O leaders, this warning is for you!

Derby Cathedral

“And now, O priests, this command (warning) is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honour to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings.

Malachi 2:1-2

Unfaithful leaders have continually harassed the church in South Africa and around the world.  

Locally, Pastor Mboro, from the Incredible Happenings Church, is a self-proclaimed prophet.  He owns a fleet of luxury cars, including a Bentley and BMW i8 (which costs an estimated R2 million).  Guards carrying AK47 assault rifles guard him.

In 2016, he claimed to have gone to heaven. He took a selfie with his Galaxy smartphone to prove it. For R5000 he will WhatsApp you the photo.

Many in his church are poor and struggling to make ends meet.

Further afield, in the Church of England there has been a huge turning away from the Bible by many ministers and bishops.

Recently, Melvin Tinker, an evangelical minister, was banned from preaching at a Carol’s service at Derby Cathedral.

Astonishingly, the Cathedral was willing to host the viewing of sexually explicit movies earlier this year.  The Dean of the Cathedral permits erotic films, but banned an evangelical preacher.

There are countless examples of leaders in the church falling far short of the standard God requires. 

Malachi teaches us that God holds leaders accountable.                                 

In Malachi 2:1 God singles out the leaders of God people, the priests, for rebuke.

Continue reading O leaders, this warning is for you!

Sometimes no loaf is better than half

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors (of the temple), that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts…  (Malachi 1:10)

The attitude of the people and priests towards God in Malachi’s day was, “Lukewarm is sufficient; half a loaf is better than none.”

God said, “You go through your lukewarm religious activities, but by your attitude and actions you show that you despise me.” (1:6-9)

God said that he wished there was someone to shut the temple doors.

For God, silence is better than blasphemy.  Quiet is better than hypocrisy.

They thought they were worshipping God, but they were despising the Lord of Hosts (1:11-12)

Cultural or nominal (in name only) Christianity is a huge challenge in South Africa, and most probably in many other countries. 

If you are not Muslim, Jewish or an atheist, you must be a Christian.

Our churches are full of people who consider themselves Christians.  However, they are not.

Our pews are full of churchgoers who think they are worshipping.  However, in reality, they are despising God’s name by their lukewarm, mediocre, second-rate, unacceptable religious activity.

Continue reading Sometimes no loaf is better than half

Do some churches inadvertently promote gender-based violence?

This week was the start of the international campaign of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” (focussing on violence against women and children).

“Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3,000 from 15,000 to just over 18,000.”  (EWN News)

According to research, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.

As Christian people, we ought to be at the forefront of condemning any form of GBV.

We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbours as ourselves and to especially care for the weak and vulnerable.  Husbands are called to love their wives and be willing to die for them.

Our churches ought to be safe-spaces where victims of abuse receive help, care and support.  We ought to assist in reporting any perpetrators of violence to the civil authorities.

I wonder, however, if some of our more conservative churches may unintentionally promote intimate partner violence in their teaching about marriage and divorce?

Continue reading Do some churches inadvertently promote gender-based violence?

Why Christians eat pork

Leviticus ch. 11 is all about clean and unclean animals and what the Israelites in Old Testament times could and couldn’t eat.

Therefore, every time someone hunted, ate a meal, went to a petting zoo, or came across roadkill, they had to ask themselves, “Is this clean or unclean?”

Land animals. Sea animals. Insects. Clean or unclean?

You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.  For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:43-45)

Ch. 12 is all about childbirth and how that made one unclean.

Ch. 13 is all about skin diseases and mould on clothes and how that made one unclean.

Ch. 14 is all about skin diseases and mildew in houses and how that made one unclean.

Ch. 15 is all about different bodily discharges and how that made one unclean.

What was the point of all these rules?

The point of the rules was not personal hygiene, but a picture or symbol of sin.

Continue reading Why Christians eat pork

Why we can’t approach God on our own terms

We are familiar with the concept of mediators.  Someone who represents us or goes in our place.

I can’t argue my case at the Constitutional Court.  I need an advocate, with the necessary qualifications, who will represent me.

The Springbok rugby team represents South Africa when they play rugby. We all say, “We won the game!”, but we didn’t even touch the ball.  The Springboks represented us.

The book of Leviticus answers the question: How can a Holy God dwell in the midst of sinful people?

How can we, with all our failings, sin, brokenness and rebellion, be in a relationship with the Holy God of the Bible?

Ch. 1-7 is about the sacrifices. A holy God demands that sin deserves death, but an animal dies and the sinner gets to live.

Ch. 8-10 is about the ordination of the priests, Aaron and his sons, who will manage the sacrifices, mediate between the Israelites and God, and represent the Israelites before God.

Continue reading Why we can’t approach God on our own terms

Homosexuality isn’t the same as Apartheid

The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa voted in 2015 to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers.  The synod also voted to permit same-sex unions to be blessed in Dutch Reformed churches. That decision was then appealed in 2016.  Today (8 March 2019) the appeal was upheld as the church reverts back to the 2015 pro-LGBTQ decision. I’m sure the court’s ruling will be appealed as it seems to infringe of the DRC’s right to Freedom of Religion.

At present the DRC is experiencing huge turmoil as the issue of sexuality continues to be debated.1

Many of those who were pleased with the synod’s original  decision to permit same-sex marriage equate discrimination towards those who practice homosexuality as essentially the same as the discrimination towards black people under Apartheid.

For them, the 2015 synod’s decision was a great moment of liberation to be celebrated.2

However, homosexuality is not the new apartheid.

Continue reading Homosexuality isn’t the same as Apartheid

4 unpopular truths about gender and sexuality

Many years ago, there were relatively very few issues around sexuality and gender.

It was largely accepted that there were only two genders and you were either one or the other.

It was largely accepted that males’ anatomy was designed for sexual intimacy with females, vice versa.

It was largely accepted that the best, safest, and most secure place for sexual intimacy was marriage.

It was largely accepted that marriage was between one woman and one man.

Today, these concepts are no longer widely accepted.

Continue reading 4 unpopular truths about gender and sexuality

Learning from Leviticus

God is holy.

The Bible describes God as a consuming fire residing in unapproachable light.

To approach God our own way is like approaching the surface of the sun – we will simply be extinguished.

God’s radiant holiness will kill us as sin-full and sin-prone people.

However, in the Old Testament book of Leviticus we see God making a way for sin to be forgiven.

Continue reading Learning from Leviticus

What is the mission of the church (part 2)

In the previous installment, I argued that Jesus has tasked his church to take the verbal message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to the nations.

The central mission of the church, therefore, is to take God’s Word to God’s world.

The church’s chief task is to bear witness to Jesus, so that people may be saved from hell for heaven forever by repenting and believing the gospel.

We see this priority throughout the New Testament.

Continue reading What is the mission of the church (part 2)

Making sense of our suffering

What has been your most difficult trial in the last couple of years?

Sickness, strained relationships, persecution, isolation, financial difficulties, family problems?

Today, as all through the ages, people have different responses to trials, suffering and hardship.

They may think, “God obviously doesn’t care about me.”

Or, “God has deserted and abandoned me.”

Or, “I must have done something wrong and God is punishing me.”

Or, “Christianity is just a farce.  If God really did love me this would not be happening.”

The Christians, to whom the Apostle Peter wrote the letter we know as “1 Peter”, were also suffering and facing many trials.

Continue reading Making sense of our suffering