First foot forward

At the last census in 2011, the town of White River in Mpumalanga recorded 16,639 residents. Along with several other missions students, I happened by there in 1997 and was impressed by the agricultural lifestyle: colder in the morning, fresher, less noise, physical labour, but surrounded by green things and iron-rich soil that is just about burgundy.


We saw a little publisher in the town called Emmanuel Press, at that time managed by a gentleman that resembled Colonel Sanders, but without the dark framed spectacles.


David Newington has since fallen asleep.


Strange, all these years later – and because we’re in a lockdown – I decided to make use of free online courses that they offer and I’ve been at it fairly regularly. For a long time I’ve wanted to study theology. I’ve heard it described as the ‘queen of the sciences’ because it lies at the summit of a type of Unified field theory, that collates everything that can be discovered about God from all the other scientific disciplines and in fact leaps over the barrier of what we can discover about God from logic and observation of his creation and into the territory of what God says about Himself in Scripture.


So, I’m happily studying the first module and its basic stuff. But what I like about Scripture is that one verse can slam through your eyelids, cause you to suck in your breath, fire up your brain and tug some nose hairs on its way out.


A verse can have a profound effect. Because the Word is alive.


I read a lot, and Scripture is the only place where I find this happens.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”


The context is Paul contrasting our earthly bodies with our heavenly home, and us wanting to please Him, whether in our tents (earthly bodies) or at home in His presence. And then Paul reminds us that we have to give an account for the things we have done in the body, whether good or bad.


The unbeliever appears before the great white throne of judgement. The Christian appears before the bema (judgement seat of Christ). As Paul notes, when apart from the body the Christian is at home with the Lord. There is no question of his or her eternal destiny. It is heaven. The judgement seat of Christ resolves the issue of what the Christian’s reward looks like.


Faith is expressed in actions and those actions are judged. The apostle James wrote that faith without works is dead. I figure, works without the right motivation is just sweat.


The Father knows our motivations and in the light of His word, he evaluates in all the things that we have done.


I read this verse and wondered…any of the things that I have thought and turned into action, or have said, or have actually done, how much of it has been ‘for Christ’? It’s a question without my being able to resolve it. How do I know what my motivations are? I’m capable of deceiving myself and only He can show me.


When I first ventured to White River, it was the year when I remember asking the question, what would He say to me at the end? Would it be ‘well done’?


Well, I could obsess about the question and sigh and pace around like Hamlet, or I could do what Paul wrote about: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for Christ, the goal, the prize, I strain towards what is ahead.


The lazy servant in the parable (Matthew 25) didn’t do anything with his Master’s investment but buried it in the ground. I can briefly engage in some contemplation about what my motivation has been up to this point…have I done it for Christ? Or what have I done for Christ? But sooner rather than later, contemplation has served its purpose and I stop looking into my own heart (yuck) and I start looking into Scripture and then put the first foot forward again.

Forgetting what lies behind…straining towards what is ahead

In this lockdown, would it be hard to convince you that it seems I’ve taken as many steps backwards as forwards?

Obsessing like Hamlet

And then I start looking into Scripture and then put the first foot forward again.

Common grace

I watched ‘Groundhog day’ first and endured the South African lockdown second and one reminds me of the other.


As in every time we tuned into hear ‘My fellow South Africans…’ it was six more weeks of winter.


And yet, despite the happenings in the country and ‘the troubles’, on taking the hound for its exertion early this morning, a flight of birds whipped past me at tree-top level and in my recollection of the moment now hours later, their dark avian forms paused with a pregnant gray cloud as a backdrop looking to the east.


The regulations temporarily forgotten, our walk continued and the rain cloud gradually caught up to us.


Free as a bird like the saying, but thinking about being cared for as His child, which is of far more importance.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 NIV)

Raindrops falling on my head, being reminded of His common grace, enjoyed by child and foe alike, oppressor and oppressed.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.(From Matthew 5:45 NIV)

Tiny green and pink colonies, there one moment and gone the next, but noticed in His providence.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. (Matthew 6:28 NIV)

Spotting a rainbow, though insipid on the cell phone camera, vivid on my photo receptors and in my memory, speaking of how His mercy persists.

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:13 NIV)

Get thee a wife

‘Much ado About Nothing’ is one of my favourite comedies from the pen of William Shakespeare and concludes with the deliriously happy Benedick offering advice to Don Pedro: “Prince, thou art sad. Get thee a wife…get thee a wife!” (Act 5, Scene 4).


Pretty much everyone loves a happy ending and what’s better than a wedding, a union, a life of possibilities ahead.


On the occasion of our thirteenth anniversary, I think of my wife in view of the writer of Proverbs:


10 A truly good wife
is the most precious treasure
a man can find!”


I think of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, writing about how marriage is a mystery.


It’s not a mystery in the sense that you wonder how the guy got together with the girl in the first place. In our case, gradually.


It’s not a mystery in the sense that you wonder how they’ve stayed together this long. No idea, just blinked a few times and its now 13 years later.


It’s a mystery in that the bedrock, common, ordinary relationship that billions are familiar with expresses a meaning far greater than the obvious. And it’s been understood in this way only since Christ.


“Why did God design the world this way? Why two sexes, and why one male and the other female? Why one called to lead, provide, protect, and shoulder final responsibility, with the other called to actively receive, beautify, and strengthen humble initiative and care? Why a dance of two complementaries, rather than just two of the same?”


Not two of the same because husband and wife don’t have the same function as any other partnership on earth.


Not just to make babies, but to model, express and show the relationship between Christ and His church.


Paul rightly says that it is profound.


Now from the profound to the co-incidental…it was before I had even proposed, in 2006 we wandered into a music store and they handed us each a flier:

I don’t do omens, since it seems like taking things that are co-incidental and reading a conclusion into it that isn’t there. It was a cute coincidence, but we are called to live by faith in the revealed word of God and so I kept these fliers for fun, but I read Scripture for life.