellow or brown men. The church is one single unit and each believer a member in that unit. The Bible actually puts it this way:

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Rom. 12:5

What exactly does it mean by “every one members one of another”?

That is a cryptic scripture. But all it means is that we are meant to serve one another. God has put us in church to serve the other members of His Body – not ourselves. The highest person in the Kingdom of God is the one who of his own will and with all his heart becomes a servant to others.

The classic example of how Jesus treated men is that of blind Bartimaeus. Mark narrates the account in this manner.

“46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. 52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.” Mk. 10:46-52

Now, notice that Bartimaeus was not only blind, he was also a beggar. This is highly intolerable with men. In any society, beggars are the lowest of the low in terms of humanity, and they are tolerated only for tolerance’s sake. At best, they are ignored.

It is no wonder, therefore, what happened with Bartimaeus. Men in their bloated minds had placed Jesus on a worldly pedestal. To them, He was ‘Jesus the Great’. So they commanded the blind beggar to shut up and mind his place. How dare he, a nothing, disturb the greatest man that the world had ever seen? What nerve this fellow had! What…!!

But Jesus had a different spirit. He had not come down to seek the greatness of this world. He came down to the world to be nothing. (And that was exactly the reason why, as Philippians 2:9 says, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”.)

Jesus heard Bartimaeus and, to the surprise of everyone, He stopped in His tracks and called for Bartimaeus to be brought to Him. In an instant, the castoff became the star. In their eyes, Bartimaeus was now an exalted man. And after he was healed, these same men rushed to take selfies with him. Men love worldly acclaim!

But God looks upon the heart. He considers the humble heart. The man who has died to self can do what Jesus did with ease, and please God.

This is the reason why, every time I look at scripture, I understand more and more why Paul wrote the Corinthians:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

The cross is the ONLY solution to the flesh. Therein lies the power of God’s grace. Jesus had this power in Him and therefore He loved and esteemed men – from top to bottom. What a grace!

[Below: Downtown Singida: Through the simple things that they do in their daily lives each man sets out to be in a class of his own]

Image12563

Our Mandate – Grace

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. Jn. 1:12-16

Before I go ahead and discuss today’s subject, I have an apology to make. I wouldn’t want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that this blog is running extremely well. My readers will certainly have noticed that, of late, I have been posting very irregularly, and that my posts are few and far between. I pray that no one will interpret this as a sign of slackness on my part, for I carry the running of this blog as a serious responsibility from God.

The reason for my long absence here has to do with other responsibilities which have recently cropped up and had to be dealt with. But they are only temporary, and I will soon be free to run this blog like clockwork.

My apologies, therefore, to all those who might have began thinking that I had given up on this blog! Not, by the longest shot.

Today I want us to meditate on our responsibility as children of God. As sons and daughters of God, we have a responsibility in this world. We are called to be men and women of grace – and truth. Let us combine verses 12 and 16 in this portion of scripture, which makes perfect sense:

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name… And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

The Bible here says that we who have believed in Christ have received the fulness of God’s grace. In other words, we potentially have as much grace as Jesus had when He was here on earth. For Jesus came and lived on earth in the body of flesh, without sin (v.14). Even in the flesh Jesus reflected the fulness of God’s grace and truth.

I can almost hear a pin drop as we contemplate the profundity of this fact. Knowing how weak we are, we wonder if that could even have been possible.

But as children of God, we are mandated to carry the same grace and truth that Jesus carried. Why? Because this was God’s mandate to Jesus, and Jesus accomplished it to the full. How could we do less?

But carrying the grace and truth of God is not easy, for it requires death to the flesh. The Apostle Paul was one of the people who fought valiantly against the flesh, and yet he had this to say:

“18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom. 7:18-19)

In other words, Paul by and of himself could not carry the grace of God and do that which pleased God.

Paul concludes cryptically:

“24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (vs. 24-25)

But in Galatians 6:14, he explains exactly what he means by these words.

“14 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.”

Paul knew what he wanted. It was only through the cross that Paul could find the grace and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So Paul gladly welcomed the cross and the sufferings of Christ into his life.

Where can we find true joy? It is when our flesh is crucified on the cross. This is where we can find true spiritual victory. This is what we find with Paul, the apostles and the early church.

Unfortunately, the flesh does not love to be crucified. The enemy of our souls, the devil, knowing this, has set in the path of God’s people heretical gospels, gospels that cater to the flesh. And men, as long as they have “religion” in their system, are contented. When God’s people are following only religion, but are not allowing the crucifixion of their flesh, there is no spiritual growth in their lives; and it is this growth that makes us men and women of grace and truth.

If the Church today is serious about fulfilling God’s mandate to carry His grace and truth as our Lord Jesus did, then there can be only one way to achieving this: it is by walking in the revelation of the cross, denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

Only through the power of resurrection can we truly walk in God’s grace and truth.

Finally, let us consider what it means to walk in God’s grace and truth.

It means being a good person. But it is more than that. It is to be spiritual, something which is infinitely far beyond being just good. Being a spiritual person is knowing the will of God. And in most cases the will of God has nothing to do with being good in the natural.

[Below: A young boy in Mwanza City breezes along in his wooden ‘car’]

Image10933

The True Gospel

32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 10:32-35

There are many gospels that are preached today in the name of Jesus. Amongst the most well-known of these is the prosperity gospel. Today, nearly everyone in the Christian world has heard of the prosperity gospel. The minute you mention “Prosperity gospel” everyone knows what you are talking about. It is that popular.

The prosperity gospel is vast in its scope. It has given birth to many different branches and sub-branches of teachings and beliefs. Most of the great Pentecostal ministries today – whatever their leaning – have their roots in the gospel of prosperity.

But the prosperity gospel is an aberrant in light of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it is built on the premise of receiving, rather than giving. One of the most prominent preachers of the prosperity gospel, on being asked to justify the opulent lifestyle that he lives, replied, “We gave, we believed, we received”.

The object, therefore, of the prosperity gospel is to receive. In light of the true gospel of Jesus Christ which demands our lives, this perspective is simplistic, and ultimately fatal, for it seeks to turn the gospel of Jesus Christ upside down.

I have watched interview after interview of many of the prominent preachers of the gospel of prosperity, and whenever they were asked about their lavish way of life, none was ever able to provide a clear answer to this question. They mumbled this and that, but they always made sure that whatever they said was pretty vague. One of them managed to say, “… We are open!” before walking off and leaving the reporter – and the viewer – more bewildered than ever. Incredible. And yet a man of God ought to be seen to be open.

But the gospel that Jesus came to preach is totally different from the gospel of prosperity. Here you hide nothing, simply because you have no reason to. Your life is not your own; it is given totally to Christ.

Unfortunately, this gospel is less well-known, and this is because it is not popular among preachers. Few preach it. This gospel is so lacking in our modern churches that when you mention it most people will think you are a cultist.

And yet… this gospel is actually the real message of the Bible. It is the message that our Lord Jesus brought to His people. It is the gospel over which the Apostle Paul wrote that he would not preach another, except it alone.

Moreover, this gospel has a name: it is called

“Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2); or, the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ.

This is a gospel that desires nothing of this world, and is therefore the only gospel that can make us to fulfill the great commission which Christ gave to the church:

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

God wants to light up in our hearts the knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, who not only became poor that we might become rich, but who also gave His life to be a ransom for many.

That, as we see with the Apostle Paul here, was the heart that the early church carried.

Dare we, the present church, carry a different spirit? I believe not. Amongst the many gospels competing for our attention, we must choose, and we must choose the right one.

The right gospel can only be the gospel of “Christ, and him crucified”.

In conclusion, let me add a personal thought. I believe the reason that these rich prosperity preachers will never provide a clear answer as to why they own so much wealth is because, having arrived at their goal, they turn around and realize that what they have so joyously embraced is not the TRUTH!! In a way, therefore, they are embarrassed whenever someone asks them about the incomprehensible riches that they own.

[Below: Life in rural Tanzania: even owning a bicycle is a luxury to most people. But still many happily hear the right gospel]

Image9709

Seeing The Cross – Part 1

11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. Jer. 1:11-12

This scripture is talking about visions and dreams. Jeremiah saw a vision. People today are having visions and dreams of every sort; but Jeremiah also had a vision, a vision from God.

In this two- or three-part series, I want to discuss the significance of what Jeremiah saw in light of the New Covenant.

First, let us consider God’s reaction to Jeremiah after Jeremiah had told God what he had seen. When Jeremiah told God what he had seen, God answered him:

“… Thou hast well seen…”.

The word “well” implies a commendation. It implies approval. In this scripture, in simple but powerful terms, God tells Jeremiah that He approves of what he had seen. In other words, God was pleased with Jeremiah.

Do you know how difficult it is for God to be pleased with man? For a man to please God is probably one of the most difficult things that can happen in the spiritual world. This is because we are so wicked! Actually, God’s final word on man is found in Genesis 6:6 where the Bible says that it “grieved (God) at his heart” that He had made man. Take a moment to meditate on that.

And – impossible as it might seem – man has gotten only worse since Genesis 6:6.

But here we see God praising Jeremiah. Why was God pleased with Jeremiah? It was because Jeremiah saw exactly the thing that God wanted him to see.

Had Jeremiah seen something different, God would most certainly have told him, “Jeremiah, you have not seen well!”

But here we see God telling Jeremiah, “Thou hast well seen”.

Clearly, therefore, God is pleased with the man or woman who can see in the Spirit. In fact, I believe that the only person with whom God can be pleased with is the man who sees in the Spirit. This is because when one sees in the Spirit he sees exactly the thing that God wants him to see, and God is happy with such an one.

We read in the Gospel of John 4:23: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

When it says “worship”, the Bible is not talking about a praise and worship session. On the contrary – as we shall see in the next part of this post – it is talking about the totality of our way of life with the Lord. It is talking about our walk in the Spirit. We must walk as the Lord walks.

Jeremiah therefore was not someone who dreamed a dream or saw a vision in the natural. He was a man who first caught something in the Spirit and subsequently walked in the light of what he had seen.

This pleased the Lord exceedingly.

[Seeing in the Spirit is a way of life!]

Image2397