What is God saying to the world during the pandemic?

As we are in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and surrounded by somewhat uncertainty, perhaps fear and maybe some panic, we need to turn to the ultimate source of hope and truth, the Bible.

The Bible’s truth is true because God cannot lie and full of hope because it is God’s Word.

What does the Bible have to say to our world at this extraordinary time?

Continue reading What is God saying to the world during the pandemic?

Put away the foreign gods!

John Calvin famously said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual forge of idols”. Or as Tim Keller has phrased it, an idol factory.

We are prone to worship and give our allegiance to idols (things that are not God), thus sinning by breaking the first two commandments.

In Old Testament times, Samuel said to the people of Israel:

“If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3)

The Israelites had succumbed to the false idols of that day and age.

They worshipped and gave their allegiance to Baal and Ashtoreth, tribal deities of the surrounding nations.

Samuel said that if the Israelites wanted to repent and turn to God their repentance must be tangible and will be difficult.

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Women in ministry

How can we appropriately recognize women in ministry?

In most churches, including ours, women play a vital role in all kinds of ministries. We also have women in our staff team. How should we as a denomination (and a local church) appropriately recognize and acknowledge women in ministry, especially those leading ministries and in full-time ministry?

One suggestion is that we should set apart women in these ministries as deacons or deaconesses i.e. give women an officially recognized title, like their male counterparts.

There is of course debate as to whether or not women can hold the office of deacon or not.  Here is why I think women can:

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Use your good anger for good

Anger is a whistle-blower emotion.

Whistle-blowers spill the beans on what’s really going on in the company or organization.

In South Africa, former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, dropped bombshells at the State Capture Commission of how our ex-President allegedly accepted bribes – although still unproven in a court of law.  Apparently, Bosasa also supplied friends of Jacob Zuma with frozen chickens, braai packs, expensive whisky and Louis Vuitton handbags!

Angelo Agrizzi was a whistle-blower.

Anger is a whistle-blower: it shows us and others what’s really going on in our heart.

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DR Church synod’s decision on same sex unions (updated)

I am saddened by the recent decision of the General Synod of the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) on same sex unions.  This official decision (9 October 2019) will only serve to create confusion around what the Bible teaches on the subject and thus be spiritually unhelpful, misleading and dangerous to people.
 
The decision refers to the appointment of office bearers and the acceptance of members regardless of “sexual orientation and identity”. 
 
The Bible never condemns sexual orientation, but only sinful sexual practice.  Christians may struggle with homosexual temptation or heterosexual temptation, but refuse to act on their temptation and desire.  This fight against temptation is to be commended.
 
The Bible also calls us not to place our identity in our sexuality, or in anything else, except in Christ.  
 
Thus the phrase “sexual orientation and identity” is unhelpful and misleading.  
Continue reading DR Church synod’s decision on same sex unions (updated)

Pastors, we are not in a talent show

I love watching America’s Got Talent.

We are spoilt for choice between ventriloquists, singers, choirs, walking dogs, magicians, dancers, acrobats, and whoever else one could think of.

The contestants obviously seek to outperform each other by being more entertaining, more appealing, and getting more Facebook likes.

A similar scenario was happening in the church in Corinth in the Apostle Paul’s day.

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When will God do something about all the violence?

As Africans, we are no strangers to crime and violence.

We have had our fair share of invaders, dictators, warlords and freedom fighters who have then turned on their own people.  Not only that, we constantly hear of assault, murder, rape, abuse and many other violent crimes.

South Africa is reeling as we are confronted on a daily basis with news of another woman or child being rape and killed.

A UCT student was raped and killed in the last week by a postal worker, in a Post Office, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

Many people in Africa live with this as their daily reality.

When will enough be enough? Is God concerned? When will God do something?

These are good questions that Genesis 6 helps us answer.

Continue reading When will God do something about all the violence?

Saul and the Medium of En-dor

In desperate times, many people turn to desperate measures.

It was April 1945 – near the end of World War 2.  The telephone rang in Adolf Hitler’s bunker.  It was the Minister of Propaganda on the line, Joseph Goebbels. 

He spoke to Hitler and he was ecstatic. Although the Allies were pressing from the West, the Russians from the East and soon Berlin itself would fall – none of that mattered.

He told Hitler that the stars foretold that the last half of April would be better than the first, and indeed a turning point.

Unfortunately for Goebbels’ horoscope, Hitler committed suicide on 30 April and Germany surrendered.  Goebbels succeeded Hitler as Chancellor.  He served one day in this post. The following day, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide, after poisoning their six children with cyanide.

Facing ruin, people will sometimes turn in their desperation to any resource that they think will give them hope.

Goebbels turned to the horoscopes.*

In 1 Samuel Ch. 28 King Saul turned to a medium to consult the dead. 

Continue reading Saul and the Medium of En-dor

The art of blame-shifting

1 Samuel Ch. 13 is a fascinating account of blame-shifting.

Saul is king and has 3000 fighting men, according to v2.

In v3, Jonathan, Saul’s son – the crown prince – defeats a Philistine garrison and the Philistines gather to march on Israel.

The Philistines, however, have 30 000 chariots (the equivalent of having tanks in World War I), 6000 horsemen and infantry that number like the sand on the seashore.

Not only that, things are worse than they seem.

According to v19-21, the Philistines have been so powerful that they have not allowed any blacksmiths in Israel.  Israel has no swords or spears.  If an Israelite wanted their farming implements sharpened they had to pay the a Philistine to do it.

Saul is at the town of Gilgal, vastly outnumbered and facing massive odds.

However, if you read your Bible, you will know that’s not a massive problem.  

Continue reading The art of blame-shifting

Christian, do you unintentionally delve in religious superstition and magic?

A number of years ago I spent a couple of days with a hiking club in the rural Eastern Cape province of South Africa.  

On the first night of the back-breaking, blister-producing trip, a few of us sat around the fire and a sangoma joined us – one of SA’s few white witchdoctors.

He was dressed in typical traditional garb and wore amulets and charms to ward off various spirits.  He asked us if he could throw some herbs into the fire to cleanse the air of evil spirits.

Most people around the fire were very keen as (I guess) they thought that any kind of cleansing from any kind of spirit could only be a good thing.

Apparently, he then purified the air of evil spirits.

A number of things interested me about that evening:

1. The witchdoctor, unlike so many people today, acknowledged (like the Bible does) the existence of the spiritual world

2. The witchdoctor naively thought that some strange smelling smoke could drive away evil spirits

The Bible teaches that Satan and the demons are powerful beings and couldn’t care less about which herbs you throw on the fire.  One needs someone more powerful than Satan to bind him or overcome him. Cf. Mark 3:27

3. The witchdoctor gave me insight into the typical, worldly religious worldview

Many people think that they, like the witchdoctor, can control or manipulate the spiritual realm by performing certain rituals, saying certain words or wearing certain charms.  This is the essence of religion.

Continue reading Christian, do you unintentionally delve in religious superstition and magic?