08 December 2011

Tears Of The World

Sometimes we become familiar and consequently numb to the need around us, and life just goes on. This song by Michael Card is a prayer, that God might grant us, when we are numb, even the slightest feeling towards the sorrowful in this world.

In any split second of a moment of time,
In the blink that is one single day,
The sum of the sorrow that wraps round the world
Would catch ever soul up and sweep them away.

As vast as the ocean, as deep as the sea,
Swept up in one toxic tide.
By warm salty waves the world weeps its woe
So how can it be that my own tears are dry?
So open my eyes and open my heart
And grant me the gift of your grieving
And awaken in me the compassion to weep
Just one of the tears of the world.
When God walked among us in the fullness of time
He wept tears as old as the world
Acquainted with sorrow, he took up the cup
And drank every drop of the poison that heals. 
So open my eyes and open my heart
And grant me the gift of your grieving
And awaken in me the compassion to weep
Just one of the tears of the world.
by Michael Card

01 November 2011

Mementos to the Lord

Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, "Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever." ~Joshua 4:4-7.

Many times we read over tremendous and mind boggling things in the bible as though they were insignificant. I'm reminded here of a sermon I heard where the charismatic preacher read something in the text and was absolutely dejected at the reaction from the audience or lack thereof.

"Didn't you hear what I read?" He asked, "Christ is in you!"

That is indeed significant, but sometimes we become too familiar and simply don't appreciate what is being said or read.

One such example is in the text above. Joshua 3 finds the Israelites at the banks of the Jordan river about to cross over into the 40 year awaited promised land. So long had been the wait that all those who begun the journey were now dead. It was a completely new generation. With no bridge in sight, no rafts or boats, obviously many were wondering what was going on. That day God did something tremendous. Almost precisely 40 years earlier he had parted an entire sea. This particular time, he was going to suspend the flow of an entire river so that the water flowing downhill would pile up in a heap. It must have been an awesome sight!

In Joshua 4, God asks the Israelites to make a memento, something that everytime they looked at, would remind them of that great day when He stopped a mighty flowing river so that His people would inhabit the land he had promised them. 12 stones were to be picked from the river bed and stacked up to form a memento.

What can we learn from this?

I began by saying, "Many times we read over tremendous and mind boggling things in the bible as though they were insignificant."

Well, many times we go through very significant periods and moments in our lives and yet move on with life like nothing ever happened.

Here are two facts that do not compliment each other. Fact one: God answers our prayers and blesses us beyond what we ask and even imagine. Fact two: Many of us do not have a habit of remembering the things that God does for us. Infact, may of us are not good at keeping any sorts of records of our lives at all. Yet clearly, this is a big deal for God.

It was a big deal for him that the Israelites then, as well as those to come, remembered this wonderful thing he did. It is no different with us.

It might be an operation we underwent, perhaps a birth in the family, the finding of a spouse, academic success, a sickness survived, finding a place for school, finding a job, completion of a building project etc, things that we have been praying for, or hoping for and God undertakes for us in such a great way, do we have any way to store and remember the great things God has done and is doing for us?

It could be by way of a picture, or an object or a piece of writing framed and stuck up that everytime we see, can remind us of God's goodness and greatness. It could be a box in which we store and throw in various mementos and pull out every year to remember and share God's goodness to us.

How often do we see God's hand at work, then thank him and move on like nothing ever happened?

It would make much of him if we formed mementos that remind us of what he has done so that we can even share his mighty undertakings with others who ask after the mementos, "What does this thing mean/represent, what is it for?". We can reply, "This serves to remind me of the time when... And God came through for me!"

13 October 2011

New Look

After about a year of having the 'coffee cup' look for my blog, I have made changes and it has been long overdue! This blog-look was actually made for bloggers who love taking photos so they can update the little slide show of photos above regularly. I enjoy taking photos of beautiful scenes or things, the kind you can sell. And so all the photos above that I am not in, I took. Infact, all the animals are pets at home, the patterns are bed covers at home and the guitar is mine and the beautiful hand, my girlfriends!

I hope to update them as I take more. So if people don't come to read, perhaps, they can come over to see some good photographs!

The blogs new look however has a problem, it has one flaw when run using internet explorer 7. But we'll just have to live with that one.

10 October 2011

Talking To Yourself

A couple of months ago, I was in class and the pressures of some tests (or was a test?) that were around the corner were weighing hard on me. I hadn't touched a page of notes and the shear amount of work I needed to read left me pretty much despairing. In a state of anguish, I turned to my neighbour, a devout Christian from a pentecostal/charismatic background (I am yet to draw a proper line between the two -if any), and narrated my doom and impending failure.

He turned to me and grabbed me by the collar lifting me off my seat and asked me a series of questions.


"Yes." I replied a nervously.


"Yes." I replied getting concerned about how costly a wrong answer might be.


"Yes." I replied.

His tone and grip softened as he proceeded to give me the most encouraging and uplifting words I had heard in quite a while. Obviously I have exaggerated the incident quite a little but hopefully have made my point.

I would have tried to write what he told me but I couldn't possibly do his few but stirring words justice. Needless to say, I was ready to take that bull by the horns after the incident. My friend, like me hadn't touched a single page of notes either but left me confident that everything would be alright.

Well, we both failed. But I think my friend was onto something.

In life certain facts surround us, some positive and others negative. A balance is required to handle both. Sometimes we go to one extreme and dwell too much on the negative. Some people are like this by personality, pessimists, while others, optimists (and pentes!) may find themselves dwelling on the positive to unwise extents.

Human beings are always talking to themselves. Did you know that? When a challenge comes your way, you speak to yourself. Sometimes, you say, "I remember this, I failed last time." Other times its, "I remember this, I hope I don't fail again." Etc. I think it is important to speak to ones self positively, but realistically.

My friends encouraging words were true but my response to them (as well as his own response) was wrong. Where I'm I getting this? Well, David was always talking to himself as seen in many of his compositions. Here are a few, notice how he speaks of both positive and negative facts that surround him but encourages himself with the former:

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side. ~Psalm 3

 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety. ~Psalm 4

3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
7 But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple. ~Psalm 5

8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame. ~Psalm 6

10 My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart. ~Psalm 7

3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge. ~Psalm 9

I have left out quotes that are not direct (i.e. quotes that aren't I, me, mine, my etc) and have only quoted some of David's Psalms from the first few. That's six quotes from nine Psalms after a rough browse through leaving out the more subtle quotes -clearly the Psalms are littered with this kind of language!

You will notice that David also mentions the negative facts but the choruses of his songs, the refrains of his poems and the conclusions of his Psalms all say the same thing, David's emphasis is on those things that are true and encouraging to his own heart.

We are all guilty of indulging in self pity at times, speaking of things negative when there is so much that is positive in our lives one of the most outstanding being (and one which make the negatives pale in comparison) that we hold the hand that holds the world! We must emulate David's example. The man who spoke words of encouragement to himself. But lets be realistic while we're at it!

Thanks for reading.

06 October 2011

Is It OK To Take Alcohol?

"It must be surely!" Many say, "after all, even Jesus turned water into wine." That argument seems to be the most quoted by those on the "It's OK" wing.

Yes, it is true. Jesus attended a wedding where the wine ran out and saved the day by providing wine miraculously from water. There are many other positive references regarding the taking of wine in the bible. Wine was fermented in order to preserve it and so was certainly alcoholic even in those days.

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. ~Psalm 104:14-15.

Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. ~Proverbs 31:6-7.
Note: In the preceding verses of this particular scripture, the writer says that alcohol must not be taken by those in authority lest they make decisions without sound judgement.

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.~ 1 Timothy 5:23.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. ~ Isaiah 25:6.

There are several more verses which can be used to argue that it is OK to take alcohol but there are also some verses that can be used to argue against it. I will not argue for or against taking wine necessarily, however, I will give reasons as to why I do not.

To begin with, the bible does not out rightly condemn taking alcohol, however it does condemn in no uncertain terms, drunkenness. Paul, for instance, mentions drunkenness, in his letter to the Galatian saints, among many other 'acts of the sinful nature' stating that those guilty of such, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~ Galatians 5:19-21.

The only conventional way of getting drunk is to drink alcohol. I do not think it prudent to walk close the edge of the pit of drunkenness by taking alcoholic drink even if it be moderately. I think it would be wiser to avoid it altogether. That is the first reason why I abstain from it.

The second reason is because I want to love my neighbour. I would have said, "I love my neighbour", but most times I do not. However, I desire to.

In my culture (and by culture I mean the worldview of those in the region where I reside), alcohol and Christianity are antithetical. A pastor who spends his evenings drinking in bars will soon have an empty church. Any school boy/girl walking home with friends would not be proud to identify their Pastor if they saw him in a bar drinking. It would be shameful. Thus if I am going to be a light to those around, those in my culture, I will abstain from alcohol. No one can be attracted to Christ in a man who takes alcohol -not in my culture. And for Paul, his desire for people to come to Christ, i.e. to be saved, dictated how he lived only after the requirements of God. Thus he said:

19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ~1 Cor 9:19-23 (ESV).

It is always surprising to see 'Christians' in Zambia arguing that it is OK to take alcohol. How do they expect to reach a dying country/region with the gospel? Anyone with a bible in one hand and alcohol in the other will be mocked. If Jesus was born to a culture such as mine, I'd bet my life, he would not take alcohol simple because his desire for alcohol would be nothing compared to his desire to see men and women, boys and girls, accept him as the Son of God and be saved.

Those are the two reasons why I do not take alcohol.

Thanks for reading.

19 August 2011


I love facebook. I love how at the click of a button, I can know what's happening in the lives of so many individuals who surround me. That is probably my most favourite thing about facebook. At a click of a button I can know what is happening in the lives of friends, family, fellow church members and acquiantances. And yet I do realize also, that just like in almost everything, there are certain extremes to which we can find ourselves in using 'social networking sites' such as the one in question.

I'd like to think about facebook alittle in my post today, particularly the pro's and con's of using sites such as facebook, twitter, I now hear that there is google+ etc.

The Pros

  • A great way to keep intouch
I have already mentioned this as my most favourite thing about facebook. If you are in a church that has 300+ members, it is most likely that months will elapse without knowing what's happening in many of your fellow church members lives. This applies to family as well. Distant relatives, old schoolmates/college mates, workmates, acquaintances, you name it, can be kept close by using site such as facebook. At a click of a button all the updates from an assortment of individuals I know comes on my screen and within a few minutes I know what is happening in their lives. Within a week, I'm updated about almost everyone's life.

  • Communication
Many times, facebook has come to my aid in communicating with someone whose number I either didn't have or couldn't reach. Since everyone checks facebook a couple of times throughout the day, it is most likely that they will see the message. Facebook has been instrumental even to my church, particularly the youth ministry. The youth group leaders will communicate the activities for the meetings through facebook and many times, be able to communicate last minute changes.
  • Mutual Edification
One of the fantastic things about facebook is how that many Christians use it to share what they learned at church or in their devotions and many other people can comment and be mutually edified. Whether it be a theological question that is turning the wheels in a brother's head quite fast to no avail or a prayer item or praise item mentioned as a status update, facebook can be a real tool to edify the saints. Another great thing is the articles many users put up as 'notes'. Many Christians use this to share great thoughts with their fellow Christians and even non-Christians.

  • Assessment tool
I find that facebook is a good way to assess ones self. What/Who do you love most? What are you passionate about? What do you spend the bulk of your time doing, particularly free time? Do you rejoice when others are rejoicing and weep with those who weep? Do you pray regularly? Who are you closest friends? Is your life God glorifying? All these questions can be answered by facebook! Just take a look at your last 20 statuses, peep into your inbox, check out your picture albums. It is also a good way to assess your friends. Are they Christians? Are you helping them the best way you know how? You know what they put up on facebook and it is simply a reflection of what's happening inside.

The Cons

  • Chatting
If there was one things I'd want removed from facebook, it'd be the chat feature. Users can chat in real time. I once used chatting sites and applications a lot while I was in South Africa. I spent hours chatting with friends and family back home. I had very little to do there and very few friends, especially at the beginning but as soon as I got back home, I did away with it. People spend an unhealthy amount of time chatting, especially young people although I have noticed older people are falling prey to this. John Piper said this of facebook:

"One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time."

  • Facebook makes us sad?
I read a post recently on a blog I follow by this title. I had never experienced or heard of sadness wrought by facebook. The article said that people get depressed on facebook because everyone is trying to put their best foot forward and show just how much fun they are having in their lives. People compare this to the misery or 'average-ness' of their own lives and it leaves them rather sad. A bunch of people all lying to each other to their own peril. Well, I cannot quite relate to that but from the comments from the blog I read, it is a common phenomenon. And it is indeed unfortunate.

  • Aid to or replacement of fellowship?
I have already stated how that I love being able to keep abreast of the happenings in various people's lives via facebook. A pit fall I find myself falling into is that now that I know what's going on with them, I nolonger see the need in actually relating face to face with them. This is wrong. Nothing should take the place of fellowship, visiting brothers and sisters and getting together to have a chat. Facebook should aid fellowship, not replace it.

In conclusion, always remember:

"And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell..."
~Jesus Christ (Mark 9:45-47).

17 August 2011

Reality of Loss

Weddings and funerals have atleast one thing in common. Especially in the African context. Both have a lot of people. The bride and groom are surrounded by a large number of friends, family and acquaintances all celebrating with them. And yet in the hours that will ensue, they will be alone. The impact of this sudden change from being with so many people and then suddenly being alone, is something that is not felt and infact is actually 'oddly' desired. This makes sense, after all the couple can't wait to finally be alone for the first time ever, as husband and wife.

This, almost identical, impact is not cushioned when it comes to a funeral, however. The bereaved family during the days that lead up to the burial, is surrounded by so many people who lovingly mourn with and care for them. They do not have to worry about the cooking or cleaning. The burden of organizing for the whole solemn event is borne by so many that it is not felt so much by the grieving family. Hugs and tears surround those closest to the deceased and their pain subsides somewhat. A day or two after the burial however, everyone leaves. The bereaved must now face the reality of loss alone. After having more comforters than they could ever need, the bereaved family/individual is left with no one. The burial is done. Everyone leaves and moves on with their lives. Apart from the occasional call here and visit there, the overwhelming support experienced before is no longer there. It is then that the depression sets in and the reality of loss is really felt.

I could see this in the faces of my cousins who lost their mother, my aunt. Having gotten some days off work, I returned the day after the burial. When I got home from work, the once crowded and busy house was now empty and quiet. All the furniture was back in its place. The fires had been put out and the tents brought down. I went to the room at the end of the corridor and found my three cousins together. I had not seen them together like that since they all got home. I could tell, they were sad. And it made perfect sense. The arms that had carried them the past few days, had now gone. It was time to face this sad reality on their own. Fortunately for them, and I hope they realise this -at the very least, they had and still have each other.

28 July 2011

Psalm 52 (Part 3- An Answer & 'Holy Doegs')

Who is David referring to in the opening verse of Psalm 52? David says that this man is a hero or mighty man who boasts of evil, whose tongue plots destruction, who is deceitful, loving evil more than good, lying more than truth and loves words that devour. David wrote this Psalm after the unfortunate incident recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22.

In my opinion, the best way of approaching this Psalm, as it relates to the story that inspired it, is to work from the Psalm backwards to the story. So then, what is this Psalm about?

May I propose that this Psalm is about where one puts his/her trust and hope. To put it another way, it is about which basket one puts all his/her eggs. It is about what in our lives is our pillar and our hope and even our boast.

Where am I getting this from? Well, notice that the end of verse one "the steadfast love of God endures all the day" doesn't fit in well with the rest of the section (Verses 1-4). It almost stands alone, unrelated to what is being said, notice:
1Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
~Psalm 52:1-4 (ESV)
In this phrase, however, lies the key to understanding the Psalm. The man described in this Psalm did something that was evil and wrong and yet was considered heroic and mighty. He boasted in this evil act and it defined him. This mighty act, the name and everything else that came as a result of it became his refuge. Thus David says in vs. 7 that the righteous will see this man when he is punished by God and say:
"See the man who did not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!"
This man didn't trust in God but in what he had accomplished and that accomplishment became his refuge, his pillar if you will. It was the basket in which he put all his eggs.

David, on the other hand, who could have trusted and depended in and on the fame he garnered from his defeat of Goliath and the fact that he had been anointed King of Israel (things actually noble), did not make these things his refuge. He did not boast about them or put his trust in them, he did not depend on those things. He trusted, rather, in God's steadfast love:
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever..."
~Vs 8
This explains David's odd statement in the first verse. What David seems to be doing there is contrasting. Why boast of evil accomplishments when you can boast of God's steadfast love? Why boast and trust and seek refuge in accomplishments that are even evil when God's steadfast love (a much more appealing and rewarding thing) lasts forever and ever?

Having understood the heart of the Psalm, we can now infer that Doeg, having annihilated an entire town, boasted of it. Being the only man who was willing to carry out that daring instruction, Saul may have rewarded him materially and politically (interms of a promotion for he was merely Saul's head shepherd), thus the statement "...but trusted in the abundance of his riches..." in verse 7.

The town of Nob was a town for the priests and Doeg killed everyone of them except one who escaped. This would have made him famous at best and infamous at worst. His name was on everyone's lips and he did not hesitate to mention anywhere he went that he was the face behind that name. Being an Edomite and therefore an alien (The Edomites and Israelites weren't the best of pals) he would have found it easier to kill the priests and would have bragged about it to his fellow Edomites. Thus we see that Doeg had reason and motive to boast in his evil actions.

How do we reconcile the lying? Doeg knew that he would be endangering the life of Ahimelek the priest by revealing that he had helped David. One can tell because he brutally killed not only Ahimelek but the whole town of Nob. Surely if he was really trying to be a good servant of the King he would have killed Ahimelek only, why kill the entire town? There was obviously something else going on. He wanted Ahimelek to suffer and perhaps even the entire town of priests. He lied by making it look as though Ahimelek was conspiring with David. He deceived the King by appearing loyal to him when in actual fact he had a personal vendetta. Thus David calls him a liar and deceiver who loved devouring words.

What did Doeg have against the priests? It is not mentioned. It could have had something to do with his detainment (1 Sam 21:7). This is the most convincing for me, as he may have become bitter about being detained and taken it out on all the priests. Perhaps he harboured some resentment against the priests. It could have had something to do with the fact that he was an Edomite. We cannot be sure, but he certainly had a bone to chew with them!

We are like Doeg sometimes. Perhaps not in brutality but in our accomplishments and all that comes with them. They become our refuge, security, pillar and even our boast. While Doeg boasted and found refuge in an evil accomplishment, perhaps we find refuge and boast in noble accomplishments. For instance, a graduate can find security in the high grades or honours achieved and feel their furture is secure based on them. Or a woman can find security in marrying a good man when her friends have no one. Those pursuing their careers may find security and refuge in a good job recently acquired etc. Notice that David who could have boasted and taken refuge in things noble preferred rather, to boast and take refuge in the steadfast love of God.

Perhaps those most obvious example of this are men and women in the afternoon of their lives who have achieved great things. Especially professors who will leave no person who they meet 'unturned', letting them know what they have accomplished in their lives. I am reminded of one particular professor we greeted as 'Mr.' and he asked us not to take away his professorship because he did not receive it on a silver platter. "Call me Dr. or Prof.- I worked hard for it," he said. There is nothing wrong with that, unless it becomes our boast, refuge and security. We then become nothing but holy Doegs.

Let us therefore trust in the steadfast love of God which endures forever and ever. Let it become our refuge and boast and then like David, we will be like green olive trees in the house of the Lord!

Why do you boast of anything other than God's love? It is steadfast and endures all the day!

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." ~Duet 33:27.

25 July 2011

Psalm 52 (Part 2- The Puzzle)

Psalm 52 was written after the tragic tale recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22. Part 1 of this series of posts narrates the story and is necessary in appreciating the Psalm. To read Part 1 click here.

Psalm 52 reads as follows (ESV):
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, "David has come to the house of Ahimelech." 
1Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. 2Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. 3You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah

4You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
6The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, 7"See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!"

8But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. 9I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.

The puzzle of this Psalm lies in the question, who do the negative opening statements of this Psalm refer to? Who is this mighty man who boasts of evil, plots destruction, works deceit and loves evil and lying? Who is David referring to who loves devouring words and has a deceitful tongue?

There are three schools of thought:

  • Doeg?
Perhaps like me, you immediately thought Doeg the Edomite must be the man in question. Unfortunately though, Doeg doesn't quite fit the bill. That he was a 'mighty man' or 'hero' as some translations render the first verse, can be proved quite easily. It takes a mighty man to annihilate an entire town but on the other hand, Doeg spoke the truth. Something which should actually be commended. Saul asked where David was and Doeg spoke up and told the truth:
Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, "I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, and he inquired of the LORD for him and gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine." ~1 Samuel 22:9.
Clearly, cold blooded killers come in all shapes and sizes. This particular killer was inclined to truth. His king asked for the whereabouts of his enemy and Doeg did what was expected of him as a member of Saul's kingdom and more so as Saul's employee. Having seen this enemy of the king a little earlier, he spoke up.

Could it be that David in his Psalm calls Doeg, the only man who told the truth in the story, a liar and lover of deceit? If anybody should NOT be pointing fingers at liars it is David who lied in the account as recorded early in chapter 21 of 1 Samuel. He lied to the chief priest Ahimelek saying the king had sent him on a secret mission when in actual fact he was running away from the king and merely trying to save his own skin. Which leads me to the second school of thought.

  • David?
Some say that David is actually referring to himself. I don't blame them. He is the only one who lied in this account. Was David a 'mighty man' or 'hero'? Most certainly! His acts were so heroic that people composed hit songs about him, "Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands", they sang. In fact, it is because of his popularity that he was on the run from the king who thought his head would begin to grow along with his popularity and ideas would start creeping into the young warrior's head. Was David then calling himself a plotter of destruction, worker of deceit, lover of evil, etc.? Well, perhaps he was being a little hard on himself but who wouldn't after causing what David had caused, the annihilation of the entire town on Nob.

But this point of view is not consistent with the immediate text. It is doubtful that David 'boasted' in evil (vs. 1) but also, David goes on to contrast himself from the man he describes in the opening verses saying, towards the end of the Psalm:
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. ~vs. 8.
Its either David is the good guy or bad guy here. There is no middle ground. That the opening verses refer to David himself, would be tough to prove. Could David be referring to himself?

  • Saul?
Finally, some have proposed, in a bid to solve this puzzle, that Saul was the man David was referring to. To those who think so I say, "Leave the poor man alone!" Saul is to be pitied, not accused.

Here is a man who was chosen to be the first king of the small but great and famous nation of Israel. He tried his best to please the Lord but God rejected him as king. He then turned into a paranoid fellow who slept very little being tormented by an evil spirit. Even David felt for this man. Even though he was on the run from him and the target of Saul's paranoia, he spared his life when he had a chance or two to take it. He tried his best to make things right with him. Is it poor Saul who David is referring to? Possible, but I doubt it. Saul was too busy trying to catch David, he had not time to go aound boasting of annihilating the town of Nob. Its David he wanted. Apart from that Saul, even though he was a 'mighty man' or 'hero' in his own right, is not recorded to have uttered a single lie in this entire account. Could David be referring to Saul?

  • Conclusion
By now I think I have betrayed my position. I think Doeg is the guilty man. In my next post, I offer an explanation to the questions that arise if Doeg was to be the man referred to and draw a lesson or two.

Thanks for reading.

21 July 2011

Psalm 52 (Part 1- The Introduction)

I find the Psalms abit puzzling. It seems that for most of them there is a central theme and yet, they tend to strike me as somewhat incoherent. I often wonder how each part of the given Psalm fits into the overall portrait the Psalmist is painting.

Psalm 52 is also puzzling except in a different way. Or maybe even in the same way.

David wrote Psalm 52 after an incident that is recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22.

David had just confirmed that his king and father-in-law, whose bodyguard he led, wanted him dead. Thus David hits the road. When he reached the town of Nob, hungry and tired, he needed to be refreshed. David went to Ahimelek the head priest. You'll notice from the text that Ahimelek is shaken to see this high ranking soldier walk into his abode unattended and unarmed. The man after God's own heart lies to Ahimelek telling him that he is about the king's business on a secret assignment. David then asks for food and weapons, he is given bread and the sword of Goliath.

If it wasn't for the presence of a man named Doeg, an Edomite and head of Saul's shepherds, at the temple, Psalm 52 would never be written. Doeg saw everything that happened. Infact, if Doeg wasn't there, an entire town would have been saved from the sword.

Later, Saul is in the town of Nob. He is looking for David and is both paranoid and cranky. He accuses everyone around him for being joint conspirators with David against him. As he asks the men of Nob where David is, Doeg, the man who was at the temple when Ahimelek helped David, steps up and 'rats out' Ahimelek.

Saul finally has a lead. He calls for Ahimelek who soon goes to him. "Why have you been conspiring with David against me?" is Saul's question to Ahimelek. Ahimelek, who is taken aback by such an audacious accusation, gives an unassailable answer in his defence:

Ahimelek answered the King, "Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king's son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? Was that the first time I inquired of God for him? Ofcourse not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father's family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair." ~1 Samuel 22:14

Well Saul wasn't listening to a word he said. He wasn't open to reason, a trait of most paranoid men. The words "Ahimelek helped David" were still ringing in his ears. To put it in the words of one of the commentators I checked out, "a paranoid man with power is a dangerous man". Saul ordered his men to kill Ahimelek. None of them were stupid enough to lay a hand on a priest of Yahweh except one. Saul turned to the only man who had helped him thus far and enthusiastic Doeg, killed not only Ahimelek but also his family, all the other priests numbering eighty five (85), all the men, women and children of the town and even the sheep and cattle. Doeg eliminated an entire town.

Only one of Ahimelek's family escaped, namely, his son. Abiathar son of Ahimelek escaped and went straight to David. David remembered catching the traitor observing everything that transpired in the temple from the corner of his eye. "I knew it!" David said, "I knew he'd be sure to tell Saul." Obviously David hoped that he would not. But he did and an entire town was annihilated. David blamed himself for it.

The introduction of Psalm 52 tells us that David penned the words therein after that dreadful incident.

The Psalm can be split into 3 or 4 parts, the first being about this evil man who boasts in his evil and is deceitful and is some sort of hero or mighty man. The second part speaks of this man's destiny. The next speaks of the perception that the righteous will have of this man when he is finally destroyed (which, incase you were wondering, is his destiny) and finally the last part speaks of how the righteous man differs from this evil man.

In my second post (part 2- the puzzle), I'll explain the puzzle of this Psalm and in my last post (part 3- a solution & lesson) I'll propose a solution to the puzzle and perhaps a lesson or two that can be drawn from this Psalm of David.

Thanks for reading.

01 July 2011

Who Killed Goliath?

I haven't been doing much writing lately, I wish I could say I have been doing a lot more reading instead but that wouldn't be true. Truth be told, I have glanced at a few pieces of writing here and there, and this particular set of articles has been most intriguing to me. Dr. Mariottini, a Professor of the Old Testament, runs a blog I follow and has done a few articles an apparent contradiction in the bible:

1 Samuel 17:49-50 affirms that David killed Goliath:
“David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand” (1 Samuel 17:49-50 NRSV).

2 Samuel 21:19, affirms that Elhanan killed Goliath:
“Then there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (2 Samuel 21:19 NRSV).

Some translations have murdered the 2 Sam 21:19 text by adding, 'the brother of' before 'Goliath the Gittite' such as the KJV, if I am not mistaken, but this is a very misleading (if at all anything can be 'very'  misleading) insertion.

In his post, the Doctor offers four arguments that have been peddled to explain this apparent contradiction, namely:
  1. David got credit for Elhanan's defeat over Goliath, in other words, David didn't do it. Quite a radical point of view!
  2. David and Elhanan are the same person.
  3. Elhanan killed Goliath's brother which is derived from 1 Chronicles 20:5 in which the Chronicler actually said that Elhanan did not kill Goliath, but the brother of Goliath and this even in the original translation. The doctor proposes quite an interesting view in refuting this.
  4. And finally, a fourth which is the unfortunate alteration of the 2 Sam text by some translations.
Dr. Mariottini goes on to propose a fifth explanation in his final post which he derives from a clue given by an archeological discovery. He mentions that until more/other evidence is found, he holds on to his proposed view.

I encourage you to read the set of posts, they are most intriguing, the posts are linked below:

Feel free also to comment on his posts to ask any questions of clarification, he is quite friendly!

23 March 2011

Why We Exist

There is a friend of mine who I met providentially who is not a Christian. There are times when he seems to be deeply troubled about the things of God and salvation and other times when he seems to drift so far away from the truth.

On several occasions he has asked me heart warming questions, such as, "What does it really mean to surrender your life to God?". After explaining it to him in as simple a manner as I can, he'll ask further and after we've chatted a while we'll part company. When we meet the next time he'll be talking about how we have 'potential' and God has not created us to be followers but rather to be leaders. Etc. It is clear that he is under the influence of pentecostal/charismatic preaching and literature.

The major problem I find with Pentecostal folk is that the emphasis is always on... me. It's all about me. Enter "prosperity gospel".

The question which, for me, settles it is, why am I here? Why did God create me or anyone or anything else on this planet? And this is the question that I asked my dear friend when I last saw him. He went on and on about how we are successes and how God wants us to prosper etc. I thought I could best explain it to him by explaining why we exist. So then, why do we exist?

Well, we must agree that we exist because we were created. The bible says, "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." ~John 1:3.

Who created us? God.

Why did God create us?

This question is best explained by answering the question, why does anybody create anything? Why do we buy/lend/create/fix etc, certain things?

What was the last thing you purchased, for instance? Was it a watch? Maybe a bag? Maybe a gift for someone.

Notice that for every item you have ever bought, there is a reason and that reason pertains to the pleasure of yourself. It could have been a gift for someone but the point is, that item you bought was meant to give pleasure to the person you bought it for. You derive pleasure (and sometimes relief) from the pleasure of the other person. There is nothing you can point at that you purchased or created for itself. Nothing. Nothing that you purchased for no particular reason. No one can sincerely say, "I just purchased it." If you sit down and think thoroughly, you'll find there was a reason why you purchased that item and it was all about your pleasure/relief.

Well, why should it be any different with God? Why should God go through the 'trouble' or perhaps, more appropriately, bother of creating man and the world in which he lives?

Did God just create man? I don't think so. I think there must be a reason and just as we as human beings never create or purchase anything unless it will either directly or indirectly bring us pleasure or relief, God has, likewise, created man and everything else to bring him some kind of pleasure.

He did not do it because he needed his creation. If he needed anything, he would cease to be God. Neither did he do it for relief, otherwise he would be doing it out of need and would cease to be God. He did it for his own pleasure. The question that every being on this planet should ask himself/herself is, am I bringing God the pleasure he created me to bring him? I'm I meeting the purpose for which I was created? Or is life about me? Have I ever asked myself  how I aught to bring him pleasure?

Surely God did not create us to merely get rich, have lots of houses, and just have fun. That would be all about us. Our existence is all about Him. And that is where I challenge my Pentecostal friends to begin. To have a view of life from 'the lens of God's eye'.

To think of our sufferings as Christians from God's perspective. To think of our prosperity from the God's perspective. To think of joy, pain, the past, the present, the future, money, love etc, interms of how these issues in my life can be used to bring God pleasure.

You may be thinking "that's insane", how can my entire life revolve around God? What about me? Well, imagine if every appliance in your house took that 'world view' one morning. The kettle figured it didn't want to boil you water anymore, it wants a life of its own too. The taps refuse to let water out, they're tired of serving you. The stove and fridge refused to work anymore, they figure, all those years of serving you, its time they enjoyed themselves too. And all the rest of the things in your house finally decided to have some 'me' time. What would you do? I know what I would do. Get rid of them all and buy appliances that know what they are in my house to do, i.e. serve me. Live for me. The principle is pretty much the same when it comes to our being creatures of God. And that is why evolution is a serious affront against God.

Thankfully, the bible is there to guide us. We do not need a prophet to help us determine how our present circumstances or future endeavours can be maneuvered in such a way as brings God pleasure. He has left us his word.

The puritans put it this way: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

So there you have it. You exist for the pleasure (or to glorify) your Creator -God.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. ~ Colossians 1:16.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. ~Romans 11:36.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. ~Ecclesiastes 12:13.

18 March 2011

Reformed Baptist Preachers in Zambia

*There's alot more where these came from!

  • Kennedy Sunkutu

Pastor Kennedy Sunkutu
    Ps Sunkutu is one of my most favourite preachers. This is true of my friends as well. Many times we have altered our plans, when we've heard that he is in town, just to hear him preach.

He has a unique style of preaching. I feel like he speaks in an almost... rhythmic manner. You can almost dance to his sermon. He has a way of emphasizing certain syllables in his pronouncement of words causing the words to stand out and remain ringing between your ears. For instance, he may say 'essss-taaaa-blished' for established or 'rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrepent' for repent. Also he tends to add the sound “eeee” before words throughout his sermon, something which I particularly love! For instance, 'eeee-that', or 'eeee-Jesus'.

Ps Sunkutu has, arguably, the deepest voice among Zambian Reformed Baptist preachers as far as I know although when he begins preaching, he changes it. He only uses his usual voice when saying a few words before the sermon, when praying and when giving illustrations. He is an extremely passionate preacher. And when he is approaching terminal velocity in his sermon, he waves his finger a lot and throws one leg forward. He also also has a tendency of putting his hand on his hip.

As for his content, Ps Sunkutu has a great mind and his sermons are always insightful. He also has an applicatory preaching style. He will always ask questions in his sermons to his audience such as, “Is that you my friend?” Throughout his sermons he usually addresses his crowd by the phrase/name “dear friends”.

There are at least two quotes that I’ll never forget by Ps Sunkutu, namely:

“For him it was business as usual.”
He said this with his closed eyes and waving his finger while pulling arm outward. This was said in reference to the Inn Keeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“Here I am, send me.” “We see two things from the onset [in our text], availability and willingness.”
Introduction to his sermon on the call of Jeremiah.

  • Choolwe Mwetwa

Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa
   If you want to prove that preaching is an art, use one of Ps Choolwe Mwetwa's sermons. When he is in town, plans get cancelled and it is non-negotiable. My friends and I rarely get to hear him because he is based on the Copperbelt. One of my friends particularly cannot get enough of him and is always mimicking him and quoting him much to our amusement. Pastor Mwetwa arguably has the richest voice among Reformed Baptist preachers in Zambia. He sounds like two people are talking at the same time when he speaks.

He is very funny and rarely laughs at the jokes he himself cracks from the pulpit, maintaining a serious disposition only making the things he says more funny. He is perhaps, also, the most hard working Reformed Baptist preacher in Zambia as he literally dances in the pulpit when he is on fire. His sermons are well thought through and are thus captivating and interesting. Hearing him preach is an education for me because I always learn atleast one new word. In his last sermon I must have written down over four. Apart from his very charismatic mannerisms, he never shouts in the pulpit but actually uses some kind of monotone.

  • Isaac Makashinyi

Pastor Isaac Makashinyi
   Pastor Makashinyi is definitely one of my favourite preachers. I just love his preaching. Also, he puts 'cool' on the word Pastor. One friend of mine said of him that he is a man who has proved that the ministry is not merely a place for men who couldn't do anything or failed everywhere else in life (as the perception tends to be), but ought to be a place for brilliant men. Pastor Makashinyi is a great preacher, his insight into God's word and his delivery are very good. The last time I heard him preach it was a classic.

Ask anyone what comes to mind when they hear Isaiah 40. "Comfort". "For the oppressed", most will probably say. He took that text of scripture and when he asked us to turn there I immediately thought it would be around the theme of comfort but to my amazement it was about 'preaching'. Who would think even remotely that Isaiah 40 could be used to explain what sound preaching is all about? Or am I just expressing my ignorance? Well, I sat there knowing full well that I would have never seen that in the text.

I haven't heard Ps Makashinyi a whole lot but hope to hear alot more of him. From the little I have observed about his style I think he uses his arms alot especially when stressing points. He has a constant smile on his face and is very eloquent.

  • Grave Singogo

Pastor Grave Singogo
   Among all the preachers in this piece of writing, I have heard Ps Singogo the least and yet his sermons stick. I have attended many meetings where people are selecting preachers to speak at an event scheduled to come up and his name is almost always the first suggested. He is obviously very difficult to 'book' but people don't stop suggesting him. Some of the most outstanding things about Ps Singogo is the texts from which he preaches. I've heard him preach from Proverbs and before that from 2 Samuel (I think) and both were evangelistic sermons from texts that would not particularly strike you as evangelistic.

  • Conrad Mbewe

Pastor Conrad Mbewe
 Last but by no means least, is my very own father. Growing up listening to my father, I didn't think much of his preaching but that was probably because I was unregenerate and was thus dead to what I was hearing. I noticed from an early age that my father travelled alot to preach. For some reason I thought every other preacher I knew travelled just as much. When I realised that my father travelled alot more frequently and extensively than the other preachers I knew, my view of his preaching shot to unrealistic heights. Infact, I would get so surprised to hear that some church members would leave the church due to transfers to other towns by their employers. I thought they'd sooner quit their jobs than be moved to another town and thus be separated from the great preaching of my father! I soon grew out of that obviously.

Well, what made me realise (for myself) that my dad was actually good at what he did were my friends. They would praise his sermons so much that I finally decided to listen carefully and sure enough, I soon began to marvel at his preaching.

Many things stand out about my fathers preaching. The most outstanding thing as pointed out, again by my friends, is how he tries his best to stick to and be true to the text he is preaching from.

07 March 2011

The Book: Maintaining Sexual Purity

This book handles a relevant issue in our world today. One of the toughest things to do is go East when everybody seems to be going West. That is the lot of any man, woman, boy or girl who desires to be sexually pure in this world. Maintaining Sexual Purity equips the reader to go against the tide by giving practical guidelines on how to do so. 5 Reasons Why You Must Get & Read This Book:

1) It is based on scripture. Over and over scriptural references, examples and quotations are made thus making this book stand on the word of God. The counsel offered in this book is firmly based on the bible.

2) This book has been made easy to read. It is written in large font. Furthermore, it has been divided into 30 pieces so that it can be read over 30 days and thus allow the reader to take bites that they can thoroughly chew. It can therefore be read prayerfully and meditatively. It is worth mentioning also that it has been divided into three general sections; What often leads to sexual sin, Why one should avoid sexual sin & How to avoid sexual sin.

3) It is written by a Pastor. Sexual sins are sins that are fairly common, unfortunately and most people at their wits end run to Pastors. This gives them experience in handling such cases and makes them better suited to advise on how sexual sin can be avoided. Pastor Mbewe, who is my father, has been a Pastor for just under 25 years and has therefore dealt invariably with an assortment of cases involving sexual sin.

4) It has a chapter right at the end entitled "No, It Is Not Too Late", for those who have already made mistakes. This chapter itself makes the book worth it as it gives hope to those who are hopeless as far as being sexually pure is concerned.

5) Finally, it is a book that every young person, particularly, must read. It is clear in the book that the most critical years are teen to young adult years. It is at that period in life when things tend to go wrong. And since everyone is either young or knows someone who is young, everyone must get a copy of this book!

02 March 2011


I have been fascinated by the life of David's son, Absalom as found in 2 Samuel and thought I'd share it here. So many things have struck me about this man.

The thing that amazes me most is just how much David, his father, King of Israel, loved him. David loved his son so much. This son who did nothing but wrong against his father. Absalom murdered his brother and plotted to and even briefly succeeded in overthrowing his father. Yet in spite of all this David loved him!

Absalom was a very handsome man. That is something that I never knew. He was very well built and lovely to behold. In fact, no one compared to him in the whole of Israel. The bible says that from the top of his head to the sole of his feet, no blemish could be found on him. He had long hair which appears to have been an admirable thing in a man at that time. These days all young men ever hear is 'cut your hair'.

I have been struck by Absalom's love. It was love that drove him to kill his own half brother. Absalom's sister was Tamar. She was raped by Amnon, her half brother. Absalom found his sister (with whom he shared a mother) weeping and she explained to him what had happened. In those days, her life was pretty much over. No man would ever want to marry her. She had been disgraced. Absalom, spoke to her tenderly and invited her to live with him in his house. I was quite surprised at that account because I have always known this man in negative light. Absalom carried a grudge against his half brother Amnon for two entire years until finally an opportunity arose to take the life of his brother. He did not hesitate. After that incident, Absalom fled for fear of the punishment of this terrible crime.

Inorder to assassinate Amnon, Absalom with the permission of David, invited all his father's sons to a feast in the town where he lived. When Amnon was drunk, Absalom had his men kill him. All the princes were afraid and immediately fled back to their father's palace. They entered into it weeping. Imagine David, watching all his sons rush into his palace weeping, like scared children bringing back news that Amnon, his first born son, was dead. Yet inspite of this David loved Absalom and wished that he would return from exile. Even those who surrounded him in his palace could tell that David was not himself. He longed for his son.

Finally it was arranged, Absalom was assured that the King would not punish him. Absalom returned home. After two years he was allowed an audience with the King, his father David, who kissed him. The two year delay probably served to chastise Absalom or simply to show some form of disapproval for his actions and would have been longer had it not been for Absalom's efforts.

Absalom was an ambitious man. His ambition led to his death. He was obviously a brilliant man as well. Not long after his return, he conspired rather brilliantly to overthrow his father. His father David, ruled over a nation consisting of twelve tribes. Everytime men came from a particular tribe to seek an audience with the King, Absalom made sure that he met them first. Here is what the bible says:

In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

A brilliant man he was indeed! Absalom did this for four entire years. His plan was now ready for execution. He sent out his men to all the tribes of Israel telling them that when they heard the sound of trumpets they were to shout out that Absalom was King.

David his father had to run for his life. What sort of a man would do this to his own father? Well, in the end, David came up with an idea of his own were he sent his advisers to Absalom to pretend that they too had forsaken him. Absalom accepted them and even asked them, "Is this the love you show your friend?" Ironic isn't it? I'm sure in their hearts they responded, "Our sentiments exactly!"

Well eventually, this plan succeeded and Absalom was now the one on the run. David instructed those who were pursuing him not to harm him. But his more objective army commander who was leading the hunt for Absalom killed him as soon as he caught him. Absalom was on horse back and as he passed beneath some trees his long hair got caught up in the branches and he was left suspended in the air. When David's army commander reached him, he killed Absalom. And thus the hair that made him once famous was now the reason for his undoing.

As soon as his men returned, David asked, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" When he learnt the bad news, these were his words:

"O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!"

Yes. The most remarkable thing about Absalom's life was his father's love for him. I am convinced that the most remarkable thing about my life, is God's love for me. Like Absalom I have rebelled so many times but I am yet to be forsaken.

21 February 2011

Beautiful Feet

Isaiah 52:7

I'll never forget the day my deskmate, a young lady, came to school in slippers. I couldn't help but notice her feet, particularly her toes. I especially remember not thinking much of them. I wondered how cliche it is to call someone's feet/toes beautiful as seen in movies and the like. I then wondered how many guys, in a bid to win her, would compliment her toes even though they weren't so great. Seeing no reason for speculation, I turned to her and asked,

"Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful toes?"

"Oh Mwindula! Thankyou so much!", she replied.

It was then that I realised that I had a dilemma on my hands. It seemed that this young lady thought I was actually complimenting her toes. Not wanting to lie and/or be identified with the fleet of young men who had probably deceived her in like manner, I quickly clarified:


She was not impressed with me.

The feet of gospel-message-carriers are referred to as beautiful. Any bearer of good news is beautiful. The postman's hands with a letter from a loved one with its unkempt and dirty fingernails is beautiful, the secretary's irritating, high pitched voice calling to let you know that you have been offered a job for which you recently applied is beautiful, the repulsive smile of a toothless teacher handing over the test paper marked 'A+', is beautiful. How much more the bearer of the goodnews of our Lord Jesus Christ? That cure for the chronic disease present in the heart of man, sin. O for beautiful feet! O that my own feet would be called beautiful by many because I would have been the means by which they heard the gospel.

Do you have beautiful feet?

02 February 2011

Thoughts On Homeschooling

For the first time in a long time if ever, I put 'pen to paper' and struggle to begin this particular article. I struggle with whether to write a neutral article, one which is neither here no there (that kind which leaves a reader feeling like he/she has basically wasted their time, people want to hear which side you're on and why). I struggle with whether to pick a side and support it when I am most likely not informed enough to make an objective, comprehensive and sensible argument.

Usually, with not much forethought, I just sit down and type away 'free verse'. It seems the whole issue of homeschooling is a a big deal in the Western church. The whole controversy, I'm not quite sure if I can call it that, is one that the Eastern body of Christ has been... spared?

First time I heard of homeschooling, my response was, "cool". Now my response is really, "wow, what a hot topic." I am really intrigued by it and amazed to some extent by the debate.

This is probably because homeschooling and the controversy surrounding it is a luxury we don't have in Africa. I call it a luxury because I'd rather be wrestle with homeschooling than with hunger, unemployment, sickness, lack of education, inadequate health care, abject poverty, AIDS etc. Over here, we are too busy fighting for our lives to begin talking about homeschooling.

I suppose the whole issue of homeschooling has arisen, in the West, due to: need. The moral fibre of western society has been gnawed at for so long and to alarming proportions that one can understand why homeschooling was conceptualized.

Well, I will do the safest thing here and rather than pick a side (and perhaps lose the few readers I am already battling to keep), perhaps mention a couple of thoughts on the whole issue. Although I might give myself away...

1) It is unfortunate that homeschooling must even arise. It is a sad development that a society's morals can decay to such an extent that men and women become so afraid for their children, that they have to pull them out as it were. It is unfortunate and yet expected. We can expect no better from this world. In fact, we would be in order to expect worse. This is because of sin. The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. The question is what is the Christian's response to a rotting culture and society? Perhaps a study to answer that question would unveil principles that can help determine whether homeschooling is the way to go or not.

2) It would be sin to make homeschooling the main thing. The gospel is the main thing. Jesus Christ is the main thing. As important as the whole issue of homeschooling is, it must not become an idol. As important as it is that families process and pray and seek the Lord's will over how to educate their children, if we find ourselves peddling anything that is a part over the whole, we sin. No theme must be most sang, most discussed and most cherished than the gospel. It is in the gospel that we must invest our resources (time, energy, etc). And that is a trap that Western brothers and sisters must be aware off. I don't think brothers and sisters should part company and fail to dwell in harmony because they cannot agree on the issue of homeschooling. I don't think God would buy it.

3) Homeschooling and the controversy surrounding it, has not taken God by surprise. In his infinite wisdom, he ordained that the issue arise. I wonder why. Could it be to test/sanctify the Western church? To see whether, even in such 'hot topics', the church does not get carried away with debate and controversy but perhaps agree to disagree and move on? It's so easy to get caught up and forget what is important, the gospel and mutual edification, fellowship and the means of grace, salvation and sanctification. For me, a development of factions among believers wrestling with this hot topic would be to fail the test.

4) One other issue about picking a side, is that, unfortunately, there is no neutral ground. I suppose that it's one of those issues where you are either here or there, or would a Christian school be neutral ground? I don't know... But in the process of choosing whether to home school a child or not, I think it would be prudent to work backwards. To study principles in the bible pertaining to the issue and build on those principles until finally a final decision is arrived at but based on a foundation of biblical principles. Is there an article or book that does that, where there is a neutrality about the flow of thought through biblical principles? Almost all that I've read seems to have a 'made up mind'. I think it is important to work like that over any issue and thus the need to be well grounded in the word. This process must be done prayerfully (with earnest and continuous prayer).

Well there you have it, a few thoughts from someone looking from the outside in on the whole issue of homeschooling.

Weddings -Golden Opportunities

What golden opportunities indeed! No other gathering apart from family-get-togethers and funerals, bring family together, especially in our culture. The thing about weddings, that makes them more golden than funerals or get-togethers, perhaps even combined, is that all of your family in attendance are at your disposal. You reserve the right to conduct your wedding however you wish and your family will attend because they care about you.

But do we really realize this?

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me to watch a small clip. It was entitled, "letter from hell". It seems it is/was quite popular. It's about two young men who were close friends, one a Christian, the other not. For some reason the one never shared his faith with the other. The young man who wasn't a Christian died and went to hell. The clip has the young man in hell narrating a letter he had written to his Christian friend who was still on earth.

First he describes the place, then he describes the people he's with. He also describes the pain and the evil spirits there. As the narration progresses its intensity builds gradually, the young man gets more and more emotional after having started out rather collected. And then he finally breaks out as though he had been holding himself back. He asks his Christian friend in a frenzied voice, "Why? Why didn't you warn me? My best guess is that you were not aware of such a place. Who would know of such a place and not warn those he felt were heading there?"

I know of several people who I have not warned about the wrath to come, people who I was not forthright with, people who I will probably never see again, who, as of the last time we were together, were headed down a highway to eternal damnation. This causes me to want to be diligent in sharing the gospel with whoever I rub shoulders. But ofcourse, 'wanting' doesn't avail much. It is not enough to 'want'.

Probably the group we are most guilty of ignoring is our own family. How many of our family have heard the gospel? What percentage of our family have we tried to share the gospel with?

And that is what make weddings golden opportunities. Opportunities that must be capitalized on, first, indirectly but also directly. Indirectly in the way that we carry out our weddings.

Theres been alot of debate about weddings at my church, is this right and is that wrong, etc. Many things are not easy to just put in a box but Paul handles this in that timeless quotation, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." There are alot of things that are permissible at weddings, but the question shouldn't be, would it be alright to do this but rather, would this be beneficial.

Would this thing or that thing send a Christian message to my family, friends and acquaintances that will attend my wedding? Will they walk away struck by how different my wedding was? Or will they see the very things that they see in the majority of weddings around? The wedding is such a great opportunity! An opportunity to send a message saying, "I am different, I seek to glorify God even if it means forfeiting things I really wanted and it is not I but Christ that liveth in me!" Oh for weddings that minister to the wretched hearts of those who attend, especially our families merely by the elements they contain (or do not contain!), weddings that send them away wondering, what they lack that you have!

The second way, we must capitalize on weddings is directly. How can you have such a large gathering of family, friends and even associates/acquaintances and not have the gospel message preached?! What an opportunity! Many of those in attendance, you will never get to invite to a church where the truth is preached, how can you pass on an opportunity to bring the church service to them! When I mentioned this to my mother, she immediately mentioned that in her day, gospel messages were common features at weddings. Christians getting married would indeed organize a preacher to give an evangelistic message at their reception.

Maybe I'm just a young man speaking from without. Maybe in the midst of all the excitement or hustle and bustle of wedding preparations I will forget to or even reject the idea of having the gospel preached at my own wedding. Maybe I just don't understand the ins and outs of weddings. Maybe I'm being too idealistic or hyper spiritual. But then again, maybe I'm not. Maybe I'm onto something. Maybe the greatest love you can show your family is to warn them of the wrath of God that awaits them and the love of God that draws them. What more convenient way is there, than at your wedding?

10 January 2011

It Is Good For Me That I Have Been Afflicted

One thing that amazes me most and leaves me awestruck, apart from my beautiful girlfriend(!), is Regeneration. The account below blessed my heart. The wonderful way in which God saves the souls of men never ceases to amaze me. But also the fact that this man, whose lot in life very few of us can claim to be better than our's, does not wave his fist towards the heavens in bitterness against God. We can all learn something from John Farese. Check out his website by clicking here.

The Testimony of John Farese

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold and silver. Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, Because I have hoped in Your word. I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, According to Your word to Your servant. Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; For Your law is my delight. (Psa 119:71-77)

And He (God) has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being... Acts 17:26-28a.

I came into this world on 27 August 1956, the second of Vincent and Joan Farese's seven children. My older brother Bernie was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a severely crippling disease that meant that he was never able to walk. So was I - and a younger sister Tina. In each case, the doctors told my parents that the child concerned would not live beyond its eighth birthday. Tina died of pneumonia when she was four years old.

I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and quietly accepted the doctrines taught to me by my parents and the parish priest, especially the idea that a person got right with God by obeying the sacraments of the church. At one stage I was told that if I recited forty-five prayers from a particular Catholic prayer book every day for a whole year I would escape the pains of purgatory and hell, and be immediately accepted into heaven when I died. I never missed a day - but had no assurance that my discipline would pay off.

One special highlight I remember was a trip to Lourdes, in France. My mother took my brother Bernie and me there to seek healing from the Blessed Virgin Mary - but we came back home in exactly the same state as before.

My early years were spent in suburban Boston, Massachusetts, but when I was fifteen my father's business relocated our family to Florida, so we all moved south. Leaving behind relatives and friends in whom I had found a sense of security was devastating to me, yet in God's providence it was to prove the best move of my life. Brought up in a city where Catholicism was a dominant factor, I had come to believe that anyone outside of that tradition was beyond salvation. Yet four months after moving to Fort Lauderdale, and when I was still home-sick for Boston, our next door neighbour invited my mother to a home Bible study. Although we had a large white family Bible in our home, it was hardly ever opened, and I was shocked when my mother accepted the invitation. There was another shock when she agreed to the Bible study leader's suggestion that her son, who was then a freshman at Florida Bible College, might come and talk about the Christian faith to my brother and me.

That visit, and others which followed, had very different sequels. Bernie and I were so impressed by what John Tardonia told us about Jesus Christ as the one and only Saviour that we both gave intellectual assent to the gospel of grace and said a 'sinner's prayer'. In Bernie's case, this marked a dramatic change. He began to pray, study the Bible and go to church, and eventually enrolled in Bible College. Even more marked was a radical change in his lifestyle, which now seemed driven by a daily desire to please God.

In my case, the only change was for the worse. I had made some new friends whose lifestyle was rampantly self-centred and immoral, and I pitched in with them, determined not to let my disability keep me from enjoying life to the full. For the next twelve years gambling, heavy drinking, marijuana abuse, weekly visits to strip clubs and frequent engagements with call girls provided a means of escape from the pain, loneliness and emptiness I was experiencing.

Some years after Bernie and I went our separate ways, my younger brother Paul, who was a popular athlete in high school, joined me in the sex and drugs scene, until he went away to College on an athletic scholarship. During his first term, he got into so much trouble that he was on the verge of being expelled, yet when he came home for Christmas two months later there had been an amazing change. Like Bernie, he had become a committed Christian, and he was soon urging me to turn away from my dissolute lifestyle and get right with God. I knew in my heart that he was right, and even prayed with tears that God would change my life, but I loved what I was doing, and found myself unable to break my destructive habits.

At this point Bernie gave me a Bible, which I promised to read, but it sat unopened on a shelf for the next six months, while I went back to gambling, sex and drugs. Yet there was a difference. For the first time, I began to feel uncomfortable doing what had given me such undisturbed pleasure before. I kept remembering my conversations with Paul and my promise to Bernie that I would read the Bible. These nagging thoughts eventually became so strong that I took the Bible down and began to read it. I began at the first page, and in three months had read it right through - but by then I too had become a Christian. It was while I was reading the Sermon on the Mount that God opened my eyes to the truth about my sin, the inability of religion to deal with it, and the need to repent and trust in Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour. As I did, I was given an assurance that my sins had been forgiven and that I had become a true child of God.

Like most new Christians, I found myself full of zeal. I wanted to be baptized, join a Bible-believing church, and do whatever I could to serve others. I remembered Jesus had said that he 'did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Matthew 20:28) and that 'no servant is greater than his master' (John 13:16). Being bedridden, I was not sure that I could contribute anything to others, but by the grace of God I am able to be of energetic service in ways far beyond anything I had imagined.

In light of my physical condition, I am often asked the age-old question, 'How can an all-powerful God of love allow you to suffer in this way? Surely the Bible says that God always does what is right? Yes it does - and he does! I have come to see that suffering is one of the many ways in which God demonstrates his unfailing love to those who have come to put their trust in him. Writing out of his own painful experience, the Psalmist says, 'It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees' (Psalm 119:71) - and I gladly endorse every word of that testimony.

Among other things, suffering empties us of pride and self-dependence, and makes us realize our complete dependence upon God. When we reach the point where we have nowhere to turn except to God, we begin to get a clearer view of who and what he is. Day by day, I am discovering more and more of his wisdom, love and grace. I am also finding that God's power is made perfect in my weakness, and that 'when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Jesus went through appalling suffering, physical, mental and spiritual, yet at the end of it all he was to 'see the light of life and be satisfied' (Isaiah 53:11). I count it a privilege to experience in some small way 'the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings' (Philippians 3:10) Although I am bedridden, struggle to breathe comfortably, and often have to contend with painful bed sores, I count them as 'light and momentary troubles' (2 Corinthians 4:17) For all the difficulties they cause, I know that they are achieving for me 'an eternal glory that far outweighs them all' (2 Corinthians 4:17) How trivial they will all seem in the light of the eternal bliss that awaits God's children in the world to come!

One of the psalmists wrote, Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me' (Psalm 66:16) - and I gladly do so. He has turned my mourning into laughter and my desolation into joy. He has made my heart rejoice with 'an inexpressible and glorious joy' (1 Peter 1:8). When I struggled to escape from his grace, he drew me to himself. I bear witness that never servant had such a master as I have, never brother such a kinsman, never spouse such a husband. No sinner ever had a better Saviour than Jesus, no mourner a better comforter. I want none beside him. In life he is my life, and in death he shall be the death of death. In poverty, he is my riches, in sickness my health, in darkness my sun. Jesus is to me all grace and no wrath, all truth and no falsehood: and of truth and grace he is full, infinitely full.

About John:

John Farese lives in Florida with his brother Paul and sister-in-law Janis and their four children. He enjoys a very productive life, is keenly interested in a variety of sports, and has a special involvement in information technology, including the maintenance of his own Web site.

He has been disabled since birth, is paralysed in both arms and legs, and has been unable to sit up for over 10 years.