You don’t have to be well-versed in the Bible to know this self-styled ‘Bishop’ is a false prophet; so why the heck is he allowed to operate freely and with such audacity… and for so long?
TRUE OR FALSE?
The day I got on the same flight with ‘Bishop’ Daniel Obinim, O how I prayed! Neither the huge, blazing white 4×4 he was chauffeured to the Kumasi airport in nor his skimpy suit impressed me. His obviously bleached countenance was striking yet not even that occupied my mind like this doomsday thought: “is today the day?”
In the first place, I was wondering why on earth this Founder and General Overseer of International God’s Way Church did not just turn into a bird and make the short 45-minute flight to Accra since he claims he has the ability to turn into other creatures. Apparently he can turn into a lion, dog or snake and bite people to death on spiritual visits or siphon money from people and places (banks beware!). Perhaps he hasn’t upgraded to the avian realm yet—I don’t know and I don’t care—but clearly the ‘Bishop’ needed a lift that day. But why today of all days?
You don’t have to be well-versed in the Bible to know this ‘Bishop’ is a false prophet. Don’t let the things money or marketing can buy fool you. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2, emphasis mine)
Jesus Christ shows us the way to tell who’s true and whose not. First He warns us: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Then he gives us the litmus test twice in a space of five verses: “By their fruit you will recognize them. (vs. 16 and 20)
Doctrine is important in telling who’s a real ‘man of God’ and who isn’t but ultimate test is fruit—their character and consequence of their lives. Things like their speech seasoned with salt, their love, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Let me not go into the litany of Obinim’s character issues, from slander to sex. By the way, according to him, his adultery with one of his junior pastors’ wife was meant to be a sign to his followers that he is human and not as divine as perceived by them.
Forget the miracles. Not all miracles are done by the Spirit of the Living God. Ask Moses and he’ll tell you about Jannes and Jambres, the famous magicians of Pharoah. “Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.” (Exodus 7:10-12). Later, these same sorcerers duplicated the changing of water into blood (7:22) and the production of frogs (8:7). However, the sorcerers were powerless to duplicate the other plagues (8:19).
You may recall that God gave Pharaoh and his magicians—and indeed all of Egypt—a very long rope. They had nine opportunities (you may call them ‘plagues’) to change their minds and their ways. Eventually by the tenth they did—but only when it was rather late. So much and so many had already been destroyed.
Feeling so annoyed and vindictive that July afternoon I was wondering: is today the day God is finally going to finish off Obinim? Would he have come to the end of the rope by the end of this runway? Oh, and my prayer was not so much for him but for me—that this wasn’t the day, time or the means by which God was going to bring Daniel Obinim to book because I would end up as “collateral damage.”
THE GOD WHO IS WEAK AND SLOW
So why hasn’t God killed Obinim…yet? First, for God’s sake. I’ve learnt a cardinal lesson from searching the scriptures this year that has shocked me, to say the least. It hasn’t been so much the fact that God wants His glory to be seen among all peoples, for his fame and name to be spread to all nations and throughout all generations per se. What I’ve found shocking is what He wants most to be known for—something my judgmental and vindictive self considers rather weak and unimpressive!
In Exodus 33:18-34:8, God told Moses He would proclaim His “name” before him. Then He proceeds to list some phrases or ideas (especially Exodus 34:6-7) which reveal that for which God wants to be “famous”:
- “The compassionate and gracious God”
- “Slow to anger”
- “Abounding in love and faithfulness”
- “Maintaining love to thousands”
- “Forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”
- “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.”
Ah! This is the very opposite of how the gods in my hometown and many other regions of the world are regarded. They are seen as powerful, hard to appease and delivering such instant justice that people who feel aggrieved would rather go and consult them than leave their ‘enemies’ to this seemingly slow and suspiciously weak God of Abraham.
In fact, these descriptive phrases of the nature of the Living God also appear later in Numbers 14:15-19, in which Moses prayed with respect—when God was really angry with the Israelites for their rebellion and grumbling regarding the Promised Land—reminding Him, so-to-speak, of how He wanted to be known among the nations.
Make no mistake, the Lord was angry, very angry. “How long will these people treat me with contempt? He said. “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them…” (Ex. 14:11-12). Moses succeeded in assuaging God’s anger by reminding Him of His fame that Egypt and the rest of the world had heard about and challenged Him to display His strength and power. What is that strength and power? “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people…” (Numbers 14:18-19, NIV). God relented; God forgave; Moses succeeded.
TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE?
So why hasn’t God killed Daniel Obinim…yet? Secondly, for Obinim’s sake. God gives a long rope, a very long rope, but not forever. Contrary to what many think of God as never giving up, God does give up and give over (Romans 1:24,26, 28; Acts 7:42; Psalm 81:12) but He is very, very, very, so very patient with us. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) And when we finally give in, when we say we have done a 180, there must be fruit to show—proof by the way we live that we have truly repented of our ways and turned to God.
BEAUTY AND THE BASTARD
Two weekends ago I got off the phone with a cocktail of emotions, mainly deep anger. No, not at the suicidal university graduate full of potential yet now struggling to keep her own body and soul together plus that of her new-born bastard but at the so-called pastor, supposedly married, who put her in that situation.
I did not even realize September 10, the day we spoke on phone, was world anti-suicide day; but that lady had just narrowly escaped suicide the night before by chancing upon one of my blogs. She decided to hold off, hold on and gathered the courage to give me a call.
Self-styled pastors, prophets and bishops like Obinim who apparently are accountable to no one and do whatever they like ‘in the name of the LORD’ seem to get away with it…for now. Now you know why.
Before the flight would land, this beautiful, fair-coloured lady sitting directly behind Obinim and his aide-de-camp reaches out to the latter and asks for the ‘Bishop’s’ number. From where I sit I can see the grin on Obinim’s face as he nods in approval for the contact to be given. Business is booming, judgment can wait; here comes another victim.
It struck me to the core when someone made a very poignant quote: “when others are in the wrong we demand justice but when we are wrong we seek mercy.” How profoundly true! Now you know why God hasn’t killed Obinim…yet—it’s the same reason He hasn’t finished off you and me.
I stopped getting impressed by talent and smartness a long time ago. I don’t care how good you are at what you do if your character stinks. I’ll tell you why.
CHOICE OF CHARACTER
This year, all eyes are on the United States of America. The world is watching the doyen of modern democracy as it navigates treacherous political waters. The choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not an easy one. For most people I know they would rather it was neither. America is proverbially “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.” And all of this hesitation has nothing to do with the competence of the candidates. Anyone who has ‘climbed up’ to be Secretary of State of the world’s most powerful country or built a multi-billion real estate empire certainly has some smarts. The thing is, people just don’t trust them. It’s a character issue.
CHARACTER IS EVERYTHING
Character doesn’t just count; it is everything! For a long time I’ve learnt how key the dynamic duo of competence and character is for everyone to master, but particularly for leaders, and that even then character trumps (no pun intended) everything. Yet a few of my own experiences with different leadership teams in varied contexts in the last while have really cemented this in my heart. I really don’t care how good you are (at what you do) if your heart isn’t right! And by your heart being right I mean anything from a proper attitude to integrity and everything in between.
I recall one particular person who was really gifted in details (my strength is the big picture) thus was a treasured member of my leadership team. But the degree of confusion and dissonance (s)he brought on board just made getting rid of this person not as painful as it should’ve been. I was very happy when (s)he voluntarily stepped aside because I had been aiming and aiming and aiming to pull the trigger anyway.
In a different case, I tolerated yet another leader for a long time in spite of all the heart issues that came to the fore because I knew (s)he was skilled in certain core competencies we needed in the organization. I found myself bending over backwards in many ways to accommodate this person and really felt betrayed when (s)he suddenly chose to leave the team. Initially, it really hurt me that (s)he did, but as I pondered and pondered I realized what a blessing in disguise this was. Skills can be trained if a not-that-competent person has the right attitude; but training the heart is another matter altogether.
GOD’S GAUGE; BUFFETS BUFFER
As I pondered how cemented I’ve become in not caring a hoot about someone’s talent but character first, I was reminded about all the talented and gifted people God bypassed to anoint David as king over all Israel. The young lad may have been less impressive but who God, even God, wanted to hire was “a man after my own heart.” Of one of the gifted candidates the LORD categorically told the headhunting prophet, Samuel, very clearly, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)
So I don’t care about how good you are; even God doesn’t! Buffet the billionaire intrigues me in many ways. I don’t agree with some of his ways and views but he’s a billionaire and I’m not so he couldn’t care less. I’m still working on my billions. Like a young friend in Niagara humorously quipped the other day, the “first million is the hardest to reach. The rest is easy.” I believe him.
On this issue of character trumping giftedness, I am glad that Warren Buffet and I see eye to eye. He doesn’t seem to care a hoot about how smart you are either. Hear him: “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
YOU’LL KILL ME, US AND… YOU
So there you have it! That is why I shan’t hire you although you’re good at what you do. As CEO of a significant Canadian organization with about 100 multiethnic staff and 500 volunteers in the second widest country on earth, who I work with really matters. OK, to be fair I do care about how good you are—that you’re intelligent, skilled, energetic, talented, well-educated, passionate, anointed, well-groomed…who wouldn’t like that?
All I’m saying is that first on the list is your heart—especially the right attitude and integrity. Otherwise, not only will you kill me and/or the organization; you’ll actually kill yourself too. As has been anonymously but very poignantly put, “charisma (giftedness) without character is a disaster waiting to happen.” Invariably it does.
I do care about how good you are in the heart; before how good you are in the head and with your hands. The extent to which your goodness in all these three Hs jive is the measure of your integrity. For integrity is about being integrated, being whole; having it all together (more on integrity later on in the future).
AND HE CALLS HIMSELF A SOLDIER?
Having had a stint with the military myself the following observation about character astounds me. I was only in junior high school during the epic Operation Desert storm. Do you remember when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the US with its other global partners (they called themselves “the allied forces”) went in to militarily liberate Kuwait from the grips of Saddam?
Well, the four-star general who successfully led the allied forces to that victory in a short six weeks was a man called Norman Schwarzkopf. On the authority of a thirty-five year military career he once said these stunning words: “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” Really? Choosing character over strategy? And he calls himself a solider?! Well, character is that important, my friend. I don’t care how good you are at strategy— Schwarzkopf too!
DOWN TO THE WIRE—THE HIRE
I stopped getting impressed by talent and smartness a long time ago. I don’t care how good you are at what you do if your character stinks. Now you know why—some of why. There is much more to say about the pricelessness of character in life generally and in leadership in particular but in order not to inflict long blogs on you I’ll serialize “I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD YOU ARE.” Today I’ve only looked at it in terms of who I’ll hire and fire—and who you should(n’t) too.
Later, we’ll even get into dissecting and distinguishing words like integrity, morality, ethics and character—all often bunched up together to mean the same thing; yet they have slight but significant differences.
It’s election year in my home country of Ghana as well. Personally, I shan’t re-hire the incumbent president. He has no integrity—and doesn’t even have enough competence to try and compensate—albeit that in itself can never be a substitute for character either! So who will you hire to run the United States of America? Tell me why.