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.Continue reading Pastors, we are not in a talent show
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?
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
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
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?
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
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?
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.
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.Continue reading Congregation chooses hate above love