Monday, April 21, 2008

60 000 Men for Jesus!

This past week-end (18-20 April) I had the privilege of being part of possibly the largest gathering of Christian Men in South Africa ever. We came from everywhere and overwhelmed the small town of Greytown, Kwa-Zulu Natal. From the moment we left home in Rustenburg at 08:00 on Friday, all the way down to the conference we were surrounded by men in cars, buses, bikes and trucks. All going to the same destination! Angus Buchans farm.

In a 12km traffic jam for 3hrs, we waited excitedly to gain entrance to the farm. Not a single voice in anger, not a single murmur of dissent and not a single thought of turning away. Peace reigned! as the sun set the atmosphere grew, swelled and an awe settled on us as we knew we were witnessing an event that no-one could have foreseen... initially planned for 25000-30000 men the event burst it's banks and soared to 60000+. Those of us carried along by the "flood" experienced what I believe was as close as a modern Christian could get to the experience of first Pentecost in Jerusalem, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. There where no visible tongues of flames alighting on the men, but there was a very visible flame burning in their faces! It reflected off the glistening cheeks of our neighbours as we lifted our hearts, our voices and our faces to receive God's blessings.

Angus Buchan and his team ministered to the thousands, themselves in awe of what God had sent to his farm. The message "Dying to Live" is by no means a new Christian teaching but it was presented in a plain and unfettered way. Simple words, simple actions, direct challenges with direct consequences - the way men who don't have time to waste, needed to hear it!

In a country in need of God, crying out for Him, this was a cool salve blowing across that pain. It was for everyone, the leaders, the pastors, the downtrodden, the zealous, the ordinary and the extraordinary. People can be glib and belittle week-ends like this, passing them off as mere flights of fancy, an attempt by the religious fanatic or powerless citizen to seize an opportunity at trying to believe that the world can change. They miss the point... Week-ends like this don't change the world, they change people! If you change enough people, then you change the world!!!! 60000 men is a very good start! 2 years ago there was 270 men, last year 7000 this year 60000, next year? There is also the country wide tour of prayer in stadiums all around the country, linked as well to the swell from other Christian movements. Yes, Angus has started his MMC (Mighty Men Conference) but other Christians are also busy! We had a drama on salvation recently preformed at a local church, planned to run for 4 nights, it eventually ran for 7! to full houses every night! The hunger and need is being fanned by God in every town, every city, every home across South Africa. Revival isn't coming, it's here!

So what happened this week-end? Men from all walks of life were challenged to lay it all down for Christ. To put away Pride, to banish it from their lives in all it's forms. To stop "standing" on their so called rights. In a world that constantly adds more and more "rights" to people, but in reality ends up taking everything away. All our so called rights are laid out in the law books now, in black and white. To the degree that you cannot open your mouth to exercise the "right to the freedom of speech" without the fear of violating someones "right to freedom of association"... crazy! Now we are challenged to relinquish all our rights. Die to self and live in Jesus! Men of Christ laying down the rights ascribed to them by the world to allow God to raise them up and use them mightily! A mighty man is one whom you find on his knees in the dust, humble and ready for God's plan in his life.

One of the topic's discussed around the week-end was to stay in South Africa or to leave. Well 1st off the most obvious answer is as a Christian, have you taken this to God? His plan for you may include leaving for another country, the question then arises what is His Purpose for sending you there? To provide for a better future could sound a little self centered, can our Great Awesome God not provide that for you here? is His arm too short?. Or maybe the reason is to have a safer life, says who? crime is a worldwide phenomenon. It could be to evangelise the unsaved, that sounds like a plan God might have for an emigrant.

Alternatively, in Faith I have accepted that Christ died for me and my family, so for me to live is Christ and to die is gain! You cannot threaten a Christian with Heaven! So I'm staying, until God says otherwise. I realise that this answer seems too easy and on deeper thought there may be issues that one may feel I have overlooked. Things like my security, wealth, children's future, quality of life and career. Nope, all of these issues, and more, have weighed heavily on my mind over the past 10 years. More so over the past year or two as I have become more affected by criminals in our country, poor governance, immoral behaviour of leaders, self-centered greed and political posturing by everybody in every walk of life. Yet I see Gods hand here, in my life, in my wife's life, in my children's life. He is a reality to me, a tangible force everyday. Going to another country would not remove Him from my life, remember His footprints are the ones when there were only one set. Rather if I left, my faith may grow academic, my faith might loose is muscle, my faith may become an existential thought, I may become lukewarm...

Some of my family that has moved overseas may be saddened by reading this news, I hope not. The truth is that my Faith is tested here daily, refined by God, I intend to allow Him to use me here. To no longer be ashamed of speaking up for Him, no longer allow His honour to be questioned, no longer apologise for being a Christian!

Lig julle hande na Bo
sing Hallelujah!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Musings on an Easter Thought

Easter Morning and we celebrate the Resurrection! I was struck by a simple truth this morning, you cannot presume to think that you have "arrived" just because you claim a relationship with God, just because you say that you acknowledge Him in your life, just because you go to church every now and then... the simplicity of it all is that these things should not need claiming, they are simply put, an outward sign of the inward life that has been immovably put there by God Himself.

Immovably put there by God Himself, not a fickle wish by us. Our wish to be Holy, our wish to be joined with God, our wish to please others by living a just life, these are good wishes but fallible and corruptible as all human wishes are. No, rather we see what God has placed in us as infallible, incorruptible and everlasting, then we see the simplicity for what it is. We read His Word and see reflected there what He was wrought in us, not the other way round - we cannot try and be what His Word requires without Him in us!

Hope that you are spending time in your days with God, not for my sake or your neighbours, or your colleagues, or your parents sakes, but for your sakes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Choices, Choices, Choices!

Our Family(my in-laws) recently(December) visited us all the way from Canada. It was a great time for re-uniting the family and sharing memories. A time for catching up on our current dreams and happenings. A family, just like any relationship, requires constant work to keep it together and happily so! If you cease to work at the relationship it will drift apart. So to that end I am grateful for the effort that our far-flung family makes to visit us regularly. We can hopefully return the favour one day.

One of the many things that happen during such a visit, is the sharing of our "faith-experiences". This is not only a strengthening for our family bonds, but also a part of our Christianity, a need to affirm our Christian fellowship with fellow believers. This year, as in the past we shared and discussed many happenings and teachings in our walks with Christ, until the early hours of the mornings! These times of sharing are very special, even though they make for bleary eyed mornings!

On one such occasion my sister-in-law shared her conviction that as Christians we don't truly have a choice when it comes to salvation. That some people are chosen by God and others not, and that those chosen while they might think or feel that they choose God, have no real choice as He has made that choice for us. This "Pre-selection" idea didn't go down very well with me and we had a rather heated debate on it. Neither of us were prepared to move off our stand points and so at length the family intervened and we ended the discussion unresolved. Or rather we agreed to disagree...

I am a firm believer in the biblical teaching "test everything, hold on to the good" 1 Thes 5:21 (however the whole chapter is relevant)
With that thought in mind I felt challenged to "test" this teaching. I found many references to God's chosen people, but none where clear on the the matter of "was everyone chosen and only some responded" or "some where chosen and they all responded". At least none I found. The Bible definitely talks about God's chosen, firstly the Jews in the Old Testament and then those who are born of the Spirit in Christ in the New Testament.

At first I sought only to understand who would be chosen or could be chosen and later I realised that I need to look at it from God's perspective. If He says in His Word that every tongue will confess that He is Lord and every knee shall bow to Him, then it follows to my mind that everyone will have the choice to accept or reject Him. No one will be able to claim that God never gave them a chance - He is the God of LOVE, He is LOVE and I cannot fathom that one person will have a "case" against God that he or she never had the opportunity to embrace that LOVE.

There is scripture that supports the "predestined" teaching, Eph 1 is one of these. However, there can be different understandings of this scripture since the letter is addressed to the believers and since God is All-knowing it follows that He knows who will accept His salvation and who will reject it. This doesn't mean that He doesn't offer it to everyone regardless of their choice. He is after all a Righteous (Ps 96:13) and Equitable (Ps 96:10) God.

From the other scripture I found there was a very definite "all-inclusive" feel. Here are but two of the readings.
Matt 28:18 - 20 : Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Italics and underlining added)
Col 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Italics and underlining added)

I am puzzled by the thought of pre-selection. Since if people or for that matter, my childern, are predestined to be with or without God then there's no amount of "caring" or input I can give that will change that. That is contrary to God's Word as He commands us throughout the bible to care for His people(Deut 15:11 and countless verses), He asks us to pray for them(Job 34:28, many Psalms, Eph 6:18 etc etc), He asks us to go to them(Matt 28:18-20 and many more), He asks us to be as Christ to them. On top of His commands I feel an overwhelming need to share Him with everyone I meet, why would His Spirit put that desire in me if it would be a fruitless pursuit. Humankind has had the choice from day one, Adam and Eve where given the two trees to choose from - Life or Knowledge. Why give them a choice if He knew the outcome? To give yourself freely and without condition is a very powerful act, bordering on godly - we are after all created in His image. If we withhold but a fraction in that act we destroy it, so in choosing God we surrender ourselves completely.

If we have no choice, where then is the need to surrender ourselves? the example given by slaves from our past might shed some light. A slave is subject to their masters bidding but in their minds they are free and do not submit to the master, is this what God would have from His people? A servant that merely follows His commands but is not wholly His? is that not what Lucifer suffered? did he not rebel against that "enslavement" since Angels have no choice?

The matter is disputable and I have left the question with God, His prefect understanding and wisdom will make it clear. Until then I stand on the teaching that He desires everyone to come to Him and gives everyone a choice.

Job 5:16 So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Years Resolutions!

Whether we express them out loud or quietly keep them to ourselves, we all make them... and then break them! To some it's a joke and to others it appears to be a lot more serious.

Give up smoking, lose weight, start exercising, learn a new skill... these are some of the more common resolutions. Skydive for the first time, go spelunking, finish my book, learn to eat sushi... these maybe some less used resolutions...

What ever your motivation and how ever long the resolution lasts, is irrelevant! The fact that you made a resolution says everything. It says: I am alive and I am going to live my life, I have plans and I am resolved to achieve them. I look forward, not forgetting my past but not being held back by it(many resolutions are repeats - so what!)

We have so little time here on Earth, You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. —James 4:14
Why waste it on "what if's" or "coulda beens" or "only if's" or "whateva's" or some lame-ass excuse to procrastinate.

So where are you today? What are your resolutions? and mine? well I always had the flippant answer "I made a resolution never to have any more resolutions!" but I still have them... So tell someone what your resolutions are, or write them down in your journal or blog, at least that way you have one sign in your life that says "I believe in tomorrow!" - that's important dontcha think!

Here are mine for the moment - and I have no illusion that they will last but I'm gonna try!
  • Start a daily walk (haha I hear my wife's laughter!)
  • Spend more time with God
  • Cut down my spending (more laughter ...)
  • Get closer to my kids - they are the future!
  • Listen more, talk less (ok! enough with the laughing!)
  • Read at least one meaningful book

Good luck and God Bless on your resolutions!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Time, the unstoppable river that leaves All Things Changed

So at the beginning of the New Year and the end of the Old Year we find ourselves between time. There's a moment of inertia as the old year seeks to hold onto us with it lasts grasp, reminding us of it's great times and memories, as if to entice you to stay, all the while the new year beckons to you with adventure and second chances. We drift momentarily without time, wanting to keep our precious memories but in one moment wanting also to make new ones!

Then there's us... placing ourselves out of time by earnestly desiring to forget the pain, forget the past and to make a new start, fresh and devoid of the burden we carry. We are so good at protecting our sanity that we take the pain, the bad memories and like a clever centerfold artist, touch them up. Hiding blemishes, covering over the unsightly, even going as far as gratuitously changing facts to make the past more palatable.

Over time we warp parts of our past in our minds to such an extent that that hardly resemble anything that we were part of. We do it little by little, leaving enough truth to keep it believable and surrounding our thoughts with "supporting" facts. Thus creating our "perfect" past to match our "perfect" life! To reiterate, this we do to protect our sanity, and for the most part it's harmless and necessary. However, too much of anything corrupts and more so when the we start to live in the past we've "touched up".

Time is unstoppable and leaves everything changed!

"A nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it." - Winston Churchill

Remember everything as it really was, this will often make the pain greater but it will also make the joy sweeter!

When we sang the Old Year out and the New Year in with the traditional "Auld Lang Syne", it brought these thoughts closer to mind. This past 2007, we have loved, we have lost, we have failed, we have triumphed and we have survived!

Auld Lang Syne - Robert Burns
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


May 2008 be a Blessed and happy year for us all!

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