room temperature drinks

Who of you like lukewarm coffee on an icy winter’s day?  Or what about some warm water after exercising?  Don’t you agree, we like our coffee boiling hot and our water refreshingly cold.  And when it comes to the issues of the heart, we tend to follow the same principle.  There is nothing more frustrating for an employer, than to be stuck with an unenthusiastic employee.  Coaches do not tolerate mediocrity on the sports field.  Wives won’t settle for 70% or even 99% of her husband’s heart, no, she wants 100% or nothing.

Now, I have a question for you?  Do you think God is any different in this regard?   Do you think God is satisfied with our half-hearted commitment towards Him?  The logical answer is ‘no’, and the Biblical evidence supports that conclusion.  God proclaimed to His children through Moses:  “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians.  You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

This picture of how God carried His people on eagles’ wings towards himself evokes the romantic warrior in me.  It looks like the script of an epic modern-day film.  The hero (God) destroys the antagonist (Egyptians) and rescues the girl (Israel).  God is not about to share His bride.  He rescued her.  He rescued us.  He rescued you.  God cannot be substituted.  He is the source of life and love.  When we substitute God with earthly sources of life and fulfillment, we fool ourselves and we provoke God to anger.

Listen how God responds to people who substitute Him for another: “They have roused my jealousy by worshipping things that are not God; they have provoked my anger with their useless idols.” (Deuteronomy 32:21) Moses warns the Israelites against idol worship because the ‘Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.’ (Deuteronomy 4:24) God is not jealous like we are jealous.

Steven Fry explains:  “The word ‘jealousy’ often carries a negative connotation.  Yet, when the Scripture speaks of God as a jealous God it means that He desires us in the purest, most relentless way.  His is a jealousy that humankind can never know; for God is the only one who has a right to be jealous, because He is the only one who is perfect in love.  His jealousy is not controlling – it is releasing.  Holy jealousy speaks of God’s passionate commitment to us.  It underscores the truth that God does not just love us because He has to, but because He wants to.   He is not moved to love us merely to maintain His own moral excellence, but because He desires us.  His jealousy is an absolute intolerance of anything that would divide our affection and thereby forfeit His best for us.”

Did you see that?  God desires us in the purest, most relentless way; not because He must, but because He wants to.  He gave the best He could in order to pursue this relationship with us.  He gave Himself, His life, His blood, His control, His power, His throne, His all, so that you and I can be reconciled to the divine relationship.

Let us respond likewise!

Father, thank You that You love us with a pure, relentless jealousy

Thank You that You are not a passive spectator in our lives

No, You are passionately pursuing our hearts every day

Forgive us for our lukewarm response

Set us alight with Your Heavenly fire!!!

 

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my cent’s worth

Okay, so I’m two days late in adding my cent’s worth, but rather late than never. If I could give the youth of South Africa only one piece of advice, what would that be? What would I consider to be the most crucial nugget of knowledge that they must hear?

I presume the economist would say to the youth, “Don’t put your eggs into one basket.”  The militant would most probably warn, “Get the first the punch in, or you will be punched.”  I can hear the educator encourage his students, “Finish Grade 12.”  The humanist may say, “Look out for NUMBER ONE!” Or the politician will proclaim, “Whatever you do, stay in power.”

Well, to be honest, my nugget of advice is not even a cents worth. It is actually worth nothing. If it were my advice, I would have said stuff like, ‘Believe in yourself’…..‘Follow your heart’……….’Reach for the stars.’ It may sound quite inspiring, and it is the predominant advice we hear from popular culture, but there is only one little snag: It is NOT what God would tell us.

If God would come from His timeless reality, and walk right into our world, what would He tell us? According to Paul, the apostle, “Anyone who trusts in him (Jesus) will never be disappointed.” [Romans 10:11] What a statement! In other words, anyone who chooses NOT to trust in HIMSELF, or in MONEY, or in EDUCATION, or in earthly POWER, but in Christ, WILL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED.

‘Never’ is a very long time without an end. If we choose to depend on God, and not ourselves, nor our connections, then God will ensure that we will not be put to shame for all of eternity. However, if we do choose to rely on the things mentioned above, then we will be disappointed when it comes to what really matters: ETERNITY.

Please don’t misunderstand me, education is important, politics is necessary and inspiration is needed. However, the problem comes when we start to rely on these things as a source of identity and ultimate satisfaction. The best these ‘things’ can do, is point to the ULTIMATE SATISFIER OF OUR SOULS – JESUS CHRIST. If they don’t lead my soul to drink from the Fount of God, then these things have become idols. And idolatry will always lead to slavery.

Let us pray:

I choose to depend on You, God.

You are the Fount of Life, You are the Source of Energy

You are the Satisfier of my soul, You are the ONLY Saviour

 

No matter my age – old, young, or in-between

Today, I decide to make You, Number One

Your value demands it, Your credentials deserve it

Lord Jesus Christ, I bow my knee before Your Holy Throne of Grace

Help me, Help me, Help me!

 

Photo: By Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil – Contando Dinheiro, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37232972 

Eagle Encounter

Today my daughter and I saw an eagle in our backyard. It perched on a telephone pole 20 meters away. I picked up my toddler, and pointed to the eagle, also fearing that the eagle would scout her as possible prey. We stood in awe for a few seconds beholding this magnificent bird of prey. And then…it flew away.

I’ve never seen an eagle in any backyard of mine…..ever. For about a half hour afterwards my heart was still captured with a sense of reverence. That feeling like something is pressing down on your heart. It’s not a bad feeling, but a bit scary. You know you’re in the presence of something great. It’s a moment that makes your soul stand still and take notice. The whole experience is engraved on your heart.

I’m not a bird watcher, so I don’t know what kind of eagle it was. But I do know just enough to distinguish a falcon/hawk from an eagle. This experience makes me think of all the saints of old who encountered the living God. Just like me, many of them were going about their daily business, not expecting or praying or even feeling ‘spiritual’. Abraham was returning from a military extraction operation when he encountered the priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:14-24; Hebrews 7:1). Moses was tending sheep in the backwaters of the desert when he beheld the Consuming Fire (Exodus 3). Saul of Tarsus was on a murderous campaign when Christ walked into his life (Acts 9).

All these encounters with the Divine Trinity left these men and those un-mentioned, with a sense of awe. Many of them only heard of God before, but now their eyes saw Him. Just like me, who can’t give you much detail concerning the kind of eagle I saw, yet knew that I was in the presence of a magnificent bird, these men knew they were in the presence of the Everlasting. Something inside of them cried out, “Lord!”

Luke recounts how Saul reacted to the Damascus visitation: he was ‘trembling and astonished.’ If an encounter with Christ does not awaken the fear of God in us, then I suspect we did not encounter the Messiah of Nazareth. Authentic meetings with the Divine leads to a transformed and fruit-bearing life. Just think of the three examples above: Abraham decides to give 10% of all he owned to honour Melchizedek, Moses is used by God to deliver the Jews from Egypt and Saul becomes the greatest missionary church planter the church has ever seen.

One of the Creator’s splendid creatures left an indelible mark on my psyche today. I can just imagine what mark the Creator will leave on us in a real God-encounter. Let’s pray together.

Abba Father, you are truly magnificent and spectacular.

One glance of you grips my heart with awe,

The grace and grandeur and might and majesty of the eagle

left me pondering and still

A millions times more You leave me speechless, breathless, undone, dumbfounded

wretched, comforted, satisfied, encountered.

Help me to love you deeply in obedience

Every day make Your home with me: Father, Son and Spirit!

Will the Springbok and Protea save South Africa?

I am a great fan of sport! As a child I remember countless hours playing cricket, rugby, soccer, hockey, tennis and golf either at school level, or socially with family and friends. Sport teaches us so many valuable life principles like respect, teamwork, enjoyment, selflessness, physical health, discipline, hard work, commitment, patience, dealing with success and loss, etc.

Having said that, I have observed a worrying trend among some of South Africa’s professional sportsmen and politicians of late. These men are making promises that sport of no nature can deliver. Minister of Sport, Mr. Fikile Mbalula, made the following statement at the Commonwealth Bid being awarded to Durban for 2022, “Sport continues to unite South Africans, healing past wounds and creating a better future for all.” Our cricket captain, AB de Villiers, was talking to the media during the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, “There is also expectation from ourselves as well. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a big difference, to make South Africa a better place. We are playing for the bigger picture tomorrow, not just for ourselves, it’s for the entire nation.”

I do admit that sport has the power to inspire people. We as South Africans are well aware of the impact of the Springboks winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup had on our young democracy. It has been well documented in the popular film Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood. However, the effect that the World Cup and ‘Madiba Magic’ had on our country is one side of a many-faceted story. Our country experienced a miracle transitioning from an Apartheid Government to a Democracy. And we owe our gratitude to those who paid a price for our peace and unity – men, women, students, churches, activists, political prisoners, spiritual leaders, foreign nations, etc.

With the Rugby World Cup being in the headlines, I’ve heard similar claims from some Springbok personnel. Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer, said the following after the Boks defeated Samao, “We really want to make the country proud. Our country needs a lot of hope and the Springboks are the hope of the country.” Some of these claims are worrisome for me as a follower of Jesus for two reasons.

  1. They are making claims that only God can fulfil, therefore deceiving themselves and the public.

For our sports minister to say that sport can ‘heal past wounds’ is quite naïve. He is not talking about physical wounds, but hurts to the soul of man. How can sport heal the soul of man? How can sport take a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh? The Bible is clear that it is only God that can do such a miraculous act. God is speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

Heyneke Meyer’s proclamation that the ‘Springboks are the hope of the country’ is even more disturbing. If that is the case, then every Springbok loss diminishes our hope, whereas every win increases our hope. A win by South Africa on the sports field will make us happy for a while, but eventually it wears off. The question is, “Will these sports teams or individuals cause everything to work together for the good of every single South African (Romans 8:28)? Will these sporting gods give us a wonderful hope and eternal comfort         (2 Thessalonians 2:16)?”

Do they have the power to perform what they promise? I think the resounding answer is ‘NO’.  The Christian believes that God is the Hope of the world. The Holy Scriptures are quite clear on this, In his (Jesus) name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21)

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” (Psalm 62:5)

As a spiritual leader, I would be arrogant to think that I can give people hope. The only thing I can do is to POINT people to Christ, the Hope of the World. The hope God has poured into me, I can share with others. “…If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15b NLT) Yet I would be deceived, and deceive others, to think that I can manufacture and reproduce hope. God is the SOURCE of HOPE for South Africans.

  1. They are putting undue pressure on themselves, and creating unrealistic expectations among the sporting public.

International sportsmen and women are under immense pressure to compete at the highest levels of their respective disciplines. Their performances are widely reported on the front and back pages of newspapers around the world. One missed tackle, or dropped catch, or mediocre game, or wrong decision by the referee, can alter the course of their careers. They can be dropped from the team, receive criticism from the public and media, and lose their income or endorsement deals.

Why would they add to these pressures an unrealistic endeavour which they don’t possess the means to fulfil? Why would they promise their fans something which they can’t deliver? Why do they take up a burden on their shoulders which they were not made to carry? Why do they presume to take the place of God in the lives of people through the statements they make?

I realize these are some confrontational questions! The reason I am confronting this line of thinking, is because the souls of men and women are at stake. God’s Word decrees that we must have NO other gods before us (Exodus 20:3-5). God is the only being able to fulfil our deepest needs. David says it so well in Psalm 16:11,

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence

                 and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

 May we ENJOY our sport, yet ENJOY our God even more. I leave you with this question, “Do you show more exuberance when Habana scores a try, or when you thank God for what He is doing in your life?” Let our bodies, minds, emotions, words, thoughts and actions SHOW that we LOVE God with everything we’ve got. (Matthew 22:34-40)

 

Sources:

http://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/South-Africa/Mbalula-Commonwealth-Games-will-be-a-success-20150902

http://www.sport24.co.za/Cricket/CricketWorldCup2015/AB-Were-playing-for-a-bigger-picture-20150323

http://www.supersport.com/rugby/springboks/news/150927/Boks_won_through_honesty_about_defeat

statues, fears and a christian response

South Africa is currently in the middle of a ‘statue’ crisis. As I perceive it, a portion of our citizens are unhappy with what these statues of past Colonial and Apartheid heroes represent. There are a lot of frustration, fears and anger being voiced in social circles lately. On Thursday, 9 April 2015, the statue of imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes, was removed from the campus of the University of Cape Town. The governing management of UCT decided to remove the statue after weeks of protests and pressure from students on the campus.

The Rhodes debacle triggered a wave of protests around the country – Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Cape Town, etc. Some of these protesters turned to vandalism in defaming monuments of past oppressors. In response to the defamation of statues, some people are also protesting for the preservation of these figures.

With all this going on, I was watching the news the other night, and a remark by one of South Africa’s political leaders struck my heart. He said that the defamation of statues reminded him of similar scenes in Germany in the early 1930s. The Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler tried to remove the Jewish influence on German life by burning all books written by Jews, and about Jews. We all know what happened in the approximately 12 years after that to Jews in Europe under the bloodthirsty Nazis.  When I heard this statement, my heart froze with fear! I thought to myself, “What if this is just the beginning of the extermination of the Afrikaner from South Africa?”

Late into the evening I experienced emotions ranging from anxiety to anger. I suppose a human’s default reaction to the possible threat of your existence is to make a plan – fight or flee.  After some time of contemplating the issues at hand, two thoughts arose in my heart:

  1. What is the Biblical perspective on the unfolding events?
  2. What lies at the root of these protests in the hearts of men?

Both of these questions do not have a singular answer, and I certainly will not try to answer these questions holistically. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will awaken our hearts to compassion for the people in this situation. In a sense, I’m inviting you on this journey of discovering the heart of God for the people of South Africa. In these past weeks, I’ve come to realise that my heart is far from where God’s heart is at; my thoughts concerning the crisis is certainly not filled with divine revelation, but instead, self-preservation (Isaiah 55:8, 9). It is our usual manner as humans to put our own survival as first priority, yet that is contrary to what Jesus exemplified. He said,

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24 ESV)

How is our response different to that of the world? Do we run to our corner in fear, or attack the other party in anger and self-justification? Or is there maybe another way, a Christ-honouring way? While the anger started to bubble up from within, I ran through every argument in my head, trying to prove my point of view as the just one. In the midst of this mental conflict, a scripture came to mind,

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (1 Peter 3:9 NLT)

God knows where retaliation will take mankind. It will just perpetuate the cycle of hatred and revenge. I am just scratching the surface of God’s perspective in the Scriptures on what is happening. Just by simply seeing the unfolding events through the eyes of eternal truths found in the Bible, I can allow God to change my hardened heart. If God can change my heart, He can then start to use me as an agent of change for His Kingdom of love. As a representative of God’s Heavenly Kingdom on earth, the Bible is my ambassadorial directives from the celestial capital. If we’re not immersed in what God’s Word is saying, we will fail miserably in representing Christ on earth (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

So firstly, I am committing myself to study the Holy Scriptures in order to see and hear God’s heart for our current situation in South Africa. More than that, I want to learn how to share the Good News of Reconciliation with my fellow Africans.

And this brings me to the second question: I do not really know why many South Africans (and especially black Africans) feel aggrieved at the legacy of Apartheid and Colonialism. I know some facts about the injustices committed in the past by the oppressors. But what I’m talking about is not the historic facts; I’m talking about the knowing of the heart. To be honest, there is not a natural empathy in my heart for what the previously disenfranchised suffered. I know what the Apartheid government did was wrong, but it is just an intellectual consent, not a visceral reality.

In order for me to ‘feel for’ the statue protesters, I first need to ‘feel with’ them. In other words, I will not feel compassion for the disenfranchised, if I don’t see and hear and taste and smell and feel what they’ve gone through, and what they are currently going through. Therefore, I have committed myself to read (in their own words) what they have gone through in the past under the hands of the oppressors. I am also trusting God to grant me the boldness to engage my fellow brothers and sisters in hearing their stories. What are their challenges? What are their frustrations? Where are they headed with their lives? And where can I ask forgiveness for what I and my forefathers did that dishonoured their humanity? What role can I play in the redeeming process of broken lives and systems?

My hope is that if God can change me, then maybe I can make a constructive contribution to making South Africa a God-honouring country. My aim is to start where I am with what I’ve got. My prayer is that you will join me in this journey of discovering God’s heart for South Africa and its people, and also how we can display His heart to a people in desperate need.

‘Inference’ Christianity

“To most people God is an inference, not a reality, He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate, but He remains personally unknown to the individual.” (AW Tozer)

Tozer hits a critical nerve with this statement, because it’s so true for many of us.  An inference is a deduction or conclusion concerning certain evidence.  It is not something you experience first-hand, but a conclusion you make based on second-hand information.  I do not personally know any extinct dinosaurs.  Yet, I do believe they were real creatures who lived on the earth once upon a time.  They left an archaeological record by which we can reconstruct models of how we assume they looked like. Artists draw pictures of them in our academic textbooks in an effort to make dinosaurs more real, more tangible, and more life-like.  But will I ever experientially know a Tyrannosaurs Rex?  I doubt it, maybe in heaven one day?  I can only know about dinosaurs through inference.

Jesus lived on the earth more than 2 000 years ago.  There is a historical record left to us with which we can make our own conclusions.  Add to that the numerous cases where people have testified of how Christ has personally affected their lives in the past two millennia.  Information on the life and accomplishments of Jesus is today more accessible than any previous time in history.  Commentaries, Bible translations, historical records and original texts are not hard to come by.

The question that begs to be answered is:  “Why are there so many unchanged lives inside and outside the church?” Why are we struggling to live the ‘Jesus-life’ today in our post-modern world?  Why are there so many pew warmers content with empty religious activity?  Where are the red-hot Christ-followers daring to throw themselves at the mercy of God?

I think a part of our answer to these questions is linked with this word ‘inference’.  When you study geography in a textbook, you wrestle with the concepts until you can master it, until you grasp it.

Here’s the catch!  Jesus is not a subject matter to be mastered, but a person to get acquainted with.  Many Christians approach their Bibles like academic textbooks.  They may have intellectually grasped a certain chapter of the Bible, but they will never grasp the entire mystery of who God is.  You see, Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, and He came to live among us. (John 1:14) He is the living Word which is constantly active and infused with divine energy to bring about eternal change. (Hebrews 4:12) We will never be able to master the Master – He is God through and through; He will not be boxed in by our petty conclusions.

Conclusions do not change lives.  The more I’ve tried to convince people into changing, the more they’ve dug their heels in. For you to change, for me to change – we need an experience with the person of Jesus Christ. The highly fanatical, religious expert, named Saul, was changed into Paul, not by another persuasive debate, but by an encounter with the living Christ. The people of God need a fresh encounter with Christ.

Let us stir our hearts to KNOW God! Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Jazz it up!!!

I find myself caught in the constant tension between God’s symphonic dream for planet Earth and my own selfish cacophony.  From the first time we hear heaven’s sound, we know in our innermost being, that we are called to be part of Heaven’s symphony.  We are destined to play a part.  We are endowed with the privilege of continuing Christ’s mission on the earth – mending broken hearts, liberating prisoners, feeding the hungry, accepting the rejected, caring for the fatherless, loving the unlovely, including the marginalized, embracing the foreigner, healing the sick, associating with the social outcast.

Some art forms are an acquired taste.  Take jazz music for instance.  Not knowing the  basic historic rudiments, techniques or nuances of jazz, I suspect I don’t fully appreciate the genre.  When it comes to jazz, I plead 98% ignorance. The one jazz riff I learnt from my guitar tutor had my fingers entangled and my image bruised.  Needless to say, that is where my experiential language of jazz ends.  In order for me to understand and appreciate jazz more, I’ll have to dust off my guitar and go for some jazz lessons.

It is a style of music that’s not typically a one-hit wonder, but takes time to grow on you.  The more I hear it, the more it becomes part of me and I become part of it.  The tunes grip your soul and the rhythms arrest your heart.  Before long, you are tapping the beat, whistling the tune, humming the melody, singing the song and living the lyrics.  The music becomes you.

This is the same with God’s symphony; it has a tendency to grow on you.  And before you realize it, His symphonic masterpiece has become the melody you sing.  Yes, your life starts to resonate with the sound from heaven.  Your way of living starts to reflect God’s heart and thoughts.  To be frank, the priorities of God become your to-do-list.

On the other side of the tension is my selfish cacophony.  A cacophony is a big noise of inharmonious clatter.  The problem here is that you, I and the whole human race are born into this selfish cacophony.  The Biblical term for this cacophony is sin.  Sin implies that a person has missed the target God set out for him or her to hit.  We’ve missed the life God intended for us to live.  We’ve fallen short of the glorious symphony the Conductor has envisioned for us to be part of.  We are so out of tune that only the Original Designer could have stepped in to rescue. And He did!  Paul echoes this predicament we find ourselves in, in his letter to the church in Rome (at that time it was the capital of the Roman Empire; synonymous with affluence, intellectual power and perceived perfection).  “We’re all the same.  No one’s innocent.  We’ve all messed up and dropped well short of God’s target for us.” (Romans 3:23)

We’ve all messed up and dropped well short.  That’s our problem – God knows it and I believe we know it as well.  And that’s where God’s marvelous newsbreak is like fresh water to our souls. The news that our mess-up is irreparable, but His cure is immaculate.  The consequences of our choices deserve judgement, yet the storehouse of His grace is immeasurable. This is the mystery of the gospel – the ‘wowness’ of what God did for us will never be fully grasped.  And to top that, God invites us to share this Good News with those who are most undeserving (like we were and still are).