Sean and I began this blog to bring glory to God. I am not a person that finds it easy to speak out and since doing my little test to discover my Spiritual Gifts I have found out this is so. I am a behind the scenes man, I do what we would call the grunt work and I love it. I don’t need recognition from anyone but God and even then I don’t need recognition, knowing that I am in some small way sowing into the Kingdom of God is enough.
I want this blog to be about Christian attitude and Christian themes. I want to let others know that being a Christian is one of the greatest things I could ever do. I am proud to call myself a follower of Christ. I struggle daily and I mean DAILY to be better and more in tune with Christ. Some days I feel down right low when I don’t do things right but I remember that I am still loved and still saved by the blood of Christ. Someone, JESUS CHRIST, died for me. I must admit it brings tears to my eyes that someone would do that for me.
I don’t have the way with words that my brother has. I read his words in his posts and from one sentence to the next I am moved between laughter and heartbreak. Sean says many things I would love to be able to say besides having any enviable knowledge of God’s word that I couldn’t hope to possess. For the way you say what you say Sean you are an absolute gem and mentor. I too have my skills and that is photography. My aim for this blog site is to continue in glorifying God. I would like to use my God given talents to capture images that reflect God’s glory in this broken world of ours, that show the way God moves amongst us his people. So my prayer is for God to open the doors (or a window, as mentioned in previous posts) that will allow me and Sean to show off God’s amazing grace in our world yes but starting off here in Cape Town where we believe his Grace it sometimes feels it is most needed.
George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, famously remarked that ‘smart comes in different kinds of ways’. He was responding to suggestions from the press in America that he wasn’t particularly smart. In point of fact his IQ is reported to be 125, higher than Obama who many in the press hailed as the smartest president in 50 years, who only comes in at 116.
‘W’ did have a tendency to mangle words, phrases, and indeed whole sentences. Those of a liberal bent in America are of the opinion that he mangled both terms and the country. However that is for the historians to debate over.
Now in the waning term of Obama, all we hear about is Donald J. Trump in the news. The press and professional politicians all lament that he engages in demagoguery, which basically means appealing to the emotions of the crowd, rather than engaging with them intellectually. Emotions are what they are. Everybody has them and it can be argued that emotions can’t evolve or are set at a basic level of the lowest common denominator. Intellect on the other hand can be improved. We can enlarge our brain’s ability to think and conceptualise and imagine, but we can’t really do the same with our emotions. And many are worried that Trump is tapping into that, in essence dumbing down America.
Except, where has intellectualism taken us? If we are guided by all the people in power who have more degrees than a thermometer, where will we end up as a society? Before you think I’m advocating that we should be led by stupid, manipulative politicians, we’re already manipulated. And besides it seems that politicians have been able to use logic and smarts and being intellectual and use it to muddy the waters and cause us to lose our common sense.
The following clip is humorous and tongue-in-cheek but it does make the point that being smart does come with its problems.
After all, there are some ideas that are so stupid that only intellectuals will believe them.
Is it possible that logic can be misused and become so convoluted that words lose meaning. Eventually meaning loses its meaning, or is cheapened. The rise of political-correctness illustrates this. Politicians and social-engineers have used so-called logic to bring us to a point in society where we accept the ridiculous: grievance-mongering, public bathrooms where anything goes, charges of racism shutting down free speech, trying to understand the enemy, and suing people who we disagree with, micro-aggressions which cause apoplexy on campuses in America, safe spaces where free speech need not bother us…the list is endless.
Donald J. Trump may appeal to emotion, however I believe the appeal to emotion is a work-around to get the electorate to use common sense and look with their eyes again and see where the country is going, and where it left the rails. Emotion can be used to fast-track us asking the right questions, which politically correct logic would not allow.
It’s not merely America. The world has problems and I’m not sure that the smart people are capable of devising the correct solutions. There is a better way than mere emotion, or intellectualism: wisdom.
Colloquially, knowledge is being aware that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not using it in a fruit salad. There is sometimes a difference between wisdom and those with PhDs.
Wisdom: seeing things from God’s perspective. Psalm 111: 10 reminds us that
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.”
The respect and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Any other starting point is useless and will ultimately lead to the incorrect conclusion.
Very fortunately, those who would like wisdom or realise that they lack it have merely to ask, as James reminds his readers in chapter 1 of his epistle:
“5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
I’m going to endeavour to see things from His point of view. Whilst I wish sometimes that acquiring wisdom were as easy as sipping on some suds, it simply involves studying scripture and applying it to life.
When Jesus’ disciples asked that he teach them how they should pray, he taught them what has come to be known as the Lord’s prayer which we still use to this day. “Our Father” he began. Now, the Lord’s prayer is full of meat & potatoes with nutritious theological food, however consider that still around today along with the words of the prayer is the old favourite, bread.
Bread is ubiquitous, everywhere from your local supermarket to the 1970’s soft rock band from L.A. to metaphors we use all the time, like ‘bread-line’. Our daily bread. Bread goes with almost any meal as a side (the faithful ‘bread plate’ attests to this), and curiously you can put almost any leftovers between 2 slices and you have a sandwich. Bread has got a bad rap lately however as with anything you may have too much of, it can be bad for you. According to a recent clinical study that took place at the University of Barcelona, daily consumption of bread in reasonable amounts can improve a person’s lipid profile (cholesterol, fatty acids) and lower insulin levels, thereby lowering the chance of developing heart disease.
Apparently it’s butter that is the real villain of the piece.
After feeding the multitudes, Jesus explained that he is the bread of life (John 6:35). Thereafter the crowds were looking for a free meal; whereas he was pointing out that he gives the free gift of eternal life.
Regular bread passes through the oesophagus into the GI tract where bacteria and digestive juices (including stomach acid) break it down into nutrients that are absorbed by the blood and distributed accordingly. As amazing as this process is, it merely keeps the body going. What Jesus offered – and offers still – is life above and beyond.
Jesus gave us two sacraments as Christians: baptism and communion. Every time I partake of the bread and juice, pray an earnest prayer, repent from sin, worship in spirit and truth, study the word, I’m partaking of the bread of life in my soul. And in dark times it is what sustains me.
I remember being a full time student, untouched by life’s challenges, spending oodles of time praying, having communion by myself in enthusiasm more than theological correctness. I remember walking through a banana plantation in White River, pouring out my soul to him, and in Leytonstone having a awesome quiet time to end all quiet times after a dry season. Partaking of the bread of life. I remember singing my heart out at a Promise Keepers conference, doing business with God. Without those ‘meals’ I certainly would be far worse off.
The meal is the act of living, around which we meet with Christ. One of the most touching invitations for Christians (this was written to the church at Laodicea) is Jesus’ words to the church in Revelation 3:
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
As Christians we are supposed to be strong and triumphant, winning spiritual battles and belting out the gospel, taking strongholds captive. Whilst this is true, what is equally true is our very weak nature which means that we have to rely on God to do anything.
One of my all-time favourite music artists is Rich Mullins who was a very grounded man and simultaneously whose artistry in music is soaring. You may recognise the chorus, ‘Our God is an awesome God’, however Rich Mullins also wrote and recorded one of the most poignant heart cries ever put to music, “Hold me Jesus, ‘cos I’m shaking like a leaf; you have been king of my glory; would you be my Prince of Peace…”. Between those songs we recognise that God is awesome and we are weak.
In the fourth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes of us believers being Jars of clay with treasure in them. We have the immense and profound truth in us that we are holding out to the world, and yet we are so frail.
“6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (NIV)
It seems that God prefers using broken people and broken situations to perform his work:
Mary’s alabaster box which she broke (Mark 14) to prepare Christ for burial; others considered it a waste whereas Christ said that she was right;
The broken ship; the wreck experienced by Paul (Acts 27, 28) that brought his testimony to Malta;
The roof that was broken (Mark 2) for the paralytic to experience healing; Jesus did not rebuke the men but saw the faith and healed the paralytic;
The body of Christ broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24).
Of course these are not the only examples, but a reading of the Scriptures presents a slew of broken people, situations and things that ultimately served His purposes.
I personally would rather that he not use brokenness with me, however he is the potter and I’m the clay. Have you ever thought about God creating mankind on day 6, getting His hands in the dust and forming Adam?
The Hebrew word for dust in Genesis 2:7 is aphar (Strong’s #6083): clay, earth, mud, ashes, earth, ground, mortar, powder, rubbish. You will see in this list a common word we can associate to dust: clay. The term clay refers to a naturally occurring material composed primarily of fine-grained minerals, which is generally plastic (moldable, stretchable) when hydrated and will harden when dried or fired.1 Did the Lord God use water with the dust to form man? We can’t be sure, but Genesis 2:6 says water was present: “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.”
The Kingdom is made up of those who are malleable as God showed Jeremiah in chapter 18 of the prophet’s book, and those also willing to be used by God, as cracked as they are as God showed Paul in 2 Corinthians 4. The Kingdom is made up of those whom trendy society rejects, the outcasts and embarrassing.
In this week I read of an encounter between a street preacher in Glasgow and a gay man riding past on his bicycle. The street preacher was considered to be an embarrassment and the gay man enlightened because the gay man said: ‘I love me, I don’t need a god to do it.’ While there may a context as to why the man on the bicycle said that, think about what that means: that his love for himself sustains him, that he doesn’t need God.
As mere clay I have no right to be angry at God when he performs his prerogative, but this I do know: we all need his love. And He knows we are clay, it’s not like God forgets and expects awesome things from us. Think about that, and that one day there will be an end to brokenness.
Again from 2 Corinthians 4:
“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Some of the most momentous events of my life have happened on the eleventh of any given month, and although I derive no mystical significance from them, I have learned lessons from them.
11 October 1991
On a Friday evening at ‘The Lord’s place’ in Durban I called on the name of the Lord and was never the same since. Romans 10:
“9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
11 September 2001
I became aware of the world and geo-politics like never before when Al-Qaeda terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 innocents. They’re not the only ones though as nation states are broadly active in exercising power over innocents and persecuting Christians. The nations rage and are in an uproar and rebel against the Lord and His anointed. Psalm 2 declares:
“1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
11 March 2011
I was very aware of the power of nature and what it could do when a magnitude 9.0 quake struck Japan and inflicted a trifecta of disasters: Quake, Tsunami, and Nuclear radiation. Luke 21 declares:
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
11 June 2011
The account of Lazarus is recorded in John chapter 11, where Lazarus the friend of Jesus had died. On 11 June 2011, Tracy fell asleep and death became very personal.
The shortest verse in the Bible is from verse 35 of the 11th chapter: “Jesus wept.” Jesus is the image of the invisible God. God is moved by human tragedy and is moved by all of the events that move us to despair and tears.
John 11 continues:
“40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father,I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
The lessons I derive are that:
God is moved by human tragedy
He is the author of salvation; salvation is found in no-one else
The nations can do whatever they want, He is in real control, and
On any given week day a person can innocently go to the news to find out what’s going on the in the world and be confronted by the sordid particulars of the latest terrorist atrocity somewhere in the world. There are many human beings who perpetrate acts of terror however in the years since 9/11 we automatically think of the usual Salafist suspects as being behind religiously motivated violence.
To my mind it seems to come out of nowhere. Certainly to the people of Brussels, Paris, London, New York or Lahore the terror seems to strike in a random pattern and time which is why it is so terrifying and visceral.
Of course it doesn’t come out of nowhere and in truth the spectre of a terror attack is more immediate than many choose to realise. It reminds me of sin. Striking when I least expect it at my most vulnerable point and doing the most damage possible. The aftermath is shocking and messy.
In the 7th chapter of Romans, Paul describes his own sinful nature as leading him to do the things that he hates.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
According the site www.thereligionofpeace.com, Islamic terrorists have carried out more than 28 000.00 deadly terror attacks since 9/11. Since becoming aware of my sinful nature, my personal campaign of sin has a tally that far exceeds 28 000.00. I suck.
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Jesus is my rescuer, and wins the war on sin before even the last battle has been fought:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV)
What does that mean practically? It means acquittal on judgement day however for now it also means that I don’t have to be a slave to sin; when it threatens to overwhelm me and strike, I can do what is right and appeal to Christ. Being forgiven we are then free to approach God the Father not as He who will execute vengeance and condemn, but he who has already forgiven and will restore.
Strangely enough, Thursday last week was the low point of my week at work. You might be forgiven for thinking that Monday is the most hectic, as by now you will have come across that song by ‘The Bangles’ dealing with the subject and recognised that there is a big difference between Sunday and Monday…
…so, back to the low point of my week, for some reason in this particular week, Thursday was the worst. I got to thinking whether work was a tenable endeavour without coffee. Aside from the familiarity of the coffee drinking ritual that punctuates our working hours, there is the caffeine that always works.
The question occurred to me: what makes the working world go around? Is it a Protestant work ethic? The impulse to be creative and productive? Greed? Coffee? Or a combination of all of these elements?
I suppose coffee is part of what makes people at work more resilient but of course it’s not the main factor. A report just this month in the press (www.independent.co.uk) suggested that for over 40’s, the optimum work week should be three days. I imagine that this takes coffee’s powers of inspiration into account.
For the under 40’s I imagine it’s a combination of idealism, youth and ambition. Or in the case of Wall Street and bullish investment houses, cocaine, greed and the thrill of the deal, at least according to Jordan Belfort, the author of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.
In a city like New York, remove coffee from the equation and ‘the city that never sleeps’ may a lot more somnolent. Back in the 1600’s coffee was far too expensive for consumption by the common man and the beverage of choice for breakfast was in fact beer as it was cheap. Beer could be brewed locally whereas coffee could not, making it an import and therefore a luxury. Most cities in America preferred a cup of tea as they were established by the English, however New York was founded by the Dutch who love coffee, and as the city grew as a place where coffee was processed, the beverage also became cheaper and grew to become the beverage of choice for New Yorkers. The people of New York consume more coffee per capita than any other population in the country with the exception perhaps of the Navy or Coast Guard.
In South Africa, fine and gourmet coffees are slowly but surely catching on. For the longest time instant coffees were the drink of choice and Saffas were content with the arrangement. Now instant coffees are considered quite a bit less refined. Barista coffee goes hand in hand with shopping malls and beautiful indoor spaces. We’re becoming more sophisticated and South Africa is now a growing market. Starbucks has just opened their first branch in the country and now there’s no looking back.
Coffee is what keeps me going at work. That and music. For other people it’s the opportunity to nail a colleague, or making a deal (in Wall Street they call it hunting elephants), or hang out with colleagues. Too much politics, so I’ll simply stick with my good old cup of Joe and hang in there till Friday afternoon.
With the release last year of the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, some economists decided to analyse the cost of the Death Star and the impact of its destruction on the Galactic Imperial economy.* Suffice it to say that the Great Depression of 1929 was child’s play by comparison.chea
It seems like all the best things in life are really expensive. In the 1985 movie ‘Back to the future’ Doc Brown tells Marty that he spent most of his family fortune on developing his time machine. Being able to go back in time is an intriguing prospect, revisiting the good, the precious, the things we hold close to our heart. And being as I don’t have the Brown family fortune but am a person of more limited means, I thought of a way to go back in time more cheaply: music.
Music from my youth, from the times in my past where a song provided the soundtrack for a piece of once-in-a-lifetime history. The cost? The price of a writeable CD. Here follows a random sample of some music tracks of my life so far:
‘House of the rising sun’ (1964) by The Animals
The first song I remember from when I was young.
‘Cherie Cherie Lady’ (1985) by Modern Talking
The song from when I went to a disco at the 58th Air Scout hall in Durban and me and my cousin danced with some pretty girls.
‘I think we’re alone now’ (1987) by Tiffany
I remember carrying my ‘boom box’ and bright pink shirt to visit a young lady, playing this song and thinking I was impressing her.
‘U can’t touch this’ (1990) by MC Hammer
When I thought I knew what cool was. It hasn’t really translated very well to 2016. I actually bought the LP.
‘Tell me what you want’ (1996) by The Spice Girls
I remember being in London going to His People and Pastor Wolfie Eckleben preached a sermon about this.
‘Knowing you’ (1993) by Graham Kendrick
I remember attending a Promise Keepers meeting at Atlantic Christian Assembly in Sea Point and being floored by the Presence while singing this song. I’ve always loved the song ever since.
‘Here I am’ (2002) by Bryan Adams
This is the song playing as me and my wife entered the reception after we got married.
‘Blessed be your name’ (2002) by Matt Redman
The song I was meditating on in June 2011, and when Tracy died we played this at her memorial. It reminds me of my sister.