Kaleidoscope Project

Haven’t written a blog post in awhile but not to worry things are about to get real exciting. Emmanuel and I are working on an exciting new project named Kaleidoscope.  Kaleidoscope is a network of artists who are on fire for the Gospel who seek to meet that need through combining all their expertise, talent and skills with the view of spreading the gospel of Christ and directly affecting our religiously charged culture. Learn more here by clicking here.  We will now be posting blog posts directly to the Kaleidoscope page.

Cheers

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To The South African Black Man: You Are Evil. Admit it.

View from a South African black man on the current xenophobic attacks going in Durban

Captive105

The recent xenophobic attacks in South African townships and towns have got South Africans talking – and coming to varying conclusions. There are all sorts of discussion about how we could alleviate the problem and discussions about why exactly this is happening. For me, this matter makes my blood boil. I have dear, dear friends whom I’ve lived with, men like Patrick from the Congo and Lionel – whom I love dearly and the thought that were they in the country right now they and their families would fear being burned by my own people brings a blinding mixture of shame and anger. I think it’s high time me and my people start looking hard at ourselves.

If you survey the net at the moment, some would have us blame the government for what’s going on – all the lack of jobs and businesses and structures are the cause of…

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7 women to 1 man …

Last week, social media in Ghana exploded as some comments made by Archbishop Duncan Williams during one of his church services was made public (http://news.peacefmonline.com/pages/social/201410/220493.php). This video gives a better (not the best though) context to his remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw3yRCu2_zk.

I will write a much fuller article on my views on the entire event but what is really bothering me is the now perceived notion that the Bible says that in these our times the ratio of women to men is 7:1. This Biblical reference given was:

In that day seven women
will take hold of one man
and say, “We will eat our own food
and provide our own clothes;
only let us be called by your name.
Take away our disgrace! – Isaiah 4:1

This is the fuller prophecy which actually begins from chapter 2 of Isaiah.

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 

and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD. 

For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. 

Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. 

Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. 

So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them! 

Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty. 

The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 

For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; 

against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; 

against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; 

against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; 

against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. 

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 

And the idols shall utterly pass away. 

And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.  In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats,  to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. 

Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? 

For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water;  the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder,  the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms. 

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them. 

And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable. 

For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”; 

in that day he will speak out, saying: “I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not make me leader of the people.” 

For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. 

For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. 

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. 

Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. 

My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. 

The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples. 

The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 

What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts. 

The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, 

therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts. 

In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 

the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 

the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 

the signet rings and nose rings; 

the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 

the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. 

Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. 

Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. 

And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground. 

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.” 

In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. 

And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 

when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 

Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. 

There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.  –  Isaiah 2:1 – 4:6

So really… does the Bible say that the ratio of women to men in 2014 is 7:1? “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”

The Untouchables

Touch not the Lord’s anointed.

This is a very popular battle cry whenever the teachings and actions of a particularly popular Christian leader is questioned or criticized. If I am not mistaken this is what is meant when people use this statement:

  • A man of God is called by God and not by man
  • He is therefore not answerable to anyone but the one who called him
  • Since we do not know whether what he is teaching and/or doing is by divine instruction and therefore according to God’s will to question his actions or teaching can unknowingly be questioning God Himself and therefore incur the wrath the Lord.

I wonder if this view of Christian leaders as being untouchable stems from the way we as an African society view spiritual leaders. Traditionally religious leaders are untouchable. Their word is law and to speak against them or question their methods or instructions is to go against the gods. Terrible things could happen to someone who challenged their authority. I suspect an aspect of this has influenced the way our society also views Christian leaders especially the ones who display the ability to perform the miraculous.

There is need to examine the origins of the phrase Touch not the Lord’s anointed in the Bible.  Conrad Mbewe does a brilliant job of explaining the meaning of the phrase in this article http://www.conradmbewe.com/2012/12/touch-not-lords-anointed.html. The key point is that, the phrase  “…is about harm, especially physical harm, and not legitimate criticism“.  Using this as a defense against criticism just doesn’t work.  The Bible calls on us to actively check that what we hear is in accordance with the gospel. Conrad Mbewe makes this point brilliantly:

“Public teachers must be above reproach. That is one of their qualifications. If they meddle in heretical teaching or immoral living, they disqualify themselves. Thus, those of us who are aware of their devious dealings or dangerous teachings must sound the public alarm. We must warn the unwary lest they fall prey to them. Public sins must be rebuked publicly.

Paul named heretical teachers and wanted the church to keep a safe distance away from them. He wrote to Timothy saying, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Was he “touching” the Lord’s anointed? No, but he was certainly publicly naming those who were teaching heresy…..

Paul rebuked Peter publicly when he acted in a disorderly manner and his behaviour was going to undermine the gospel. This was not even heresy—yet it had dangerous long-term effects….Evidently, Paul did not think that rebuking Peter publicly was touching the Lord’s anointed!”

We as Christians must really begin to know the gospel that we believe.  I suspect we are in a generation that assumes what the gospel is.  We were brought up in Christian homes and have lived with Christian jargon our entire lives.  We know how to talk the talk and walk the walk.  We can answer Sunday School questions without thought.  But do we really know the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel of which Paul says:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. ” – Gal 1:6-8

Do we know the gospel enough to be able to discern when an “angel from heaven” preaches a different gospel? Here is why I think we may have difficulty to discerning between the authentic gospel and a fake gospel.

  1. A lot of us are second-hand readers of the Bible.  Our knowledge of the scriptures is sometimes based on what someone has told us.  There is no direct engagement with the scriptures.  In this case you can’t really check whether what is being said is in error because you don’t even know what the original source says.
  2. We have learnt a lot of unhelpful ways of reading the Bible.  I keep hearing the popular refrain “read your Bible…read your Bible” but I think there is an assumption that we all know how to read the Bible.  That would have been a fair assumption if not for the fact that the ways we hear the Bible being taught also teaches us how we read the Bible.  If we only see people pick one verse and come up with stunning conclusions seemingly out of the air,we will assume that is how verses should be read.  It has become incredibly normal to see Biblical verses used to justify all kinds of things and incredibly rare to see an actual exposition of a Biblical text.  The current approach to Bible reading is liking going to a marketplace.  You walk around examining the goods and picking what you like and leaving the rest.  At the end of the day the gospel becomes whatever creature you want it to be.  If we read the Bible in this way we are only reinforcing positions and ideas we already have instead of being challenged by scripture and being transformed by the word. A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text. 
  3. False teaching often tells us what we want hear to instead of instructing us in sound doctrine. In instructing a young preacher, Paul has this to say: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths 2 Tim 4:3.

When we are tempted to say Touch not the Lord’s anointed, let’s first try and out what exactly is being criticized.  Is just it just an unwarranted attack at a faithful servant of the Lord? or are legitimate questions being asked about the content of what is being preached as gospel?  Also before we launch into any “attack” on any Christian leader, are we doing so in a helpful, respectful constructive way that seeks to build up the church?

Worshipping in spirit and truth

When we hear the word “worship” what readily comes to mind is music. That shouldn’t be surprising because in church the period where we sing songs with a slower tempo is referred to as the “time of worship”. It seems in our everyday language worship almost always means singing (unless the person makes it a point to say it’s not).
Worship is generally recognized as the period in the church service where we enter into God’s presence (generally through singing). And the worship leaders are the ones who are responsible for getting us there and in fact they are the ones who tell us when we have finally arrived. This makes the worship leader an extremely powerful and influential person when it comes to the church service.
But is this what it means to worship? Is being a true worshipper all about participating whole heartedly to the “worship” session in the church? Is this what it means to worship God in spirit and truth?

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” – John 4:19-20

In John 4, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman by a well. After an initial exchange (John 4:7-18) the woman realizes that Jesus is no ordinary stranger by the well. The woman the tries to find out his opinion on the appropriate place to worship. Why is Jerusalem the place where people ought to worship? This mountain has worked for us for generations.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:23-24

Jesus’ answer is where I think we should start when we want to find out what it means to worship.
Firstly, there is a redefinition of what it means to worship both for those who worshipped out of ignorance and for those from whom salvation came from (John 4:21-22). This redefinition makes a physical location for worship an obsolete concept. Worship is no longer centered around a place.

Secondly, God seeks true worshippers who will worship Him. True worshippers in this context probably means authentic or genuine worshippers. And what will mark out these worshippers is that they will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Verse 24 seems to say that this is the only appropriate way to worship God because God is spirit. In the previous chapter we are told that the only people who will enter the Kingdom of God are those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6) and this is tied to believe in the Jesus Christ (John 3:13-18). Jesus is also describes himself as the Truth and the one who makes a Way for us to come to the Father so that we can have Life (John 14:6). I would suggest that to worship the Father in spirit and truth not only means that worship is no longer centered around a place but worship is now centered around a person…Jesus Christ. How we worship the Father is by believing in the Son and what He has done for us on the Cross.
One writer puts it this way:

John tells us that the Word became flesh and—literally—tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Jesus promised, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20). In other words, Jesus’ body is now the temple, the place where God meets his people, manifests his presence, and deals with their sin (John 2:21–22). That’s why Jesus can say that an hour is coming when true worshipers will no longer need worship in Jerusalem, but will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:21–24).

…the Old Testament’s terms for worship have been applied to the whole lives of believers. In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Now we don’t offer animals as sacrifices but our very selves. The Christian’s whole life is an act of sacrificial service to God.

Or consider Hebrews 13:15: “Through him [that is, Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Praise is our sacrifice, and we offer it continually—not just for an hour on Sunday morning. The fruit of lips that acknowledge God’s name includes songs of praise, but much more too: boldly confessing the gospel in public, speaking words of truth and love to others, bringing every word we say under Christ’s dominion.

This means that “worship” isn’t something we mainly do at church on Sunday. Instead, worship should suffuse our entire lives. For the Christian, worship isn’t confined to sacred times and places, because we are united by faith to Christ, the one who is God’s temple, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making us both individually and collectively the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16–17, 6:19; cf. Eph. 2:22).
http://www.9marks.org/blog/biblical-theology-and-corporate-worship

Something To Shout About

Here is an except from an article by Steven Harris (http://thefrontporch.org/2014/03/you-missed-your-place-to-shout-right-there/) which highlights one of the things I love about the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story in Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:16-18).

A narrative analysis of this text as a whole would undoubtedly place the miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace as the “climax” of the story – and rightfully so. However, there is something in the “rising action” that is almost a penultimate climax in and of itself. And this is found in the passage I referenced.

It is clear that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego possess something that many in our congregations do not – a right theology of Suffering. Let’s look at the following phrases: 1) “God…is able to deliver” 2) “…and he will deliver” 3) “But if not.” Contrary to the Word of Faith theologies of our day, the true depth of faith is revealed not in the first or second phrases, but in the third phrase.weak faith predicates its belief in the first phrase on the manifestation of the second. In other words, “I’ll believe He is able only if he delivers.” However, this is not the God presented in the Bible. Too often preachers speed by the third phrase, eager to get to the place where they can promise their congregants, “when you come out of your fire, you won’t even smell like smoke!” Sadly, this is not the point of the story, nor is it always true.

Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to hope that God will deliver from earthly trials. The second phrase demonstrates that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had faith that God would do the same. But it is wrong to believe that God will always deliver from earthly suffering. They understood and believed in the sovereignty of God, and that He might just choose to demonstrate His glory in them by having them persevere in faith unto a fiery death. In doing so, He would have done them no wrong. Whether they lived or died, ultimately they were delivered – if not from this temporal fire, certainly from the eternal fire. That’s something to shout about!