Invisible

It’s an afternoon in May in Cape Town and I’m looking at clouds in the sky. There are a lot of clouds in May and Africa has some of the best sunsets in the world, and this is what the writer of Psalm 19 is referring to when he says that ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…”

Dark skies all around
The work of His hands

The forces at work that create the conditions for clouds to appear, and determine their type and altitude are invisible; things like convection, wind, gravity, static electricity and a host of other phenomena. The sun sets and rises the next day without fail, “at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth…”

 

The psalmist begins with the God of creation and in verse seven moves to the LORD, the covenant-making One who reveals himself deeper than mere nature can. He has made the law, scripture that illuminates us and points us to Him.

 

The law is perfect, refreshes the soul, imparts wisdom to the simple, giving joy to the heart and establishes righteousness. Like the forces that act to make clouds that we can see, the law works inside the human heart in ways we cannot see but with each the effect is visible. Can you see righteousness? Can you point out wisdom? Establish a test to observe the refreshment of a soul? Quantify the fear of the Lord? There is more in this world and the next than we can see.

 

Strange that we don’t trust things we can’t see. We have no idea what the future holds and that terrifies us, some more than others. Well, who made the dimension of future and who has already been there and who has promised to take care of us? God, of course.

 

At our absolute worst, when we may entertain doubts we may know what the atheist feels like but only for a short time. To a lesser degree we may not doubt God’s existence, but we may doubt his goodness or his power. The author of psalm 73 begins to doubt that God is fair because as he looks around there appear to be no consequences for those who do evil and as a moral being he innately knows that fairness means that God should reward the good and punish the evil. Though of course, ‘who is good except God alone’? When he entered the sanctuary of the Lord, then he ‘understood their final destiny.’ (verse 17b). Technically invisible, but with eyes of faith we see truth.

 

Ultimately God will right every wrong and it takes a lot of faith to be able to see that. A shaft of light can look unremarkable until a prism splits the light into its component frequencies from Red to Violet. Faith is like peeling back the curtain and looking at the world that lies beyond.

Peel back the curtain
Peel back the curtain

Hebrews 11: 1: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see.” Peel back the curtain, put that prism in the sun, and let scripture tell us the truth, the way God looks at things.

How wonderful it is

Psalm 133:

1 How wonderful it is, how pleasant,

         for God’s people to live together in harmony!

2 It is like the precious anointing oil

running down from Aaron’s head and beard,

down to the collar of his robes.

3 It is like the dew on Mount Hermon,

falling on the hills of Zion.

That is where the LORD has promised his blessing –

life that never ends.

The above Scripture reminded me of one of the things impressed upon me by the Holy Spirit. As I was worshiping, I thought suddenly of how different God is from the world. I mean, in the world today, there is Islamic terrorism, unrighteousness in our government, rampant taxes, and corporate mega-greed. The world seems designed to bring us all down, to lay us all low, and what’s more, to ultimately and spectacularly reject us. Rejection is part of this world’s system.

Looking at all the things listed above, radical Muslims want to take me out, the government doesn’t want to represent me, but at the same time wants my taxes, and corporations are out to lighten my wallet but never give me value for that money.

As I was worshiping, I thought…how different it is with God. Everything about His way of doing things is poised to accept me. He wants to preserve me and keep me safe. Jesus represents me in heaven, as does the Holy Spirit, and intercedes for me. He always does what is right, and even goes beyond that to do that which is gracious and merciful. He always wants to give. He gave His Son and keeps on with the blessing. And He keeps extending invitations to approach Him.

As I was worshiping…I thought, the world is completely insane! And although I frequently don’t understand God’s ways, He makes sense. The whole idea of God I mean. Of course He is and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

The other thought that came later was about the fellowship of Believers. Like the oil running down Aaron’s beard and robe. I believe God was saying that I should give my brethren a chance, and keep on keeping on with them. Because the result is life that never ends.

When you are a soldier

Every time I watch ‘Saving Private Ryan’ I cry. Without fail. Especially the part where the poor guy representing the Army has to go along with the Padre to tell Mrs Ryan that 3 of her 4 sons won’t be coming home.

 

I can think of no more devastating news than that. It’s almost akin to the news Job received that all of his children had been killed.

 

The Army decides that they have to bring Private Ryan back home to his mother so that she can still have one last son out of the mess that was World War 2. A reluctant squad led by Captain Miller is tasked with finding Private Ryan and getting him back to base. As they try to find Ryan in the chaos after the paratrooper drops at Normandie they take casualties one by one. Ryan refuses to abandon his soldier brothers. In the heat of the final battle Captain Miller, dying from a bullet wound tells Private Ryan to ‘earn’ their sacrifice and to live a good life.

 

Though that scene does not bear any resemblance to Christ’s sacrifice for us, the Biblical principle can still be seen: Christ said “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13). He has made us his friends and he gave his life for us. This is what I think of as we come to 6 June. The landings at Normandie were so awful and full of blood-letting that they literally defy understanding. The first 27 minutes of the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ were masterfully, viscerally and awfully captured on film by that master Steven Spielberg. And it’s difficult to watch and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that the reality was worse than the imagining on the silver screen.

 

Many film-makers have tried to use celluloid to depict the sufferings and anguish of Christ as he laid down his life for us. In my humble opinion it falls short. A sacrifice like that is unimaginable.

 

On this eve of Normandie I remember Dick Winters and the men of Easy Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, the men of the 82nd Airborne, the men of the 75th Ranger Regiment, SEAL team 6 (DEVGRU) and all those men who are ready to lay down their lives for their brothers.

 

And of more importance I think of Christ who laid down his life for us all. On a rescue mission that is the greatest story ever told.

Muhammad Ali

The boxer Muhammad Ali died 3 June 2016 at the age of 74 after suffering the effects of Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.  Generally considered the greatest heavyweight boxer in the history of the sport he reached his zenith in the 1960’s.

 

Like the passing of the artist known as Prince, the passing of Muhammad Ali did not affect my daily life but for other people he was an inspiring sportsman and American. I know next to nothing about the man but for his family it will feel as though the sun, moon and stars have fallen from the skies. The media have written a score of articles detailing his life and exploits which I have only glanced at in passing.

 

The poet and priest John Donne wrote of the passing of man and noted that every man’s death diminishes the human race; firstly, death is undignified and secondly, since we can’t perform Vulcan mind-melds, the soul and mind of that man is no longer available to us.

 

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

 

I’m not sure why but I got to thinking about Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist possibly in the history of the world. At the age of 97 you can think that there are far fewer days ahead than behind for him. And when one day the Lord takes him, will the media pay as much attention?

 

Maybe I’m being unkind to the media, but I somehow don’t think so. Looking ahead to Billy Graham’s date with destiny a comparison emerges: Muhammad Ali’s fame derived from when he was in his peak physical condition and for many years he was a feeble and sad shadow of the awe-inspiring boxer he once was. The march of time is never particularly kind to the body. Billy Graham is also a physical shadow of his young self but I’m reminded of Paul’s juxtaposition:

 

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

 

1 Timothy 4: 8 (New Living Translation)

 

Hard at work
Hard at work

When I think about Billy Graham I think of a life lived in service to God and it seems much more appealing to me than being a super-dooper sportsman, especially since I’m past my physical prime. Thinking of the bell that tolls for me, hopefully far in the future, I don’t think I will have any regrets that I wasn’t a Super Rugby player for the Sharks, however I don’t want to have any regrets about applying myself to knowing God and serving him.

My First Post

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.

Forrest W. Trump

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.”

 

Walking in the Way
Walking in the Way

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:

 

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.

Liquid grain
Liquid grain

I didn’t say easy, I said simple.

Our Daily Bread

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
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.

Rockin' sarmie
Rockin’ sarmie

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.

Clay

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.

To every thing there is a season
Shaking like a leaf

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.

 

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.

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.

Weathered a little
Weathered a little

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.”

https://answersingenesis.org/human-body/from-dust-to-dust/

 

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.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3582088/I-love-don-t-need-god-Brilliant-moment-gay-cyclist-shuts-anti-LGBT-preacher-receives-round-applause.html

 

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.

The cross on Tygerberg Hill from a moving car
The cross on Tygerberg Hill from a moving car

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.”

Eleven

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?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“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.”

 

Eleven
Eleven

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:

  1. God is moved by human tragedy
  2. He is the author of salvation; salvation is found in no-one else
  3. The nations can do whatever they want, He is in real control, and
  4. There is a resurrection

 

Thanks be to Him!

 

All quotes are from the NIV

Salafist sin

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.

Looks like a bomb's hit it
Looks like a bomb’s hit it

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.

Saved by grace
Saved by grace

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.

 

Paul continues:

 

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.