His Grace Is Sufficient

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9

Today – and, indeed, throughout this week – I cannot hide my joy at the revelation of the cross that the Lord has brought into my heart. Throughout the last week, I had been ministering to several of our churches in Dodoma Region, and I ministered so well that the Lord decided to reward me. Yes, the Lord rewarded me; but you would be surprised at the way the Lord rewards us. I am sure my flesh would have loved it had the Lord rewarded me with a red Porsche (yeah, I particularly love the color red on a car); but the Lord did not do that. On the contrary, God is Spirit, and He had only one way to go about rewarding me: the spiritual way.

So how did the Lord go about it?

The Lord rewarded me with the revelation of the cross! The revelation of the cross is God’s reward to those He loves for in Hebrews 12:6 the Bible tells us:

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

(Perhaps today’s loving parents may need to take a leaf from the Lord about how to raise their children. I am so glad our parents brought us up the Biblical way!)

Anyways, back to our subject: me. The Lord has been showing me new (and old) areas in my life that need to die. Moreover, the Lord has been chastising me about how strong and wise I have become lately in the flesh, and He has been telling me anew how weak and foolish I need to become in order to carry His grace, His strength, His wisdom, His life.

There are many new (and old) areas in my life that the Lord has been showing me that I am still a strong, tough guy. These are areas where I am still holding onto my things, my rights and my life. It is in my rights especially that I have found I am still stuck way deep in the flesh. I am quick to claim my rights!

But the Lord has been quick to show me this weakness – and to give me the strength to begin to release them. Much of the time, of course, our rights and our life are things that are hidden deep within us, and we cannot see them. But when God shines His probing light into our hearts, we see them clearly. But even more importantly, we see exactly what we need to do about them.

Just when my heart begins to become cold and hard towards a person or a situation, the Lord points me to the cross; and I repent.

Sometimes the things that make us to stumble are so trivial that we feel ashamed to even admit them. And sometimes they are so deep we fear to admit them. But whatever the case, we need to bring them up to the Lord and tell Him, “Lord, this is my weakness. I have sinned here, and I need your forgiveness and the strength to go beyond this weakness.”

The Apostle Paul rejoiced at the revelation of the cross in his heart. He rejoiced at how weak and foolish he was required to become. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 he says:

“12… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 13 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

What does Paul mean by “strong”? What strength is he talking about?

It is the grace of God. When we allow ourselves to become weak and foolish in this world for the sake of the gospel, then the grace of God is shed abundantly in our lives. And in that manner alone can we be of any value to the Kingdom of God. Of what use or value are we if we are not carrying God’s grace? Allow me to use the word “useless”. You and I are useless in the Kingdom of God if we do not carry the grace of God in us. And that grace comes to us when we have crucified the flesh.

God’s grace enables us to forgive those who wrong us; it enables us to love our enemies, and to pray for them;  it enables us to ask for forgiveness when we wrong others. God’s grace fills us with the love of God through which we become of inexpressible value to our fellow men.

Moreover, the grace of God keeps us. It makes us to constantly be filled with joy, faith and hope.

I cannot possibly list a tiny portion of the benefits of the grace of God in our lives for when we talk of the grace of God we are talking about the life of God.

Suffice it to say that this grace was the Apostle Paul, and the Early Church chased after with all their strength.

[His grace suffices]

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A Fool For God

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

What incredible words! God has declared that He will not reveal His secret to the wise of this world. I know this will not go down well with the educated people of this world; but much learning actually puts one at risk of missing out on the things of God. The sharper the human mind, the more of an enemy it becomes with God. The smarter we get in this world, the further we move away from understanding the things of the Spirit.

We could say that the human mind is the earthly engine; while the heart is the spiritual engine. When we give too much power to the human mind, we give that much more room for worldly things and wisdom to come into our lives. On the other hand, when we crucify that mind and give more place to the heart, we grasp more of the things of the Spirit.

So what is the conclusion?

Become a fool in this world. Strive to become nothing. Unfortunately (for the flesh), that is the singular solution to arriving at the things of the Spirit. You cannot grasp the things of the Spirit with your mind; and the smarter you become, the further you go away from them. That’s a fact.

The Bible says,

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God…” (v.21)

Actually, God had no option. The world by its wisdom would not acknowledge God. So God chose a different path to get to man…

“… it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Yap. God chose the foolish way of believing, not of wisdom. When the spirit of man hears the gospel, and a man makes the decision to believe in Jesus, all the while the human mind is fruitless! If it were up to the mind to help you believe, only those with Ph.Ds would get saved!

God nails this down even further. He says in 1 Cor. 1:26-31:

“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

I recall an interesting story my fellow pastor told me. Probably most people who read this blog think I am the sharpest tool in the barn. Well, you would be shocked…

This pastor told me what occurred at his church when I first preached there. It was the first church that I preached in when I came to Singida. Immediately after the service ended, the assistant pastor pulled his senior pastor aside, an elderly man, and trying unsuccessfully to control himself, he told the pastor, “Of all the people you have brought here to preach, this is the dumbest of them all. Where did you pick him up from? No one here understood a word he said; certainly not I.”

Later that night at home, when the pastor was in bed with his wife, she said sarcastically, “At least bring to church someone who can speak!

Luckily for me, I was not made aware of all this hullabaloo until much, much later, after God had put all my enemies in that church under my footstool. Today, all three are my most trusted right-hand men (and woman) here in Singida.

That is how the gospel works. That is how God’s power moves. It moves in weakness, and in foolishness.

[A fool. Perfect.]

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The Church’s One Foundation

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation… 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 3:10-11

Let me begin by trying to get your attention. Let me begin by stating that the foundation of the church is weakness and foolishness.

I am so glad I was able to state that.

Every structure has to have a foundation. Actually, every thing has a foundation. But it cannot just be any foundation. The firmer the foundation, the easier and more securely the structure which is built on that foundation will rest. The structures or things that we see in the natural that have been built by God are unspeakably secure. We see them: the planets and galaxies in the cosmos; the sun and the stars. They are immovable. Even the mighty ocean cannot overcome the boundaries that God has set for it, even though all the world’s rivers, both mighty and small, have been flowing into it for thousands of years.

One can add so many things to this list. All these things have a foundation, and it is this foundation that makes them secure and immovable.

This is incomparably more so in the Spirit. If God can secure His creation in the natural to the extent that we see with our natural eyes, how much more would He do for the things of the Spirit, which are of far much more value to Him? You can therefore imagine just how strong the foundations of the things of the Spirit are. Chief amongst these things – the thing He values above all – is the gospel. This is the singular thing which God was willing to give His Son to die for.

(Don’t you think that for this reason we ought to take a moment to reflect and thank God that it was for us that He did this incredible act of selflessness.)

The gospel  of Jesus Christ has a foundation, thank God!! And what, pray, is this foundation?

It is Jesus Christ Himself, Christ crucified. The minute you remove the word “crucified” you have removed the foundation from under the gospel, and that gospel will crumble like a card of sticks.

Thankfully, “Christ crucified” was the foundation that the Apostle Paul lay in the Corinthian church when he first preached the Good News to them. When Paul uses the words “wise masterbuilder” to describe himself, he is not seeking after our accolades. Rather, he is stating a spiritual fact which is so important for the church. He is stating the wisdom of God.

Paul directed the Corinthians to the cross. He told them to accept sufferings for the gospel’s sake, and to crucify self, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in them.

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

“… we preach Christ crucified”. (1 Cor. 1:23)

Paul told the Corinthians to accept to become weak, and foolish. What a challenge! But the Corinthians rose up to it, and Paul left behind a strong, holy and united church in Corinth. Everyone had surrendered their lives to Christ.

What a strong foundation the Apostle Paul had laid! For as long as the Corinthians stood on this foundation, they were safe and secure. Since they had denied themselves and taken up their cross, it was the easiest thing for them, in everything, to find themselves standing together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Wow! What a testimony!

It is not easy for any number of people to stand together “in the same mind and in the same judgment”. Human nature simply cannot allow that. But with God all things are possible. With “Christ crucified” firmly enthroned in our hearts, it is so much possible!

But not long after Paul left them, the Corinthians began listening to other doctrines and teachings. Probably they heard the gospel of prosperity, who knows? Or a gospel of law and prescriptions. They could have heard any number of strange gospels. But it is clear they were no longer adhering to the gospel that Paul left them with, “Christ crucified”. For this reason, they came off the foundation of the cross.

And now they were no longer secure! Now there was war, fraction, and every kind of evil work amongst them.  They had come off the only secure place God had given them; the revelation of the cross in their hearts had been darkened. And now they were on another, different foundation, which was fast crumbling.

The church today cannot expect to become spiritual without this revelation in our hearts. There is no other way, and there is no shortcut. The words of the Apostle Paul, backed by the authority of God:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

It is a foundation of weakness and foolishness… weakness and foolishness with Christ.

[True unity in church can only come about through a revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 3

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12-13

One day I had a dream. In the dream, we were at a sort of pier, and people were queuing up to pay for their tickets. Upon looking behind me, I saw Jesus standing right behind me. He had a sort of string purse, and He was trying to dig inside, looking for some money. But there was nothing inside.

In the dream, I turned around and, with tears in my eyes, I said to Him, “Jesus, I could never have thought that you would not be having money!”

At which I gladly took out my own money and paid for His ticket.

I woke up from my dream my heart pounding with excitement. This was one of the clearest dreams I had ever had, and in it I had unmistakably served the Lord in the clearest way possible! I stayed there in my bed for a while, awed by the wonder of it that dream.

The Lord, however, was not about to let me have a picnic with that. He quickly brought me down to earth by bringing a few scriptures to my mind.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17); and,

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17).

And, finally,

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)

The Lord showed me that loving and serving Him was all about loving and serving my brothers and sisters whom I dwell with down here on earth. Doing so pleases the Lord just as much as if I had served Him in person.

I have not written this story to show how cozy I am with Jesus. Only God truly knows about that (1 Cor. 4:5). Rather, I have written it to illustrate that when He was here on earth, the Lord walked in need, in spite of the fact that He had many women ministering to Him (Mk. 15:40-41). It was the kind of lifestyle He had chosen.

But, back to Paul. Let us have another look at that scripture.

“12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (2 Cor. 12:12-13)

This is the only place in the scriptures where Paul refers to the mighty works that were done through him by the Lord. Is that not so different from many modern preachers, some of whom have raised up ministries based solely on the mighty works they perform? Many years ago, when I was living in our neighboring country of Kenya, I saw a poster that said, “A man of miracles comes to Nairobi.”

The Apostle Paul would not have written such a poster. A man once asked me, “Who are you in your church?”

He wanted to know what position I held in church.

I told him, “I don’t know.”

He thought I was being arrogant. But he was trying to back me into the very corner that I was scrambling to get out of.

Today, many men of God want to be something. But neither Jesus nor the Apostles had that goal.

Anyway, to end. The Apostle Paul talked extensively about himself in all his epistles. But all the talk about himself was only about his weaknesses, or his “infirmities”, as the Bible refers to them. He talked only about the things he suffered for the gospel’s sake. That was his singular boast. He would gladly have boasted in his many accomplishments; but the Lord told him, “No.”

And now, in these scriptures, he reveals a mind-blowing fact about his life. That he gloried in his LACK. Paul worked in the church at Corinth in great want. So much so that the church in Macedonia had to come to his aid (2 Cor. 11:9)

Whilst great miracles and mighty deeds were done through him by the Lord to confirm Paul’s calling as an apostle; yet Paul would not glory in these. On the contrary, he was looking to and rejoicing at his material and financial lack in the midst of the Corinthians. In other words, what concerned him most was the cross working in him!

I don’t know about you. But my heart rejoices when I see the beauty of the cross. The cross was the singular revelation that drove Paul’s life. And today, you cannot afford to preach the gospel without mentioning Paul, so influential is his life.

No Longer After The Flesh – Part 2

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…”

When it comes to boasting in the things of the flesh, we are pros. That is where the flesh is at. But God is so far removed from such things. In fact, the Bible says that God resides in the third heaven. Not the first, or second, but in the third heaven. So when the Apostle Paul came from visiting God in the third heaven, he had enough spiritual sense not to boast in the things of the flesh (as he thought he knew the flesh). He had enough sense not to say, “Oh, you know, I am so educated.” Or, “I was once a Pharisee!” Or, “I am a Roman citizen” (which was a tough spot for a Jew to gain in those days).

And yet, these are the things we boast of when we do not have the revelation of Christ in us. We hear preachers introducing themselves with the theological degrees they have attained in this world. But all such people are looking for there is worldly acclaim, nothing else. And it is so pitiful.

But, still, about Paul. Although he had the sense not to boast in his natural attainments, still he wanted to boast! He was looking for any way to boast. (The flesh is not an ordinary enemy!}

So now he looked for another way to boast. He decided it was okay to boast in the things he had seen in heaven. There appeared no harm there.

The long and short of it was Paul was tempted to boast. He says in 2 Cor. 12:7:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…”

He wanted to boast, although whatever he would have said was true and of God. He had gone to heaven and seen things which it is lawful for man to utter.

But God would not allow it. So He put a thorn in Paul’s flesh. God put that thorn there to the end that Paul might not boast in anything else other than that thorn. He told Paul, “You want to boast? Boast in that.”

When God truly loves someone, He will not allow him to boast in the things of the flesh. Instead, God will lead that man or woman to boast in the things of his or her weakness.

That is the central message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is

“Jesus Christ, and him crcufied” (1 Cor. 2:2)

I love that. I love that with all my heart. I want to be weak, that He may be strong in me.

The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 2

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

Although we are particularly thick-headed, yet verse 25 is trying to tell us something. In the natural state of affairs, everything, man included, wants to go only up. We grow up, not down! But in the Spirit, we are to take the opposite route. We are to go down. We go down with Jesus. We are to accept to be weak and foolish in this world. Philippians 2:5-8 says:

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Now, we cannot hope to fathom the weakness and folly that attended Jesus’s actions here. The folly and weakness – the denial of self – that He exhibited here is incomprehensible to the human mind. But we are to follow Christ in worldly weakness and foolishness.

Notice, now, verses 27 and 28. Why would God choose the foolish things of this world, and the weak, and the base and despised? And why does the Bible expressly state that

not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called”?

Maybe God does not like problems. And, in the natural course of things, educated people and the rich and those with positions are, to say the least, a bit of a problem. They know things; they have things. It is very difficult for man to humble himself, so these kinds of people tend to be a bit dificult. Scripture declares:

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

It is no secret also that most white people have a superior view of themselves against other races. Whether rightly so or not, that sort of thing ought not to happen in the church. But the cold fact is that the minute natural man latches onto something, he wants to use it to elevate himself. The Bible says so.

That is why, when the authority of Christ is not in the church, men bring titles and everything else of the world into the church. But where the authority of Christ is at work, no one wants to be recognized for who they are. Rather, God’s people will desire only to reveal the fruit of the Spirit through the cross working in them. This was the singular thing the Apostle Paul desired to have in his life.

“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)

Paul counted anything he might have had in the natural as dung! In Philippians 3:7-8 he writes:

“7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”.

Paul had a lot to lose in the natural. But he realized that these things are of no value in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit matters!

Is God really against the wise of this world, and the moneyed and them who have positions?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. God wants the people He has called not to glory in these things. God does not want you waving your Ph. D in church. Go throw that in the dustbin and bring your circumcised heart into the church!

God wants us to glory in the things of the Spirit. But the flesh craves the glory of this world.

But… are we really weak when we accept to follow Christ in His weakness?

No, we are not. The Bible says of the exact moment that Jesus died on the cross,

“51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mat. 27:50-53)

Great power attended Jesus’s shameful death.

It is the same with us. Great power attends a righteous man’s death. In weakness, we release great power in the Spirit. And in worldly folly, we become wise in the Spirit.

It has been one of the greatest privileges for me to minister amongst people who have little worldly education or wealth in central Tanzania.

It is wonderful to see how quickly faith builds up in such people, and to see the humility of their hearts.

[One of the purest sources of joy in my life is working with these humble men of God]

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To Carry God’s Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 1 Cor. 12:7-10
Being a team leader is not easy. People will try to bludgeon you to death if they can because people naturally hate the top dog.
My wife works for a certain organisation and she is the head of the particular area that she works in. One time, for a considerably long period of time, she would come home and she would tell me the most harrowing tales of how some of her fellow teammates were treating her. It appeared as if my wife’s organisation had deliberately selected the most bellicose of its workers and put them on her watch.
The most indigestible of these assaults were a couple of workers who would always talk her down like she just got out of the crib. Worse, they tried to discredit her and prove how incompetent she was. This hurt her to the core.
They tried to hurt her as much as they could. They would ask her things like, “Are you really a pastor’s wife?”
Somehow, I knew these things were happening because, apart from what my wife told me, I noticed that whenever the company car dropped her at our house, no one else would get out, even to say ‘Hi’ to me, although they knew me. Immediately she got out, they would roll up the windows and drive off with the tyres squealing.
Naturally, this state of affairs hurt us both terribly. It was a real trial! Many times I would toy with the idea of allowing my wife to retire from her job. But then we needed the money. So we barricaded ourselves in prayer and in the encouragement we got from God’s Word. I would encourage her to forgive them – even as I myself struggled with the need to forgive! It did not seem as if the ordeal would ever end. How could it ever end? My wife’s fellow workers had bound themselves to engage us in a permanent state of war.
One day, a senior official from their organisation came from Dar es Salaam to do an ‘audit’ of my wife’s team’s performance. He stayed with them for a week. During the course of his stay, whenever he asked my wife about anything, she always had it at her fingertips. So much so that in one particularly compulsory and sensitive procedure, the official told her he would not be needing to go through it with her.
“I trust you”, he told her.
He told my wife a few other things also. He told her that she was the only team head who had everything that he needed at hand and who understood perfectly well what she was meant to do.
At the end of his audit he called the team together. He told them, “I have been observing all of you. Your team leader is the most competent person I have met since I began assessing our organisation’s teams. I therefore direct you to consult her whenever you do not know how to go about your responsibilities.”
Just before he left, he assembled them together again and let each one of them know exactly how they had performed. Their evaluation was determined on a percentage scale, and my wife’s had broken all bounds! Moreover, none of her teammates had come anywhere near hailing distance of her.
It requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the day the official bid my wife’s team goodbye, I was home tending my chickens behind our house when the company car drove up to our house. The gate opened and I heard my wife excitedly inviting someone home. I straightened up to see the very guy who had been treating my wife like trash come walking in through the gate and towards the chicken coop. I had never seen the fellow get out of the car and he had never greeted me in his life. I thought something must be wrong for this guy to get into our compound. But he came straight up, greeted me warmly and allowed my wife to lead him on a tour of my chicken ‘farm’.
In the evening, after we had had our supper, I asked my wife what that was all about. She told me she did not know. She was as much surprised as I was, she told me. But, she said, immediately the assessor had given the team his report, she had noticed a very unexpected change in her colleagues’ attitudes. Instead of an increase in animosity, there was an air of acceptance and respect towards her.
I told her, “God has worked a miracle in their hearts.”
That state of affairs has continued to this day. One day, one of my wife’s tormentors left for a long furlough in a far-off region. We were surprised when she called my wife and asked us to check in on her children.
As I said, it requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither I nor my wife, not even in our wildest dreams, had ever thought things would end this way.
God said to the Apostle Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, God was telling Paul: “You cannot have my grace without that thorn in your flesh. Unless you allow your flesh to be mocked and destroyed, you cannot have my grace; you will be of no effect in my Kingdom!”
Beloved, what would you rather have? Is it a comfortable, trouble-free life that you desire? If that is the case, you can forget about being of any use in God’s Kingdom. Flesh and the Spirit cannot work together.
1 Peter 2:21 says:
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps…”
Notice the Bible does not say that Christ did not suffer; on the contrary, the Bible says that the example that Christ left us is one of suffering – suffering in the flesh. It was the same thing that Paul suffered: thethorn in his flesh.
The best thing that can happen to anyone that aspires to the high calling of God to become a man or woman of the Spirit; the best thing that can happen to such a person is to have a thorn in their flesh. The thorn is one of the few things that we see this great man of God, the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in in the scriptures:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (1 Cor. 12:10)
Beloved, as a child of God, what is it that gives you pleasure? Meditate on this, and may God show you the road to true spiritual happiness, a thorn in your flesh.

“Feed my lambs” – Part 2

In this last part we shall see how Jesus wants us to feed His sheep. But at the very end of this post we shall also consider another surprising aspect of the grace of God.

Let us first look at how Jesus calls upon us to feed His sheep. In the Kingdom of God we cannot do things just as we want, because God has the blueprint for every tiny thing concerning His Kingdom and it is that which we must follow.

So, how do we feed Jesus’ sheep? Is it by preaching? Or praying for God’s people?

Yes, that could be true. Indeed, the biggest ministries and churches today are based on prayer and “power preaching”. But the true manner in which we are called upon to feed Jesus’ sheep is by laying down our lives for the sheep. That is how Jesus did it and we cannot substitute it (Jn. 6:48). This is the reason why the church needs to understand the cross of Christ in a deeper sense. It is through the cross that God reveals His love for His church.

Some cultures have trivialized the reality of love with husband and wife calling each other “Honey!” and “Baby!” while they rush to divorce one another. But how can you call someone “Honey” and divorce them? It would more honest if you called them “Mara” or “Bitterness”, like Naomi did.

True love is different. Attaining to true love is the toughest, grittiest dirty-job business on earth.

In the scripture above, therefore, the word “feed” is very significant. It cannot be simply to preach. That is too easy! But the word “feed” here talks of the true gospel, the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel that singularly declares: deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

There are other gospels that do not feed Jesus’ sheep. These are gospels of deception and self-gratification. They are the very anti-thesis of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. These gospels are preached by people who do not care an iota about the welfare of God’s people.

Jesus knew that once He had gone, there would come people proclaiming, “I love Jesus” but preaching a gospel of self-gratification. And sure enough, the church was hardly out of its crib when it encountered these very people. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians:

“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

When Jesus therefore told Peter: “Feed my sheep”, He meant “Preach and live the true gospel – the gospel of the cross. Give your life. Become an example.”

And now, finally, let us look at another extremely interesting aspect of the grace of God. Jesus does things eminently differently than we can fathom, and we can hardly be prepared enough for the singularly unique ways in which He surprises us.

Here we see that Peter left ministry and went fishing (Jn. 21:3). He even instigated the other apostles to do the same. This was a mark of selfishness and a lack of faith on Peter’s part. This was enough to disqualify him from the ministry. He was unstable.

But Jesus took this incredibly weak man and gave him the greatest responsibility by telling him, “You lay down your life for my sheep!”

It was the same with the Apostle Paul. In the natural Paul was the least of all men because he persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. But the amazing fact was that it was to him that God gave the unmatchable responsibility and grace to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” amongst the Gentiles (1 Cor. 2:2).

No wonder Paul wrote:

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).

All this speaks of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus takes the weakest among us and makes them the strongest. He takes the unlovable and makes them the most lovable.

Christ calls us to Himself. But He wants us to continue and carry the same grace that He has towards other people. This responsibility is an incredible grace, and we should guard it well.

[Below: In Singida, as in many other parts of central Tanzania, the land is so flat one can see to the ends of the earth!]

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God and the Heart of Man

Better a little that is done from the heart than much that is not done from the heart. God loves things that are done from the heart. God is a person of the heart. In fact, the Bible says that God looks upon the heart. By the heart I mean that inner desire and joy that can only be born of God. Whatever we do from this kind of heart is very precious in the sight of God.

Not only that, but these are the things that are of true value to us and to our fellow humans. They are the things that make an impact in people’s lives. They are the things that bring about real change.

A nation, for example, whose leader leads the nation from his heart, that nation will prosper because it is built on a strong foundation. Our nation’s founding father, “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, built this nation on a strong foundation of unity. The great sense of internal peace that we enjoy in Tanzania today is a result of “Mwalimu”’s heart. He led this nation from the heart, and we are enjoying the fruits of his heart.

On the contrary, a nation that is not led from the heart cannot prosper. A nation that is led by the clout of money, charisma and other external bases will slowly deteriorate and perish. Much of the time, where money and power are involved, there is no heart. One of the greatest weaknesses of the natural man is the inability to conquer power and money.

I believe that is why God did not commit His Kingdom to the rich and powerful men and women of this world. The Bible tells us that God committed His calling to the poor, the downtrodden and the foolish of this world. Literally.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

In the developed world, I hear there are people who are so rich that when they enter a shop and need to make some purchases, no one else is allowed in. They are allowed to shop privately. Such people may be rich, but theirs is a sorry form of richness for it is selfish and temporal. What a joy would it be for them to discover the true riches of serving God and their fellow man with their wealth!

In the church also, money and power corrupt men’s hearts. They fill them with pride and they cannot give God the glory. They take up the glory instead. On the contrary, a weak and poor man will quickly and easily give God the glory.

The true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the cross, however, gives us all the opportunity to allow God to deal with the flesh in order that we might serve God from the heart. Both the poor and the rich can benefit from this gospel. Both can learn to serve God from the heart, and not to trust in uncertain riches. No wonder Paul says in Galatians 3:28:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What does it mean to be a Jew as we read in the above scripture? Apart from the literal meaning of the Jew (an Israelite), there is the connotation of a ‘Jew’ being a believer who knows many things about God or who deems himself close to God. But you could be a Jew in either sense of the word and not serve God from the heart. If you do not serve God from the heart, your knowledge or perceived closeness to God will neither endear you to God nor will it bear any fruit in the Spirit.

A true believer ought therefore be a person of the heart. If we do things to please men, that is hypocrisy. In our relationships, for example, we ought to be clear and not fear or despise others. God hates both these things – fear and despising of others – for He is a righteous God. In any case, nothing that we do to please men is born of God.  There are many things that we as believers do, believing that they are spiritual, but which are not. They are not spiritual because we do them with an eye to pleasing men. Such things are not born of God. Moreover, they are temporal and superficial.

(A strong and lasting structure must be born of the heart)

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