In 2017, my family and I left Nairobi for the coastal town of Mtwapa. I was not too sure what to expect, but had one desire on top of everything else – bearing the testimony of Jesus Christ. One afternoon in the estate where we first stayed, I spoke to one of the workers inviting him for a bible study in our house. He happened to be the same person that had shown us around the neighborhood in our first days.
He was hesitant at first, but somehow he reconsidered it and joined us. We had hoped to attract a bigger group of people, but ended up being just the three of us, Enock, Virginia (my wife) and I. He had no bible of his own and we gave him one (english/swahili parallel) we had bought for ourselves to learn the scriptures in Kiswahili.
For the next one year or so, we went through the scriptures together using a guide (discovering God), that emphasized reading, retelling, and application. This guide takes you through the bible story from Genesis to the gospels using selected portions of scriptures.
What we witnessed happening is a pelleting for God’s word that eventually led to personal responsibility for knowing God through the scriptures. We experienced it and observed this happen in Enock as his bible became a most precious treasure, reading it from beginning to end.
By the time we got to the story of Nichodemus coming to Jesus at night, Enock was ready to make a response to Jesus invitation to life and was asking, “What must I do to be saved?” “Repent and be baptized.”
We have since moved from the area, but have kept a close contact with Enock. The transformation that has taken place in his life has not only been in his personal life, but also in his desire to share the good news of the gospel that has changed his life. He shares the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone around him that cares to listen, saying that he’d like to do to others what was done for him, empowered to know God through the scriptures.
The people who knew him before marvel at how much he knows and how it has transformed his life. To those that are attracted to his life , he desires to give bibles and help them know the word of God for themselves.
We have tried to help Enock to the extent we are able to, but he still needs more bibles. Lately, he has been talking with some fishermen from whom he buys supplies for his fish business and they asked him for bibles. This is where I need your help.
Irungu turned for the umpteenth time on his makeshift bed. This he did as if when he found the right position, he’d find the elusive sleep. It was definitely quite late, evidenced by the quietness outside in the night, the only sounds being those of neighborhood dogs barking, crickets, and some occasional croaking of frogs from the sleuth outside the pig pen.
Not that he often had a good night sleep, a practical impossibility with bedbugs all over him, and a tattered semblance of a blanket, but today was quite an exception. Often times, the tiredness from feeding the pigs on a hungry stomach, in addition to carrying of feeds from the stores to the feeding troughs, was so much that by the end of the day he would literally collapse on the bed out of exhaustion.
In the last couple of days however, Irungu had been finding it increasingly difficult to find sleep, today being the height of it. He had no way of telling the time, but he could estimate to around 3.00 AM. After a couple of more turns, he could hear a call to prayer from a distant mosque indicating it was already 5:00 AM.
By this time, he had mastered the number and position of trusses under the ceiling-less roof of the shed he called his bed room. What could one do when he had no sleep, but count the trusses on the under side of the tin roof?
Fortunately, there was some light rays from the security light outside, coming through spaces between the second hand iron sheets that made the shack roof. Another interesting occupation for the night was observing the ant formations as they journeyed from one end of the roof to the other in such synchrony they would render military match child play. These activities served as breaks to Irungu’s recurring thoughts of the good old days, which he had tried to brush off his mind previously, but today they were overly insistent.
In one instance, his mind went to the days before he left home and the picture of his bed room came to mind. It had been a cozy room, incomparable to the current place he was staying.
At home he did not know how the room got cleaned or even who did it. With servants all over the house, he only needed to put his used clothes in the dirty clothes bin and they’d be clean, folded in the wardrobe when he came back.
He did not know where food came from. He had to only appear on the dinning table at meal times and eat to his liking and fill. This, as he thought was a complete opposite of what he was experiencing now. He was emaciated for lack of good food. The clothes on him were tattered and he could not even remember when they were last off his body leave alone when they were last washed. He had literally no clothes to change to – in fact the jeans trouser he was putting on he had collected from a waste bin at the gate of the pig owners’ house.
“What would it be like to be back to my father’s house?” he had asked himself.
This question had been brushed aside previously, as it had sounded to him absurd or not even conceivable. After all he had taken all his inheritance and disconnected from his family.
All that had remained at home was practically his brother’s. But today, the thought of home had lingered and he had not so insisted to brush it off. He allowed his mind to ponder all the possibilities.
Irungu thought he had not even the audacity to call that home. He remembered vividly the words to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate1.” This literary meant that he had no share of the estate back home.
That however did not seem to stop the thoughts of home. The issue about the estate were a non issue in light of his condition with an empty stomach. Then as if a light bulb went on in his mind, he told himself,
”How many of my Father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death. I will set out and go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired men2”
By the time it was daylight, Irungu had made up his mind.
He was going back home.
He reasoned that it was better to face the wrath of his father, the jeers of his friends, and the embarrassment from onlookers, than the life he was living. A doorkeeper in his father’s house than these tents of wickedness3.
The journey back home was anything but easy. From the laborious walk giving a through beating to the already worn out body frame, to the wrestling of the mind and the second guessing of not knowing what to expect.
Would the father accept his proposition? Would he even want to see or listen to him? “But then, “, he continued reasoning,
“What is there to loose? If my father accepts my proposition, I live, if not I have tried. Why stay here and die? ”
To ease his anxiety , he told himself that the best is to wait for the reception he receives as nothing depended on him, but instead everything depended on his father’s reception of him.
With three days of walking, sometimes covering his face as he approached home lest somebody recognized him, his pace had reduced to slow steps, and a pause after every couple of them.
It was mid morning when he finally got to the finely paved road that the drive leading to his father’s homestead was. He could recognize that the trees that lined the drive way had grown since he’d been away. They now were overarching the way making some good covering and shade from the already scorching sun.
Part of him felt a sense of unworthiness stepping into the clean walkway with his shabby clothing on a skinny frame his body had become. On the other hand, part of him, albeit awkwardly had a serene feeling of belonging. That helped a bit in the trepidation he kept feeling as he imagined what awaited past the gate that stood in front of him just ahead, or would he even get beyond it?
These lingering thoughts did not take long to be responded to as they were shortly interrupted by an unmistakably familiar figure suddenly opening the gate and running towards him. He had to turn and look back and see whether there was anyone behind him that his father could be running to.
“How could he be running towards me after I have messed myself up like this? Maybe he wants to be sure I do not come any closer to his home!”, Irungu wondered as he stood waiting to see what would happen next.
His father, upon reaching where Irungu was, threw his hand around him and kissed him4.
Half confused, half delighted, Irungu was not sure how to respond to his father’s reception. He started mumbling his rehearsed script,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.5”
By this time father and son were just about the gate, and the servants who had curiously followed their master to check why he had suddenly ran out of the gate uncharacteristically were also there waiting on their master. As if he had not heard his son, the father instead of responding to him, addressed the servants saying,
“Quick, bring the best robe and put on him, put a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.6”
The rest of the day went on as if Irungu was in a daze. The excitement and the joy his coming back home brought his father was beyond his wildest imagination for a reception. The servants in response to the father’s instruction treated him like royalty, the very opposite of what he had asked of his father, to be treated as one of them.
The only interruption to their celebration was his brother’s reaction , as a servant told Irungu what he heard of the elder brother confronting their father,
“Look, all these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so that I could celebrate with my friends.7”
That cut real deep into Irungu’s heart, but it was was short-lived as he heard their Father’s response,
“My Son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.8 ”
To Irungu, only his father’s response mattered, and he knew, the brother also was obedient to the father and hence was able to receive him back. He was accepted back by the father and that was all that mattered.
That evening as Irungu lay on his cozy bed, he contrasted the realities coming to his senses had brought to his life against his life just three days prior. There were no more bedbugs, no trusses to count , and no safari ants to monitor. There was even no room for such thoughts as he easily drifted into sleep with a smile on his face. As he transitioned to dreamland he had this humbling thought of how little he knew his Father,
“but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord9.”
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Ps 32:7)
“Surely, things could not get worse.”, Paul thought to himself as he cuddled in a fetal position on the sofa. It was 10am already, but he did not have an iota of energy to get up.
He had stayed up late into the night pondering the series of events that had left him with no single cent in his pocket and having to keep evading creditors. The last one that had broken the camel’s back was an investment in cryptocurrency that had gone burst.
“Knock, knock”, came the sound from the door. “I am not going to open that door.”, Paul said to himself as a matter of fact. “Knock, knock”, came the sound again, this time Paul took a cushion and covered his face with it as if that will make the person knocking go away.
Then the knock came the third time, this time Paul decided to check who it was. He walked to the door holding his breath as to who it was this time.
He peeped through the key hole before opening and noticed that it was somebody he was sure he had not met. That made him relax a bit, albeit curious to know how a stranger had the boldness to insist on knocking without giving up. “How did he know that I was inside?” Paul wondered to himself.
Opening the door, the build and form of the strange visitor was more clearer than it had been through the pin hole. He was not particularly attractive, but had some aura of peacefulness (if there is such a word) that made him inviting.
At first he had struck Paul like one that needed his help, but a second look on his eyes revealed some tenderness that melted Paul’s barriers.
The smile in the man’s face had such genuineness that Paul just could not help but invite him inside. He found himself ushering his visitor inside, only to realize that he had earlier taken the single chair he had in his house to his study table in his bedroom.
The lone sofa did not seem appropriate for the guest because it had pillows all over, not to mention crumbs from his half eaten crisps that were his miserable dinner the previous evening.
Curiously, the visitor did not seem any way disturbed by the state of Paul’s house. As Paul went to his bedroom to pick the chair, the visitor waited admiringly at the entrance. His eyes never seemed to leave Paul as he observed him and around the room at some wall hangings Paul had put up.
By the time Paul came back with a chair, the room had been arranged in a better setting.
The small coffee table had been set in front of the sofa with some smaller stools at the edges. Paul set the chair on the opposite side of the sofa across the coffee table and invited his visitor to sit down.
As the visitor sat down, it hit Paul that it had not even occurred to him to say a word, even to ask who the visitor was or what his mission was. There seemed to be unspoken communication from his aura that he was up to some good.
As the visitor sat down, he immediately started to open a bag he had carried on his side, one that Paul had somehow not noticed up to now.
The first thing he brought out of the bag, to Paul’s great surprise was a clean crisp table cloth that he overlaid the table with. Next, he brought out two packets of packed lunch, and then a bottle of wine, and two clean glasses.
All this while, there had been no word spoken from either Paul or his guest. They both seemed to prefer communicating by action and observation. Top on Paul’s mind was how all that set on the table had fitted in that ugly looking, small bag that he had barely noticed earlier.
As the guest invited Paul to the meal he did not have words and started to pick a fork, still with eyes gazed on his visitor. With fork on one hand and his other hand on the sofa as if going to stand up, he started looking the visitor straight into his eyes.
The visitor was looking back at him while he noticed something interesting. It was as if as they looked into each other’s eyes, Paul on his part was feeling like he’s entering into the visitor, the way one enters a house, and on the other hand , the visitors eyes felt like they were exploring his inner most being.
Paul felt like his life was being laid bare in the eyes of the visitor, as if he had known him all his life. On his part, the more Paul looked into the eyes of the visitor, the more he felt like he’s getting to know him.
The aura he sensed in the beginning started to take different dimensions the more he gazed at his eyes. Paul realized that the aura or fragrance the visitor had was part of his character, in the very first sense was love, then peace, then forgiveness, then joy. The more Paul gazed at his visitor, the more these character traits began being reflected in the visitor.
Paul started enjoying the experience so much he forgot about the food. Time seemed to freeze with the calmness that flooded Paul’s heart. The anxiety that he had at first before opening the door to the visitor not knowing what he had come to do was all gone. It did not matter any more what had brought the visitor to his house. All he knew was that he could stay forever if he wanted.
It was several hours before Paul could come out of his hiding place. But not before some words started flooding his heart and mind as he gazed intently on his somehow strange visitor;
1. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”….(Psalms 91)
Paul’s experience with his visitor ended gradually when he started hearing a call to evening prayers from the local worship hall. As he started being conscious of his environment, he realized that he was no longer sitting up but rather lying on the sofa.
He had set down the folk and the lunch was still set as it had been. The only surprise is that the visitor was no longer there. He was for a moment a little confused by the experience. He did not know whether it was a dream or a real experience, but then the set table spoke volumes.
Just then, a knock from the door again got him up from the seat. This time round he was not afraid to open the door. He had some renewed confidence that whatever it was, he could handle it with the assurances from the hiding place.
Beloved, there is a place of refuge available for you and me. That place is actually a person, Christ our promised land. Available not just to visit, but also to abide. Christ in you and you in Him.
Joash sat with excitement in the 3rd row at the lecture theatre in his new school where the Christian Union (CU) fellowship was taking place. As he listened to other students share their testimonies of how Jesus had transformed their lives, he wished that the meeting would not end.
It had only been the previous weekend when he himself had an encounter with Jesus. This was in the school main hall where the CU had organized a gospel outreach to the students popularly known as Weekend Challenge.
During the Weekend Challenge meeting, Joash had sat at the middle of the hall with the other form one students. He listened keenly to the preacher, and responded immediately when the call for those who’d want to receive Jesus in their heart was made.
Tears of joy ran down his face as he walked to the front to join the others who had responded. The experience of the new birth and the lifting of the guilt of sin from his heart was so real, that for the next couple of days he was just smiling and desirous to hear more about Jesus.
That is how he could not afford to miss any of the CU fellowships and wished that the meetings would keep going. The meetings however could only be on weekends, and then only in the evenings up to 9:30pm.
For the next couple of weeks before the end of the school term, Joash was literally in every CU meeting to hear and share more about Jesus. As the end of term approached he longed to go home and share his new found faith with his family and friends.
After going home and continuing to share the good news with anyone close by him, he started noticing something. – Not everyone was as excited about his faith as he was, including some in the local church where he had grown up. Some started suggesting that he needs to be baptized by ‘much water’ to complete his salvation. Others had other suggestions according to their denominations.
By the time Joash went back to school, the initial joy of salvation had gone, and in its place was the unending need to be correct in his belief. That was the beginning of a life of denominational hopping in search of the true brand of Christianity that was to go on for years.
Fast forward to 3 decades later when Joash is grown and a family man. He is bemoaning the loss of the last 10 years of his life invested in the denomination he was a part of. He had just left after falling out of favor with leadership when he burned out and insisted on taking a break from service, to focus on his personal life & family.
It is in this state of reflecting on how he has lived his Christian life that his thoughts take him to the day that he opened his heart to Jesus in the school hall at 14 years old. He starts smiling as he recalls the joy that flooded his heart that night.
As his mind lingered on that moment decades earlier, he started realizing that he was actually experiencing the same joy that moment. It was as if the Jesus he had encountered those many years before was telling him, “I’m here, as I’ve always been. It is you who have had your focus elsewhere.”.
The realization that Jesus was with him and that He wants Josh to spend time knowing Him was so refreshing, he immediately resolved to have Him as his single occupation for the rest of his life. He realized what Mary must have gotten hold of when Jesus said of her,
The story of Joash is my story, a story that can be different if a new believer is introduced to the life of faith as a journey of developing a relationship with Christ, increamentally knowing Him, as opposed to a never ending list of religious obligations.
Donna Lee Batty in her new book, “To The Young Believer” does a very good job at setting the believer (both new and old) on the all important journey of knowing the Lord. I recommend it to all that desire to know the Lord intimately. You can check it out here.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8)
Recently my family and I had a chance to watch a move named, “Freedom” . The movie was about a family attempting to escape slavery in the southern states of USA to the free Canada in the north, through the renown Underground Railroad.
I didn’t realize though that the movie was a bit age inappropriate for the younger ones. One of them was woken up by a nightmare that night. The mistreatment of the slaves is extreme, and should not be done to anyone.
On the more positive side of the movie experience, I have to say that I just stumbled on it as I was searching for something for us to watch together. The title, “freedom” attracted me and the curious me wanted to know what about freedom it was talking about.
On one part, the movie told of the third generation of slaves escaping from their owners, while it paralleled it with the journey of the first generation from the slave port in African to the slave market at the shores of America on the other.
The story has a nice ending where the slave family finally crosses the border to the free Canada with the help of some Christians. This freedom is worth celebrating, but I also saw in the movie some other kind of freedom that could easily escape the notice of a casual watcher.
There are two notable characters in the voyage of the slave ship from Africa to America. One was Newton, the ship captain and the other was Ozias, the interpreter. Newton was a freeman, while Ozias was a slave, with a collar around his neck.
Ozias was in the ship to assist the slave traders communicate with the slaves from the point of purchase and through the whole journey. He had a very endearing character of being an encouragement to others, both the slaves and the traders. He spoke, and sang hope to the hopeless and sobering truth to the conscience of the proud.
Ozias’ faith in God was from a personal encounter with Him, as he had shared with Newton at the beginning of the voyage. Newton on the other hand did not believe in God, as he sang once, “If you are drowning in the sea, will God keep you afloat.”, and as he told Ozias, “I’ve learnt to expect nothing from God.”
At some point in the journey, there was a big storm that threatened to wreck the whole ship with all on board. Though the storm eventually calmed down, Ozias was one of the victims of the storm. He succumbed to effects of battling with the storm, but not before reminding Newton that it was God that had saved them. Interestingly, this time Newton concurred.
On his deathbed, Ozias, with the captain beside him was still smiling, a character that had distinguished him free indeed though still an earthly slave. The captain, though considered a freeman had until that night been a slave of his “privileged heritage”. As Ozias breathed his last, and on his, Newton’s, part cut the collar on the neck to free him, he also became truly free calling Ozias his brother.
The captain who had previously not believed in God had his own encounter with Him that night, an experience that transformed him from that day. He was truly free and that became his last dealing in that trade. He went on to share of his conversion during his wedding that followed soon after he went back home.
That story, especially the two characters really spoke volumes to me in that area of true freedom. This is an issue I’ve been wrestling with asking, “When one becomes born again, do they of necessity get free from all adverse circumstances?”
Reading from that experience and those of many faithful believers, it doesn’t seem to be guaranteed. But what does that mean? It seems to me that if you are in union with Christ, it doesn’t matter your circumstances, He is with you in whatever you are to go through.
“…20Each one should remain in the situation he was in when he was called. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let it concern you— but if you can gain your freedom, take the opportunity. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman. Conversely, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.…” (1Cor 7.)
In light of the freedom Christ in us brings, other circumstantial inconveniences of this life become shadows. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18)”
I do recognize that freedom from slavery is an emotive topic, but the pursuit of that freedom is outside the scope of this post. My focus is the freedom that is universally available to all that would believe in the true freedom Giver, Christ Jesus!
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,” (Luke 4:18)”
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)
The moment I saw Josh walk through the gate, I knew there was something terribly wrong. It did not take him more than five steps before breaking down in tears , proving my suspicion right. I had to run to support him from his staggering walk. As awkward as it felt at first, I found myself providing a shoulder for him to cry on.
African men are not supposed to cry, but Josh was no typical man. He had his stack of stories for his atypical life. Even then, it was the first time to see him cry and I could only try and fill up for myself what could have happened – he just kept mumbling words in the line of, “ndugu yangu, kwa nini haya? (my brother, why these?)”
With little expertise in comforting crying men, I allowed my Josh to cry and sob, as much as he needed to before asking the details of what had happened. The last time we had spoken was the previous day and I knew he was on night shift at work, so I thought it had to be something to do with how he found his family when he came back in the morning.
As it turned out, his boss had later in the evening given him permission to be off-duty from work, and he had decided not to wait till morning to go home. As late as it was, he decided to pick a bike home and spend the night there as he could sleep-in the following morning as a well deserved rest from the busy week.
He was however not prepared for what he found at home. While his children were fast asleep, his wife was not at home. “Where could she be?” , Josh wondered.
True to his latest characteristic of exercising himself on listening to the guidance of the inner voice, he started to walk out of his compound to some blocks around the neighborhood. It was like a voice telling him turn there, walk to the left, forward, and then right, until he found some three people in a distance by the side walk.
As he approached them, he could not figure out the faces in the dimly lit walkway, but the voices were becoming discernable. To his amazement on one hand, and the accuracy of the inner voice guidance on the other hand, one of the voice was that of his wife, and her position in relation to one of the men was less than one would expect of a married woman.
“What are you doing with my wife here at this hour?” Josh paused, but before an answer could be given, two blows had landed, one on the man, and another on the wife. As Josh was narrating this, he was also saying, “God will forgive me.”
Long story short, what followed after that was a very intense season of seeking the Lord for guidance on what to do going forward in the backdrop of that magnitude of betrayal. I must admit that at that point I felt inadequate to advise him on what to do.
I could only encourage him to do what I had told him a couple of times before, “let the Lord show you what to do”. I know it is supposed to be good advise, but somehow that time it felt inadequate. At the back of my mind the story of Hosea and Gomer appeared.
Fast forward to when we were catching up recently, almost an year after that incidence. It was as if the series of events were five years compressed into those intervening months. After wrestling with a decision on how to move forward, he had forgiven his wife and decided to give her a chance to change her ways.
This may have been the best decision according to Josh, but did not go well with those around him. He had made the decision and kept it between his God, his wife and the men, and himself, but as the saying goes, “no secret between three”, and somehow the information found its way to the parents and siblings.
His own family demanded that the wife goes back to her parents home until they go for her. He on his part obliged as his position was, “anything that will bring peace and unity at home.” It however turned out that there was no intention to go for her, but rather to do away with her. He was told that if he went for her, he’d have to leave the family home and join his wife anywhere , but in that compound. According to them, he was bringing disrepute to their respectable family, and was weak in not being able to control and manage his wife.
In all this, he maintained his position that, it is true his wife had done wrong, but he had forgiven her, and that to him it was simply because he loves her. As he shared these things, he said something that I thought quite profound. He said, “all these I cannot do it on my own, I cannot do it. It is God that has enabled me.” I’ve thought about that since, and how true it is. Further I started seeing the picture of Christ and His bride in Josh’s Story:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,” Jeremiah 31:3.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Eph 5:25.
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.” 1Thes 5:10.
As I write this, Josh is together with his bride, who is simply smitten by her husbands love, even as everyone around him has advocated for their going separate ways.
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Mat 6:26)
Mwas whistled away his favorite tune as he walked to his day’s gig. Since he’d left his last employment only a week earlier, he has had to reacquaint himself to living one day at a time.
You see , he’d gotten married earlier than his pears, more out of circumstances than choice – his girlfriend at 22 had gotten pregnant by him.
With no guts to do what everyone around him in similar situation was doing, abort, he had encouraged his girlfriend that it was better to work hard to support their family with whatever they were able to get.
At that time, he’d been enrolled into a sales and marketing college, but his parents discontinued fees payment when he got into the family way. Out of his decision, without a skill for income generation, he realized he could not afford to be selective on what work he could do. He welcomed every opportunity for work, which were mainly day wages manual work.
As they had stuck together with his girlfriend, now wife, their family had grown to 3 children. It was not easy to support their growing family, but something had happened that had helped him shift the burden from his shoulders. An encounter with Jesus Christ had made all the difference. Over time, he’d learnt to trust God for his daily provision.
When he did not have work, he’d just go out and ask wherever there was potential work. It was on one of those walks some 12 months ago that he had knocked at a gate asking for work.
At first he’d been informed there was none to which he said “thank you”, with a smile. Walking from the gate, he’d sat down at a shed some couple of meters away to rest and consider where to go next. As he sat there, he noticed the gate open and someone beckoning at him to go back.
This ended up being a better day than he’d hoped. Not only did he get engaged for work, it was not to be a day job, but rather longer term employment.
It had since been a good whole year of guaranteed provision every end of month, which had been a big relief. Even though it was not a lot he was very grateful to have lots of time to rest and reflect when he was not at work.
On the flip side, even though he had enjoyed the one year of employment, it was not until it ended last week that he realized how much he’d become out of touch with the daily reliance on God and His promise to supply to his needs.
This morning, he was not whistling because of confidence in the guaranteed of salary, but rather the opportunity to once again rely on the One that never fails on His promise to supply, and He alone.
He thought of how the previous night, he had received a call for today’s work, just as they were having their dinner with his family. The meal was to be the last if nothing came up.
It was out of this consideration he had decided to leave the house without breakfast to allow the children to eat what had remained of their dinner. He knew that he’d get something to eat, only he did not know what avenue it’d come through.
Whistling all the way to work, Mwas found the gate-man already opening the gate for him as he’d been alerted to expect him. He immediately, after the morning pleasantries got to his work which constituted trimming the lawn and weeding the flower garden.
Barely 30 minutes into the work, Mwas was startled from his work focus by the rather loud footsteps of a lady walking towards where he was. He did not at first recognize the lady, but as she came closer, he realized it was Linda, the property manager .
“Hi Linda, how are you doing?”, Mwas asked her trying to decipher the ‘ no nonsense’ look on her face.
“This is serious matter Mwas, you cannot believe what just happened”.
“OK, slowly, what happened?”
“I was in my office , and was preparing to take my breakfast. When I tried to open the flask, it popped with a big sound, the top giving way while leaving the inner glass intact.”
“OK, and then?”
“Do you know what that means? It once happened to my own sister and she has since had problems with her stomach – you’d think she’s pregnant, while she’s not. That to me is a sign that someone is after me to bewitch me. I cannot drink that tea.”
“How is it that you are a Christian and believe in those things? There is nothing like that. There was simply too much pressure built-up in the flask that caused the popping.”
“If you are such a believer, I dare you come drink that tea.”
“What? Let’s go.”
With Linda on the lead, they both went to her office to prove that it was not witchcraft. Served with the excellence deserving of an Estate Manager, Mwas delightfully ate the continental breakfast (something he had not had for a while) as Linda watched in anticipation. (Does that remind you of Acts 28:4-6?)
After the second cup, Mwas had had enough, and invited Linda to share hoping he’d convinced her there was nothing in the popping of the tea flask.
“No I can’t drink it…you finish it up.”, Linda responded to the invite.
“Oh , ok, in that case just allow me to share with my friend” Mwas replied as he stood up going out to share the tea with the gate-man that had opened for him earlier.
He then went back to continue with his work with fresh energy.
Nb: this account is true apart from a few things changed for prose – don’t you just love how God’s promises outworks uniquely in each of our paths through our day to day circumstances?
“20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.“ Gal 2:20 NKJV �
Recently I noticed some development at the initial stages of a phenomenon I had observed earlier over a stretched period in my younger years. In those days, it was just something interesting to observe, but this time round, it spoke to me so much about Christ who is our life, I had to share it here…
In the earlier observation, there was a huge tree at a very prominent place in the homestead I grew up in. The tree used to supply the family with poles from its branches for use in the farm.
Whenever a branch was cut, another shoot would grow in its place and eventually grow to be used for poles.
At some point, there was a branch stump that dried after being cut, leaving some kind of hole that would collect dust and water. With the little water and soil from dust in that hole, another completely different species of tree started growing. A “sower” must have scattered the seed there and it found some good soil to germinate.
The new tree was growing very fast, so much so that in the three month period of a boarding school term, we would come home to notice significant difference.
One would expect the tree to wither as it grew on very little soil, but it had its way. As the shoot was growing upwards towards the sunlight, it was producing roots that were growing downward towards the ground.
“The remnant of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward”. (Is 37:31, 2 Kings 19:30)
The roots seemed to have a two fold purpose. On one part the roots were seeking nutrients for the fast growing tree, and on the other, they were providing support as they seemed to hug the host tree. As the roots reached the ground and round the host tree, they became bigger and bigger, and started merging forming part of the stem.
“30 He must increase, but I must decrease” ( John 3 ESV )
As the roots for the new tree grew downwards and thicker into the stem, the branches on the other hand grew upwards, eventually starting to get higher than the host tree.
What would previously be referred to being one, was now evident to any observer that there were two each of its own kind.
The older tree decreased in visibility, as the new tree became more prominent until one would be excused to identify the tree as the new only.
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.(Eph 4. NIV)
As the new tree became bigger, it seemed to quench the life of the old tree out of it. The old tree became weaker and weaker and eventually dried out. After the old tree dried out, the new tree started closing the spaces previously occupied by the older tree and forming a smooth stem.
One could now only see the new tree, but for the spaces of the previous tree yet to be covered. The tree has since been cut to give way for other development, but the picture is still etched in my mind – the increase of Christ until He becomes All and in all.
Back to the developing tree on our current compound.
It was quite a disappointment earlier this week to notice that someone clearing the area cut the budding tree down including some of the roots that had started to grow downwards.
It felt so bad, my first response was to ask God to restore it to life – I literally prayed for it. For a while it felt like the unfolding picture was gone, until I remembered that we treated the tree in the earlier time the same.
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Is 11:1 NASB.)”
We severally tried to cut it off the old tree, but every time we would cut it, it’d come back more aggressively. With this remembrance I was encouraged to realize that there is yet a lesson to learn of Christ, that He is the…..;
“…one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” Heb 7:16 (Emphasis mine)
In less than a week during this “slow down” time, I’ve been able to go through the old testament of the bible in summary form.
This has been made possible through the action bible, a pictorial comic-like version that highlights the major stories in the bible narrative chronologically.
Incidentally, I’ve always considered it as only useful for children, and hence not read it through before. This time round it was hard to put it down once I started reading it.
What I particularly liked about it is that one is able to go through the narrative as a continuous unfolding story of God’s relationship to man. In that unfolding story, it is easy to note the consistency of God’s character of love and justice and His being intentional in the relationship.
On the flip side of the relationship, the inconsistency of man in his character and response to God’s expectation of him is also obvious. Man is sometimes acknowledging the sovereignty of God and during those times he prospers and is at peace, at other times he pursues his interests independent of God and falls into disfavor with Him.
At crisis times, like the world finds itself in right now, we are bound to ask ourselves whether there is something God is communicating to us through the crisis. My take on that is that God has already spoken and if we are listening we will hear what he’s been saying all the while.
What crisis like the one we are in has the potential of doing is to cause us to listen. May the Lord be gracious to grant us eyes to see, and ears to hear what the His Spirit is communicating.
One of the communication that to me stood out in, and seems to summarize the narrative of the relationship between God and man is in the King’s dream in Daniel 2. In the vision, he saw successive kingdoms of men’s civilization, and how they were all going to end at some point.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory;38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay.42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
There is however a unique and distinct kingdom that is set up at those times that has no end. This is not like any of the kingdoms of men, but of God that crashes all other kingdoms. Once it is set up, its expansion has no end. The Price of this Kingdom reigns with a scepter of righteousness.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)
But unto the Son He saith, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy Kingdom. (Heb 1:8)
Nature of the Kingdom:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Rom 14:17)
When is this Kingdom coming?
Some believe that the kingdom of God is coming with the second coming of Jesus, but I see differently from the bible. In response to the pharisees’ inquiry, Jesus had this to say,
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21)
This means the Kingdom has been on earth since Jesus time on earth, and has been expanding on earth through the saints that have believed.
God’s present speaking:
We started with asking ourselves what God is speaking, and I think it important to ask further, how He is speaking. In Heb 1:1, the bible contrasts for us how He spoke in previous times, and how He’s been speaking since the introduction of His kingdom on the earth:
“1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Heb 1)”
What is He saying?
There are some people who consider crisis like the current one as judgement from God. I do not dispute, but I think that there is a final judgement that is coming at the end of the age. In the meantime, Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
In that light then, this is what the Lord is saying (as He has been saying):
“I have loved you so much, that I have given my only begotten Son, that if you believe in Him, you shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” ( Paraphrase of John 3:16)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Mat 11:28)
But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4;14)
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
Beloved, this is your hour, not because it’s a new speaking, but because you are hearing it, for
behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. ( 2Cor 6:2 )
I believe that this speaking is both for those not yet in , and those already in the kingdom. Because of the ever expanding and immeasurable nature of this Kingdom, there will always be an element we need to apprehend of the kingdom of Christ.
Sometimes the very things that worked in our pursuit of God (aka traditions) in previous times could be the very ones that we need to drop to be focused entirely on Christ, the King of the Kingdom.
NB: The last two years I’ve heard the word “utterness” severally and have wondered what it means, and how to apply it. Now I think I am beginning to understand – The Lord is requiring our total surrender to Him if we are to walk with Him victoriously in these times we are living in. “Not one hoof will be left behind!”
Peter is a 19 year old man that I met last year, but only started spending time with last month. The good news is that he received the salvation Christ offers some two weeks ago.
It is as he sought to understand how to live the new life in Jesus that he asked me, “mzee (Swahili word for old man – a salutation I have accepted as I approach 50), there is something I’d like to let you know, now that I have accepted Jesus.” “Yes Peter.” I curiously quip. “You know I smoke weed. Do you think it is okay to do so when I am a Christian?”
If I was asked that question was some years ago, the answer would have been an outright, “NO” with capital N. “go home and burn every trace of the weed and never smoke it again.” But that time is passed now; so I was a little diplomatic, trying to hide my shock as much as possible. What has happened since to tamper my response?
Growing up in traditional conservative Christian environment, some of the gravest sins that one had to leave behind after conversion were smoking, and drinking. I carried that perspective with me even to adulthood. One can only imagine my surprise when one day in a new church I received an invite from the men’s group leader with a note to carry with me my smoking pipe. As you’d imagine the first time I could not get myself to go – reason being that it was to be hosted in a Brew & bistro joint I felt not comfortable with.
Later in the same church I started attending a men’s home bible study fellowship only to realize that not only was there beer drinking, but there was a bar counter at the backyard which meant a provision in the home had been made for that lifestyle in hosting guests.
I was later to encounter a very serious (from my evaluation) believer who had a smoking pipe as his signature image. One does ask, “what happened that softened my stand?” Did those things stop being sin, or were they not sinful in the first place? Or, maybe I was conforming to the culture?
This is what I think happened – I understood that it is not that one becomes righteous because they do not sin, it is that a righteous man does not sin.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”. (1John 3:9)
“8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8)
This to me means that the first step is to receive a righteousness that is not of our works, but of Christ Jesus, our righteousness.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1Cor 1:30)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor 5:21)
It is then that the new born spirit receives the indwelling Lord and is convicted of the undesirable things in the life He has taken residence.
Back to our conversation with Peter. I thought of using the route of why he smokes, to which he answered that it gives him psyche to work.
I asked him to consider why those athletes that take steroids to enhance their performance are punished when they are discovered. Of course he was able to say that it is because they are cheating – the performance is not their real self. I stopped that line of reasoning there as food for thought.
Then I said to him that my opinion was that he should consider the approach of what the habit benefits him with, by asking himself, “what value is this habit to me?” From there he’s able to make a decision out of his own conclusions.”
““All things are lawful for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me”—but I will not be controlled by anything. NET (1Cor 6:12)”
By this time, he had become more open to share even how he started out of an influence from a friend, and the way it cost him a job as he acted like a mad person. Out of that he was also able to share how he desires to stop, but is unable. “Now, you have Jesus in you to help you – ask Him.”
Last time we were together two days ago he told me he had stopped smoking the weed 2 days earlier and the desire for it has gone completely.
I believe Peter was a Christian even when he smoked the weed, but not sure of its benefit to him. I praise Jesus for setting him free.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. KJV (John 8:36)”
Let us walk in this awesome freedom Christ has secured for us!