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?

Growing in giving

I know a Christian family who were really struggling.

The wife’s job did not pay very well and the husband’s employer went bankrupt.

With two small children, the expenses just kept growing and they started living off their credit card.

The husband found another job, but not that well-paying either.  It seemed that they could not dig themselves out of their financial hole.

In God’s providence, another Christian, a business-man, heard of their dilemma. He had just done a business deal and some money had finally come in.

After prayerful consideration, he decided to pay off the family’s credit cards, get them set up with affordable accommodation and he gave them a budget plan for the future.

This is a great example of generosity or, as the Apostle Paul would say, a great act of grace.

Continue reading Growing in giving

How are we unequally yoked?

Can you think of a mismatched partnership?

Perhaps Helen Zille and Julius Malema (very different South African politicians) meeting for a cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich?  A Sumo wrestler partnering with petite, ballet dancer on Strictly Come Dancing? A Stormers rugby fan going out with a Sharks supporter?!

Alternatively, one could think of ridiculous partnerships: playing tennis with your dog, taking your cat to the movies, or playing chess with a newborn baby.

It just wouldn’t be good or helpful. It would be mismatched, even inappropriate.

In the church in Corinth there were unhelpful, mismatched partnerships.

Some in the church were partnering with the new preachers that breezed into town.

Corinth was a powerful City where people were impressed with power.  Paul’s gospel about a crucified king sounded very weak and his life of hardship and struggle seemed very unimpressive.

The new preachers looked and sounded much more powerful.

Some church members were impressed by the appearances and rhetorical skill of these new ministers.

As church members yoked themselves to the new preachers and their false gospel, it lead them back to their previous sins and old, unhelpful habits.

False gospels always lead to incorrect thinking and wrong living.

Continue reading How are we unequally yoked?

Enduring for the Prize

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a famous actor, businessman, politician, and former professional bodybuilder.

He grew up in Austria in humble circumstances and in his teens committed himself to bodybuilding – and to be the best bodybuilder.

At age 20 he won the Mr. Universe title.

Arnold would train six days a week, twice a day when preparing for a contest.  Moreover, he would also train each muscle group three times a week. 

It was rumoured that Arnold would need to train with at least three different training partners because no one could keep up with him.

He is a magnificent example of commitment, dedication, hard work, single-mindedness and enduring hardship for the sake of the prize – and he won the prize.

The Apostle Paul knew that for Christians there is an even greater, grander, eternal prize that motivates them. He knew that we, as Christians, must answer to Jesus and either receive reward or rebuke.

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Congregation chooses hate above love

(Image from Netwerk24)

Die Kerkbode, the official newspaper of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRC/NGK), published an article on 18 February 2019 entitled, “Congregation chooses ‘love instead of fear’ with the appointing of gay minister”.

The article’s title is terribly misleading.

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The price of a clear conscience

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.


2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV

South Africans have been angered the last couple of months by the shocking revelations that have come from the Zondo Commission on State Capture.

We have all been reeling from the massive admissions of huge corruption. 

We’ve seen that, as the Bible teaches, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

The testimony of ex-Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi has been especially shocking. Politicians and business leaders were bribed with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Rands.

Angelo Agrizzi blew the whistle. Why did he come forward with the truth?

He claimed that the reason is related to a near death experience he had in 2016.  A tumour on his heart resulted in a risky surgery and a short time in a coma.  After this, he wanted out of the wrongs of Bosasa, where he had been for nearly 19 years.

His conscience couldn’t take it anymore.

He could no longer live this double-life of deceit.

He craved a clear conscience.

In 2 Corinthians 1:12, the Apostle Paul commends his integrity, reliability and clear conscience to the Corinthians.

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Lord, why am I suffering?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.


2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Affliction and suffering are a God-ordained part of the normal Christian life.

One of the reasons God ordains affliction, suffering and illness in the Christian’s life is that he or she can in turn help others who are going through similar affliction, hardship and illness.

Many Christian groups have dedicated “Healing Services”.  Typically, the pastor calls the diseased, disabled or despairing person to the front and claims their healing in Jesus’ name.

However, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, we read that God has ordained that Christians face affliction for a purpose – to help, encourage and comfort others facing affliction.

It may well be God’s will to heal the diseases, disabled or despairing Christian (through miracle or medicine), but that’s God’s work not ours.  We should certainly pray for God to heal people, but it’s always with the caveat, “Your will be done, not ours”. 

It may also not be God’s will to heal as God may have an even greater purpose in mind. 

Pastors certainly do not have the power or authority to claim healings in Jesus’ name.

Continue reading Lord, why am I suffering?

The return of the super-apostles

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:4-6

The lights were turned down low and the music played softly.  The pastor entered majestically through the church doors and immediately all the beams of light were turned on maximum strength and focused on him.

There was an expectant hush in the crowd.  The anointed “Man of God” (as the pastor liked to call himself) had arrived.

His teeth sparkled and his eyes twinkled as he reached the golden pulpit.

God had revealed to the pastor the secret of walking in His favour and blessing. 

The pastor didn’t need a Bible as God revealed his Prophetic Word – sometimes contradicting the Bible – directly to the pastor; but that was no problem as the Spirit was clearly at work.

The pastor’s sermons were awesome: Jesus died for your sins, sickness and sorrow. No more suffering.  No more second-best.  No more sub-standard Christianity. You simply need to have enough faith.

This was real, victorious, triumphant Christianity!

God was clearly working through this Man of God and the church was growing.

Another man, known as the Apostle Paul, had started the church, but it turned out that he was a bit of a loser.  He was constantly suffering, continually facing hardships, not a great orator, not a rich man, always working, and he never even asked for money.

What kind of a church leader is that?  No thank you, not for us.

We want a super-sized Christianity. Not the weak, suffering, faith-without-sight Christianity the Apostle Paul had to offer.

Continue reading The return of the super-apostles