10 October 2012

Fathers And Sons



To my father, who has shown me that a real man is a man after God's own heart.

When a boy is making the transition from boyhood to manhood, there is no book he can pick up, or magazine he can read, or website he can surf to find out all the intricate details of who a man really is. There is no universal, detailed description of what it means to be a man. How must a man look? How must he carry himself? How must he relate to those above or below him? How must he treat women? How is a boy, making that transition to manhood, to decide what route he will take on all these things?

A boy who is making this inevitable transition is almost like a person making his way through a maze. He has no map and could take several routes to his destination. Which route will he take? What techniques and methods will he use to navigate his way so he makes it to the end intact? It would be so much easier to have footsteps in front of him that he could simply follow. Likewise, the boy does not have a detailed description of what he has to become. It's the little things that matter like how a man must talk, should he be loud or should he be quiet? Should he joke or should he be serious? What about the way a man must walk? Must a man bounce as he takes his strides? Must he walk briskly or take his time? It goes on and on, how should keep his hair or his beard? How should he sit? How should he relate to women? And so on and so forth.

Because of all these variables, a father plays a pivotal role and very rarely are fathers conscious of this. If you take a moment to observe most sons who have had a father figure growing up you will soon see how much the son copies his father.

The son does not do this consciously. He doesn't say "Ok, how must I walk? Let me see how dad walks." No, he simply imitates what he sees and before long it becomes who he is.

I have two friends who shave their heads completely. I've often wondered why they should choose such a weird hair style at such a young age and then I noticed that their fathers both keep their hair that way. There's a young man I know who has a priceless smile but always wears a grave face. Again I wondered why, then I discovered his Dad smiles very rarely. There's another friend of mine who speaks exactly the way his father speaks, two in fact. There is a man at church who never makes a '4' or with his legs (crosses his legs) when he is sits. I have never seen his son make a '4' either. There's a man who is simply a clown, you guessed right, his son is always clowning around. There's another boy also who speaks very shyly, his father speaks exactly the same way. I could go on and on.

Already, genetically, sons will have mannerisms and habits similar to their fathers but they become even more like their fathers because when they are growing up the definition of a man they have is the one of the man of the home, and consequently, many of those small details I mentioned are simply adopted from their fathers. This all happens with both father and son virtually unaware.

That is why fathers are important to their sons. You are your son's definition of a man. Two of my friends complain incessantly about their fathers and I often wonder why they have taken so much of the way they look and carry themselves from their fathers if they aren't so fond of them. It is something they really can't help. And that is why many young men who grow up without fathers end up being criminals. Being at an impressionable age, they look to the 'stars' in society and in the media and take their cue from them much to their own peril.

Fathers, believe it or not your son is watching. He sees how you sit, walk, talk, shave, drive, etc, and that is his view of what being a real man is. He sees how you treat your wife and your domestic workers. You are what he will become. Your son will rise or fall because of what you have portrayed manhood to be.

I'm thankful for my father in whom I have seen that a real man must prioritize; God first, himself last and others in between and that the more you submit yourself to God, the bigger the man you are. Thanks Dad!

15 September 2012

If Anyone Thirsts...

 
I am to preach at an outing for children in their last year of primary school and the theme is taken from John 7:37-39:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

(John 7:37-39 ESV)

It's a text most would be familiar with and yet we may not see how Jesus' statement related to what was going on.

A study of the context reveals that Jesus makes this proclamation during the Feast of Booths, a feast that has several names but that particular name is my favourite. It is probably best known as the Feast of Tabernacles. This was one of the three annual feast but was the most popular.

This feast came at a joyful time of the year (around this very time actually, September into October, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, the 15 day) when the last items to be harvested came in. It took just over a week and was lots of fun especially for children, I would imagine. During this time all the men journeyed to Jerusalem where they presented a portion of their harvest to thank God for the harvest and pray for the 'latter rain' that would prepare the earth for the next farming season. During the eight day feast, the families left their houses and set up tents or booths where they stayed, and that's why I say the children must have loved it. This was done to remember the way their ancestors lived in tents during their 40 year journey to the promised land from Egypt.

During the eight days, one of the daily highlights would be the time that the Priest would get a golden jug and walk down to the pool of Siloam and fetch water followed by a large procession. He would then return through the same entrance, called the 'water gate' whose name was taken from this very ritual, and go to the alter where another Priest would be waiting with another golden jug holding some wine from the harvest. Together they would pour out the contents of the jugs into basins that would drain to the base of the altar. As they did this the audience would begin singing Psalm 118:25-26 which was a song related to the Messiah.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalm 118:25-26 ESV)

It is at this point on the last day of the feast, when all the people are gathered to see this spectacle for that last time till the passing of another year that Christ stands up and in a loud voice shouts that great proclamation. Jesus was trying to communicate something and he got his point across.

Jesus was saying that he was the salvation of which they sang. Salvation had indeed come to Israel at last! Jesus was declaring that He was Messiah and that everyone who would believe in Him would receive the gift or indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the "living water," and would never be empty again. I am the reality that the water in this ceremony symbolizes-the true life giver through whom the Holy Spirit is also given as John interprets in the text.

What a beautiful picture.

The end of chapter 7 from the point of Jesus' proclamation shows that the people got the point. Even the officers who should have pounced on Jesus for interrupting such a solemn and beautiful occasion were stunned by Jesus' statement and had to come to grips with the thought that maybe this really was the Christ.

Isaiah says:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
  and streams on the dry ground;
 I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
  and my blessing on your descendants.
 They shall spring up among the grass
  like willows by flowing streams.
 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD's,’
  another will call on the name of Jacob,
 and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD's,’
  and name himself by the name of Israel.”

(Isaiah 44:3-5 ESV)

13 September 2012

Petauke Scenes

I was out in Petauke for just over a week, and spent the bulk of my time in the villages. Here are a few things I found interesting and 'shareworthy':


 
The first is Chimwemwe lodge. The best place you can stay if you are visiting Petauke. We only managed to afford it cause all four of us shared one room, and since we were staying so long we got a discount! Here is our little cabin with two of my three roomies pictured there.



The norm in the villages I visited was that families had cows, goats, chickens and pigs. During interactions with the villagers, animals would be passing all around us as they live with their owners. Pictured above are two adult cows right behind their owner's hut.



Pigs are by far the most disgusting animals in the village. Most of the adult females were pregnant implying that we had just missed the mating season. Pigs would only be doing one of two things at any given time, eating or sleeping. Or rubbing themselves against the back of a tree after rolling in mud. They would be so fixed on grazing or intently smelling the ground in search of things to nibble that when a car or human approached they'd run off a few metres and continue grazing without bothering to see what it was that approached them.



Now look at this clever invention. I had the privilege of sitting on one and plan on getting some tools and wood so I can construct a few for my home when I have my own family.



















The Watch Tower or Jehovah's Witnesses are really zealous in the villages. As you travel through the villages, every few kilometers, you found this. A Kingdom Hall building for the JWs. They are obviously strategically placed so that anyone who is interested in joining their churches, has access to one close by wherever they are in the villages. Compared to the houses and homestead of the villagers, this place looked awesome, the ground is cleared, the building is made of brick and just looks good and they even have toilets which appear to the left of the picture halfway from the top which follow the design of the main building. These guys mean business.



Sunday found us at Petuake Grace Reformed Baptist Church. They have a lovely building that is under construction, though they have began meeting there already, located on high ground and to the right of this picture is a great catchment of houses on lower ground for them to reach out to. And that works out great because when inviting them to church during their door to door evangelism, all they'll have to do is point to the church on the hill.



The dogs in the villages just lie around all day. I do not recall hearing a single bark while I was there. This might be because they are so thin and obviously don't get much to eat.










This young family agreed to take a photo in front of their house after I spoke to them. The guy is 22 and the girl is 17. Their little girl was a little over 6 months. Yes, its a very small house, just one room but he is doing alright. He owns his fair share of livestock.



Where there's a will, there's a way. There's no electricity in the village but that doesn't stop them from buying television sets and enjoying them.








This was the closest I saw a man come to making his place more beautiful by planting some trees and putting a hedge around his home. Most villagers don't care about this and just construct homes without caring in the slightest about Aesthetics.



Let me end here: This lady impressed me as she was here with several other women from the village who gathered together to have their under five year old children checked by a health team. She is the only one who took the time to groom her children and make them look nice and presentable. I told her how great a job she had done and offered to take a picture of her with her girls. She was much obliged!

04 September 2012

It's All Gone

Imagine for a second that you got a call from your doctor saying they found a deadly disease in your body from your last medical checkup. The disease is incurable and would result in high medical fees, a long life of visits to the hospital, huge dosages of drugs and pain for the rest of your life. Being the optimist you are you quickly thank God for your loving family who would stand by your side and of course the savings you have and were planning to spend but would now channel to your health. No sooner does the thought cross your mind than do you get another call while the doctor is still speaking to you, so thinking that no news could be worse, you thank your doctor and excuse yourself saying that you have another call and would come in to see him later. You quickly pick up the next call and it’s your banker. He says that your bank, where you keep all your money, has gone bankrupt due to internal fraudulent activities and that all your money is gone and cannot be replaced. Before you can respond or even process this information properly a knock comes at your door. Again thinking that nothing could ruin your day (and life) any further, you cut the call from your banker, before he can even finish, and get the door. It’s the police. The cop takes off his cap and holds it to his chest and tells you that your family is dead and they’d like you to go with them to identify the bodies. They died on the way home in a freak accident.

Overwhelmed with all this you suddenly feel weak and seat at the step of your door. The cop lays his hand on your shoulder. Within a minute you have lost your health, wealth and family. What would your reaction be?

Well, Job went thru a situation much worse. He not only lost his health, wealth and family, he lost everything else. The bible records that four servants came in quick succession, each bearing terrible news. Before each one could even finish delivering the news, the next arrived with more bad news. The first reported that his oxen was gone, the next that his sheep were gone, the third that his camels were gone, and the last that his children were all gone. And all his servants except the four (for he was a wealthy man) were also gone.

Job's reaction is, for me, astounding. It's mouth dropping and really the more I ponder it, the more it becomes one of my most favourite passages of scripture. The bible says Job bowed down and worshipped. Wow.

What a walk with God this man must have had! And what a challenge, to reach such a height in my relationship with God that even after he takes everything and strips me bare, I can bow down and worship. May it be so!

15 August 2012

Alice

The earth is estimated to have a surface area of 510,072,000 km2, 29% of which is land. This land is shared by approximately 196 countries.

On the 12th of March 2012 it was estimated that the population of the world had exceeded 7 billion. That is 7,000,000,000+ people or 7, 000 million. Keeping in mind all this, I want to tell you about Alice. In this large and comprehensive world is a mid sized country in the heart of Southern Africa I am proud to call home. In the Eastern part of this country is a province called Eastern Province where a town called Petauke lies. In Petauke, about an hour's drive from the town centre is a little village called 'Ngozi'. In that village which literally is a bush, along the main dusty gravel road lies a grave yard. The grave yard is clearly old as it is has long trees all over it. If you walk from the road into the grave yard at just the right point, a few metres from the road you'll find among several others a grave with a cement cross that marks it on the ground measuring about the average length and width of a grave. A poorly handwritten inscription, 'Alice' is made on the cement cross that was evidently made with a little stick before the cement could dry. No surname, no date of birth or date of death. Nothing. Just 'Alice'. Judging by the very few more informative graves around Alice's, Alice died in the late 70s to early 80s.

Because villages tend to be more akeen to their heritage, if you dug deep enough, you might be able to find out where Alice's descendants or family is and ask them about her but even in a village set up, you may not be able to and in a few more years you will certainly not be able to find any information about who Alice was.

In all likelihood, especially judging from how relatively well Alice was buried, Alice grew up loved and cared for. She probably got married and lived to a ripe old age and had 'other sons and daughters'. And yet a few years down the line nothing is left of her other than a cement cross on her grave with an inscription of her name.

Don't be so quick to pity Alice. That is pretty much going to be your fate also. One day, and it might be sooner than you think, even with all you are and have achieved or amassed, you will be nothing more than a name on a stone in a cemetery somewhere. No one will know anything about you other than what will be inscibed on your tomb stone. You will be lost in the great wave of history just like a drop of water in an ocean.

It is a rather depressing fact. No one wants to have themselves forgotten and unidentifiable a few years or decades after their death. Everyone wants to be remembered. One way of achieving this is doing something remarkable. I am reminded of Achillies the great mythical warrior who was asked to come to battle a giant. A little boy was sent to find him as the challenge was that whoever brought down the giant would win the battle for their people. The little boy delivered the message and saw Achillies get up onto his horse to ride to the battle field where both armies waited for the two men to go head to head. Worried for the average sized Achillies, the boy warned him that his opponent was unbeaten and was perhaps twice Achillies size. "I'd never agree to fight him," the boy told Achillies. "That is why you will never be remembered." Achillies replied.

Unfortunately, not many of us get a chance to leave an outstanding mark in the anals of history, nor would any of us have the ability even if the chance was presented. The only way is to leave an impact that will last and be felt long after we are gone. I believe the little phrase puts it best; "Only one life, t'will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."

11 August 2012

The Rose That Grew From Concrete



Tell it to us again mommy,
How did we become a sight so catching?
Well, little buds, today we boast of being,
The most remarkable sight worth seeing.

It all began with Pete,
The first rose to grow from concrete.
Told he would never be anything,
Pete strove with his everything,
To achieve something great.
Something to alleviate the threat
Of the garden being covered forever,
By the laying of a mortar layer.
With no sunlight or air,
We all soon began to wilt and be laid bare.

But Pete pushed through the hard ground,
Till he saw light all around.
And spurred with the thought “Pete has done it!”
We all soon pushed through the dooming concrete
And remain today the most remarkable sight in Auckland,
Of roses growing out from sealed ground.
And so we honor the great and mighty Pete,
The rose that grew from concrete.


I wrote this in response to an invitation to submit a poem titled "The Rose that grew from Concrete".

09 August 2012

The London 2012 Olympics

Chad Le Clos
On the 31st of July, A young South African swimmer beat arguably the best swimmer of all time in the 200-meter butterfly finals of the London 2012 Olympics. Chad Le Clos had watched video clips of Phelps swimming for two entire years over and over and practiced hard to beat Phelps. He actually won because of a miscalculation by Phelps who made his final stretch to touch the wall of the pool a tad bit early. He should have put in one more stroke and then stretched but Chad got it right. When he looked up to see if he had it, you couldn't miss just how much the 20 year old was overwhelmed to discover he had won.
The presentation of the medals was particularly moving. Chad was all smiles as he stood on the podium and stooped down to have the coveted gold medal placed around his neck. His parents were up in the terraces oozing with pride as his mother blew her 20 year old boy kisses and his father waved the South African flag with both hands.

Chad


After the silver and bronze were also awarded, the three stood still as Chad's national anthem was played. As the anthem played Chad's eyes welled up and soon the tears poured, in no time he was sobbing. He had made his parents proud and had brought honour to his country. He would go down in history as the young 20 year old who took the great 27 year old Michael Phelps on and beat him.

Chad during the playing of the South African national anthem.


It is truly a great honour first of all to be chosen from all the countrymen and women who have dedicated their lives to master your particular discipline to represent your country. It is an honour to compete with the best people on the planet and to come out on top... very few things come close to such an achievement. To put your country in the history books as having come out at the top. What an honour indeed. Can you blame Chad for breaking down really? I think I may have shed a little something myself. It is truly remarkable.

Usain Bold-Fastest Man on Earth
Many have achieved even greater things than Chad. Michael Phelps himself is probably the greatest Olympian of all time with a total of 19 medals, eight of which he took at the Beijing Olympics, and all eight were gold! Alexei Nemov competed in the 96' and 00' Olympics where he garnered a total of 16 medals. Who doesn't know the man whose name tells it all, Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth? He broke the world record in one Olympics and won gold then came back to the next Olympics and broke his own world record and won gold again and has now cemented his name as the fastest man on earth yet again at the London 2012 Olympics. And what about Joyner's success from the 80s? She is a five-time Olympic medalist. In her first Olympics in 1984, Flo-Jo captured the silver medal in the 200 meters. She really stepped it up at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, collecting gold medals in the 100, 200 and the 4x100 relay and silver in the 4x400 relay. And then there's Nadia Comaneci who became an international star during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Comaneci holds the distinction of being the first gymnast to earn a 10 in Olympic competition. Incredibly, Comaneci was only 14 years old when she captured her first gold medal!

Yet, here is the unfortunate thing, how many of these people do you know?

Chad? Phelps? Alexei? Bolt? Florence Joyner? Nadia? These are men and women who have achieved, in competitive sport, things that we could never even dream of. Men and women who have brought pride to their countries and families and have etched their names in history as the greatest in their disciplines and yet, we don't even know them! If we walked passed them we would not even recognize them. If they stopped us to introduce themselves to us by name, it would not likely ring a bell. That is really unfortunate. Sure when you achieve great things like this you get money but that money runs out, you get fame but that fame is clearly limited. The next generation is eager to erase your name and replace it with its own. You'd think that after you are long gone and have died atleast your name would remain on the lips of those who remain behind, but if so relatively few know you while you are alive, what are the odds?

No wonder the wisest man on earth said life under the sun is meaningless. If you can work so hard to achieve so much and still be relatively unknown, how meaningless life must indeed be. I support those who pursue olympic gold medals and world records, they will realize much more wealth and fame than the average man ever will. It is certainly better than sitting around picking one's teeth. But when it's all said and done, what they get out of it will never equal what they put in.

On that rather depressing note (truly life is depressing when you ponder it, even Solomon got depressed considering all these things), Happy Olympics!

 "Only one life, t'will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

02 August 2012

Zambian Culture: The Visitor

I think Zambian culture is pretty interesting. People do not marvel at something they see everyday, but my own culture leaves me wowed sometimes. Granted I have not been brought up in a very traditional set up and perhaps that's why I notice these things and are left mesmerized. But there are certain things I have certainly observed. Take for instance the place of a visitor in Zambian culture.


The Visited

Receiving visitors is a special thing. It is part of our culture to make someone feel welcome. In Zambian culture when a visitor comes to your home, life comes to a halt. It doesn't matter if you have an exam tomorrow that you are not ready for or work for which you are rushing, the visitor immediately becomes priority number one. The visitor must be welcomed into the house and offered a sit at the very least. If the visitor comes close to meal time, he/she is immediately catered for. The visitor must be entertained. If the home owner is away, the children know that theirs is the responsibility to entertain the visitor until the owner gets home. The visitor cannot be left with a television or radio to keep them occupied. If the visitor is ignored the parents are tagged as people who have not brought up their children well and even the children are tagged as rude and even disrespectful.

If the television was on, it is usually muted or turned off to give the visitor full and undivided attention. Also it is rude to ask the visitor what has brought them to your home. Anything which even hints at looking forward to the visitors departure is left out of either conversation or behaviour. Smiles are maintained and interest levels are kept high in the visitor. It is up to the visitor to divulge his reasons for being there.

The visitor is usually served with a drink at least and usually something to eat. Again if a visitor is not served with anything to eat, it reflects badly upon the family. That's where there is an anomaly in Zambian culture. Very rarely will Zambian's share money, but they will certainly share food! If the visitor comes from out of town, they needn't even warn their hosts-to-be of their arrival, they can simply come in, and preparations will be made for them to have a room and a bed. Limited space will mean the eviction of children from a room to the sitting room to leave the room for the visitor(s).

Many families will school their children in what to do when visitors come. Their reputation as a family often hinges on the report that visitors send to others when the leave the home they visitor.


The Visitor


Because of this high value that is placed on the visitor, many have abused our lovely culture. There are some who devise brilliant schemes to take advantage of the place of a visitor in our culture. Some, especially bachelors living on their own and also lazy relatives, will target certain homes and happen to visit those homes at meal times. If they use tact and plan well, they can literally have three meals a day for an entire week being sure to make the visits as apparently abrupt, infrequent and random as possible.

Other relatives will visit with a bag of clothing and spend some weeks staying at a home. They will survive that long because to make a visitor feel that you do not want them is the biggest blunder you can make as you would be disrespecting him/her and be damaging your own reputation. Thus the family can only wonder how long this relative or friend will be around. If the visitor is smart, they will absorb as much hospitality as they can and move on to their next victims in good time before being seen as a burden or inconvenience. This is true especially of older relatives, Uncles, Aunties and Grandparents who have the added advantage of not only being visitors but also being older in age and the value of the visitor in our culture is already high, add to that the value of being older in age and you have someone who cannot be touched!

The visitor however is also in danger of picking up a bad reputation. If the visitor is discovered to be one who employs the schemes described above to take advantage of his/her high value, if word does it's rounds, the visitor will soon discover that they are being avoided and it also becomes easier for the visited to send them off because if the the visitor attempts to share that they were treated very poorly, obviously, it will not carry any weight.

Thankfully, the are those who bring honour to the place of the visitor by being a joy to host by the visitors. Many times, regret is admitted by the family to see them leave and at their departure, an invitation is immediately extended that the visitor return soon. May we all be that kind of visitor!

Finally, the high value of the visitor in Zambian culture has made the sharing of the gospel a very easy task. If you go to a home as a complete stranger you will almost in all cases be given time. Many will let you into their homes and some would even serve refreshments. Thank God for the high value placed on the visitor in our culture!

"Visitor always brings joy to a family, either by their coming or their going."

30 July 2012

Courtship No. 6 -Friendship





In essence a courtship relationship is a friendship. Two people come together to know each other better. As they interact and by the grace of God it becomes clear whether they are compatible enough to enter the permanent relationship of marriage.


Why is friendship important? Well that one is fairly simple. Feelings change. If you're married for 30 years you will not likely be head over heels in love with your spouse for all 365 days by 30 of your marriage. There will be days when you aren't just feeling it. That's human. However, if that is the only thing that brings you together you will be in trouble. If on the other hand there is a real friendship going on, a blast is guaranteed.


Building Friendship

Friendship is built by spending time together. As you relate with someone your knowledge of a the person grows. In order for this to happen however, you need to have things in common. I've always thought it ideal that men and women who end up courting and eventually marrying must meet in the particular places where they serve God. I have since discovered that this is not always the case on the ground, in fact it appears rather rare. But if that was the case, already the couple is guaranteed that they will have certain things in common on which their friendship can thrive.

A couple must find common interests and spend time enjoying them together. Interests are diverse, from animals, plants, birds, poetry, writing, music, art, acting, cooking, sport and so on. Granted, there must be a willingness by each party to take interest in things that interest the other person even if they may not interest them particularly. There are examples of couples where before they were together, one had no interest in something what so ever but because of the other, interest was developed and sustained. However, if there is nothing of common interest that you both love, friendship will be tough to build.

Back to the area of serving God in the same place. It is a fact that the quality of relationship that a couple who serve together in the same areas will be better than the couple that serve in different areas. The former will have a particular dimension to their relationship that the latter will not. A pastor once testified of the blessing of a couple in one of his pastorates. The wife was exceptional with children but she left that area of ministry to join her husband in the media ministry and they served faithfully together there. Again whatever you think of her decision (some would say she neglected her gift), her relationship with her husband had a certain dimension to it that otherwise would not be there. They had something in common.

If there is really no common areas of interest,  you may not be compatible.

27 July 2012

Courtship No.5 -Love





What is the opposite of love? Self. If you love someone then you are concerned about that person more than you are concerned about yourself. The greatest lover therefore, would be the person who is the most selfless in his or her relationship.


When I was in my teens, I knew that most of the relationships my peers where involved in were mere games. I knew that the boyfriends and girlfriends my peers had at school and even at church would not end up being their husbands or wives. Those relationships weren't going anywhere.

Don't get me wrong, I liked girls and was tempted to get a girlfriend for myself. My ability to perceive the futility of the relationships my peers ventured into wasn't what stopped me from looking for a girlfriend. Lets just say I was spared from getting into those premature relationships. I was shocked, however, to discover that the guys would actually tell the girls that they loved them when they proposed! That, for me was astounding. If I ever got myself a girlfriend then, there was no way the words, "I love you" would escape my lips. "Like" perhaps, not love! It was absolutely inconceivable for me. "Love is what my parents have after 15+ years of marriage," I would tell my friends, there was no way I was going to claim that what the men I saw around had for their wives was what I had for some girl I liked. The word love was quite weighty for me.

I think I was on to something. Love is a weighty thing. "For God so loved the world, that he gave us His one and only begotten Son..." That's what love is. That's what love does. What does this have to do with courtship?

Well, two people can spend years together in courtship but will never really know each other as well as when they are married. When they spend day in and day out together. However, courtship does provide a platform for two people two know each other quite well, especially if both parties are real when they relate. This weighty thing called love, such as the one that God offered mankind is necessary in courtship. Two sinners different on many fronts, will need God's kind of love to survive together. Love is necessary to bear with each other's shortcomings. Love is needed to survive differences in opinions, priorities, interests, worldviews, likes and dislikes etc. Pray that God would grant you the grace needed to love your mate in spite of all the differences. Without him, your courtship is doomed. You maybe wondering how do non-Christian courtships and marriages survive. The grace of God. They may not ask for it or even want it, but without it, survival would impossible. Thank God that he doesn't wait for us to ask.

Let me conclude with a story. You see, this love will serve you well in marriage. I watched a live performance by an established Christian musician from way back in the 80s. He was married and had a young daughter then. Before he sang, he narrated how devastated he was to hear that his parents were getting divorced after some 25-30 odd years in marriage. It made him question his understanding of love and marriage. "What was to stop that from happening to my marriage 20-30 odd years down the line?" He asked. He went on to explain that if love was a mere emotion then marriage would never work. But if love is a deliberate commitment, there is hope because feelings change but commitment is up to us and by God's grace we can stay committed. "I don't necessarily feel like being married to my wife and being the father of a screaming baby every morning I get up," He said, "but I am committed to being a loving husband and a loving father." That is love.

11 June 2012

Courtship No. 4 -Spirituality


Hopefully one of the things you saw in your mate that attracted you to them, was their love and service for and to God. A courtship that seeks to glorify God will have a strong spiritual base. The ways of achieving this are diverse. There are hundreds of spiritual activities you can do together if you both put your thinking caps on. Here are a few:

Books
This is perhaps the most recent activity from my relationship. To encourage our reading of good Christian literature, we have agree to get each other two books of each ones choice, which the other must read, a year. If reading isn't your thing, two books a year is really manageable.

Prayer
One good idea is to have a prayer calendar for the month or week that you both follow so that everyday, you pray for the same things and people. You can also share prayer requests every week or day or month.

Sharing Devotions
Careful, this one may expose your inconsistency in personal devotions. Its a good way of keeping each other consistent in devotions. If your mate is always sending you devotions, you soon feel challenged that you haven't been sending yours.

Ministry
It is lovely to work together in the same ministry with your mate. Its a great way to be together and yet work for the Lord. Your prayers for your endeavors for God are then similar. You share the same heart and burdens for your spheres of ministry etc. I recall listening to a sermon where a pastor spoke of a couple his former church. The lady was exceptional at teaching children but stopped to join her husband in his area of the media ministry where they served together in the church faithfully. Whatever you think of the lady's decision, I'm sure it added a certain dimension to their relationship that you don't find in couples who don't serve together in the same ministries.

Sharing Sunday Lesson
Another good one is sharing what you learn from the preaching of God's word in church every week.

If coming up with these things seems difficult, you can approach older couples, married or otherwise and hear what activities they engaged in together.

31 May 2012

So, You've Graduated. Now What?

I attended a dinner for graduates and the guest of honor, Mrs. Nchito, gave a great speech about graduating from college. Since I am at that stage of life as well I found it very helpful. She said things I had never heard of before. She was kind enough to write something for my blog.

___________________________________________


You are about to graduate and are wondering, now what? Its been a long slog, there have been highs and lows and yet it has all seemed to go by so fast. You're fast approaching the day you have waited for the majority of your young life, and fear and anxiety are mingled with all the excitement.



Two Truths

There are two fundamental truths that you should hold on to during the next few months as you begin life after school.

1.     Romans 8: 28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those called according to his purpose. When the Bible says “all things” it means just that. Yes, even the rejection you will receive from companies you long to work for and the long months that will pass before you find a job. All these things will be working together for your good and will be working towards “His purpose” for your life. The Lord may be teaching you something or may want you to become aware of something or may even want you to do something for him before he gives a job that will keep you too busy to serve him. So even in times of despair always hold on to this truth. This experience is a strengthening your faith.
2.     1 Cor 10:31 – Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord. Secondly, when you finally do find something to do no matter how trivial it may seem remember to do it diligently as “unto the Lord.” This applies even to voluntary jobs. Do them as unto the Lord. You never know who you may be impressing. When you do get a job you must be dependable, show dedication by giving 100%. Do not join unbelievers as they complain and gossip about their superiors. You are Christ’s ambassador in the work place, not the chief complainant (2 Tim 2:15).


Seven P's
  1. Put God first – He knows what is best for you and his ways are not your ways nor his time your time. Pray about your situation earnestly. Ask others to pray with and for you. We often underestimate the power of prayer.
  2. Patience – You are dealing with an unknown time frame. It could take one day or one year. Be prepared to face it.
  3. Purity – You may face times of extreme temptation. There are a lot of wrong things happening out there. You will be told it depends on whose hands you oil etc. Do not act like unbelievers (Hebrews 11:1).
  4. Perseverance – Many give up too quickly. Do not stop trying until the very last door is shut and bolted. Make an effort to see employers in person when you leave application letters.
  5. Be Practical – If the only job available is in a rural area, take it. We have a tendency of shunning rural areas. The Lord may be sending you as a missionary (Isaiah 6:8, Romans 10:14-15). It is also easier to find a job when you are in a job.
  6. Do not be Proud – You have a qualification by the grace of God. Do not look down on those who have not been as fortunate. Pride stops us from taking up jobs we consider below us when in fact it is actually very beneficial if we start from the bottom in an organization. That way we learn more than any qualification can ever teach us. Do not ignore workmates below you. They probably know more than you do about the organization and you may need their help (Proverbs 29:23, Proverbs 16:18).
  7. Plan – Don’t function haphazardly. Organize your time constructively. Have a list of all the organizations you are targeting. Give yourself deadlines for the delivery of applications etc. Set goals. Do something! Even growing vegetables is better than doing nothing.


Nine Tips For Job Hunting
  • Collect correct and adequate information- Do not rely on hearsay from friends. Some friends may deliberately mislead you so make an effort to find or verify information for yourself. Check papers daily if possible.
  • Learn to ask for business cards, keep peoples telephone numbers, email addresses and learn to network.
  • Where possible drop off applications in person. The postal system is not the most reliable.
  • Be observant and attentive - the church is a resource center, but many youths do not know or care to know what older church members do.
  • Be objective – if you are trained as a teacher and there is an advert for a teaching job, do not snub it for a managerial job which has not been advertised. Be ready to enter an organization at the lowest level.
  • Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Know what type of job you will enjoy doing.
  • Be ready to volunteer. Volunteering is one way of learning skills or even getting a job later. It is also a way of giving back to society.
  • Learn how to write professional curriculum vitae (CV) and application letters. This is the first impression that would-be employers will have about you. Employers have been known to receive application letters written in SMS lingo.
  • Understand what is required when one is sitting for job interviews.


Conclusion

Now that you have finished your studies take time out and return to the starting point. Go back to your parents/guardians and say THANK YOU. Do not only do it verbally but show them that you are truly grateful for their support by working around the house. Let them send you around the way they used to when you were younger. Learn to be useful to those nearest to you before offering yourself as someone’s employee. Remember that this may be the last time you spend time in their home as you are soon to make your own home (Exodus 20:12).

In whatever situation you find yourself in the few months after graduating, remember Romans 8:28. Whatever it is that you are going through it is for your good.


by Mrs W. S. Nchito

02 May 2012

Courtship No. 3 -Drawing Lines

One of the best things you can do, preferably right at the beginning of a relationship is draw clear lines so that nothing is blurred. It must be clear in both your minds what you can and cannot do. It must also be clear what things, while not necessarily sinful, make either of you uncomfortable.



Physical Boundaries

It is a given that people in courtship cannot do everything married people do. The two relationships differ. It is important for a couple to discuss what, with the guidance of scripture, they can and cannot do. After that is settled, they can discuss things that while they do not go against scripture, would still make them uncomfortable.


This is important because first of all, it prevents either mate making the other uncomfortable or put off by an action that either is not biblical or offensive. If everything is clear, this problem is not likely to occur. The other reason is that as a relationship progresses, familiarity increases with it. It therefore becomes easier do certain things and to cross boundaries that you would have found uncomfortable or even unthinkable in the beginning. Discussing physical boundaries, prevents this.


Granted, certain cultures are more liberal than others. My culture is certainly on the conservative side. I recall being told that someone found it stumbling that I held hands with my girlfriend. However, even in a liberal culture, certain things are limited to the marriage relationship, the obvious one being sex.




The Parent Rule

Its hard to say definitely what can and cannot be done though certain principles can be followed. The first being of course that what is forbidden in scripture must not be done. And secondly, what makes you uncomfortable must also be avoided.


Other than those two, personally, I let myself be governed by a simple rule. I will not do anything to or with my girlfriend that I wouldn't do in front of her parents. I think that rule is very good because it brings honour and respect to her parents. It takes a level of trust to allow ones daughter to start seeing a young man. The young man must be careful not to betray that trust even if something is OK or maybe even desired by the girl. This rule eliminates the cultural factor. Your liberties with your girlfriend or boyfriend are then dictated by the parents.

What if the parents don't mind or even encourage something that makes you uncomfortable or is not biblical? Well, the bible must be ones final authority. And if something is not forbidden yet still makes you uncomfortable, it must certainly be avoided. It is better to error towards the conservative extreme than the liberal. It is better to say, "We missed out on doing this," than, "We regret that we did that."

26 April 2012

Whatever Happened To Simple Weddings?



One thing I have struggled to understand is where the stress of a wedding comes from. The concept of getting married is something I have always thought to be simple and natural. Two people come together and share everything. Most people would say, "Wait and see!" Well, granted, there are challenges, as one older brother once told me in the build up to his own wedding, a wedding brings two people together often with nonidentical backgrounds, worldviews, social status etc, and so tough adjustments cannot be avoided.

The wedding day, however, I'd like to believe, must be the least complex thing and yet often it is not. There is stress, tempers, fatigue, fits, chaos, tears, delays and so on. And wedding budgets! I could not believe it when I heard what the budget of weddings nowadays come to. It's staggering.

A wedding happens when two people are declared married after an exchange of vows, preferably at a church building conducted by a minister. When the minister says on my wedding,"I now declare you husband and wife," I will breathe a huge sigh of relief, for from that moment, come rain or sunshine, storm or gale, earthquake or tsunami, the girl is mine till either I or she dies. I mean literal elements here, I'm not being figurative. At that point the wedding cannot be cancelled. It has happened.

No need for a wedding dress or suit (the first marriage ever had both bride and groom stark naked by the way). No need for rings. No need for a reception. No need for cars. No need for people. Just a minister and some witnesses suffice.

When you look at it that way, you discover, that there really isn't much to getting married. All you need is two people who have the combined financial muscle to live together. Two independent individuals who are working can get married for literally close to nothing. Perhaps cab money to the church or what ever location has been chosen. You don't even need cab money back!

Where then does the stress come in?

Well, we have made something so simple, so very complex! Now there are cars for the men on the line up, cars for the women, cars for the matron and the kids on the lineup and a car for the bride and groom. There is a wedding dress, and the dresses for the rest of the ladies (I've come to learn that there's even a change of clothes at 'half time'). Yes, weddings now have a 'half time'. That is when people leave the church ceremony to go to the reception. I call it half time because the wedding won't quite pass as a wedding without the reception! You have the suits for the guys. Then of course all the decorations for the church and the cars and reception venue, and then there's the food and the drinks for all the guests, those two really empty the pockets. O yes! Don't forget the wedding cards for all the guests. Then there's the wedding cake, which is actually three or more cakes put one on top of the other. I'm pretty sure I've left a couple of things out, O yes, the music systems and all that equipment. Ah, the video has to be shot and pictures have to be taken. I'm getting a headache just remembering all these, what happens to the poor couple who have to organize them?!

When the above paragraph comprises a wedding, you understand the stress and all the pressure. You understand why the couple cannot breathe a sigh of relief when the minister declares them husband and wife. In they're minds, the wedding has barely began!

All these things that cause loss of sleep and weight (and money!) are all unnecessary. Two people who either don't have the money or decide not to even get a suit and wedding dress but simply put on the best clothes they can find in their wardrobes and take the cab to the church to wed are as married as those who go through the horror I have just described above!

I have obviously described an extreme. Don't expect the bare minimum at my wedding, you may just find the horror I have described, however, I am simply... what's the word... saddened to see a young couple who are both independent and have what it takes to marry (as I have defined marrying at the very beginning) and yet wait eagerly to wed, being strained every passing day by the desire to finally be together, just because they have not met the requirements the rest of us (and unfortunately them too) think comprise a wedding. In my opinion it is actually bondage. Tied to the wrong expectations of family, friends, acquaintances and society generally.

The most upsetting thing for me is the feast at the reception. Why pay huge sums to have more than enough great food and drinks served to friends and family and everyone else and then go drink water and bread in your first home? It's unacceptable. If you have the money, great. But if you don't, why do that? The wedding must be comfortably within what you can afford so that your home is free of any financial burdens especially at the beginning. God knows you'll have enough problems to deal with. Why give everyone else a blast, then go suffer the two of you afterwards? It really doesn't make any sense.

I could go on, obviously, but must end here. Congratulations to all those who have married and given us guests a great time. I hope it didn't strain you because if it did, that's unnecessary and a shame. We would have done fine if you decided to make us suffer so you could enjoy yourselves. For those of you getting married, put yourselves first. Lord knows the rest of us will do just fine!

16 April 2012

Courtship No.2 -Foundational Truths

Foundational truths are like instructions for a product just purchased at the time when you are ready to open the packaging and dig in—they are a chore, but they save you a lot of time, heart ache and increase the pleasure that would otherwise have been reduced or altogether absent had they been ignored.

About God

Two things must be grasped about God. God must be the center. God is God. First of all God must be the center of a relationship. He must be put first and it must show in the relationship's priorities, activities, interactions etc. Secondly, God is God. God can make wrongs right, He can bring happiness and  joy where there is sadness and pain. Nothing is impossible with Him. Amos 4:13~For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!


About Man

Man is sinful and imperfect. This implies that any two humans who have any kind of interaction will rub each other the wrong way and cause pain and hurt. There will be pride, there will be selfishness, revenge, anger and so on. What about if both the gentleman and lady are Christians," you may ask. It doesn't matter. Its important to understand this. It will help you understand why you do the most stupid things to your mate and why your mate does unreasonable things of their own. It will help you understand that left to yourself, you would ruin everything. You need God. Romans 3:23~For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


About Marriage

When I proposed my girlfriend I gave her time to give me an answer. Actually, I began hinting that I wouldn't survive a long wait about three days later. She came a few days later and we sat down. "Before I give you an answer," She began, "If I said yes, where would this relationship be going?" Too many ladies accept to enter into directionless relationships. The goal of courtship must be marriage. If you aren't working towards marriage, end it. You have no business being in the relationship. Genesis 2:24~Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


About Love

In courtship, your commitment is to love your mate. That is not the warm, fuzzy feeling in the cockles of ones heart towards a mate but rather a commitment. When one is rude, love responds kindly, when one is sad, love responds in sympathy, when one is wrong, love rebukes, when one is glad, love rejoices along, when one needs to talk, love listens, when one needs silence, love sits quietly beside. Love never leaves, forsakes, or disappoints. To love therefore is one of the most difficult tasks on earth. And that is your commitment to your mate. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7~Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


About Courtship

Courtship helps the two people involved to determine whether the attraction that they felt from afar can work up close and personal. This is achieved by building a bond, familiarization and interaction. It is not marriage. Unlike marriage it can be terminated. While this can be painful, the pain is bliss compared to what the result would be if the relationship culminated into marriage. Matthew 1:18-19~Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

08 April 2012

Jesus Couldn't Have Died On Friday

The Easter holiday is comprised of four days over a weekend, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Good Friday is celebrated as the day of Christ's death and Easter Sunday as His resurrection. Notice, however, what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40:
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Friday evening to Sunday morning cannot take three days and three nights.

The idea that Jesus died on a Friday is probably taken from Mark's account of Jesus' death. In verse 42 of Mark 15, He writes:
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath...

Mark records Jesus' death as the day before the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath was the 7th day, Saturday. This can easily be explained. The Jews had at least two special Sabbaths, apart from their weekly 7th day. These days where set apart and they were to have special assemblies and no work was to be done. The first day and last days of the feast of Unleavened Bread were special Sabbaths.
Leviticus 23:3-8~“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly. It is the Lord’s Sabbath day, and it must be observed wherever you live.

“In addition to the Sabbath, these are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year.

“The Lord’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the next day, the fifteenth day of the month, you must begin celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This festival to the Lord continues for seven days, and during that time the bread you eat must be made without yeast. On the first day of the festival, all the people must stop their ordinary work and observe an official day for holy assembly. For seven days you must present special gifts to the Lord. On the seventh day the people must again stop all their ordinary work to observe an official day for holy assembly.”

John is specific in mentioning that it was a day before the special Sabbath, some versions call it a high Sabbath. That is John 19:31:
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

Here's a view with which I agree: Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday morning. He died around 3pm (the 9th hour) and was brought down from the cross and buried before Wednesday evening arrived (see John 19:42). The Jews began their day in the evening (important), thus Wednesday evening would have been the beginning of Thursday for them, which would be the day to celebrate the Passover. Thus Jesus spent Wednesday night and Thursday (one night, one day), Thursday night and Friday (two nights, two days) and Friday night and Saturday (three nights, three days) and rose on Saturday night into Sunday (Saturday evening would already be Sunday, the first day of the week, since their day began in the evening like I said). Three days and three nights.

John records in verse 1 of John 20:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

For those who think it really doesn't matter when Jesus died, it does. If He prophesied that He would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth and His prophesy was not fulfilled, it would render Him a false prophet. A fraud. Deuteronomy 18:21-22:
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

For a more comprehensive discussion of this view, click here. I cannot vouch for anything else on this site. Caution must be employed.

04 April 2012

The Meaning of Easter


Easter is celebrated the world over to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord. Some religious groups prefer not to call it Easter for reasons that I completely understand.

You see, the most widely accepted origin of Easter is taken from a 6th and 7th century scholar known as the father of English History. Whether the origin that he suggested was made up or true is not certain.

In one of his books he says that Easter was actually a month named after a goddess, a month which is our April equivalent. The feasts celebrated in the goddess’s honor in that month were forgotten with the passage of time and replaced with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection as we know it today and this two or so centuries after Christ’s ascension.

This explains the apprehension that some have today with calling it 'Easter'.

Galatians 3 offers at least three things that Easter means to a Christian. It shows us that Jesus’ died to redeem us from a curse. That he did this to fulfill a promise He made to Father Abraham. And that He did all this out of no duty but rather by His grace.

Easter means that we are children of Abraham. God promised Abraham several things. The promise to Abraham that he would have as many children or offspring as the stars in the sky is particularly significant. That promise was God's way of opening the door for non-Jews like me and you. Paul tells us in Galatians that that promise facilitated Abraham’s spiritual children, children who did not fall in his genealogical line but children that live like Abraham-those who live by faith. Hence the song:
Father Abraham had many sons,
Many sons had father Abraham
I am one of them, and so are you
So let’s all praise the Lord!

Let me put it this way, when Abraham looks down on this earth and sees Jews who are his natural descendants and sees you who is not, he feels a much stronger attachment and connection, a stronger affinity and bond to you. And even though, you do not share blood, you do not fall in his ancestry, even though you look nothing like him, he recognizes you as his very own because you live like him, you live by faith!

And that was Jesus' point in John 8 when He told the Jews that if they held on to His teaching they would know the truth and be set free. "Free?" They asked, "We have never been slaves. We are children of Abraham." They treasured their ancestry you see. Verse 39 says,

"Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did." ~John 8:39.
You can almost picture Abraham watching down from heaven, jaw dropped, seeing the descendants of his beloved son Isaac reject the Son of God and turn his face away in disgust. Then he sees you and I accept Jesus, coming to Him empty handed, just as we are. We can almost hear Him echo Jesus' words, "My real children are those who live as I lived."


Those who have faith like Abraham are his real children and they are blessed along with Abraham. The opposite of a blessing is a curse. Easter means we are blessed. We are given salvation freely and escape the curse that anyone else that refuses this free gift are under, that of earning salvation by living a perfect life. It is a curse because no one can live a perfect life. Paul calls this redemption from the curse of the law saying that Jesus redeemed us from this curse by being cursed Himself.


Finally Easter means God’s grace. This comes out clearly in verse 18 of Galatians 3. God did not have to promise Abraham anything. He did it by his grace. He extended the blessing of redemption to you and I who are unnatural children of Abraham not because He had to but because of His grace. He chose that the way through which this promise would be extended to us be by Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us not because He had to but because of His grace.