Louis Brittz has written a few BOOKS and ARTICLES in English and Afrikaans : click on the heading to open the article
English
a crown of thorns

Jesus wore a crown of thorns and it was an ominous sign for generations to come. You can ask any real Christian who has been elevated onto some kind of throne and you will be told that it is a thorny business indeed. Sometimes the church crowns its own gloriously, but behind the shiny emeralds thorns are always hidden. Flesh breaks and blood is drawn. How long it takes for this to happen after the corronation, depends of course on how thickheaded the newly corronated is.

One has scarcely been elevated, marked as some one special, or the scrutiny begins. You are looked upon with long, searching stares. They burn into the back of your head. They ask “Are you real? Are you worthy of the attention? Will you stand the test of time? Are you ‘the one’ who brings fresh answers, great gifts, new revelation? Are you really special, or is the hype just slick marketing ploys? Who put you up there and should you be up there? Did money or connections perhaps win you your position?”

These questions are always asked, and they must be. Without them we are elevated because of talent, charismatic communicating skills, ‘good’ breeding (as if we were horses), an academic qualification, a sexy image or just because somebody in authority passed a crown to us with a heartfelt God-bless-you.

These questions (and the people who ask them) are thorns that stick and sting, but without them our thick heads become bloated. We believe the great things people say about us and we stay on that throne far too comfortably and for far too long. And God would not have that if we let him have his way.

Every Christian leader in the world wears a crown of thorns. To fight it, or try and take it off, or have the thorns pulled out, is to forget the most important thing: We were crowned by God himself, and to be thus crowned is the greatest priviledge in the world. Nothing can compare, because it shows that God thought us worthy of it!

Yes, it will sit uncomfortably. It will become a heavy thing. But you can’t escape it if God has anointed you for leadership.
Be proud of it.
Be worthy of it.

aware

The worst thing in the world is to be unloved. To wake up one morning and realize that not a soul on this planet cares for you, that you are utterly alone and no one has the desire to break into that emptiness with his or her presence. This feeling is a truth born in a lie. It is a truth because it is an emotion people really feel, and if it’s your only perceived reality then we would have to call it true. It’s a lie because of God’s unfailing love. God loves even those who do not ackowledge him. He is present even where his presence is never felt. His love may never be answered, but it is there nonetheless. There is no such thing as being unloved, yet many people feel this way and it is the saddest thing on the planet.

The second worst thing in the world must be to be ignored. To know that people know about your existence, but just don’t care about it. To get the feeling that you’re in a room with people you are supposed to know, but they take absolutely no notice of you, as if you are invisible. You feel like wallpaper or part of the furniture. It’s an empty, isolated feeling – as if you have died and nobody told you. Remember when at school two kids were told to pick sides for a friendly game of soccer – were you ever that nerd with no friends who stood there until absolutely everybody else had been picked (including the school janitor)? To be marginalized, cast aside, rejected and thrown on life’s trash heap – that’s how most would describe the feeling.

Which is how God must feel most of the time. Most people on earth don’t love him. Many of those who say they love him do so with ulterior motives, which, being God, He knows of course. All of these people ignore him, which is what you do with somebody you don’t love or who you really don’t believe exists. And then some really saved, born again Christians go through long times of ignoring him even though they really do love him most of the time.

I wish we could learn not to do that. We are after all the guys who are supposed to love, worship, glorify and honor God in every aspect of life. Why then do we end up hurting him just as much as the people who can’t bring themselves to believe in him? How can we pray for salvation, receive it, pray for blessings and receive many of those, and then only on Sundays, at home group meetings or in times of trauma become acutely aware of him again? Why do we need constant reminders, as if we really are unwilling to be aware of God all the time?

One of the prominent reasons is that we taught ourselves that our awareness of God is connected to acts of worship, service or some other religious activity. Being human, we naturally feel all right about boxing God into these religious times, and like good Christians we try to have some of these religious times in every day so that we can be more aware of God. But our lives are busy, and often we have to cut these times out, cut them short, or find our minds wondering off during them. We are only left with feelings of guilt, and surely not with an awareness of God.

Which is why we need to remember a very simple but pertinent truth: God is not just a person. He is a spirit. As such He is around me and inside me, residing in my spirit. To have something or somebody inside me and all around me and not be aware of it, is to be blind, rather dumb and in denial. We don’t want to be any of these, and yet we have often not come as far as learning the most basic spiritual lesson: That we can and should acknowledge God. I’m not saying love him, worship him, talk to him, listen to him…all of these follow later, each in its own time, but they all start with the basic realization that He is here now. Simple acknowledgement. Just looking inside without even stopping with the ordinary daytask, and knowing that He is there. It is quite a deep spiritual thing to learn, I guess. And yet it is not very hard: To deeply accept the presence of God in every detail of your life and visit the place of that acceptance automatically through out the day. It is so different to stopping and talking to God or doing something else that is good, right and religious. It is the backbone of all those things, because it calls to mind the most basic core value of Christianity: God is here with me now and I am aware of him.

In Proverbs the Bible teaches that wisdom begins with serving the Lord. That leads to the question: How does serving the Lord start? Most would just say that it starts by giving your life to God or by coming to Jesus. But I find that many who have done that go through life ignoring Gods presence except in times of religious activity. It is better to say that serving the Lord starts with being aware of him. By learning how to visit this subconscious truth often, without doing anything about it. And I realize that that may be the hardest part.

We are somehow conditioned to, whenever we become aware of God’s presence, feel we have to do something about it. Like stop and pray or sing a song or at least listen in silence for a long time. For this reason many Christians are afraid of acknowledging his presence: They know that if they do, they’d have to do something about it. They’re not sure what, and whether they’ll have time for it. So they choose to ignore him and let him out of the closet on Sunday, when there’s a worship leader and pastor to guide them through the “what to do with God” excercize. This kind of Christianity isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s disturbingly unspiritual.

It’s as if I can hear God saying: I am here. Get over it! Stop being so uncomfortable with the thought. Stop thinking that I want to interrrupt you or waste your time. Stop thinking I want to hear you speak to me when you clearly have nothing to say. I’m not insecure. I am simply here and it’s good to know that you know it.

I may be wrong about it. I never want to assume I know what God would say, other than the words in the Bible. The above is conjecture, but maybe it makes sense to you. You may ask: But what’s the point of being aware of God and not doing anything about it?

The point would be to embrace reality. God is real and He is here, where ever here is. There’s no gain in not realizing it. The point further would be to become comfortable with God, like two people who have been married for a very long time are. Just comfortable. Nothing is said necessarily, but somethng is felt, something is shared and there is great comfort in the reality of it.

But mostly the point is that ignoring God for whatever reason is to hurt him. It’s to push him aside in much the same way as agnostics do. It’s not just arrogance that pushes God aside, ignorance does it just as well.

It is wonderful if our love for God becomes more than the weekly utterance of worship, however heartfelt and passionate that worship may be. It becomes sweet when we are subconsciously aware of him being here and that knowledge pushes through to our consciousness at the most surprising times. It’s glorious to then just focus on that nugget of spiritual awareness, acknowledge it and move on again. Its wonderful to learn how to “check” on God’s presence in times when we need reassurance, to just draw from it and move on.

It’s not always easy to know how much we love God. But we’re a long way down that road if we don’t ignore him. If we do sometimes ignore him though, we have to ask ourselves whether the word “love” should be in use at all in this context. I may be putting it harshly, but surely God is not like a friend in hospital or a brother in prison who is visited from time to time. He is “God with us” precisely so that we can be aware of him. Never shun that awareness, and if you can, cultivate it with all the spiritual energy you can muster. A deep, gratifying sense of peace awaits you, because the presence of God is a river, and you are not a bather who comes to it once a day. You are the land it runs through.

Just make way for it.

christmas

Christmas, christmas. What to say?

If it weren’t for the vast splotches of red everywhere I guess I’d be O.K.

This is an unchangeable fact of life: Red is the base colour of Christmas. And it insults my sense of good taste. Red is the colour of fire engines, stop signs and matadors. It says danger! Stop! Anger! It’s also the hue of measles, pimples and other wortlike growths. Do we need a whole season clothed in it? Stuffed up men dressed in it from top to bottom, on every corner of every shopping mall?
Whole department stores transformed into fever factories? How is this supposed to make me happy?

And if it weren’t for the Christmas bells I could cope.

I’m not from Switzerland. I’m not a goat or a cow. The ringing of a high-pitched bell doesn’t loosen the hidden merriment deep in my soul. To me a bell means that it’s time to go to class. That there’s a fire warning somewhere. That I must leave the significant things I’m doing to go wash up for dinner. That I must get out of bed! It’s a disturbing sound. It’s too high, too shrill, too clear and too piercing. It’s a javelin stuck in my inner ear. Satan’s arrow, I’m sure. It’s the blinding flash of white light behind my left eye before the headache settles in.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the warm, gurgling sound generated by an electric guitar played through a tube amp. If that doesn’t sum it up for you, you’re lacking in paradigm and I weep for you.

And what’s up with the fascination with snow? Where did the idea of a white Christmas come from and why is it so romantic?

Snow works great in pictures. Pretty and pristine. But that’s a lie. Up close it’s filthy, wet and horrible to drive on. And very, very cold. In truth I’m a bit biased (and maybe jealous?) because I’m from South Africa. Christmas for us is a sundrenched day at the beach. Dreaming of a white Christmas in South Africa…could get you thrown into prison. (Please consider our political history).

Oh, and then there’s the floral paper with bows on them that we wrap our too-expensive gifts in.

Floral paper.
Bows, for crying out loud.

What is this, the Seventies?

And woman in church who sing too high. Why is it at Christmas that all the woman sing too high? Why are Christmas songs so written that they almost always support a piercing soprano harmony? Is this the enemy’s way of keeping musical people out of church at Christmas? Should I consider spiritual warfare?

…So I don’t celebrate Christmas…or do I?
Of course I do.

I’m not enough of a non-conformist as to abstain. I’m not Ebenhaezer Scrooge!
I have a family after all, and this is such a great family time. And what harm could be done, I ask myself, in celebrating Christmas with the rest of the world? It’s such a non-violent thing. If it has an aura, I can only imagine it pink. Peachy, rosy, soft and warm…what ever.

I’m just really glad that Christmas doesn’t originate from the Bible like the real Christian celebrations. That God didn’t tell me to do Christmas or He’d frown upon me and smite me. Because then I’d have to go all out for it. As you can imagine, I’d have to really dig deep and I’m afraid the well might be found dry.

Oh, but I’m happy for the kids! For them Christmas is the most splendid time of the whole year. Gifts, food, merriment, more gifts, more food. And a general license to do some things that they would never get away with during the rest of the year. And for the same reasons I’m happy for us grown-ups. We get a semi-Christian-like festival filled with wonder, amazement and a touch of magic. We get the excuse to make contact with our inner child and say to it “Come out to play.”

Christmas is when I retreat into my head, look at the whole shebang and think: “If only I never grew up.”
But then, I feel like that most days.

Jesus,
I’m sorry that I’m such a partypooper. That I have to be so adult, morose and “real” about everything. Sorry for shattering the postcard-picture that gleefully romantic people have of a very happy season. I concede that Christmas is cool. You were born in a manger, which is a very special place to be born for a human. You were born of a virgin, and I don’t think it had ever happened before. Nore has it happened since. There was that very special star, the shepherds, the wonderful gifts that wise men brought, bad old King Herod who tried so hard to get at you…It’s a pretty amazing story and it deserves to be told. I can even imagine that You’re behind the whole Christmas-hype. How else would we get the whole non-Christian world to sing carols with your name in and be reminded that the Word became flesh and they called you Jesus?

And at the barest,most basic minimum, every person ever born should get to have a birthday. On this earth, what we call Christmas is as close as you will come.

eternal outsiders

In a review of a new book by John Le Carre I read a sentence that stirred my thinking. Whether the thought came directly from the book or from the pen of the reviewer I’m not sure, but it’s a relevant one none the less. Le Carre writes about spies, especially old spies who have to adapt to a new, modern society in which their training and occupation has become irrelevant. (This definition of his work doesn’t do Le Carre justice, but its close enough to home for you to understand the basic context of the reviewer’s remark). The important thought occurs when the reviewer remarks that Le Carre’s spies seem to remain eternal outsiders – because people who know as much as they do can never be part of society again.

And I realized that most Christians are like old spies, seemingly destined to remain eternal outsiders. It is quite normal for us to be so, in fact, it is our automatic state.

Jesus reminded us in his own words that we are not from this world. That being a Christian entails a realization that we are from a distant spiritual planet and we only invade this earth for a very short time. The more we learn about God, the more we realize this other-worldliness that we carry around in us. We are taught to embrace this truth and to live it out as much as we can.

Not only do we know (a little about) God, studying Him, his works and his Word for the sake of survival, but we are students of self and of society. We take the longer view when in prayer we sift through our minds and motivations for things impure. We analyze and scrutinize society so as to spot the values and tendencies which don’t reflect God’s kingdom. These are the things we wish to identify, address and hopefully rectify.

And so we become students, critics, analysts and spies. We reflect upon God, ourselves and our society, knowing that these things need to be done for the sake of growth and change. We become outsiders.

But we have a problem. The example of Christ, as always, becomes the pebble we find very hard to swallow. Because He came from as far outside as is imaginable (being God, you know) and He went as far inside as is conceivable. He embraced not only humanity as a concept, but the humans inside it. Can you imagine living with this man who called himself Messiah? In stead of preaching from the lofty pulpit as he surely could have, he spent his time with twelve men of whom not many great things can be said. He embraced Samaritans and lepers and reached out to public sinners like Zacchai and the woman at the well. That He not only reached out to Zacchai but went to his house for a hearty meal, communicates everything I’m trying to say about him. He seemingly became an insider without ever losing his identity. He infiltrated society to a point that became an embarrassment for his followers, without ever losing his inclination to bring about change. While showing mercy to a woman about to be stoned for adultery, he still lashed

out at merchants in the temple. While dining with a sinful, greedy little Jew, he also shredded the Pharisees for being nothing more than mime artists. He never compromised, he never lost his edge and he never stepped outside.

So how is it that we, who call ourselves followers of this Christ, become critics, analysts, theologians, sociologists, commentators and decorated students of God, self and society, when the example set for us by our Lord is so different? Why do we study his life and come out looking much more like the Pharisees he so despised than like him? Why do we think that we need to withdraw from society to be best able to understand it? Surely by now we know that the only change that is real takes place from the inside. In order for me to know God better I have to become one with him, step inside him. To change my own nature I have to know and accept who I am, embracing all parts of my nature when I present it to God as a useful thing. In order to change society, just like Jesus I have to dive into it as deeply as the water will allow and find my feet there at the bottom of the pit. Once I have been accepted as part of the furniture, I can lift my head and show my nature. Anything else would be an educated but arrogant voice that is disregarded as “surely irrelevant”. As rightly it should.

In truth we are afraid. Afraid of losing our edge. Of compromising our value system. Of finding our faith so challenged that we might loose the foundation for it in our lives. Of facing so many questions that we later wonder whether we have any answers at all for the wreck that the world has become. Of all the wonderful things our position as outsiders offer, the safety it provides is the greatest.

But can a true Christian ever be happy in such an irrelevant state?
Apparently so.

We have found millions of people who are just as outside as we are and we find comfort in knowing that we are not alone. We have so many friends and followers that we stop noticing that we are only being salt and light to the preserved and illuminated. We are a third or fourth generation of old spies: We know so much but we have lost our edge. But it’s the only life we know and we think it’s the way things are supposed to be.

Which is why the life and lyrics of Jesus Christ was written up and is in our possession. Which is why we always feel moderately to terribly uncomfortable when we read about this Godman who stepped inside society to a degree that was deemed improper by all religious folk. He never built his own church on a hill. He never created a Christian subculture. In fact it looks like he loathed those things. He was a radical insider. Personally I don’t believe He was this because as God He wanted to change and liberate. I think that as a human he loved people. He was inquisitive and selfless. He wanted to be there where ordinary people were being themselves. And He felt safe all the while, because he knew that his unchangeable nature was godliness. That he could swim in the mud and come out clean. We should know the same about ourselves.

One of my heroes is a guy called Tony Campolo. He is famous for all kinds of critical analysis, sociological studies, public speaking, spiritual advice given to world leaders…and so on – things we Christians believe to be very important. But I love him because He loves being an insider. He holds birthday parties for prostitutes, getting to know them (albeit not intimately) and showing them from the inside that they are lovable. You know how many sermons have been delivered about the wrongfulness of prostitution and how little it has accomplished. And here’s Tony doing something great from the inside and it changes lives. The analogies to the life of Christ are so apparent that it would be an insult to your intelligence to point them out.

We have to seriously and urgently ask ourselves this: Are we like defunct old spies who know so much about the inner workings of the world that our knowledge separates us from it? Is it impossible for us to be fully human, knowing what we know about God, ourselves and this sick world?

Most Christians come to the Lord because they are keen to go to heaven: an understandable motivation. Most Christians are so keen to get there that they build themselves a little heaven to live in while here on earth.

What would Jesus do?
The opposite of that, is what.

Follow-up to Loftus for Jesus

This message is to everyone who works behind the scenes, who run small ministries, who pastor small churches or do other things for God on a rather small scale.

I reflect upon the event that we just had and I am too gob-smacked for words, really. The size and scale of the things the Lord is having us do now is simply unbelievable. Yet here we are leading stadiums full of people in worship and it is being broadcast to millions. And Uncle Angus…has he preached to hundreds of thousands this year or can't I count? He must be the most famous Christian in South Africa at the moment, and praise God for it, because he doesn't have a degree, a smart suit, or even an executive hairstyle.

The point is that events like these and men like Angus make other ministry folk feel small and insignificant. Maybe you were in the crowd at Loftus, thinking: I know everything that Angus Buchan knows and can preach as well. I have a more striking testimony, even. Why am I not up there? Maybe you heard Retief and I lead worship and you thought: Hey, I can do that better! And I don't mean that you thought those thoughts arrogantly, I mean that you just thought them because they happen to be true! I have been at big events many times and had those exact same thoughts. If you are in an audience and you have a big vision, a big calling, a zeal for God and pregnant prophesies hanging over your life, those are the thoughts you have. And then you probably tell yourself: It's OK - this is not my time.
I have a problem with that and I will tell you why.

Let's turn the focus away from Angus - he doesn't like it much in any case so let's not waste it. Let's look behind him, and I don't mean at the hundreds of people who support him and help him to keep his ministry and family aloft. I should think that they all realize that they are part of something so big it can be seen from outer space. That's a good feeling, even if you aren't the man himself.

Let's look wayyyy behind Angus, and let me remind you that there was a man who led Angus Buchan to the Lord.
I knew his name, but I forgot it, because he never became an item. Let's call him Pastor John Doe. Pastor Doe was a small-time pastor of a small congregation in a one-horse town. He went into ministry with an enormous vision, but he never broke it into the big time. He didn't lead many to Christ, and he sweated for the ones who did. He envisioned the whole town coming to the Lord and joining his congregation. It never happened. He probably had awesome prophesies spoken over him from time to time: That he would do great things for God - that his ministry would be significant and his harvest plentiful. As an old man he might have looked back upon those prophesies with cynicism and and even disgust. Because they were never fulfilled. It never became “his time”. Could you imagine the frustration of such a man?
Oh, sure, he remembered leading a roughneck farmer called Angus Buchan to the Lord. He remembered him because Angus was one of perhaps sixty people in all his years who really responded to his message. He remembered the other fifty-nine as well, because in the scrapbook of his ministry, those were the only pictures. So you see what kind of man and ministry I am describing here. And obviously, you understand I am writing it because you may be a man or woman like that.

Now imagine Pastor Doe's surprise when he got to heaven. Imagine him profusely apologizing to God's throne because for some unknown reason he was never able to live up to expectations; that he could never reach a spiritual level that would see the visions and prophesies over his life go into fulfillment…and imagine God interrupting him with a reproach to please not be silly. “Stop! You led Angus Buchan to me” I imagine God saying. “Great Scott!” Pastor Doe then perhaps said (if he had such a sense of humour), “and only fifty nine others - don't rub it in, Lord!”. And then I imagine God saying “ Well, rest your wings and sit down lest you fall straight back to earth because I am about to show you your harvest…”

You already get the point, but perhaps not succinctly enough. So let's also look behind Pastor John Doe to the man who led hìm to Jesus. Let us for argument's sake assume that that man was his father, Joe Doe. I don't know what Joe Doe did, but I could well imagine him being a coal miner. A man with calloused hands and very few words. A man who only led one person to Christ in his whole life and that was his son John, with whom he prayed when John was still a little boy. Apart from that, Joe just went about his business mining coal, putting bread on the table and singing in the church choir when the other guy got sick and his gruff monotone would do better than nothing at all.

I imagine old Joe dying and when the curtain between this life and the next lifted, him saying absolutely nothing in defense of himself, because men like Joe know that they never made it big, and that they couldn't fool God about it. And then I imagine God saying “Joe, look me in the eye. I want to thank you for your awesome ministry on earth”. Joe would never suspect God of sarcasm, because coal miners don't do sarcasm. He might have wondered though, being in heaven and all, how there could be something wrong with his hearing. God would know this of course, and I imagine He would qualify.

“Joe, you lived with honesty and integrity and never brought shame to my name. You remained faithful to your wife and provided for your family the way I asked you to do. You took them to church, prayed for them and showed them how to serve me in simplicity. Without doing much at all, you did everything I required of you. But not just that, son, you led the boy to me who was to become the man who lead Angus Buchan to me.” At this point, you can imagine Joe frowning in flummoxed confusion, if you can imagine a heavenly being in such a state, because God had now started to speak Greek to him, and he knew that God knew that he wasn't a Greek.

And I imagine God concluding:

“Joe, it's a good thing you are dead, because I am about to show you your harvest, and if you had been alive you would have had a heart attack right about now!”

All the above are just suppositions. I am just imagining things. But I really feel that you should understand something:

This is your time.

You are doing extraordinary things for God, probably without noticing it. You may be crying out to God in frustration, because the big things prophesied over you just don't go into fulfillment -when they actually have. You just can't see into heaven, and you can't see into the future. Just like me, you count bums-on-seats, measure buildings, check product-turnover or make checkmarks on the five point ministry growth plan you drafted three years ago. You do this in order to measure your significance. But it seems to me that God doesn't.

To all the little people out there (and for the most part I am one of you) please let the Lord convince your spirit that your time has come. You are living it. Please don't stop doing what you are doing and try to do something “bigger for God”. Don't let “righteous frustration” at the things and people holding you back, be your biggest virtue. The fruit of the seemingly insignificant is sweet and bountiful. The anointing and blessing upon little things done with integrity, honesty and a thankful heart is impossible to conceive in its enormity. I believe God takes great pleasure in your everyday obedience, however small the task may be. And that when you get to heaven, you are in for a surprise!

Dig into this ordinary day with determination that borders on the insane. Throw yourself at it. You may look back tonight and realize that the most noteworthy moment was when you spanked your toddler for pulling out a significant portion of his sisters' hair. It may well be that you taught the next Angus Buchan some self-control. We'll see.

This is your time.

frustration

(written while travelling, on outreach in Turkey)

Frustration is riding in the back of the van with so much to write, but the pen keeps jumping all over the page so that my attempts look like the letters my two-year old writes to his Grandma. I don’t know where to lay the blame. It’s probably the lack of shock absorbers in the van we’re travelling in, or the conditions of the roads here in Turkey. What ever. The result of the combination is that I grind my teeth and have a new sin to confess with every bump in the road.

And don’t tell me to use the Laptop. Typing is impossible. I try to punch in words in the program aptly called “Word”, but the computer registers all kinds of creative commands, popping up screens with abundant glee. It’s a fun game of discovery, because I never know which software I’ll access next, and most of it I didn’t even know was in my computer. But it’s bad for the old spiritual life. I’m trying to write, here!

Frustration is having great thoughts, but no one to share them with. Even worse, waking up the next day and revisiting those great thoughts, only to find that somehow through the night they lost their glow. Realising that my mind tricked me into thinking that it’s special and capable of profound things. Treachery.

Frustration is having so many words in my head, but nothing to say. This happens sometimes. OK, this happens a lot. And, being a man, I don’t just keep on talking until the problem goes away. (Just a little joke. Not very funny, I know). It’s just scary how I can string big, beautiful words together in a correct sentence, only to look at it and realise that it says nothing. No coherence. No relevance. As if some one who has had a labotomy drooled on the paper in black ink. And because I’m in my thirties, this is scary stuff: Is it a sign of early Alzheimers? Did I forget what I wanted to say, without forgetting to STOP WRITING?? Do I only know things because I forgot to forget them? Am I losing my mind? Have I lost it already? Did I ever have one to loose?

Frustration is sitting in a van for hours, travelling way inside the speed limit, not because we are nice, good, missionary people, but because to our van the speed limit is an impossible dream. And having Nothing. To. Do. No books to read, no interesting conversation, no exciting world in my imagination to retreat to, no batteries for the Gameboy.

Nothing.

This is hell, and I’m a Christian. Not supposed to be here.

Frustration is knowing that God knows I’m frustrated and He doesn’t do anything about it. He leaves me here in this insufferable hell to count the miles, loose my patience and even my faith if I then so wish. He leaves me with only my own company, drowning in the realisation of how boring a man I am to be with.

Or to talk to Him. Listen to Him. And to realise, with frustration, how forced our dialogue has become. That it’s like that of a tired old couple who have outlived their capacity to talk sense and are now waiting together to die in silence. That it’s become this because I speak to God out of guilt (a Christian should), or boredom or desperation. And I listen to Him…well I don’t, really. Either because I think I know what he’s going to say, or because I don’t think he’s going to say anything.

It’s frustrating that I’ve become uncomfortable with God. That I’m afraid of what will come out if I’m brutally honest with Him. And much more afraid of what will come out if I allow Him to be brutally honest with me. Terrible to know that this cave I’m in is a rocky, dark place and that coming out into the light is inevitable.

What a rude awakening, to realise that God not only allows these times of frustration, but actually creates them. That he’s not interested in me being entertained and content every moment. That He is interested in precisely the opposite of that, making it his business to empty out the life I’m so good at filling with exciting, wonderful things. If I won’t go to the desert, He forces the desert into me, saying “Call it what you will. This is where you meet with yourself. This is where you meet with Me.”

It can be a terrible place, where every cavity in my soul is laid bare to the severity of God’s glare. It becomes bearable when I stop being the child whining on his first day at school: “I don’t want to be here. How long must I still be here.” But it never becomes more than bearable, because a place with so much honesty is never fun. That’s not what it was designed for.

I suppose you don’t go to the dentist for tea and biscuits. You go because of tea and biscuits. And you go whether you like it or not, if you any sense at all.

I don’t like this place. But I’ll come here often again.
God wrote it into the script, and I signed the contract.

But it’s frustrating.

is poverty a curse?

Heck, no.
Who ever would give us that idea?
Oh, right. Many famous preachers, that’s who.

I must admit at the outset that I struggle to refrain from harsh language. I have just heard the umpteenth Evangelical Christian preacher on this topic and most seem to be in agreement that poverty is indeed a curse. In their thinking God wishes to lift this curse (if we do all the right things) and bless us financially to the point of abundance.

Would some one please buy all these scholarly men and women Bibles with New Testaments in them? Or show me the error in my ways, because I fail to see how any thinking person with good intent can go against the life and teachings of Jesus Christ so radically, and that from the Evangelical Christian pulpit.

I know that there are many ways to interpret the walk and words of Jesus. We have libraries full of such interpretations and there’s no telling which ones are the more correct. A lot of it is left to subjective interpretation, and it seems that God intended it to be this way. He obviously trusts us.

But, what I want to know is the following: No matter how we interpret his words and ways, how can we EVER get to the exact OPPOSITE of what He did and said?

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his earthly possessions and give the profits to the poor in order to get into heaven, whatever we think He meant, does anybody with a brain reckon He meant the exact opposite of what He said? When He said that a rich man would have as much trouble to get into heaven as a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, who of you reckons He was sarcastically trying to say that the opposite is true? When He said that inheriting the kingdom of God is like a precious pearl (Matthew 13), do any of you think He meant that the kingdom IS a string of precious pearls?

And seeing as Jesus himself didn’t have enough possessions to fit into two suitcases and this is also how He sent his disciples out into the world, were they a cursed bunch, or does his own theology somehow not apply to Christ and the twelve? WHY, if we were meant to all be financially restored from rack and ruin to rank and riches, did Jesus never say so, Peter never say so and Paul never say so? Why did their lives in fact portray the exact opposite?

But didn’t folk in the early church in Acts have no needs? Ah yes, but only because they shared all their possessions with one another. Those with a lot quickly became those with a little, so that all could have something.

When Jesus said “Blessed are the poor”, all our clever interpretations set aside, what if He actually meant that the poor are blessed? When He said that the rich would have such a tough time to love him, serve him and make it into his kingdom, wouldn’t you agree it sounds as if he says that the rich are cursed in a way? Well then: Jesus said the poor are blessed and the rich are cursed. He used strong language to get this point across. And YET, astonishingly so, we contend that his hearts’ desire is that Christians would all become wealthy. This greatly confuses me!! Hey, but imagine how it confuddles the Satanists: The Christians are preaching and living the opposite of Jesus, and they thought that’s what the‎y were supposed to be doing?!

It would seem to me that, if you would stand up with the Bible raised high and with a mighty voice break the financial curse over your life in the powerful name of Jesus….God just might say “OK!” and make you much, much poorer than you already are. You do follow my reasoning….?
But I digress.

Do you know any really poor people? Have you noticed how they need to trust God for their daily bread (the way Christ taught us to pray)? And how that breeds a faith in their lives that the wealthy can only read about. And did Jesus not say that when he returns He hopes to find faith in our lives? Have you noticed how only a deep dependence upon God shapes us to become spiritually mature? Have you noticed how the extremely wealthy have a most difficult time to grasp the concept of crying out to God in desperation? Have you visited the most wealthy nations on earth and seen the same symptom in every one of them: The philosophy that God’s presence is irrelevant… He is not called upon where men have no material needs. Robert Coles interviewed thousands of poor and rich people around the world, and found that the rich were by no means better off than the poor in terms of having meaningful, fulfilled lives. Could it be that Jesus wanted to be taken literally on these issues?

Have you noticed that Christianity is not exactly thriving amongst the the rich in the western world? But it’s spreading like wildfire amongst the poorest people on earth. And this is illogical, isn’t it? Surely the poor should say “God has forsaken us. If He even exists, surely He doesn’t love us” and so on. And yet...and yet! It’s when things get this illogical that you must be on the lookout for something supernatural like, say, a blessing...

Still, the poorest nations on earth are being bombarded by a powerful message emanating from the rich western world, broadcast to them via expensive satellite transmitters: Come to Jesus and He will break the yoke of poverty over you and restore to you the financial blessing that the enemy has stolen from you. These messages are well presented, preached from the Bible, broadcast over the airwaves and are very exciting. Just imagine!

But imagining is where it stops. Millions of Christians with integrity that will shame us in the Western world live in the slums of India. In spite of their Spirit-filled walk, integrity and testimony of abundant miracles, they still have nothing and live in slums. In Egypt hundreds of thousands of Christians live on rubbish dumps. Just like Jesus they are marginalized and rejected because of their Christian faith. They have nothing and no prospects. But they have exceeding joy and miracles abound in their churches. In the heart of rural Africa live some of the poorest Christians on earth, without even running water. And yet their serenity and inner strength is a witness to the world. Many of them pity Christians in the western world and wouldn’t have our wealth if it were handed to them on a plate.

That these millions of Spirit-filled people are meant to be wealthy in the perfect will of God is simply unbelievable – for the sheer reason that their Christian walk has been deserving of such a blessing for centuries, much more so than most Christians in America or Europe. To think that God hasn’t been willing and/or able to touch these individuals (if not nations) with abundant financial blessing is really to cut Him down to size. Please, go right ahead if you will.

Not to say that poverty is this wonderful thing. Of course it isn’t. Neither is having cancer, Aids or being paraplegic. Neither is being born with cerebral palsy or as part of a Siamese twin. Neither is having Down’s syndrome or Arthritis or just having no special gifts and talents to bring you somewhere in the world.

I don’t see the Lord miraculously healing all the Christian Down’s Syndrome children or quadriplegics. I don’t see him bestowing talents, beauty and brains to those who seek him in a certain way. And in the same way He doesn’t miraculously intervene in the plight of the poor (more than 85% of the world). These things are part of our sinful world. They aren’t part of the new world God promises for us, called the New Jerusalem, but they are part of this one. They aren’t great, but they can all bring us closer to God if we seek him with passion. And what ever else they are, they are undeniably part of the lives of millions of Christians worldwide. Praise God that Jesus never said they wouldn’t be, because then we’d all have to give up the Christian faith as a big fat lie.

But this remains the clincher: Somehow these terrible things can be a blessing. It’s not logical and hardly conceivable. I certainly can’t explain how it works. But it’s true because Jesus said it is. God decided in his wisdom that we would need dragons to slay, or else we’d probably never know how strong we really can be. He chose a path for us that leads away from a focus on the material, towards things spiritual, relevant and meaningful. His government predicts that we’ll go through seasons of loneliness, rejection, emotional strain, all kinds of pressure, physical discomfort and, most likely, poverty. These seasons might last a lifetime. Some of these things will be there to test us, but most of them will be there to shape us and mature us to become the spiritual persons God wants us to be in this world, and most importantly, in the next one.

Whether the burden you bear is to live in a cardboard-shack in Soweto, or to be glued to a wheelchair for life, you are to be helped, prayed for and carried in the hearts of the more fortunate. But you are also to be envied, because Jesus said that you are blessed. And given a choice, any sane person should choose the blessing of the Son of God above health and comfort in this world.

Of course God sometimes miraculously intervenes in the plight of the poor, whether it is of poor health or poor financial health.
We all know stories of a guy who gave his bike away and was given a car, then gave his car away and was given an aircraft...
We look at these miracles and tend to deduct that God would want to do it for all who ask. Mysteriously He never has. Jesus didn’t make anybody rich or heal his whole generation while on earth, and if you compare the amount of prayers that go up for such miracles and the amount answered, you will see that through history, the Lord has only rarely intervened. (Consider that more than 85% of the world is poor, many of them are Christians and many of them fervently pray for a miracle to end their poverty.) Do the math…

But doesn’t God clearly promise to lovingly care for all his children? Yes, on this we can all agree. And it’s important to ask ourselves what God might mean with the word “care”. Given the life and teachings of Christ and the way He taught the early church to operate, it is obvious to me that He means to provide for us everything we need for spiritual wellbeing, emotional maturity and physical survival. As a crucial part of this provision, in all these things He would primarily teach us to be dependant upon Him for it. The more we would realize this dependency, the more blessed we would be. How loving of God to withhold wonderful things from us, in order to provide essential things for us. How marvelous that He makes us to be poor and pitiful, in order for us to become strong, wise and immune to the fleshly attacks of the enemy.

And then some Christians call this “to be cursed”…

We are a strange bunch.

me

We’re all the same. I wish we weren’t, but we are. We each have a heart and a mind, red liquid in the veins, a backbone, a stomache and intestines. We each have a spirit, whether we deny it and neglect it or not. We have bodies that are clearly discernible as “human” to the eye: They’re not covered with snakeskin or fur, they don’t have leopardspots or mermaidfins. They differ in minute measures, such as skincolor , features and pitch of voice. But by and large there seems to be an age-old blueprint to which we’ve all been manufactured. It is called “the image of God” or rather “the images of God”, because truthfully the human spiritual eye beholds God in many images.

We have a common origin and a common ultimate destiny, no matter what you believe those to be. We all eat and because we do, we all go to the loo. When we close and lock the bathroomdoor behind us to do that thing we do in there, the Pope, the Queen of England, the President of the United States, the autistic child locked away in himself, the vagabund in Calcutta, the humble mariuana-farmer in Colombia and Saddam Hussain….are one and the same.

That we are so the same makes me feel common. It makes me feel like a grey speck in a sea of grey. It deflates my ego and cuts me down to size. Being a Christian doesn’t really help either. The Gospel is for all mankind and in my most intimate moments with God’s Word I am reminded that it was written for every person on earth. It’s not mine to own and were I to think that a specific portion of it was meant for my specific reaction to my specific circumstances, I would be a believer in magic. Even then I’d not be unique, because most people do believe in magic of some sort.

So I realise how common we are in our alikeness and it makes me feel very ordinary. And yet this same realization brings me great comfort. Because it carries with it a deep sense of belonging. I can never be truly alone. I am one of a species which is far from extinct. I know what kind of animal I am and where to find my herd. The loneliest thing on the planet must be the creation who realizes that he is the only one left of a species. I am far from that. There are millions upon millions of my breed left and every one of them makes me less lonely than I would have been had they not been there. I don’t have to look in the mirror for company or identification. I can look around me and just like God did when He made us, I can say “It is good.”

And then there’s the other side of the coin, as I find with God there often is: That our similarity is equalled by our uniqueness. That He made us to be totally the same and yet totally different, almost as if when He made us in his image, he wanted us to be never quite sure what that image looks like. This way there can’t be a wrong or a right. There can only be a sense of similarity with the belonging and equalization that it brings, and a deep sense of uniqueness to burn into our hearts with graphic clarity that we are special.

I often wonder how it is that God with all his infinite wisdom didn’t come up with the human mold. He made so many other practical plans when He designed things – and yet He creates every single human with distinctly different DNA, fingerprints and features. It is not possible for any two humans to have exactly the same two thoughts after one another at the same time. From the tips of our fingers to the deepest wells of our imaginations, He made us each different. And He could have avoided this so easily by making us like ants or dandelions. All the same. That would after all have made it much easier for us to be called “in his image”, wouldn’t it?

But marvelously He didn’t. If He did, how would I ever have been able to believe in his unique destiny with me; that there’s a very special place for me in the world and a task that, if I don’t fulfill it, will remain unfulfilled? How could I have believed that He sometimes whispers things that only I can hear? How would I ever have been able to conceive that a God so big could make himself so small that He can walk this road with me?

I would have known this to be impossible, and that knowledge would have been a lie.

Worst of all, I would have been sure that I don’t matter. That my thoughts, dreams and destiny was that of every other person on earth. That there is nothing special at all about me. It would have made me a puppet and realizing it would have killed the spark of life in me. I would have known that I didn’t matter and it would have been the truth.

To not matter is to me the most dreadful thought on earth. To think that I could hypothetically have been born, lived a whole life and died, without any of it mattering at all. The thought is a most depressing one and it’s no wonder that people who believe this particular lie end up in serious therapy. To think that you don’t matter is to think you are dead, and Christ who is the Truth and the Life should quickly dispell this lie that kills the human soul so efficiently.

Praise God that it is true. I DO matter. Even if there are millions of my species, I need only the mind of a halfwit to see that there is absolutely no one like me. And that there has to be a reason for it. If I have come that far - to believe that there is a reason for God making me unique, the very next logical thought is this wonderful one: It mattered to HIM to make me different. This is gloriously great: That my existence matters on earth is wonderful, but that it matters in the mind of God is simply fantastic.

It is true, and like all truth it only becomes effective in a life if it is believed. I hope you can believe it without Dr Phil or Oprah having to tell you first. It is something your eyes can read and your ears can hear without it ever penetrating to that place where you hold on to lies or truths. I pray this simple, healing fact has found its way to your heart.

You matter. You really do.
Believe it.

monster

At the time of writing this series of essays there are few national heroes in South Africa who can compete with Charlize Theron. We have always been proud of her for being a girl from small-town S.A. who made it big in Hollywood. To achieve this is the impossible dream of every kid who likes the movies. Charlize went on and made it happen. But now she is really pushing the politicians and sportsmen off the front pages, because her achievement in this Monster-movie is simply unbelievable. Even those of us (the male contingent mostly) who thought that she had only made it because of her body, are now shocked into a stunned silence. We have never seen such a complete transformation. And it’s OUR girl who did it.

But enough of the swooning and national pride. Honor should also go to the brilliant make-up artists, director and a host of unknown people, I’m sure. The important thing to notice (it’s impossible to miss) is the depth of the transformation achieved by Charlize in this character-role. To grasp this you need to know what she really looks like, speaks like and walks like. If you don’t, you are being robbed of a truly aesthetic experience. Get a clue. (Sorry, there I go again…) Charlize is simply one of those beautiful creatures and just like the Mona Lisa she carries herself with poise and grace as if only a title stands between her and royalty. And after all, what’s in a title? Royalty is in your head and backbone much more than in your blood. True?

And she became this “monster” Aileen Wuornos. (To say she “played the character named…” would be a huge insult). She became an overweight, insecure, wretched creature who ended up on death-row. A murderer. Aileen was driven by pain, inferiority, the desire for self-preservation, retribution and a host of other complex things I can’t begin to comprehend. The result, as we can see in the movie, is a person who is truly ugly in every nuance of the word.

Whether the producers set themselves this goal or not, the outstanding feature of the movie at face value is the complete transformation of something beautiful into something horrendous. If this wasn’t intended when Charlize was chosen for the role, then it’s a most remarkable coincidence. I can’t imagine it being one, though. Surely a less beautiful actress could have been found with equal acting ability. If you disagree, please reconsider your understanding of the depth of acting talent walking the streets in America. It’s more likely that achieving the transformation was part of the challenge for them. I believe the art form they were going for was not movie-making, but successful transformation. When you go for that, the stakes are incredibly high. If you succeed in every frame, the accolades just don’t stop rolling in. It’s an unbelievable achievement. But if you fail only marginally, you become the laughing stock of the industry. Director, actor and make-up artist are branded as “wannabe’s”, that most horrible Hollywood word. In the making of “Monster”, they pulled it of. And in doing so they gave us the essential theme
of the story without a word of script having been spoken: That the circumstances of a life can make something horrific out of something beautiful. I trust you get that.

You know this:
Life isn’t a Hallmark movie. It has its Hallmark moments, but none of us trust those any more. We so wish for the opposite to be true. We love the story of the ugly duckling and the frog who became a princess again after being kissed by a prince. We love it when the spells are broken and the curses are destroyed and beauty is revealed in all its innocence. But with true post-modern sobriety we just know that life isn’t like that. We know through hard and sad experience that we are all born equally innocent and beautiful and that the deconstruction begins shortly after that magical moment. We all have a little or a lot of Aileen Wournos in us: The innocent desire to be loved and accepted being thrown back in our faces, the scorn and rejection reaching the point where lies become truth and the things people say we are become the things we are. We all ask the questions “How did I get to be this way?” and “Why do I do the things I do?”. None of us want to have these high walls around our hearts. Nobody wants to lash out and hurt the people he loves the most in the world. And yet we do.

Which is why we need to be reminded of the word transformation.
Which is why we need to stop emphasizing that Christ came for salvation (of course He did!) and start focusing on the transformation that is our spiritual birthright through Him.

I don’t say this lightly: Christ is the make-up artist who comes to the weary actor at night, patiently peeling the layers of muck away so that the person can be himself again. After a season of patient and careful peeling, He says “Oh, there you are!”, and it’s as if you’ve had a liposuction done. There’s a new, lighter you to get used to even as the scars heal and the trauma of surgery fade into the past. There’s a new freedom of movement, but it’s not an entirely foreign experience, because after all it’s not as if you became somebody else. You went in as somebody else and came out as you. You may have thought for a long time that you were that other person, and the beauty of this dimension of Christianity lies in realizing that it was a big fat lie. You were not the monster. You had been deconstructed. And Christ is the specialist surgeon here. He constructs and reconstructs, not as much by creating beauty from ashes as being able to blow the ashes away so the beauty can shine through.

It’s so important that you are creationist in your thinking though, that you believe in God as a creator. Because sometimes He doesn’t have much left to work with. This isn’t a problem for Him if it isn’t one for you. To God’s mind “to create” means to make something out of nothing. To take psychological and spiritual antimatter and do the impossible with it. If He couldn’t, He’d be just another therapist.

I guess it all starts and ends with truth. For Charlize truth would have meant to know all the time that there is so much beauty under all the muck. To never forget what lies under the surface. The same applies to us. And whether we feel like a monster playing some one beautiful or a beauty playing a monster, it’s still only by distinguishing the true state from the assumed one that the peeling and healing can begin.

How poignant that Jesus said “I am the truth”.

Can I gently invite and persuasively challenge you to explore your new nature? To ask yourself who you really are? Can I implore you to step into the make-up artists’ chair so that He can help you with this?

Let me repeat myself: Royalty doesn’t reside in the blood or in the crown on your head. You’ve all seen how princes behave. Mostly like spoilt scoundrels who do not even know the spelling of poise, restraint or integrity. Royalty is in the spirit, in the spine and in the mind. In this definition, I can not declare that you are royalty. To me it depends on your spiritual awareness, your strength of spine and the enlightenment of your mind. Have you seen the truth? Have you become you, or are you still only acting? I can not be sure.

But God is less careful with his words and more confident of you than I am. He looks at your nature only, you see. He calls you royalty, saying that you share in the bloodline of Jesus. He says you are fractionally less than a heavenly being, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. That you have in you the very breath and life of God and you have his Word written on your heart. He says Christ oozes from your pores. That He is in you as you are in Him. That you are one with Him in as much of the sense of the word as is possible in this broken world. No matter how unbelievable these statements seem, they are the words of God. To believe them is to have a chance. To not believe them is to die many years before you expel your last breath.

Perhaps you are where most of the world is at. You look into the mirror and see the eyes of a monster staring back at you: Empty, destroyed and destructive. Perhaps you still have a conscience and you hate what you see.
To hope against hope is to dream that there is some one else inside, hidden under layers of death.

The living Word of God went to a cross to hand you that dream. It’s real and it’s yours. It’s as true as you’ll allow it to be.
Have you begun to see?

no jesus isn't the answer

NO JESUS ISN'T THE ANSWER
He is the question.

Some things are known intuitively, and to me the above statement is one of them. You can ask me to explain, but it's a bit like asking me how I know that I love my children. It's very hard to explain the rationale behind intuitive knowledge, and in trying one usually doesn't reach the heart of the matter at all. But being a writer, I can't resist trying. I doubt that I'll succeed; so let me start right away by saying that this statement (that Christ is the question and not the answer), is simply that of a post-modern believer. It's not primarily rational.

Some of you immediately assume that I'm just being difficult – playing the devil's advocate and all that. I am not. If I were, this column would be called "Jesus is the answer – but what's the question?” That's the average person's idea of a Generation X approach to the tired sound byte "Jesus is the answer!” And perhaps it could be, for it would be rebellious, cynical, have it's roots in reality and only be answerable with objectionable absolute truth. It would be a trick-question and a trap. Post-modern believers would never fall into it though, because our intuitive knowledge of the reality of Christ makes the question moot. It's so obviously the semi-modernist X-er's attempt at being radical, and that in it self is kind of tragic.

You needn't agree with the statement, by the way. If you don't, it only says two things about you: You are either not post-modern, or you don't really believe in Jesus. And now, in the spirit of the sound byte: Let's shoot straight, not beat around the bush, put the pedal to the metal and cut to the chase.

Why isn't Jesus the answer?

Firstly, because He never said that He is. I find that He was always very lucid when He spoke, and in seeming arrogance never hesitated to say who He is and would be. The Bread of life, the Living Water, the Truth, the Way, the Life…a long list of names all rich with meaning and metaphor. But He never said, "I am the answer.” If He did, we wouldn't even ask the question "Is Jesus the answer?” because it would be to question God, something believers tend to steer away from. But He didn't say it and I'm glad because it would have confused me. It would have been a vague sound byte, and the Jesus I got to know never used those. He came to save us, not to print T-shirts.

Secondly, because if Jesus were the answer, there would be no relevant questions left. Assuming anything else would be to question his atonement for our sins on the cross, his omnipotence, his challenge of and victory over death, and indeed his deity. Assuming anything else would be to not believe in Him at all. Dare to think it through: If Jesus came to be "the answer” more than 2000 ago, and yet all these years have elapsed and we still have so many nagging questions about the state of the world…wouldn't you agree that something has gone horribly wrong in God's strategy? That would have to erode your faith, and leave you with questions that as a Christian you are afraid to face.

Rather believe with me that Jesus came to love, to save, to bring freedom and good news, healing and deliverance, hope and new life, and to bring some answers to nagging questions. And that He accomplished that: In well-spoken words and radical deeds. That when He said, "It is finished”, He meant it!

And that He came to be the truth, the life, the way…but never to BE the answer: Because He intended to be the question.

Why is Jesus the question?

To understand, you have to see Him and hear him in your spirit. See his eyes and hear his words as they come to you. Perhaps you will hear what I hear.

I see Jesus on the cross and I hear him asking: Do you feel my pain? Do you see my blood? Do you understand? Do you accept this gift? Do you die with me? Do you love me?

I see Jesus coming out of the grave and I hear him asking: Do you feel the victory? Do you rejoice? Do you take this power? Do you accept this authority, this responsibility? Do you love me?

I see Jesus ruling on God's right hand, and I hear him clearly: Do You accept my sovereignty? Do you see what I see?
Do you represent me? Do you carry my hope, my life, my love? Do you love me? Do you love me enough? Do you love me completely?

But I sense Jesus not just asking these questions, but BEING them. Because He never just spoke the truth. He said, "I am the truth”. He didn't come to show, speak of or teach the way. He came TO BE the way. And to be the question that looms large in my world and in my spirit…through his presence, his deity and his heart that beats in mine. To be The Question that begs my response

…or remain unanswered.

But does it matter?

Simply put? Yes it does!

*If Jesus were the answer, I could question Him, for questions are answered and answers can be questioned. That's blasphemous and believers shouldn't go there. But if He is the question and my response is required, He can question me. He is God, and He should get to do that.

*Seeing Jesus as "the answer” lures me into taking a backseat: To just wait for the story to play out. I could turn away from all the impossible, nagging questions asked by society and simply say "Jesus is the answer”. I could expect Christ to do a couple of magic tricks and make it all go away: The pain, the injustice, the poverty…I could look at it all and say, "God, would you do something, please? You are The Answer, You know.” I could be swallowed up in the life of my local church, bask warmly in the glow of fellow Christians and leave the outside world up to God. I could be blissfully in denial.

*But seeing Jesus as "the question” puts me in the hot seat. The Question is a present reality and undeniable – I can either turn away…or answer with passion and urgency! And if I look at the dilemmas of a broken world and see Jesus in all of it, I could never say "You are the answer, fix it”. I can only say "I'm coming Lord!” I can only pray for more of the Spirit so that the answer I give will be real, relevant, fresh and deeply satisfying.

If I'm right, then a lot more is up to us than we might have thought. We' d better tackle Aids with aggression, get involved in government, evangelize with determination, open our homes to orphans, feed the hungry, build and staff hospices, fight injustice with urgency… because in all this there's a question just SCREAMING out at us!

His name is Jesus.

oh, shut it

Please don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think any one should be allowed to teach or preach until they’ve at least reached the age of 35.

Now, naturally I say that because I am over 35. And it would be more honest to say that I should not have been allowed to teach or preach until I reached the age of 35, but I’d rather do what us Christian teachers always do: Turn a private lesson into a generalisation. So here goes.

The point is that I so deeply regret most of what I said from the stage during those young, zestfilled, energetic years. And when I listen to preachers (from what ever stage or pulpit) who are in that phase now, I mostly regret hearing them as well.

It’s not that I didn’t know the Lord, or wasn’t growing as a Christian, or didn’t have a mandate to speak. It’s not that I was hiding hidden sins or had inadequate theological knowledge. Vocabulary was also in tact.

But I didn’t know myself well, even though I knew Christ. And I thought that I had an enormous grasp on who Christ is and how He wanted to deal with people. I had this assurance about myself which I really miss nowadays. My confidence was a palace built on drift sand.

Most of all what I lacked was a knowledge of life. That deep sense of coming to grips with things that are inexplicable. Knowing that forever there will be these grey areas that my black and white theology of earlier years couldn’t bring understanding to. And that it isn’t a problem. That life is larger than I am and God is larger than life. That all questions don’t have answers and many of the questions don’t have theological answers. And I can still love Jesus in spite of all that. There are less answers now. But there is also less fear.

What I thought I did was to bring the Word to the world. But that needs to be corrected. I was only bringing my own perspective of the Word to a world I knew nothing of. What a recipe for irrelevance. That God could have used me at all during that season is the miracle of grace our faith depends on.

I guess I am now slightly more able to be a part of the world, and to introduce it to the Word. I still don’t understand the world, but I understand that I am part of it, and that God wants to meet it where it’s at. And, being less certain that my own theological perspective is the right one (I’ve had to change my mind a couple of times), I come to the platform as a chef comes to the stove after having burned his fingers to blisters: With great care.

I guess it means that I do less now. It’s a slower, more sure-footed journey. There are valleys that are still dark and somewhat dangerous to me, but I now know where they are. And when they come up in conversation or ministry situations, I don’t try to deny their existence or try to fit my Jesus-picture to them. I acknowlege them and lament them and bring them to God with fellow seekers, amazed more at the mysteries of the night than at the darkness of it.

I give five paces forward for every ten I once gave. But I retreat only one step for every twenty I once retreated. More ground is won this way, and less people are being fed simplemindedness along the way.

How strange that we think that knowing the Author of life gives you the right to speak up and teach people. It doesn’t. It gives you the right to speak to the Author of life. Knowing life gives you the right to address the crowd, because life is what they know and where their struggles are at. Somehow we’ve decided that preaching the name of Christ is enough. That’s first level Evangelism and it’s a very good thing. But it gets people over the first hurdle only. They desperately need to know the relevance of Christ to their world. How to apply their faith.

To help with this is preaching. And knowledge of the Word stands equal to knowledge of the world in doing it in a meaningful way.

Which is why, at (slightly older than) 35, I feel I’m starting to obtain the mandate. I’ve lived a little. Been in my skin long enough to see it starting to sag. I’ve had to deal with the consequences of being in my twenties and living like there are no consequences. I’m not on top of the world any more. Never. And this is imperative. For in all the Gospels Jesus reached down and impacted people who were at the bottom of the barrel. You can’t reach those from the top of the world. From there, you only succeed in making them feel guilty.

Oh, too be fair, many who are young do a lot better than what I did. And I feel sorry for them when I hear them speak, realising how much they’ve lived in such a short life to be able to know what they do. Great is the pity that a young skin breaks under such pressures, where an older skin has stretched over time – looks ugly, but holds. It’s called capacity. And time alone is the stork that brings it. So let them preach, this young lot of old people. But dial 911 while you’re doing it, because a road is being driven on by an 18-wheeler while the tar is still wet. It can be a good thing, it can even be a great thing. But it’s a risky thing.

Back to me and my Spirit-filled twenties.
I have to wonder about the people who hung onto my words during those silly years. And I don’t mean the kids. It’s perfectly sane for kids to listen to other kids. But older folks…Why are we so blinded by youth, charisma, talent, zeal, book-knowledge, vibe, volume and marketability that we allow these things to dictate which teachers and role models we allow into our lives? When did we become a generation so desperate for “a breath of fresh air”? Are we so blind to the kind of help we need in wrestling with life – and that this kind of help can only come from those who have lived, and lived a lot?

But, you say, don’t be so serious. Because sometimes we only want to hear about God in a way that makes us feel good. Just plain theology brought by a young, funny new talent. And I say hey, have it your way. Many a drug untested by the FDA might cure you. Then again, it might kill you.

I say let those who are young minister to kids, evangelise to hearts content, play loud Christian rock in stadiums and start to realise the greater questions that determine not only your theology but your philosophy. Let them become not just people who know Jesus, but persons who have lived with themselves, God and the world.

And when they’ve grown sufficiently older let them venture out carefully into leading the flock, while they not only realise the questions of life, but admit them and accept them. Let them play the painful game of discarding proud ideologies whilst embracing questions they were so sure they had had the answer to. Let them admit their mistakes and get burnt. Let the proud-minded become the humblehearted. Time will do this to you. You only have to live in your skin and wait.

Those over 35? Let them preach.
They won’t tell you what you want to hear. They may not be as entertaining.
But they won’t lie to you. They’ll help you to get the candy of life out of the wrapper. They’ll celebrate with you without faking it. They’ll mourn with you with tears like pearls shaped through time. The Christ they bring you will probably be harder to follow. Knowledge of Him will explain less of a life full of mysteries. But the results of this discipleship will be rich and real. And it will last a lifetime.

I wish that I didn’t know that at 45 I’m going to read this and wish that I had rather shut it. What do I really know, after all? I only know how little I knew before.

opposites

We always assume that darkness is a bad thing. It obviously is, if Jesus is the Light and the devil is the prince of darkness. But do you realize that without it light would have no meaning? We wouldn’t even have a word for it because it would be a thing taken totally for granted. Now though, if I step out into the night and someone shines a light, I immediately see it, recognize it and know what to call it. Light only has meaning because its opposite exists, and it exists inside its opposite.

None of us like the idea of having curses of any kind afflicting us. We tend to agree that Christians should be delivered out of such a state very quickly. But any blessing you can think of only is a blessing because we know the opposite state of it. If we are blessed with good food, we perceive it as a blessing because we know what hunger feels like and what bad food tastes like. If we are blessed with wonderful parents, we know the degree to which we have been blessed by encountering people who have lost a parent, or whose parents abused them. If we are blessed with abundance of any kind, we taste the goodness of that abundance only because we lacked it for a time and we know what that feels like.

It follows that if we have something or know something that is wonderful, but we do not know the opposite of it, we simply do not understand that it is a blessing and we do not have the capacity to appreciate it. It is a sad, empty state of existence and indeed the greatest poverty on earth: A rich person is not rich because of what he has, but because he knows and treasures what he has. To have a lot but be unable to calculate its worth, is to be impoverished. I hope you get that!

Understanding how God uses opposites helps me to know him better, because there is so much of the opposite of God in our world. It’s not always easy to see God at work or to learn more about his nature by just living the ordinary lives we do. But it’s really easy to identify the things that are the complete opposite of God. I could be watching television and something would come on screen that my spirit just screams against. I would instinctively know that it’s the opposite of God, and, without even realizing it, I learn more about what God is like. Just like being in total darkness for a long time makes you easily identify the tiniest ray of light, the magnified absence of God from something helps us to see his presence clearly when it is there.

It is therefore easier to see God and know his nature than we might think. It is only necessary to look at things that are clearly not God and try to imagine their opposite. Look at the family life of the Osbournes on MTV or the values portrayed in The Simpsons. Think of the way Eminem speaks of his mother. Remember the words that have hurt you the most and the most vile, angry and hateful thought you have ever had. Identify the murderous anger your heart has surely felt at the way you have been treated. Keep these things in front of you and then turn around 180 degrees. You will surely see God.

Which is why the Lord would never have us isolate ourselves from the world. It’s not only that the world so needs the life and light we radiate, but that there’s so much of God for us to see without ever seeing God himself or hearing his voice. And by seeing the kingdoms of this world in all their proud, destructive splendor, we are able to conjure a picture of what the kingdom of God would surely look like. If I don’t know what will be present in it, I would still know what will be absent from it – and that’s quite literally a hell of a lot.

Being in church or at church all the time is a bad thing in this sense. Because for all the pictures we obtain there of who and what God is, we are not given a context for it. We don’t get anything there to measure it up against and it’s like seeing a tree without seeing it’s shadow: You just can’t tell where the light is coming from.

In another sense it might be a good thing though, to spend all your awake hours in church meetings and amongst church folk: We know that God is the opposite of organised religion in it’s dead, institutionalized form. So if your eyes are open, you might encounter and recognize the opposite of God even in ordinary church life, and in the way it least intended to do, this church then teaches us a lot about God.

I don’t wish to encourage you to deliberately seek out and embrace the opposite of God. Being what it is, it would hurt you greatly. It would be like playing with fire. But you don’t have to do that to learn what you have to learn. Our world is mostly a kingdom of darkness and you will find the opposite of God around every corner without looking very hard. Just don’t hide from it. Don’t flee before an image has burnt itself onto your retina. Once you’ve done that, listen to your spirit, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. It’s more than likely that you’ll look up from this path and see the Lord more clearly than ever.

I guess the same is true of finding your destiny. Even if you don’t know what it is, it will help you greatly to know what it definitely isn’t, and then looking in the opposite direction. Sometimes things are just a little easier than our complex minds and inferiority complexes tell us they are. God designed them that way, because He really intended the blind to see and the deaf to hear. After a season of not seeing and not hearing, the first sound is like music and the first light is like a glorious sunrise.

Do not be surprised if God sometimes hides his face from you and starves you of his tangible presence. It is simply so that, when He lifts the veil and shines on you, you will recognize him for who He is….perhaps for the very first time.
He is the rain, but only those who have been in the desert can know it. He is the light, but only those who know what night is like can tell.

Make sure that it is you.

survivors, are you ready?

It's a crazy time to be on earth and an absolutely ludicrous time to be a South African, if you ask me. Has anything EVER been worse? Well, in honesty, yes! I guess there have been far worse times, but this spoilt generation (and that includes little spoilt me) have been lucky to escape them. Come on Xers, do some imagining with me:

Imagine a time in the world when you had to go out each morning and kill your food with a blunt object. And pick the rest from trees and bushes. Only way to know whether it would be edible…was to eat it!

Imagine when it was a given that you would die by the teeth of an animal. Discussion over dinner would be about "What's gonna get dad when he goes out to hunt tomorrow?”

Imagine when eveybody had fifteen kids…and they didn't know why!

Imagine living in the warm parts without mosquitonets, and nothing to rub on for the itch. Imagine fifty five new itches every morning!

Imagine the war against rats and spiders, with the rats and spiders winning all the way!

And getting serious: Imagine losing everyone you know in the Great Flu Epidemic, or in the First World War. Imagine a time when you lost your leg if your toe got infected, and all of that without anaesthetic, thank you very much!

Hey, I'm not trying to grose you out. I could get very gory on this, but knowing how sensitive you all are, I'm choosing to do the history of the world great injustice by keeping quiet about a lot of terrible things. I've stated my case I think: That in past centuries and millenia, people have had to survive a lot more than we're facing today! And there, right there,is the key word.To survive!

It's incredible how many brilliant things man (and woman, to be fair) have invented in order to survive. Searched and searched for answers until someday, finally, it was found. And today it's still the same: All the world in a frenzy to find a cure for Aids, for cancer, for the climatic changes that cause drought… To find a plug for the hole in the osone layer… Endless time, resources, talent and work being spent because we! must! survive!!.

I want to tell you that you should learn to see the hand of God in all this.That He wants us to be a sharp, tough generation with cutting edge instincts. Most of all, that He wants us to know that we need him. Because the first spiritual instinct of someone struggling to survive is to cry out to God!

I don't know about you, but the past couple of years have tought me to cry out to God more than any time before. As reality bites harder and harder, and we realise that this is not a honeymoon-season for our planet, we go into a bit of a panic, and then we start seeking our God, whom we've read about being a refuge, but now we need Him to be one for real!

I wish it wasn't necessary to be stripped so very bare, but you know, a spoilt generation doesn't need a refuge. They don't need faith. They're riding wave after wave and always landing on their feet. That's not us anymore! And it doesn't matter what colour or flavour person you are, if you're still around these parts, you're in for some tough times. And instinctively I just know that we need this wake up call. That we will be crying out to God not because of boredom on Sundaymornings and a good band leading worship, but because our desperation feels unbearable.

And when the turmoil in our spirits die down, to find the amazing current of Gods love that will carry us through just as it has carried every generation through! The most steadfast love!! The endless mercies, fresh and new every morning. To learn how to drink that… and to need not much else!

It's clear that God is taking us there. He's not being nasty. He's preserving His people. Maturing us to spiritually need more of Him, to physically need less and emotionally to be less fragile. More Bible, less chocolates and less therapy, I think. But that simplifies it, I know. It's just that I've been to Bosnia and seen young people forgive the men who had recently killed their families. And then I came home and I heard the young people here cry about too having too many pimples, not finding a lifemate soon enough, not having a car or a murde'bike…Your reality determines your resilience, and tests written are the only ones passed. Do you get that?

I've written too much already and I don't think I've shaken your world with bold new insights. So I'll end off abruptly. But I pray, reader of my generation, that you fill find a deeper faith and an incredible resilience in your spirit for the time that lies ahead. That you won't flee, won't panic and won't give yourself over to bitterness, depression and senseless reminiscing about the "good old days”. That you will get to know the God who equips for survival on all levels. That you will swim in his strength and more importantly, flow in the current of his steadfast love, hanging onto every one of his promises by a faith you've only read about in books.

You know what season this is? A time for new heroes of the Christian faith to stand up and be known. You've read about them. Now choose to be one. This is a tough time, but it's your time! God has called you to it… have you answered?

the all new seven deadly sins

When the churchfathers came up with a list of the seven most deadly sins they must have thought long and hard. They came up with pretty wicked ones which, if you do them, will most definitely have devestating consequences. They are the extra-large super-whoppers amongst sins and if God indeed considered some sins more evil than others , I’d have to agree that this list has to make the top of the charts.

But times have changed, haven’t they? And I keep wondering when the descendants of those church fathers are going to revise the list. Or don’t they see that the whole ballgame has changed, and without any blood being shed we are all getting away with murder?

I asked myself which sins could be more deadly to us than others, and I only came up with one theory: Surely it won’t be the bad ones we can see, but rather the ones we are blind to, no matter how far from absolutely evil they might seem. Anything that corrupts Gods will and is left to fester will eventually cause havoc, and in the end we may not even know where the havoc came from. So it’s obvious to me that no matter what the sins are that we turn a blind eye to, they are the ones that will get us in the end. I may be a little paranoid, and I remind myself again that Jesus regarded all sins as equal, but I did come up with a list of seven all new deadliest among deadly sins. Here they are in no specific order:

Pride
Proud people resist change. They think they don’t need it, because they are fine just the way they are. But being willing to change is a key to surrendering to God. What’s more, proud people want to serve God without worshiping him. Anybody with time on hand and a reasonably civil attitude can serve God. I know of many who serve God in this way and they are proud of it. But only the humble and the meek will worship him. God wishes to be loved and worshiped and only in the last instance served. This is difficult theology perhaps, but the humble heart needs no instruction in these matters. Only the proud gets confused and argues the point.

Materialism
We learn from an early age to fend for ourselves and to gather things. We learn that some things belong to us and we should protect our right of ownership at all cost. It gets to the point where we can’t help ourselves: We are gatherers.

It sounds a lot like the ancient deadly sin called “greed”, but there’s a big difference. Materialism is a lot more subtle and the church rarely frowns at it. Greed would make you cheat, steal and defraud. But materialism can have a noble cloak: Materialists earn everything that they have through hard work, and thus can’t be frowned upon. Many spoils are to be taken fairly, and materialists are simply good at taking. What’s more, they often give to God in a big way, which is why their Pastors seldom address the issue with them. But they give what they can afford. They give carefully measured, budgeted amounts that don’t interfere with their lifestyle. They can tithe to the penny and still live like the kings of the world. There’s nothing seemingly wrong with this, unless of course you have a Bible and read it. Jesus hated materialism, but for us it’s way less of a sin than adultery and pornography. What is it we underestimate: Jesus’ ability to discern, the subtlety of our enemy or the deceitfulness of our own hearts?

Comfort
See, it keeps us from saying “yes” to God when He calls us to something uncomfortable, which is almost always what He calls us to. Most of us grew up in such comfort that we now regard it as a basic right. The only uncomfortable things we do are to take out the trash, mow the lawn and do the washing. These are self-serving things. In effect we only do them to maintain our level of comfort.

The degree of comfort we are used to has become such a part of who we are, that it feels as if we give up a measure of our identity when we leave it behind. Thus, we do so with much fear for the unknown, and many of us feel that God would never be so cruel as to make us leave it all behind. We feel like Old Tetament kings being blessed with the spoils of victory, and we build ourselves a theology that makes space for it. But the New Testament happened and the words of Jesus can never be erased again. Those who read it have no excuse.

The simple truth demonstrated by Christ is that the influence of the Gospel is there for the needy, and they will never come to us. The wall that society builds around them only has a ladder on one side, and it’s not theirs. If we really want to reach them we would climb that ladder, jump over the wall and plunge into the great discomfort that it causes us. This is so unfair to us, because the needy themselves don’t feel our discomfort. To them that discomfort is the only life they know. It’s what they call normal. To us though, blending with their lives the way Jesus did, goes down like a kidney stone. Which is exactly the way it was intended to be, otherwise there would be no cross for us to take up. We should get over it and get it done with. There is only one other way: To ignore the will of Christ completely and write our own script for reaching the world. That has never worked, has it?

Apathy
We all have problems and we all subconsciously feel we should be pitied more than anybody else. Even those of us who don’t really feel sorry for ourselves can remember a time when the world was against us and we battled with all kinds of unfair forces. And so our sense of pity and sympathy has become blunted. Oh, I’m not suggesting that we are inhumane. We naturally do feel sorry for those less fortunate. But somewhere inside a voice says “We all play with the hand we were dealt, mate. Life is tough on all of us, you know.” And then of course the need out there is so great and we are bombarded with images of it all the time. We just don’t know who to help and who not. It becomes a sea of images and a choir of voices. To do something small feels trivial, and to do nothing seems a good strategy to prevent you from discriminating. Oh, and then we remind ourselves that Jesus said the poor will always be amongst us, and that of those who don’t have even more will be taken away. Never mind what He meant by that and what else He said…

And then we all know how needy people can abuse the gifts given to them - The old story that any drunk homeless man will only buy more liquer with the money you give him.

We have many excuses for our apathy, many of them even valid. But still, that’s what they are. Excuses. God has placed enough resources in the hands of Christians worldwide to eradicate almost all poverty. But something gets in the way of that…

Lethargy
When you have HIV you are not dying yet. You carry something that might one day kill you. When that progresses to full-blown Aids, you have a disease that is terminal. Lethargy is to laziness what Aids is to HIV. If you are lazy and you allow it to fester in you unattended, it always progresses to full-blown lethargy. Lethargy is a disease, and it’s without question the greatest disease of our time. It kills spiritual lives and it kills relationships. It turns people with potential into lousy sacks of sloth, who hang around waiting for something to happen. And when that something happens, the lethargic are shocked to find it is their deathbed.

It’s not that the lethargic don’t care about things. They do and they can talk about them at length. But they make no decisions to do something about them. Those decisions are left for others to make on their behalf. And when others do make the decisions, the lethargic respond unwillingly, saying “what ever”. Lethargic people love things like theology and philosphy, because you can practice them with a TV Remote in your hand. Ironically, one of the things they sit and think about is that Jesus wasn’t lethargic, nore were his disciples. In fact, our faith was built and carried forth by generations of Christians who didn’t even know that such a word existed. They just got off their butts, lived, labored and died for the Gospel.

Lethargic people don’t live or die for anything. They are passengers and spectators of life. What ever their reasons for being that way (in most cases their parents have a lot to answer for) they know that they frustrate the will of God, because his kingdom is not built by those who sit around. And still they don’t do something about it, because for them it’s not a question of rebellion or disobedience. They feel somehow paralysed. And in a sense they are. If you never think, you later loose the ability. If you never get up and walk, your legs become jell-o. If you never do what God tells you to, later you don’t know how to any more. Lethargy is nothing more than self-inflicted spiritual suicide. It is unnecessary and pathetic and the only thing worse than lethargy itself, is that lethargic people somehow find the strenghth to have children. And these kids are a sorry sight.

Arrogance
Don’t confuse arrogance with pride. They are of the same family, but they are, at least in the soul of man, far from simple sinonyms. Where as pride is an attitude of the heart, arrogance is one of the mind. It’s a state of mind that brings about a feeling of superiority. It’s what leads us to believe we can come up with new truths today that can philosophically and theologically trump the ones that have stood for thousands of years. Many people are left drymouthed by existing objective truth – the kind that has shaped religions, philosophies and lifestyles. And so they invent a new one, thus thinking themselves more able to do so than anybody whos words have stood the test of time. To these dear folk it’s not a question of perhaps better interpreting existing truths or better applying them. Heck no, they go “The truth is out there, yet undiscovered. And who will find it, you ask? Humbly I must admit: It’s me!” I love most post-modern traits, but this I find astonishingly dreadful.

Arrogance is the logical conclusion that many reasonable people come to when they consider what this generation has achieved. Its masks as cynicism, because the superior, enlightened mind surely has the right to be a cynic. It breeds the most dangerous Christians imaginable: We, posessing the light of Christ and further having been enlightened by all the knowledge and discoveries of our time – surely we can interpret life and live life better than any generation before us…

There is such a thing as spiritual intelligence, and arrogance is the pitfall of intelligent people. But arrogance is such a foolish thing! Now how can clever, spiritual people like ourselves fall for such foolishness? An honest answer causes great discomfort.

And lastly, Denial
because none of us feel that we are really too selfish, proud, materialistic, apathetic, arrogant or lethargic. We all recognise a little of it in ourselves, but we are able to reason it away. This is called denial and it’s the one thing that stands between us and confession. You can only genuinely confess things you admit. Confession is no fun and we’ve all figured out that denial is a good way to avoid doing it.

Of course none of us feel that we really are in denial. Which means that we are.

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What is to be learnt from summing up our shortcomings in this way? Firstly, that our enemy is active and not a foreigner to subtlety. Secondly, that our hearts are happy to be taken for a ride. We are easily distracted; gullably caught in the spiders web.

And thirdly, where sin abounds grace abounds even more. We are not worse off than previous generations who battled dragons that they could see. How ever good and clever it seems to call some sins more evil than others, they are all like little shells in an ocean of grace. Once they have come loose from the seabed, they don’t stand a chance. They are swept away in the current of love, where God’s grace deals with them mercilessly.

The most important thing about any and all sin is this:
We are only slaves to it if we choose to be.

the fire in your eyes

Light is invisible for the most part. It’s not really meant to be seen. It’s purpose is to illuminate something else and, at the sight of it, make you look back to try and determine the light source. It’s just a beam of energy that says to the thing it shines upon: “I am being thrown upon you like a handful of stardust to make you visible. The darkness that has enveloped you is obliterated and who ever looks your way will see you because you are lit up like a Christmas tree. You are in the light.”

Darkness isn’t the enemy of light. It’s a fickle challenge to light, because the tiniest beam of light shatters darkness so it shrivels up and dies, to return like a black blanket when the light goes out. This is to be respected of darkness: It’s always waiting in the wings, ready to envelop everything in it’s wake the moment that the light goes away. Yet, though it’s a thing most feared, a tiny match struck into it makes it tuck in its tail and flee. Light is a conqueror and darkness a coward.

Blindness is the true enemy of light. Ultraviolet, infrared and all the sun’s glare falls harmlessly upon the eyelids of the blind. It miserably fails upon such drawn curtains because it’s purpose is to illuminate, but it can’t where it gains no entry. This is true in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense.

Jesus is The Light. He is the glare of the sun quadrupled who softens himself to the glow of a candle so that creation doesn’t shrivel under his radiance. Because He is light He can’t be seen. And he doesn’t have to be. He simply illuminates. This is of paramount importance. If Jesus were visible all the focus would be on Him. To look away from Him would be blasphemy. Clearly He doesn’t want that. Apparently He desires our worship, but not the focus of our eyes. He wishes such focus to be on that which he illuminates. Otherwise, why would He shine Himself onto it in the first place?

And what does He illuminate? What does He tear the night away from as if it were a film of rice paper? We could see it even if we were in the darkness ourselves but pointed in the right direction – away from the Source (or surely we would die)! Surely, if we stood in the beam of Christ and looked where He is pointing, we would see the illuminated thing as if it were a shining star.

We would see the world.

The world God so loved that he gave His only begotten son for it. The one we mostly hate because it’s our prison and it’s a filthy one at that. It traps us in its sewage and reminds us that we are glued to it. It reminds us of what we once were and in weak moments still are. It hates us for loving God and laughs in our faces when we show that love with hollow hearts and tell of it without conviction. It throws a mirror up and the light of Christ shines right back – illuminating us - and is it a trick of the eye or does it go right through, finding nothing of substance to stop against…?

The Light has always been around and made a real breakthrough some 2009 years ago. Factual accounts of the event may differ, but the astounding effect of it lives on to this day. The Light of the world exploded gloriously on a cross and broke through the prism of our atmosphere into the brilliant colours of God. It has never gone away…

But this Light has always been up against two formidable foes.

Firstly, the spiritually blind. Those who, simply by refusing to see, remain behind the veil forever. Impossible for them to see God (a common problem). Equally hard for them to see his works, but most alarmingly, impossible for them to acknowledge that we can only see because of Him. And I don’t mean sight with the common human eye. I mean the deeper vision that makes us more than animals. Hindsight, foresight and insight. Not to even speak of spiritual vision. The darkness without Jesus is unimaginable, because He has erased it, unfairly, even for those who refuse to acknowledge the very light through which they see. It’s called grace and it’s a precious thing.

Secondly, the spiritually enlightened. Those of us who acknowledge Christ and opened up to Him, breathlessly breathing Him in – astounded by the beauty, the power, the glory and the clarity of Him. In awe of this powerful light source that glows in us so warmly. The truth softened by love. The love illuminated by truth. Christ, the fullness of life, what light indeed!

And this Light imprisoned himself in us. Chose to not just shine into us, but through us. To make of us human torches that radiate the piercing light of truth and the warm glow of love: God himself. The Burning Bush has become the fire in our eyes and we can never be blind again. We see the world through the eyes of God and what we see draws us like a magnet to step into the deepest, darkest corners of human need – shining, illuminating, radiating the warm glow of God and, invisible as light mostly is, still saying so much about the Source of the Light that is Christ in us.

Or does it? In reality the script reads rather different. We see the world through the eyes of God and it revolts us to the point that we need therapy. We realise with shock just how deep into the mud and sewage God wants us to walk , in order for real breakthroughs to happen. And we start to think about it: There must be a less radical way…

So the battle begins. The Light inside fights fiercely for a way through our selfishness, pride, ambition, greed, apathy, laziness and cowardliness. Through our love for our comfort, our expensive possessions and fight for survival. Through our many fears and insecurities. Through the fat lie we choose to believe so that we can sleep at night: “We’re doing good, serving God to the best of our ability. Indeed, we are changing the world!” And that other soothing lie: “In our culture and context, this is radical Christianity.”

Taking a peek at the impact of Christianity on our world, it looks as if The Light has so far lost this battle in most of us. It appears that those who walk into the deepest despair with fire in their eyes are the exception and not the rule. That most of us choose to wear the dark sunglasses of rationalisation. Thus, we don’t see the world exactly the way God does anymore. The destitute, Aids-stricken and under-evangelised sections have become a fuzzy blur, and we don’t even feel remorse for blocking them out. We are oblivious.

Behind these glasses the fire in our eyes becomes a feint, vague blur. When someone looks at us they don’t see the incredible, healing light of God. They see something without character hiding behind fear and lame excuses. But they don’t mind, because we are obviously quite harmless.

What happens when the light breaks through?
Well, He broke through 2009 years ago.
But He lives in us. Only in us.

the intelligent approach to christianity

Sometimes we feel, rightly so, that we should apply our minds fully in order to get things really right. Especially important things, such as how to approach and worship God. This is probably an essential function of our minds: To figure out the intricate, delicate strategy necessary for us to live the Christian life correctly. It is worth being studied for years…

So what is the intelligent approach to Christianity?
That’s easy.
To surrender ourselves fully to God.

Because that is what He asks of us, and if you understand what God is asking and you do it, you are being extremely clever. Lets turn that around: If you know what God is asking of you and you do the opposite, you must be exceptionally dense. The opposite of exceptionally dense is brilliant, and that’s why you should consider yourself as such if you are just doing this one thing: Surrendering to God fully.

God is a god, you see. We say the word God so much that we tend to forget it is a descripitve term, referring to the nature of his being (There are many other gods, who happen to be dead).This should be remembered because when you encounter a god you know that you are inferior. You either worship and obey, or rebel and walk away. God wants to be obeyed, and if you choose to do so you must admit you are being intelligent. Especially so if you realise that obeying him opens a door to wisdom that will brighten your life beyond imagination. If you see a pathway to a source of light, purpose, energy and - most of all - love, and you walk on that pathway without even thinking where it may lead, you are being the best kind of clever: the kind that throws all caution to the wind when it has sniffed the proximity of the one thing it was born to find: Life.

Many words can be written about the intelligent approach to Christianity. But every word we write to try and make it understandable seems to take something away from it. It is as if God has given us a clear blue sky through which we can see the sun, and every sentence we write in order to clarify or analize it is like a cloud that drifts into the picture. Why is that? Perhaps because the genius of God is better understood by the human heart than by the human mind. The heart sees that the sky is clear and doesn’t challenge it. Doesn’t try to clarify something that is clear already. The heart accepts it, embraces it and knows that it is good.

How is it that the most intelligent approach to Christianity is such a basic one that a child or an idiot can achieve it? We can only smile at this illogical truth and realize that God is way, way smarter than us. For us an idiot and a genius are at opposite poles to one another. To God they are one and the same person – like a computer that is plugged in and switched on…
Or not.

the longer view

You know, if you are close enough to the eye of a cow and you look into it, you’d think you’re staring into outer space…

Taking the longer view means to step away from something as far away as you possibly can so that the thing you are focused on becomes really small and everything around it becomes really big.

We travel a lot. Can I rephrase that? We travel a LO-O-OT. We travel like other people breathe. Like they think about food. Ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Consistently. Continuously. Got that? And when we do, we mostly use a map. Of course, being guys, when it’s really important we don’t. But when we do it’s of no use to look at a town map of the place we are heading to. We need to look at a map so big that the place we are headed to is just a speck on it. That way we can see all the highways and byways, mountains to avoid and well, in theory the best possible route to take.

I guess it’s called “gaining perspective”. You try to look at something in such a way that you can see the shape of it, and see as much of its context as you can. You do this because you know that the whereabouts and outlines of anything is more important than its color and texture. This view is what tells you whether the grainy brown thing in front of you is a potato or the surface of the moon. If you get it wrong you feel romantic about your food and you want to eat the moon. It’s ridiculous, and that’s what a lack of perspective gets you every time.

Most importantly so because nothing is isolated. I can not think of a single thing in the universe that is unaffected by the things around it. Forces visible and invisible influence just about everything. Which is why detailed analysis of content only gets you so far. To really understand something you have to look at everything that works in on it. You try to think what this thing would be like without that influence, you isolate the influence and then you look at its reaction to the influence. More and more you find that you’re not just looking into something, but getting a feel for it.

What a pity that we don’t look at ourselves, our world, our calling and our Christianity in this way more effectively. We are poorer for it.

And then, as The Cat In The Hat would say, that is not all, oh no, that is not all. Because taking the longer view is also to put something under a microscope and stare at it for hours, slowly turning it so that every reflection of the light colors it differently. It is to look with X-ray eyes, trying to look not just into but right through something. If sight is simply the reflection of light, then this kind of viewing illuminates thoroughly. It strips anonymity away and leaves anything in its path completely naked. Looking at a table this way is to see the rust on nails, the history of wood and last years ketchup stuck in a tiny crack. Looking at a human this way means that millions of molecules swim before your eyes. Perceiving a single word in this way is to regard it as something pregnant with meaning.

Looking at the human spirit in this way is scary and extravagently challenging. If we are inquisitive enough for such analysis a world of wonder awaits, and much like a coral reef there are many hidden crevices where danger might lurk. To not look at the core of our nature in this way is simply irresponsible.

Putting God under such a microscope is impossible, and yet it is the prerogative of seekers to try. It is a dangerous endeavour in which one feels that you are picking fruit from the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden. And yet its an irresistable journey into the heart and mind of Some One we are dying to know. We know we can’t very well do it, and we know we can’t stop. Which is why there are so many pictures of God in our world, but often not one of them satisfies. The spiritual seeker who doesn’t only have a map, but also a microscope, is the one who will be most satisfied with his finding. But he is the one who will never, ever stop searching either. That’s the inevitable end result of getting under Gods skin, just as it’s supposed to be. To those with an eye for detail, God is irrisistable.

Which is why only seeing the big picture just doesn’t cut it. We intuitively want to dig deeper and discover more. We are surprised, startled and shocked at what we find - that’s if we take the time and challenge ourselves to the task sufficiently. It is not a quest for the lazy or those who scare easily, and subsequently most of us don’t get very far.

And so I invite you to take the longer view on some things with me. Lets stand back from them to see their shape and context. Lets put them under the microscope and peer at them for hours. It’s a most satisfying experience because a half-empty mind is only ever called a half-full mind by those with a half-empty mind. Being challenged by a new thought is gratifying, and gaining deeper insight is a feast (if all your moving parts are functioning up there).

Hey, but: Taking the longer view is also frustrating. Often it only illuminates how little we can possibly know. The scientist who looks away from the microscope after hours of concentration and concedes that he doesn’t know what he has been looking at, is an irritated man. So is the navigator who has turned the map around several times and still doesn’t know which way to go. Spiritually, very often, that’s us.

But we are not alone on this journey, and the light by which we study life is the light of God. It can be blindingly bright, which in itself is a problem to the Light-sensitive eyes of our generation. The Spirit within is a compass and a zoom lense, a lighthouse and a thessaurus. His desire is to show us more and to take us deeper.

Wisdom is like oxygen. It gives life. It is found by those who seek it and seeking it is risky business, because you leave the things you know behind and you don’t know what you are going to find. You know that it will change you. But will that change improve you? Let’s pray to God that it will. Chances are good, because blinding light doesn’t bring darkness just because it blinds you for a while. Bread never leaves you hungry, unless you don’t eat enough of it.

Lets embark on this journey that is truly satisfying and very frustrating. If, for no other reason, then this: It’s unavoidable. To sidestep it is to be dead in a very real sense. And for us to be dead while walking upright is not the will of God. In my heart I hear the Spirit saying “Work with me here. I’m giving you life and if you don’t see it, it’s just because you don’t know any better. Yet.”

the problem with being purpose-driven

The only problem with being purpose-driven is that such a thing doesn’t really exist. And when you try to attain something that doesn’t exist you become the most tired human on the planet. And that’s why purpose-driven people become so worn-down, depressed and ironically, purposeless.

It’s not that you shouldn’t or can’t have a purpose. You most definitely can and should. And you should be forcefully driven towards it, otherwise having it is nonsensical. What good is a purpose if you’re never going to achieve it, and how are you going to achieve it if you don’t go for it with all you’ve got? To say that you have a purpose, is to say that you are doing your damndest to reach it, fulfill it, complete it and achieve it. In other words, to have a purpose is to be driven. To be driven is to have a purpose.

But the word purpose-driven shouldn’t even exist. Because the word implies that it’s the purpose that drives you, where as you are driven towards a purpose and not by it. You are driven by something toward something, and those two things are never the same. For instance: If you are behind the steering wheel of your car and you have filled it with fuel, driving to the seaside: Is your car seaside-driven or fuel-driven? If you have eaten a nutritious meal and you run a marathon with the energy it has provided: Are you marathon-driven, finishline-driven or are you nutrient-driven?

Right on. Your car would be fuel-driven. Your body would be nutrient-driven. You are not driven by the thing you are aiming at. You are driven by the force through which you are able to achieve your aim. Simply put: You are not driven by that which is before you,but by that which is behind you. Something pushes you; urging you forward. It motivates you to get somewhere. It puts you on the road, sparks of your departure and fuels you on to get to the finishline. That finishline is your purpose. You are driven towards it. Not by it.

Which is why you need to be passion-driven if you are going to achieve your purpose. Passion is fuel where as purpose is a destination. To have passion is to be inspired. to be excited and to have hope. To grab onto a vision with zest and zeal. It’s to not just move forward but to be looking forward and upward. It’s to know why you are going for a purpose and to have the strenghth to push toward it over great obstacles.

Passion-driven people never deflate. If a purpose proves to be unobtainable, the passionate person is still being driven forward. A new purpose will present itself, because passion ignites, drives and steers. It brings into motion, and anything that is mobile is going somewhere. Purpose-driven people easily deflate, because they aren’t really driven at all and they don’t know it. They relentlessly go for a goal and if they don’t reach it they are left without energy, because they confused where they were going with how they were supposed to get there. This is a ridiculous state to find yourself in, and yet its where millions of Christians find themselves.

We are in dire straights if we try to be purpose-driven Christians. This would mean that we are trying to be Kingdom-driven, because our aim is to establish the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. It would mean that we are church-driven, because we purpose to build and expand the church of Christ though all the world. It would mean we are heaven-driven (it’s where we are headed) and missions-driven, because we aim to reach the whole world with the message of salvation through Jesus. These are things that lie before us. They are destinations and huge tasks. to reach them and fulfil them is a lifetime calling for us. And most of us, though we try very hard to be, are not driven onward by them.

That’s because we are not meant to be. They are purposes God has for us. They are not driving forces. To attain them we need to be passion-driven, and the passion in question had better not be undefined: It had better be the passion of Christ! In other words, we are to be love-driven, calling-driven, compassion-driven, Spirit-driven, power-driven, revelation-driven, relationship-driven, prayer-driven and Word-driven. These things (amongst many others) are what would ignite us, mobilize us, empower us, steer us, energize us, encourage us and give us hope that the purpose God has placed before us is reachable and worth striving toward. And that’s what it means to be driven!

Many purpose-driven people and churches are actually merely very busy and very tired. They are not excited and they are not energized. They are running on empty. They know that there’s a daunting task ahead. They’ve made firm commitments to fulfil it. They’ve got the end in mind, but they think the end itself can be the means to it. There should be no confusion amongst Christians about the place of passion and the place of purpose. The one inspires towards the other. They are interdependant, but to get them the wrong way round is to be caught with your pants down. You can declare yourself to be purpose-driven; you can have a vision-statement up on the wall. But God knows (and you might have your suspicions) whether you are truly driven on by the fuel of God.

the relationship that isn't one

In our generation words have become so liquid. It’s as if we don’t care whether the words we use communicate what we are trying to say. We’d say something remotely close to what we mean and end it off with “.…oh, you know what I mean” and the listener ends up saying “Oh I can see where you’re going with that.”. This isn’t clear, good or understandable communication. And, as we also love saying: “What’s the big deal anyway?”

The big deal is that the Gospel of Jesus and all the related Good News is a long string of words. Very important words. Words that carry life in them and give birth to spiritual sight. When the Jesus of the Gospels transforms us into his witnesses, it’s mainly words that we use to describe his role in our lives. What we say and how we say it becomes the oyster that harbors the pearl of the Gospel. It determines whether the ultimate truth comes across with a ring of truth to it. Do you agree?

Then I need to make a seemingly radical statement at the risk of being kicked out of the church:

It’s O.K. if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

Now, please don’t burn me at the stake. I know I’m probably the only evangelical Christian you’ve heard these words from – ever! – but be broadminded and allow me to explain.

To have a relationship with Christ has become the most important element of Christianity in our culture. It’s the rule of thumb-test, and the preceding question to almost all evangelistic appeals has for many years been: “Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Do you know Jesus, or only know about Him? Do you have religion, or do you have a relationship?”

These are great sound bytes and they spice up our sermons, driving our point home with force. But what is our point if we speak in vague, abstract terminology that Jesus himself never used? Why do we call people to something that is totally undefined, thus constantly being redefined and actually indefinable? Is this the best we can do as communicators of the Gospel? How is it that “a relationship with Jesus” has become the most common descriptor of the essence of Christianity, but nobody knows just what the heck it means to have one. Oh, every one thinks they know, and the thought of not having one or not understanding it is a most embarrassing one.

But in reality defining our relationship with Christ is impossible, and calling it a relationship is confusing to all who aren’t believers of the Gospel. They don’t know what we are trying to say, because we don’t know ourselves. The sooner we realize this and start using words responsibly, the sooner we’ll communicate the Truth as clearly as Jesus and Paul did. Isn’t that our ambition?

Do we care that Jesus never said that we could and should have a relationship with him? That it doesn’t appear in the Bible at all? And yet, how many times haven’t we felt miserable because of our failing, struggling, non-developing relationship with Him? How often have you felt a failure because you didn’t know how to keep this relationship going and growing – didn’t understand what was expected of you in it? How is it that the fantasy of every Christian is something that isn’t the reality of even one?

Relationship is the wrong word for this thing we have with God and it matters that it’s the wrong word! Here’s why:

We all have a concept of what a relationship is because we have parents, friends, teachers, brothers and sisters, husbands, wives, children and role models. We are in these and other relationships and - we have no choice – these institutions form our concept of what the word relationship means. Thinking that we can redefine our concept of the content of it is like thinking we can change our idea of what water, wine or bread is. We can’t (not without being brainwashed) and I’m really grateful that Jesus doesn’t require it of us. He does require us to redefine other abstract words, such as life, truth and love. Being a Christian means that we redefine and relearn the meaning of these words - but we know we must because Jesus preached about these words and connected himself to their definition. The word “relationship” doesn’t feature, and I’m not surprised. Jesus didn’t come to complicate things.

Perhaps you feel that having a relationship with Christ doesn’t require you to redefine the word. That would mean you draw from a lifetime of experiences in relationships with different people to know what exactly it is you have going with God. And it becomes confusing: Should your reference be parent, friend, teacher, brother or bride? Jesus is all these things, but which should be the main focus of this relationship? What’s more, Jesus is truth, life, living bread, morning star, advocate, path maker, forgiver of sins and judge there of. HOW are you to have a relationship with Him in this capacity…especially since this description doesn’t come close to defining Him?

The problem with having a relationship with someone is that you need to have a picture of that person in mind. Doing that with Jesus is very hard, but at times gloriously possible. In incredible revelations the Lord allows us glimpses of himself and these glimpses are so wonderful that we want to attach ourselves to them. But they are not a fraction of his being, and we only restrict and imprison God if these pictures of him become the focus of a relationship with Him. If some one is far too enormous, radiant and holy for my mind to comprehend, how can I have a clear enough image of that person so as to have a relationship with him?

The next problem with having a relationship with Jesus is that a healthy relationship depends on communication. Now, good and well to say that God gave us his Word, reveals himself to us in many other ways and that we in turn speak to him in prayer. But this communication falls far short of what the word “relationship” would call to mind. There can be these huge lapses in time between our prayers and God’s answers to them. And even bigger lapses from revelation to revelation on a personal level – those times when we honestly say that God ‘spoke’ to us. Mostly He leaves us to live life with the specifics and parameters given in his Word, which was given for all mankind – hardly a personal note passed between those entwined in relationship.

Please don’t think I’m saying communication between us and God is unimportant or meaningless. I’m just calling you to honesty about not reading things into this communication that God never intended to put there. We can be so in love with our way of thinking about holy things that the truth later doesn’t seem to matter…

Then there’s the problem that we don’t know or understand God at all. Again such a radical statement that I feel unsaved (another one of those words…) for writing it, but it’s so true. We’re always saying and singing about how we know Jesus, but we know pitifully little of him. We have a couple of accounts of his 33 years on earth, but He is the Living Word who has been present since the conception of this earth and reigns now on the right hand of the Father. Who is your connection to: The Jesus who walked the earth for 33 years, or the risen, spiritual Christ at the Fathers right hand?? And what do we know of the Christ who sits on the throne? What qualifies us to say that we know him? That He allows us glimpses of his time on earth, enough to understand the way He made for us and how to carry his message to the world, hardly gives us the right to arrogantly proclaim that we know Jesus. No wonder people who understand how unfathomable Christ must be, laugh us off. We can be so arrogantly unintelligent sometimes. Or has the word “know” also become bereft of meaning?

As for understanding God, all I can say is – we would be so lucky. He is the Creator of a world of which He is the Savior and also the Judge. He is our Brother but also our Bridegroom, our Father but also our Friend. Who can explain the character of God? Who can safely say that he or she has a grasp on how God’s mind works? No one. Not Freud, Nietzsche, Luther, Einstein, Billy Graham or me. We come to God accepting that we can never know or understand him even partially, because to do so would mean to be gods ourselves – holy and infinite in wisdom. We have no hope to be, and God will for ever remain a great puzzle to us. A wonderful Mystery of whose love we can be sure, on whose character we can depend and whose great dream for this world we can buy into. But his heart, mind and psyche are not ours to know or understand in this world. Because He is – well, God. If you disagree, maybe you should ask the Lord where He is from and what his favorite color is. If He tells you then I’m writing rubbish.

Also, in a relationship that works, surely there is some form of equality. Such as between brothers or partners in marriage. Because of this equality each partner has a measure of control. You can see how this isn’t the case with us and Jesus. Yes, we are his bride and his brothers and I’m fully “grace-awakened” to our standing before God. But we are also his disciples, his instruments, his hands and feet, his servants. We are in a covenant with him because He made it with us and signed the contract with his own godly blood. We brought nothing to the table and we still bring nothing. We are receivers, who gratefully take the pardon offered. But even as we come boldly to the throne of grace as the Lord invites us to, we know that He who is on that throne is the Savior and we are the saved, is the Giver and we are the takers, is the Life and we are the dead that He came for. If I dare look Jesus in the eye, it’s only because I haven’t taken a hard look at my own heart for a while. There’s no morsel of equality here…

…but there are secrets here, and secrets are the death sting of a relationship, aren’t they? You can argue that we’re not supposed to have secrets from God. Also that we can’t really have any, because He knows our hearts as if they were his own. But that isn’t the point. The point is that God holds out on us and there’s no way we can make him tell. He has many secrets and it’s his right, because He is God and we are not. A relationship gives you the right to demand openness from the other party involved so that the foundation of the bond can remain firm. But God feels no obligation to share his past operations or future plans with us because the bond between us lies in a connection wrought by a covenant sealed in the blood of his Son. We share our deepest thoughts, fears, sins and desires with him not because of a relationship that behooves honesty, but because we have no choice. He has given us his nature and we empty our hearts to him because the very nature of God in our hearts compels us to. It’s not a soothing thought perhaps, but the deep connection we feel to God in these times of soul bearing has little to do with us. It’s the Spirit in us drawing us to the Father. We are just so privileged to be the vehicles and the spectators of this wonderful amalgamation of God the Spirit with God the Father through God the Son. What joy to be right in the centre of this event!

Am I saying that there’s no relationship between us and God? That’s not my intention. We should realize that God chose to stand in several relationships with us. As mentioned before, He is Father, Friend, Counselor, Savior, Creator of life and the one who takes it away…and so, so much more. I can think of at least thirty different relationships that God chose to be in with me and then I’m not scraping the surface. They are all between God and me, and the individual content of each connection He has established between us differ so much that in a lifetime I couldn’t get my mind around the core of the nature of these relationships. Suffice to say that God has various relationships with me to which I respond. This response (the core of which is giving my life to him) is called Christianity, because Jesus Christ sealed the covenant. He made the way for it. He was quite clear that He came so that we could come to the Father through him. The relationships the Father wanted to establish with us was on the mind of Jesus. No relationship with Jesus himself was ever at stake.

So here we are. Connected to God and acutely aware of that connection. This connection is sealed in a covenant given and upheld by God through Jesus. Our awareness and celebration of it is through the Spirit in us. Is it a sin to call it a relationship with Jesus? Surely not! I don’t think the Lord minds us calling it that. I’m sure He listens beyond the words we use and hears our hearts in any case.

But it’s still incorrect. It strips the incredible connection that God forged between us of its mystery. The fact that we’ve pasted a vague, descriptive word onto something wonderfully shaded between God and ourselves has caused thousands of unthinking people not to delve into the depths of it, not to try to discover its many colors. We called it a relationship, and because that’s what we believed it is, we had to define it. Welcome to confusion. Instead we should have realized long ago that it’s a bond so mysterious in its nature, with so many different shapes and nuances that it’s a goldmine of infinite depth. We are to be the delvers, the miners of this treasure and we should know that we’ll never quite hold it in our hands. That in this world we’ll only see it glimmer in a bouquet of radiant colors and every time we look into it and find only mystery, we’ll know one thing for sure: It is there! And that is what God wants us to know.

I have often heard Christians say that they were saved on this and this date, that they now know Jesus and have a wonderful relationship with him. I am so glad for the salvation of these people, but my heart mourns their needless spiritual poverty. When did we become such an unthinking generation? Or has our arrogance just blinded us completely?

Do you still wonder why I have such a problem with us using the phrase? Haven’t I admitted that I don’t think God himself has much of a problem with it…?

It’s just that it’s such a glowing example of how we turn sound bytes into theology without thinking them through. It’s the virus of our generation and it infects the kind of Gospel we are handing down to our children. We are teaching people that we can use any words we choose to describe and define the new covenant God has birthed us into. And when they think about it and realize that they don’t understand a word of what we were saying – then they realize that our words don’t mean anything. They stop listening because we’ve stopped thinking.

Christianity is a realization of a mysterious connection between God and us, wrought by a covenant that came into fulfillment through the cross and empty grave of Christ. Think about every one of those words and start digging into their meaning. It should take you at least a lifetime.

Do NOT explain it away. It came much too expensive for us to give it such callous treatment.

the thing with evolution

It’s irrelevant.

That’s the abbreviated version of what follows, for those with little time on hand. Of course this viewpoint brands me a naïve creationist and cynical post-modernists are severely put out by such a statement, but really, it is.

There might be a lot of truth to it. I know many Christians who somehow embrace the weight of scientific evidence that suggests that evolution was part of how God created the universe. So much thought has been given to this by so many clever people and so much has been written about it that I must concede that surely there could be something to it. And truthfully, how would I ever be the wiser? When I hear the word “science” my eyes glaze over like a doughnut, and I gladly leave these things to intellectually better-equipped mortals. What ever it says about me: I just couldn’t care.

I specifically couldn’t care because I’ve figured out that it doesn’t matter. It might matter if you’re trying to prove some scientific or geological point, but if you’re trying to answer really important questions about life itself (and not its history) then you quickly realize that time spent on such theories is time wasted. One main thought motivates me in saying that:

In the one thing that really matters, no evolution has taken place – ever. We are just as uncivilized, barbaric, inhumane, selfish and uncaring as people were thousands of years ago. If evoltion had changed that, it would have been of great value to us. It would have been exciting, because the evidence would then suggest that generations to come would be even more refined: That humans would evolve all by themselves into something closer to the image of God; that we could become little gods really, simply by surviving long enough.

But alas. It’s really unbelievable when you think about how human nature does NOT evolve. With so much history written up, one would think we’d give the learnt lessons a cursory glance and just decide to NEVER be like our ancestors. Apparently we can change what we know but not who we are. We didn’t evolve from some animal to become who we are. We still are some kind of animal, and it’s not a very nice kind. At the time of writing this the cruel atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq have just come to light and the whole world is in shock. What hypocricy! As if any nation on the planet is free from the presence of such brutes. As if any generation has been spared its bullies. As if any one of us doesn’t have a mean streak that we hide as best we can. Any historian will confirm that the cruelest things ever done by people to other people didn’t happen a thousand years ago, but in the past hundred years.

Which is why you can’t believe in evolution in any relevant way. If a process as natural as this can not change our nature, then I say foofah (the Pigmee word for “so what?”)

As a result you have to take sinful nature very seriously. It’s the only thing that stops us from becoming better, more godly creatures. Follow my thinking: If we were created in Gods image and there was a disruption in this image but our nature was left in tact, then beyond any doubt the after-effects of the fall would surely be wiped out thousands of years later. How long could it take for a fallen god to recover if the only thing it needed was enough time? And how sad that the things Adam and Eve did wrong are the very things we do wrong today. The sin of their son Esau is still repeated thousands of times every single day, with the exact same motivation. It’s incredible how many voices I hear today saying that man is actually inherently good – that we don’t have a sinful nature at all. I can only wonder what these theologians might be smoking…

You also have to take very seriously that God doesn’t change and neither does his plan for salvation. If humans have so obviously never changed in the slightest degree, then why would God ever have to adapt himself? If the nature of the beasts He came to liberate has never evolved, why do our most clever thinkers assume that a newer, better plan for the salvation of the human race would be required?

Most of all it follows that we have to take the power of the presence of God very, very seriously. Because, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it changes human nature. It does what thousands of years of evolution hasn’t achieved. It takes a person who is vile, angry, bitter, broken and for the most part dead, and breathes it full of life, joy, healing and hope. I have experienced this and seen it in people right across the earth. I have known it for fifteen years and I know people who have known it far longer than that. It is a permanent thing.
I met a man in Bosnia who had lost 25 members of his family in the Serb-Croat war and his purpose in life was revenge, and revenge only. I heard this man saying how the presence of God moved in and he has forgotten that he wanted revenge. I noticed in his eyes and in the softness of his voice that he was speaking the truth. His new nature had forgotten the very thing that had kept his old nature alive. It’s spectacular!

Sometimes we describe it as an operation performed in our hearts by God. But that falls far short of explaining how our nature can be changed so completely. It is what us humans can only describe as an alien invasion, with the Spirit of God being the alien and our hearts being the invaded space. And then, as if that miracle isn’t enough, the greatest miracle occurs: We find that the alien who has invaded is the only true friend. That the nature we had been carrying around since birth wasn’t a friend in any sense, but an enemy who we had gotten to know really well (those enemies are often mistaken for friends).

If evolution is irrelevant because it fails to change our nature, then it follows that the presence of the power of God is so, so, so relevant. It is the thing that brings God near to me. So near in fact, that I can know him from the inside. So near that the distance between me and him has disappeared. It is the magic potion of God, there for us to swallow and become more like him. And because the magician is God and the potion is his Spirit, the spell it casts is eternal.

And of far more relevant importance:
It is real.

walking on water

I read about many people who have sadly figured it out: Being a Christian today is impossible. I even know a couple of people who have lost their faith. It just got ill one morning and after a brief but brave struggle, keeled over and died. This is no laughing matter, for it leaves these people with a profound sense of loss. One man wrote that it took him years to finally rid himself of the thinking pattern associated with religion. I guess its logical that the after effects of faith can be hard to shake – It roots itself deep into our souls and from there regulates what we allow ourselves to become, or not. It determines our sense of freedom, while it still connects us to a Higher Being to whom we hold ourselves responsible. It means that we feel guilty when we break the laws that govern our faith, and that we fear the consequences (even eternal ones) of not getting it right. It binds us to a distinct moral obligation, one which takes time, money and effort to fulfill. Indeed, faith is all-consuming.

And to lose it is devestating. I can understand how it would take years to rub the effects of a faith-life out of your system, when suddenly you realise that the beliefs you had built it all upon, simply aren’t there any more. The whole house of cards tumbles down with one thought of final admission: “I don’t believe”. But to clear the fallen cards from the floor takes years, and serious people find it very painful.

How sadly ironic that, after all those years, God could show you one glimpse of himself and within five seconds you regain the faith that took you years to erase. This leads to an all new and even greater sense of loss, because the very next realisation is that you have wasted years in trying to erase God from every fibre and bone, and you were wrong in doing so. Wasted, wasted years…and yet that is how it is. If God is real, then building your life upon faith is time well spent, and trying to erase faith from your life is futile – it will hopefully catch up with you while you’re still on the planet and your season of restoration can begin. If God is not real, then the opposite is true. Then believers are to be pitied, for they do not just waste a lot of time, but they cheat themselves out of a life that centres on itself, and we all know that such a life is one great vacation. What a terrible waste, if all of it is in vain.

This whole phenomenon leaves me wondering a couple of things.
I wonder why Christians are so deeply shocked when other Christians loose their faith. And why these people are so quickly and easily rejected by Christians – because they are. It’s as if they have Aids and are spouting blood: Every body becomes so afraid of being infected with what ever made them so ill. It’s an understandable fear, I guess, but it’s so unfair. Because we are all so bad at having faith. It’s a thing that kids are best at, and every year that removes you from childhood, weakens your ability more to just simply believe.

We all know by now that the opposite of faith is certainty, and not disbelief. To believe is not to know, and it never will be. The minute it becomes a certain knowledge, it isn’t faith any more, and no person on earth can claim such a state. God is an invisible mystery and the pivotal point we hang our hats on happened two millenia ago – if it really did. We are believers of the Gospel, and this noun, “belief”’, is all we have. And it’s a fickle thing. Some days it’s so strong that it seems you can touch God. You almost make him a cup of tea and ask him what He wants for dinner. And then the very next day you wonder where that went. A sudden despair hits you when you dread that all the prayers you prayed through the years never got past the ceiling. The ever-present enemy, doubt, spreads through you like an unstoppable virus and, if you’re not too ashamed of yourself, you knock on some ones door for serious prayer, owning up about yesterday making tea for Some One who you now doubt exists. It’s a very humiliating thing to be a believer, because it inevitably means that you are sometimes not one.

If faith is a gift and it is sustained by a Spiritual presence, why reject, frown or laugh at those who loose it? Have you never received a present and struggled to get it out of the wrapper? Faith can be like that. And have you ever been excited about the new bicycle you got and upon your first uphill hundred mile trip, wished you had been given something with an engine…Life is like that, and faith can be miserably inadequate sometimes. It’s all very natural. “Which of course is where the problem lies”, we say from the highest mountain where we soar like eagles, because life hasn’t shot us down yet. We speak the truth when we say that the presence of the Holy Spirit sustains our faith. And that, if you are Spirit-filled, your faith will be strong.

As if we are all, at all times, so Spirit-filled. Let’s be honest about it: Every Spirit-filled day is a wondrous miracle, and if we look at the history of the Church, this miracle doesn’t always abound. We all think we are Spirit-filled, but in a sense that is circular thinking. I don’t want to confuse you, but what we are saying is that we believe in the Holy Spirit, and we believe that his presence sustains our faith. So we are able to believe in something, and that very thing makes this belief possible.

Let’s just face it, faith is fragile. It takes a miracle to sustain it. And those who loose sight of the miracle are just as human as the rest of us. Nothing more, nothing less.

what would jesus eat?

This is the title of a book that came out recently. I saw the title in a review-section of a Christian Magazine, and it brought a smile to my face. I thought: Aha, some good satirist is at work here, taking the Mickey out of the whole “What would Jesus do?” T-shirt campaign. Should be fun, I thought.

But I swallowed my smirk in a moment of sheer disbelief when I read the review. This book is no work of satire. It’s a manual for eating, written in all seriousness, based on the diet Jesus followed – while on earth of course.

I didn’t end up reading the book, so I don’t know what it prescribes and I’m not going to attempt a review of a work I haven’t read. For these mercies the author of it should thank the Lord.

It’s the idea of it that blows my mind.

You don’t have to be post-modern or remotely capable of non-linear thought to realize that we have no means of knowing what Jesus did or didn’t eat. The reason for this is apparent: He was Jesus. He could change any meal before him into any meal He desired. We know He changed water into wine at least once, and you must agree that there’s no better thing on earth to do with water. So Jesus could change foodstuff into different foodstuff and given reason, he didn’t mind doing so.

Now, I’m not saying he did so for personal bliss, without Godly motive and without provocation. But who’s to say that He didn’t?

O.K, I admit the above statement may be a bit argumentative. Let’s all agree that Jesus ate the Mediterranean food of his time, just like every other Mediterranean of his time. Archaeologists, historians and sociologists could probably tell us a lot about what that would look like on a plate. We have some scripture references – bread, fish, water, wine…am I missing anything? Probably, but that’s beside the point. The point is that the book might have been called “What would Jesus, and other Mediterranean people of his time, eat?”. And then we’d still have to assume Jesus didn’t “French” his meals up before he ate them with a magic trick.

Ah. We know that Jesus fasted. And we know that fasting is a good thing. You spend time with God and you loose weight: Both admirable things the modern Christian doesn’t get round to much. So it’s a good thing to draw attention to: that we have a serious example of fasting in the life of Jesus – not that I’ve found a single dietitian who would recommend a 40-day fast. Even so, surely then the book should be called “What did Jesus NOT eat?” And to be thorough: “What did Jesus, and other Mediterraneans of his time, eat when they were not fasting?”

Bad title, but: To my mind that would have given off a whiff of truth. I would assume at the outset that the author was trying to not mislead me, the potential reader. In stead, I immediately assume that the writer is exploiting the name of Jesus to sell me a book which, if judged on the title, could only be full of suppositions.
We have to assume, for instance, what He would have eaten as an old man. He died at 33. We have to assume how much he ate, because we don’t know.
Why do we never see Jesus-drawings where He has a potbelly? Who says He didn’t have a bit of a pouch?

Suppositions are a problem to us in this context, because clearly Jesus didn’t come to introduce us to a good, healthy life-saving diet. I’m trying to be as broadminded as possible here, but the theology just won’t fit. If that were his intention, we’d better read the lines, in between the lines and every commentary written about the lines and the supposed motive behind them. If Jesus came to tell us how to eat, then we’d better go to great lengths to figure it out. And we’d have a hard time at it, because He never said anything about it. Not a thing.

He could have, had He wanted to. Right there in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who use olive oil and garlic, for they shall go to heaven - a lot later than those who don’t. And all they breathe upon shall go immediately.

Sorry, that’s sarcastic and unnecessary. But I’m hard-pressed to see how we could connect Jesus, the Savior of the world, to an eating plan, if that wasn’t his explicit intention. What’s next?
What would Jesus wear?
What would Jesus do after school?
What would Jesus give as Christmas presents?

It can be a never-ending money spinning chain of bestsellers.
But you say: No! You think? Could Christians be that gullible?
Oh please.

There are exceptions, of course.
I remember the newspaper coverage of the “What would Jesus drive” campaign. This was way different, I think. The purpose behind it was clear to see. It had everything to do with pollution, and thus carried a social concern. It’s perfectly fine to connect The Christ with social concern, if you look at his character and calling. But I can’t dream up a single social concern in thinking “What would Jesus eat?”. Because that would mean the message is: He’d eat less, so that there could be enough food for all the poor people on earth. It sounds spiritual. And good natured. And right. Makes me want to say “Merry Christmas!” But it’s boloney. Because how is the second hamburger I choose not to eat (being like Jesus) going to get to Ethiopia where it’s needed? The guy behind me in the line is ready to buy it, and believe me, MacDonald’s is going to sell it to him. Those Ethiopians don’t need my leftovers. They need my money to go buy their own food. The social question isn’t “What would Jesus eat?”, but “What do Ethiopians eat?” and the answer is “Not enough. That’s what.” That should be all I need to know as a concerned Christian.

Please remember that I didn’t read the book. It’s a very good book perhaps. Every one of my concerns is probably addressed and all my criticism deemed unfair. But understand that my concern isn’t with the content. I contend that the title was carelessly chosen. It looks like the name and life of Jesus is being exploited to sell a book about a topic that concerns every third person in the western world, but is way off base as far as the Gospel goes. It’s logical that overweight Christians would think “Hey, I should get this. I’m fat because I don’t eat the way Jesus did and this book is going to show me the light.”
That’s exploitation, and if there’s one thing Jesus DID do, then it was to throw exploiters out of the temple.

Another thing Jesus did, and taught us how to do, was evangelism. And a title like this is bad for evangelism. Because it creates the impression that Christians use Jesus to make money – an impression reinforced by the message and image of almost every TV-evangelist. And it’s not good enough to say that the book is intended for Christians. Books intended for Christians shouldn’t drive others away. Of course the content could, if it’s a radical Christian message, say. But the title? That’s just stupid.

“Jesus” and “Christianity” have become jargon in the marketplace. They are big sellers, and to many people that’s all they are. That there is a “Christian Market” is a great thing for all the good books and CD’s it has made accessible to the public. But it’s a thing worse than the devil for the money-mindedness that often becomes the driving force behind it. Is that too strongly put? I don’t think so. I tend to think that a contorted image of Christ deliberately presented to the world by Christians in order to make money, is worse than things done by the devil. (And, for those who are still confused, Ronald MacDonald is NOT the devil).

At the very least we have a serious moral dilemma. We all know that cheap sound bytes, half-truths and marketing tricks are being used in the Christian Market, and yet we do nothing about it because we can’t imagine life without the great products it puts in our hands. We close our one eye so that the other can feast on the delicacies that make our Christian walk easier and fun. By now the erosion has gone so far that most Christians don’t see it anymore, and those who do, can’t see what is to be done about it. What can a mere individual or church do against the huge corporations that feed this market without conscience?

I don’t know. But seeing the truth for what is and passionately caring about its preservation is always where we should start. Being determined to not just preserve the name of Jesus Christ but also his image and character should be our foremost intention. If it isn’t, whose kingdom are we building?

worship and good theology

…have less to do with another than you might like to think.

I have trained many worship teams in many countries, and I can tell you with confidence that not one of them wishes to sing shallow songs when they worship together. I can also tell you that many a church leadership still frets continuously about the question: Are the nice songs that people want to sing theologically sound?

Which is a question that shouldn’t even exist.

Imagine David crying out to God in the midst of his desperation the way he does in many Psalms, but stopping to think: “Wait, shouldn’t I put these words together in a more theologically sound way? Yes, I’m being honest, pouring my heart out and all that. But am I being dogmatically sound?”

What a pristine, but heartless and plastic collection of Psalms he would have left us. And yet we seem to think that everything has changed. That when we now pray and put these prayers to music we should take great care to be Biblical above all in our approach lest the prayers and songs be unworthy of inclusion in worship services.

But how can we achieve this purpose without being outright dishonest or at least covering up some things? We aren’t Biblical in nature. We are human in nature and our prayers and songs are supposed to sweat, bleed and cry out to God for salvation, restoration, grace and comfort. All we understand about God tells us that he wants to hear our hearts as honest as we can present them. Most of the time this doesn’t lead to a very lofty affair.

It seems to me that some churches will be happy if they can strip worship of its human component completely. The thinking is that Godly things honor God the best. The natural conclusion of such thought is that Christianity is best served by taking it out of the Christian. This is preposterous. What ever God does with us when we become Christians, it’s a sure thing that He leaves us completely human. Christianity is a celebration of God in us and us in Him. Worship is the soundtrack of this celebration, when I in the imperfection of my humanity reach to touch the hem of his coat, the tip of his toe, the hair on his arms, the nail scars in his hands, the soft furrows in his brow. It’s when I do all this and yet not for a minute cease to be me; that’s when it’s real enough for God to take an interest.

When church leadership (on what ever level) control what the congregation is allowed to sing, with the wonderful motive of keeping things “theologically sound” and “pure” in the house of the Lord, what are they really doing?
At the very least they are communicating that the average Christian is not to be trusted when he or she sings to God; that a measure of external control is necessary or things will go wrong. At the worst they are transforming what could have been honest worship into a performance of high Christian culture; decorated with rhyme, meter, poetry and prose, but stripped of the most important thing a church service could hope for: The participation of the human heart.

How did it get to be this way, I wonder? When did we get so theological when talking to God and so humanistic in interpreting what God is saying to us? Is it really so hard to see that we have these two things switched around and we should switch them back?

If David had gotten on the theological high horse when he wrote Psalm 51, we would never even have heard of him. He wouldn’t have made it into the Book, I think. His heart would have been an insignificant piece of plastic.

It’s time we decided how insignificant we want our hearts to be. What’s the level of honesty we are happy with when we sing and speak to the Lord? Are we even happy with the existence of the term “level of honesty”, as if such a thing could exist in the presence of a holy God?

If Christ came to set us free for any one thing, then it must be this: To be human, look upon the Lord, and live.

written on my heart

Some people ask whether the Bible is true.

Hmmm…

Isn't that kind of like asking Mark Shuttleworth up there in his space shuttle whether the instruction manual for the thing is true, really true, reliably true and absolutely true? "Mark do you know that it was written by a Russian in Russian like a hundred years ago, and ja, the guy who built the thing wrote the manual, but still, it's written in Russian by a Russian who was obviously biased towards Russia… and who can trust those Ruskies??”

Well, Mark went up and Mark came down. With that manual. It brought him home. In Russian! And that's how I feel about the Bible: It brought me home. It changed me when nothing else could change me. It showed me the way, and the more I trusted it to be God's primary means of revelation, the more I got to understand the Russian bits. Oh, there are some Russian sections left, because I'm not a particularly good grasper of the Old Testament, but God's not finished with me yet. And besides, I'm supposed to be enrolled in a continuous translation course!

The Bible came alive to me when I became a Christian thirteen years ago. Until then it was just another book. With gory bits, poetic bits, very weird sections and an overall sort of boring feel. And it was too thick. Way too thick. But boy, did Jesus change all that. As He breathed life into my spirit, He also breathed life into those written words. I read His spoken words and the story of his life and death and resurrection. It burnt into my heart like a permanent tattoo and I knew with amazing clarity that it would be my spirit's backbone for ever. I remember thinking "Hey, this is no history lesson. This stuff is alive!” I got to love Paul's letters with all their big words. I got so much meat for my spiritual bones from them. Still do. In fact, the whole New Testament leapt up from the pages and hit home with clarity. (That's if I exclude Revelations, which is like a 3D picture. There's some Russian there, and this Boertjie needs another lecture or two).

I think I could probably rave on for two more pages (which I kindly won't): Just a bit, though: When I think of how God's Biblical portrait of marriage has transformed our marriage; how countless times God's promises has encouraged and carried me through ; how the Old Testament- heroes of our faith have been role models and teaching tools; how understanding the old covenant has helped me to grab the depth of the new one; how seeing the love, grace, wisdom and faithfulness of God throughout his chosen account of history has helped me to know the character of a God who promised to always be the same…

Nope. Never been a problem with the Bible. But there's always been a problem with us, hasn't there? Because we're the ones who interpret, who analise, who decide with arrogance and limited revelation what's true and what's not. We read with the logical eye of scientists and historians and generally puffed up clever people and then…well, a lot of it doesn't make sense any more.

And then we go: "Written too long ago. Not relevant. Contradicts itself. Contradicts science. Is historically inacurate. Carries insufficient evidence to prove it's own truth…”

Ag, mag die Here ons tog help, né. (May the Lord pleeease be patient with us).

I don't know, frankly, whether the instruction manual of a space shuttle can make your new home computer function. I'm just a musician, but I don't think you'll have much joy. Likewise you'll strike a malfunction if you apply the Bible in the wrong way to the wrong stuff with the wrong guidance. The Holy Spirit must be your primary guide. Trusting the God of revelation with faith and longsuffering is another one. And solid, Spiritfilled teachers who don't only know the Greek and the Hebrew and the social context, but also the Writer himself…jip, add that to the mix as well – taking great care! But primarily, really way above all else, let Jesus write it on your heart. Let Him etch it in there so that no heresies can wipe it off. That's what he said He would do!

Hey, I don't know how many toes Adam and Eve had and whether they walked up straight. I don't know whether Jonah's whale was real or whether that's a myth as big as a whale. I don't know how deep the Red Sea was, whether giants really existed and how exactly Sampson wacked so many Phyllis-tines into the great beyond with a donkey's jaw. There's a lot of Russian there. You want to throw the whole manual away, because the one who wrote it included some stuff that you don't get with your (stretched to capacity) I.Q???

I don't. I can't, because so much of it is written on my heart. Undeniably. And it has made me new. And there's the proof, right there. It's true, it works, it's as real as my Mother In Law. His character, his heart, his rules of thumb, his big picture, his covenant…it's all there and only there.

My X-er friend, I know you have a problem with absolute truth that applies to all people. That you'd like to believe, even as a Christian, that there could be a way out of the global authority God has given His Word. That you'd plead for flexibility. But God doés believe in absolute truth, because He believes in himself. Are you O.K with that? If not, take a walk and get over it. I did! And I've been so grateful to God for being bigger than my worldview.

Take up your Bible. Read your Bible. Believe your Bible. Go for the gold and see what God massages into your heart. When you get to Russian bits, phone a friend. Give it time. Try it on next month. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's a baby there as big as your mama.

It's for real!!

Afrikaans
afrikanse boek : beste judas

LEES BOEK >

VOORWOORD DEUR DIE SKRYWER

Haai

Ek het skielik een aand in die bad die boek begin uitdink. Besluit self as jy klaar gelees het of bad ‘n goeie ding is.

Kan nou nog nie pinpoint presies wat die boek bedoel is om te wees, of wat die groot motief agter dit is nie.
Dit het gevoel soos iets wat op papier wou uitval.

‘Skies aan die puriste vir die babelse afrikaans wat ek in die boek besig. Ek wou eerlik skryf, en as jy ‘n gedagte eers in die regte woord intimmer dan raak hy opgesmuk. So toe skryf ek soos die goed uitkom en klaar.

Man dis ‘n vreeslike stirfry. Val vieslik tussen genres deur. Is dit miskien die punt?

My generasie val tussen genres deur.

Droogvoet deur die Jordaan (gedra) kyk ons met vraagtekens na die kaalgestroopte druiwetrosse; soek dorsbenoud in leë kanne na heuning en melk en wyn.

Maar as ons afkyk sien ons goeie grond. En as ons opkyk, ‘n wolkie so groot soos ‘n hand.

Geniet die boek.
Louis

LEES BOEK >

die storie agter nuwe wyn

Nuwe Wyn is seker my bekendste lied. Kort na die vrystelling van die album waarop dit is, het dit aan my ‘n ATKV liertoekenning besorg. Laurika Rauch het dit sedertdien ook opgeneem en waar ek ookal optree in ons land, sing mense dit luidkeels saam. Dis ‘n wonderlike belewenis, want die lied se liriek vra die Here op ‘n passievolle, brose manier om meer van sy Gees in ons uit te giet. En dis mos presies wat ons behoort te bid!

Stort is lekker, en baie liedjies begin sommer so terwyl ‘n man stort. Maar nie Nuwe Wyn nie. Hy is in Bosnië gebore.

Ek het in Julie 1998 ‘n span van die VCSV na Bosnië en Kroasië vergesel op ‘n korttermyn uitreik. Ek en my orkes sou optree in dorpe waar meeste mense nog nooit die evangelie gehoor nie, en waar dié wat het, Christenskap as ‘n sekte beskou. Die oorlog was nog vars in die Bosniërs se geheue, en tussen die haat, bitterheid, gekoesterde wraak en die geestelike beklemming van Islam en die Russiese Ortodokse geloof deur, het ons besef dat die taak moeilik sou wees! Ek het egter kans gesien, want ek was reeds 5 jaar voltyds in jeugbediening, en ek het goed verstaan dat ‘n jongmens maar ‘n jongmens is. Waar hy ookal in die wêreld is, sy behoeftes en probleme is maar dieselfde. Ek het die Here vertrou om my ervaring, kennis en gawes te gebruik. Ek was effens bang vir die sluipskutters en mortiere, maar vir die bediening het ek kans gesien.

Skaars het ek egter die sendelinge daar ontmoet, of ek het begin onrustig raak. Hulle eerste woorde was “Vergeet alles wat jy dink jy weet!” en dit was moeilik om te verstaan. Hulle het verduidelik dat die geestelike oorlog baie werklik is in Bosnië, en dat elke woord wat gesê of gepreek word teenoor nie-Christene, ernstig oor gebid word voor die tyd: Dat selfs terwyl ons optree, voorbidders vir my sou kom sê of in hoe ‘n mate ek kon voortgaan met die preek van die Evangelie. Dinge was op ‘n mespunt, en baie welmenende Christene het vantevore skade berokken, omdat hulle daar ingevaar het soos Os du Randt tussen ‘n klomp Urugaïse agterspelers.

Met die voorbereiding vir die eerste konsert het ek reeds vasgeval. Ek het eensklaps besef dat niks wat ek van jongmense weet, relevant is vir Bosnië se oorlogkinders nie: Dat my getuienis nie hier relevant kon wees nie en dat ek ook nie uit die Bybel kon preek nie, want hulle sou geen idee hê waarvan ek praat nie. Ek het besef dat my gehoor sou bestaan uit moordenaars, verkragters, verkragdes en jongmense wat in die afgelope 5 jaar amper al hulle familie aan die dood afgestaan het. My gehoor sou werkloos, verbitterd en vol wrewel wees. Hulle sou die woord “liefde” glad nie ken nie, en nie eers weet wie is Moses nie, om nie te praat van Jesus nie. Ek kon nie aan een woord dink om te sê nie, en vir ‘n voltydse kommunikeerder is dit ‘n vreemde situasie om in te wees. En toe begin ek bid soos die sendelinge in Bosnië bid!!

Ek het onmiddellik moes bely dat ek gedink het ek weet hoe die Here werk. Dat ek gedink het my antwoorde sou altyd genoeg wees – dat ek suksesvol sou kon bedien met my opleiding en ervaring in pag. Ek moes bely dat my kennis en ervaring die plek van die Heilige Gees kom inneem het. Dit was swaar dinge om vir die Here te sê. Dis hoe ek begin bid het “Here, ek het te veel woorde, en te min Nuwe Wyn. Maak dit in my andersom!”

Ek het in Bosnië meer wonderwerke beleef as wat ek kos geeët het. Ek het oorwinning in ‘n geestelike oorlog gesien soos ek nie gedink het dis moontlik nie. Ek het gesien dat die Evangelie nie gaan oor woorde wat ons preek en sing nie, maar oor die krag van die Heilige Gees wat werk, ver bo dit wat die mens se verstand kan verstaan. Ek het daar besef dat ek nie ‘n idee het hoe ontsaglik die Here werklik is nie!

Ek het teruggekom en geweet dat die Bruidegom nog steeds die water in wyn verander as jy gebroke vir dit vra. Terwyl ek op ‘n 15cm breë bankie agter in die Landdrover oor Bosnië se stukkende paaie gewip het, het ek Nuwe Wyn begin skryf en ek het dit by Hoërskool Ermelo op die trappies van die saal klaargemaak terwyl ek ‘n C-Kruis span daar besoek het.

Vandag nog probeer ek die woorde opreg bid elke keer as ek dit sing, want ek weet hoe maklik ek die Wyn met slim woorde vervang.

dis nie 'n linkerbrein-ding nie

Geestelike intelligensie is soos balvang. Enigiemand kan balle vang. Klein kindertjies selfs. Party word gebore met ‘n ongelooflike vermoë - een of ander bloedlyn-blessing. Sommige oefen dit hard en word soos Jonty. Party kan nét dit doen en word soos outistiese kinders met ‘n splinterskill: kan net nie misvang nie. Maar kan dalk nie tussen Oros en rooiwyn onderskei nie. En wat help dit die wêreld?

Geestelike intelligensie is nie ‘n linkerbrein-ding nie. Wetenskaplikes is dikwels die slegste daarmee. Dominees en pastore vaar nie noodwendig beter nie. Kleuters het wavragte daarvan. Dis ‘n onregverdige bedeling, en dis ook rassisties: Afrikane, Chinese, Koreane en Indiërs het die meeste. Europiërs en Amerikaners het die minste. Materiële welvaart laat dit afneem. Niemand weet hoekom nie.

Dit woon in ‘n kamer in ons koppe wat niemand nog kon identifiseer nie. Daar is verskeie deure in die kamer in, soos enige okkultis jou sal kan sê as jy die moed sou hê om te vra. Christus is by verre die veiligste deur; Sy Gees by verre die beste gids deur die onbekende geheimenisse van die siel. Daar is ander gidse ook, maar die ou mense reken hulle is wolwe in skaapklere. En die ou mense weet.

Geestelike intelligensie werk met petrol en die Heilige Gees is dit. Die prys daarvan gaan genadiglik nooit op nie. Dit was nog altyd peperduur en terselftertyd verniet. Geestelik-intelligente mense verstaan dit.

So wat is geestelike intelligensie? Ek skat dit is om na ‘n blom te kyk en God te sien, sonder om te dink die blom is God. Dis om in die spieël te kyk en meer lewe te kan sien as die somtotaal van vorm en vlees. Dis om in die diepste donker die lig van hoop te kan sien sonder om eers jou oë oop te maak. Dis om in die eerste plek intuitief te weet dat die mens ‘n gees het: ‘n bewoonbare ruimte; ‘n beheersentrum.

Dis om te weet dat die mens meer is as ‘n soogdier wat leer regop loop het.
En hoekom.

hie neffens my

Die vyand vra nou waar, waar is jou se God, trane worre elke dag my brood, op die groot duin sit my siel en kreun, dit smaak my onse Here los my alleen, dan sien ek hie neffens my sit God, hie neffens my, hie neffens my sit God. Want Hy is mos Here wat ons ongeluk kan omdraai in 'n groterder geluk.

Uit "In die skylte van die Jirre" berym deur Hans du Plessis

Nie dat julle wat hier lees noodwendig Griekwas is nie, maar wat 'n beautiful manier om te sê dat God hier is. In lekker vetgevoerde taal soos dit hoort.

Kom ons raak nie nou hier hoogdrawend en swaarlywig oordat Jesus by ons kom wees het nie. Dis Desember. Dis somer. Dis kersfees. Kom ons bly by woorde wat mens songeel laat sien, fluweel laat voel en kersiewyn laat ruik. Sodat ons kan voel hoe naby God is. En kan sien hoe mooi Hy is. In sy liefde kan lê kry soos in 'n donsduvet – om sy innigheid te ervaar soos die gloed van 'n kaggel.

Wat 'n wonderlike woord: ervaar. En wat 'n gesteelde ding.

Ai, dat ons lot westerlinge so rasioneel, wetenskaplik en stompsinnig moet wees. Dat ons deur opvoeding, intellek en erfenis tot die intuisie van 'n kaktus gedoem moet wees. Dat ons so van Christus se soene wegdraai, hom van sy minnaarskleed stroop en hom tot die kaalte van 'n godsdiens ontklee.

Ons is die gaste wat die kersfeeskalkoen opsy skuif en die tafeldoek opeet. Wat bely dat ons die Lewe het terwyl ons in strak rigor mortis wonder hoe die waarheid dan so onwerklik kan wees.

Wel, daar’s 'n verskil tussen waarheid en werklikheid. Ek het byvoorbeeld in Standard 7 geleer hoe 'n babatjie ontstaan, gebore word, begin asemhaal…en ek’t gedink "Watter wonderlike biologie." Ek was werklik geimponeer. En toe, anderjaar, het ek my eie pasgebore dogtertjie in my een hand se palm vasgehou. Ek het gesien hoe skep 'n nuwe lewetjie haar eerste asem. Gevoel hoe gryp geitjievoet-vingertjies my duim vas om te sê "Ek is hier!" Dit was verruklik. Onvergeetlik.

Wil jy glo, ek het nog nooit, ooit, aan my kind as 'n stuk biologiese waarheid gedink nie?

Sy IS 'n waarheid, maar sy’s soveel groter as dit: Sy’s 'n werklikheid. Iemand wat ek inniglik ervaar. En die analogie met Christus is lewensbelangrik. Hoekom dink jy immers het God ons laat weet Sy Seun heet Immanuel? Om ons te terg? Vet, nee!

Om ons te laat verstaan dat Die Waarheid vir ons 'n werklikheid wil wees. En dis my gebed vir jou in hierdie seisoen: Dat God wat vir jou WAAR is, vir jou 'n werklikheid sal wees. Dat jy Hom sal ruik in die reën, sal proe in donker sjokolade, sal hoor in 'n kleuter se lag. Dat jy Hom sal voel in die arms van 'n vriend, sal vind in 'n Oumatjie se plooie. Dat jy God in jou en om jou sal kan voel nesmaak. Dat jou gees die afdruk van sy sagte ysterarms sal leer ken. Dat God vir jou 'n sielsgenot sal word. Dat jy jouself in Hom sal verloor, en Hom in jouself sal vind. Dat jy Hom sal kan hoor sê: Toe, kom nou. Vat aan my."

Hie neffens jou sit God. Sien jy?

Hy’t homself in menswees toegedraai, en wag opgewonde vir jou om die pakkie oop te maak.

Geseënde kersfees!

klein plekkies

Tussen niks en nêrens.

Vir meeste cityjocks is die platteland ‘n plek om te vermy. Dis waar mens vandaan kom, nie waarheen jy gaan nie. Om soontoe verplaas te word, voel soos ‘n swaar vonnis en mens is heimlik oortuig dat jy binne drie maande daar sal sterf weens ‘n gebrek aan lewensgenietinge. Mall-starvation. McDonaldsindroom.

Ek kom baie op klein plekkies, en ek raak al meer oortuig dat die Here ‘n baie sagte oog het vir hulle. Ek sien dit veral in die mense wat Hy soontoe stuur: Dinamiese ouens wat SR-lede was op Varsity en geoormerk was vir jobs in New York of dan minstens Randburg. Wakker vroumense wat vir Pam Golding onder die tafel in sou kon verkoop. Jongmense wie jy eerder in London sou verwag as aan’t Biologie gee in Porterville of Paternoster. En as jy hulle vra hoe hulle daar beland het, dan glimlag hulle skuins, want God droom anders oor mense as wat die skrywers van motiveringsboeke sou dink.

Ek ry dikwels skoon uitgeboul weg by so ‘n plek want ek het ‘n gemeente aangetref wat skynbaar nie ‘n clue het hoe klein hulle dorp is nie. Wriemel soos miere. Hou vyf sendelinge aan in die Oekraine en stuur jaarliks ‘n span mense (wat verlof daarvoor insit) soontoe om te gaan toilette bou. Het ook ‘n vennootskap met ‘n krotkerk in Mosambiek wie se Moruti soms op hulle kansel kom preek. Mense wat dink jy kan op enige bult sit in die Kalahari en die wêreld se gang dikteer. En na drie dae tussen hulle begin ek toegee: Hulle het iets beet…

Moenie die platteland vlak kyk nie. 2009 jaar terug al het ‘n timmermanseun van so ‘n dorpie af die hele wêreld op sy kop laat staan. En Mel Gibson het nou die dag nog oor hom ‘n fliek gemaak. Die Here doen groot dinge op klein plekkies…

my geloof is ondeurdag

Die slim stemme van ons tyd skryf almal van ‘n geloof wat intellektuele integriteit het. Wat verdedigbaar en verduidelikbaar is teenoor mense wat vir hulle self kan dink. Sodat ons maar kan opstaan in goeie geselskap en bely dat ons Christene is, sonder om aangekyk te word asof ons kwyl en ons gesigte eenkant slap hang omdat ons obviously pas na geboorte deur die dokter laat val is.

Die slim stemme hou dit voor dat so ‘n geloof, wat deurdink is en die toets van die logika deurstaan het, die hoë ideaal is waarheen alle Christene streef. Want dan is ons immers verskans teen die harde vrae van die tyd en kan ons met goeie argumente God se advokate wees. Dit klink wonderlik, ek moet sê. Ek hunker na so ‘n geloof. Ek wil dinge so helder kan verstaan en in groot woorde kan uitdruk. Ek wil minstens die slim stemme se woorde kan verstaan.

Maar ek druip die toets loshande, selfs in die aand (soggens voor 11 is ek ‘n vegetable). Want my geloof is ondeurdag. Ek kan dit op geen manier logies regverdig nie. Ek kan dit nie in geleerde geselskap verdedig nie. Met my as advokaat kry Christus die galg. Vir elkeen van my argumente is daar ‘n slim teenargument: So slim dat ek dikwels in amperse ongeloof gaan slaap, oortuig dat ek net nie slim genoeg is om te kan verstaan dat God dood is of eintlik ‘n klomp name het nie. Dan lê ek wakker met hierdie groot vrees: Het ‘n dominee (wat nou Amway verkoop) my nie dalk destyds ‘n rat voor die oë gedraai nie? Glo ek want ek’s die Village Idiot?

En dan staan ek die volgende dag op, en vind dat ek steeds glo. Dat ek selfs sterker geloof gevind het iewers deur die nag se twyfel. En ek is skaam om dit te sê, want dit is nie logies nie. Dis ‘n intellektuele onmoontlikheid. Hoe kan mens gaan slaap met jou geloof in likwidasie en agt ure later het dit ‘n stewige saldo? Dit klink asof ek jok, en dit voel ook so as ek die ding deeglik probeer deurwerk.

Maar as ek dit net vlakweg bedink (in kort, gewone woorde) dan besef ek dat geloof en logika soveel met mekaar te doen het as Laurika met Patricia: Uhmmm....Albei haal asem. ‘n Gelowige mens kan dink. ‘n Denkende mens kan glo. Maar jy kan nie geloof uitdink nie, en Goddank, jy kan jou ook nie uit geloof uit dink nie. Geloof is ‘n onseker besigheid bedoel vir kinders, imbisiele en genië insgelyks. Dit staan nie teenoor ongeloof nie, want ongeloof is ‘n bestanddeel van geloof. Dit staan eerder teenoor sekerheid. ‘n Mens kan immers redeneer tot by ‘n ideologie waarvan jy seker kan wees. Maar jy kan jouself nooit in so ‘n toestand inglo nie.

Geloof is ‘n glibberige tou wat uit die hemel hang. Christus het dit gespan en sy Gees maak daarin knope waaraan my hande en voete haak as ek gly. Geloof is ‘n gawe, ‘n geskenk wat soms moeilik uit die giftwrap loswoel. Dis ‘n verslawende verrassing, ‘n lewensaar en ‘n kopknoper. En as dit uit voorraad raak, dan maak ek oë toe en gebruik die idioot se intelligentste opsie: Ek bid vir meer.

my lyf is 'n kerk

“Weet jy nie, weet jy nie jy’s ‘n tempel…?” het ons altyd as kinders gesing, en met die eerlikheid wat veronderstel is om ons generasie te kenmerk, moet ek sê nee, ek weet dit nie. Ek het geen clue hoe ‘n tempel lyk nie. Ek kan daaroor oplees en so, maar dit bly ‘n vae prent van ‘n tenterige ding met ‘n altaar wat vir my geestesoog al te veel na ‘n moskee lyk. Tempels is nie deel van my wêreld nie, so ek kan nie sê ek weet ek is een nie. Boonop lui die teks dat my liggaam ‘n tempel van die Heilige Gees is, en die woord liggaam is vir my hoogdrawend en abstrak. Dit laat my vreeslik vet voel om te dink ek is ‘n liggaam, so asof ek ‘n skuur is, of een van hierdie groot lorries waarmee mense verhuis.

So ek sê liewer my lyf is ‘n kerk. Dit klink miskien plat, maar minstens verstaan ek die woorde en voel dit eerlik. ‘n Kerk is op ‘n manier die Here se woonplek, en ‘n baie spesiale ontmoeting tussen God en mens vind daarbinne plaas. Dat dit met my lyf so is, is ‘n wonderlike misterie, maar dis onteenseglik waar. Dit vergeestelik die bestaan van hierdie hopie vel, beendere, spiere en oortollige res wat ek my lyf noem. Dit maak dat ek in die spieël kyk en weet dat daar baie meer onder my vel aangaan as dit wat die blote oog kan sien. ‘n Kerk is immers ‘n baie heiliger plek as die Aktekantoor se teekamer – en my lyf is een. God sê so!

Op baie ander maniere is my lyf ‘n kerk, of ek nou daarvan hou of nie. Ons weet almal dat daar heelwat twis gepaard gaan met kerkwees. Die oumense en die jongmense veg oor die styl, die orrelis en kitaarslaners wil mekaar die hemel inhelp, dominees verskil oor spirituele aksente, en nou praat ons nog nie oor die bekgevegte wat jou deursnee kerkraadvergadering kan kenmerk nie. Net so is my lyf vol innerlike konflik. Onskuld en slu lis sit langs mekaar in my hart en gluur vir mekaar. Sonde en die begeerte om nie te sondig nie baklei konstant. Liefde en respek vir my medemens stoei met jaloesie en afguns – die begeerte om my eie plekkie in die son te kan hê. Berou en ontkenning veg oor wie die reg het om my filosofie oor sondigheid te bestuur.
Die reg om my koninkrykie te bou en behou maak letterlik oorlog met die wete dat ek hier is om God s’n te bou.

En dan is daar nog estetika. Watter kerk wil nou ‘n lelike gebou sonder ‘n dak hê? Immers moet die argitektuur en mooigeit van die ding iets van God se heerlikheid weespieël (moet tog nie hierdie teologie in die Nuwe Testament gaan soek nie). Net so wil die gemeente in my hart in ‘n mooi gebou tuisgaan. Wie wil nou bleskop wees as jy ‘n welige dos kan hê mét highlights? Wie wil nou soos ‘n walrus lyk as jy met genoeg dieëet en sweet soos Brad Pitt se stiefboetie kan lyk? Die waardes van ons tyd maak van die spieël my vyand, en ‘n swaar klem lê op die estetika van my lyfkerk.

So bly die voortbestaan van die kerk in my lyf net so ‘n wonderwerk as, wel, die voortbestaan van enige gemeente. Die boodskap wat daarvandaan uitgaan is baie meer een van God se lankmoedigheid en genade as wat dit een is van iets wat in sy ewebeeld geskape is om al meer van sy heerlikheid te reflekteer. “God leef in my en wil jy glo, Hy oorleef!” is die motto wat ek skamerig-eerlik teen die muur langs die preekstoel opplak.

Maar wat het dit te doen met die groot spoke wat ons land uit die slaap hou? Met Vigs en armoede en werkskepping; die verkondiging en uitleef van die Evangelie op geloofwaardige maniere?

Miskien niks, en miskien alles. Miskien is party kerke net voorwerpe van goud en silwer in die eienaar se huis. Hulle blink met prag en praal; het gepoetste strukture, visies en aksieplanne – is so purpose-driven dat hulle Microsoft na ‘n plakkerkerkie in Soweto laat lyk: Maak hulle die koerante met hoe smart hulle is, maar die hande wat stywerig opgaan in hulle vorm-eredienste is sagte, gemanikuurde goedjies wat net TV-remotes kan hanteer sonder om te breek. Pragtig, maar in onbruik.

Miskien is my lyf so ‘n kerk.

En miskien is die Bybel reg dat jy kerke kry wat met die dowwe glans van ou, harde hout glim. Wat lelik is soos klei wat in ‘n oond gebak is tot amper barstens toe – getoets en bruikbaar gevind. Wat vir dié wat diep genoeg kan kyk, mooi word soos net karakter, integriteit en onwrikbare commitment aan Waarheid mooi kan wees. Miskien is daar kerke wat vir die eienaar bruikbaar is vir enige goeie werk - Is die hande wat in hulle soms onprofessionele eredienste opgaan eelterige goed vol barste met sieserige vuil naels wat plek-plek tot in die lewe afgebreek is. Miskien lééf die werkersklas-kerk nog, en miskien is my lyf so ‘n kerk.

As daar een ding is wat ‘n verpesting is, dan’s dit dat ek die keuse het watse kerk my lyf gaan wees vir die res van my lewe. Dat ek self moet besluit waar ek fondasies gaan bou en gemeentegrense gaan neerlê. En wat ‘n frustrasie: God sal in hierdie kerk bly al doen ek wat met Hom. Sy bloedverbond maak dat Hy bly, dat hy nie ‘n ander, foutloser gemeente gaan opsoek nie. Hy’s nie ‘n church-hopper nie. Sou Hy uiteindelik waai, skrik ek my oë dalk oop en verander totaal-verkeerde waardekeuses. Maar sy begeerte is duidelik dat die aanwesigheid van sy persoon genoég behoort te wees om die rigting, visie, geografie en relevansie van hierdie kerk te kan bepaal.

Daar’s net een soort kerk wat in Afrika kan werk. Ag, baie soorte kan oorleef, want om te oorleef kos immers tog net geld. Maar net een soort kan die liggaam van Christus vir mense sigbaar, tasbaar en begeerlik maak.

Is my lyf so ‘n kerk?
Is joune?

skerp ma's

(hierdie artikel illustreer waarom my vrou my nie toelaat om Ouerskap boeke saam met haar te skryf nie)

Ons het ‘n oulike Ma ontmoet in Denver, Colorado. Haar laaitie wou ‘n woeste tattoo op sy arm laat inbrand. Sy reageer toe baie opgewonde, en sê sy kom saam: Wat ookal hy op sy arm laat tattoeer, word op haar bors ook aangebring. Haar tiener is narerig daar uit. Die blote gedagte om met dieselfde tattoo te moet loop as wat jou Ma op haar bors het…

Partykeer is ‘n skerp antwoord beter as die gewone sedepreek Dis asof kinders tussen 12 en 18 die hele frekwensie uitsny waarop Ma’s goeie redes verskaf vir uitsprake van die “hof”. Hulle noem dit Radio Sanik, en hulle kies om nie in te skakel nie. Dink dus vooruit aan ‘n paar vrae wat jy kan verwag, en wees gereed met vernuftige terughoue. Hier volg ‘n paar voorbeelde om jou aan die dink te sit:

Ma, ek wil ‘n neusring/naeltjiering hê
Gaan onmiddellik op jou knieë en sê “Dankie, Lieweheer – sy kon dit op baie erger plekke wou gehad het.” En terwyl jy die geld uithaal: “As jou Pa vra wat dit is, sê hom dis ‘n nuwe soort ysterpuisie.” (Maak seker ‘n html-bladsy van die internet af oor hoe die goed kan uitsweer verskyn op jou kind se bed. En onspan dan. Veel erger goed as studs kan met jou kind gebeur. En geluk met die mooi verhouding wat jy met jou kind het: Meeste tieners vra nie – kom net met die ysterware by die huis aan.

As ek moet kies tussen drank en sigarette, wat stel Ma voor?
“Drank. Die dood kom vinniger en in jou slaap. En nou moet ek kies of ek jou gaan onterf of vermoor. Wat stel jy voor? Kyk, ek weet jou pelle wil hê jy moet darem iets doen om cool te wees, maar as die duiwel jou wil laat kies tussen malaria en melaatsheid, dan dink jy nie eers daar oor nie. Jy hardloop weg en sê een twee drie blok myself. Elke keuse het implikasies. Maak dit, en leef daarmee.” (Jy kan ontspan. Tieners wat règtig wil rook of drink, vra nie hulle Ma’s nie, want dis nie cool om dit te doen as jou Ma gesê het dis O.K nie.)

Hoekom mag my vriendin dit doen en ek nie?
“Want jou vriendin se Ma is lief vir haar en wil haar gelukkig maak. Ek gee nie vir jou om nie en sê nee om jou te spite. As dit vir jou bietjie vreemd klink: Probeer glo dat ek nèt nee sê omdat ek jou wil beskerm. Party Ma’s is so: As hulle die wolf hoor klop, sluit hulle gou die deur. Dit hou miskien die posman ook buite, maar die wolf sal honger gaan slaap.”

Hoekom moet ek kerk toe gaan?
“Jy hoef nie, maar onthou net, jy vra die Here elke eksamen om saam met jou Wiskunde te gaan skryf. As jy Hom kan vra om eksamenlokaal toe te gaan as jy hom daar nodig het, kan Hy jou vra om kerk toe te gaan as Hy jou daar nodig het. Dis net fair. Dis in elk geval ongeskik om heeltyd nee te sê as Iemand jou oornooi.” (Maar hoor mooi hoekom hy nie wil kerk toe gaan nie, Ma, en moenie dwing nie. Daar’s dikwels goeie redes en soms goeie alternatiewe.)

Hoekom is Ma so outyds? Kan Ma nie bietjie bykom nie?
“Ek dog jy gaan nooit vra nie! Natuurlik kan ek. Hier’s R100 – vanmiddag vat jy my op ‘n shopping spree by Mr Price. En as jou pa vra hoekom ek soos ‘n tiener aangetrek is, dan sê jy “Ek weet nie Pa, maar sy kry sulke gloede ook. Weird!” O ja, en die R100 kom van jou sakgeld af – ek betaal vir jou opvoeding, so jy kan vir myne betaal.”

weens 'n gebrek aan kennis

Hoe lank is die vier basiese temperamente al aan ons bekend? Hoe lank reeds weet ons dat die mens linker- of regterbrein dominant is? Hoe lank weet ons al dat daar verskillende liefdestale is? Hoe lank reeds is ‘n reeks soos Bruce Wilkinson se Biblical Protrait of Marriage beskikbaar?

Ver meer as ‘n dekade, in al bogenoemde gevalle. En tog is dit die reël in Suid Afrika dat mense nie weet wat hulle temperament-samestelling is nie, nie weet weet watter liefdestaal hulleself en hulle eggenoot praat nie en nog nooit ‘n kursus soos Biblical Portrait deurloop het nie. Verbeel jou dat ons getroud is, maar ek weet nie hoe my kop werk nie en ook nie hoe my hart werk nie. Ek weet nog minder hoe joune werk en dan weet ek boonop nie wat die Here se beginsels vir ‘n geslaagde verhouding is nie. Ek sou reken ons is uitgeboul voor ons op die veld verskyn het, of hoe?

So wat op aarde besiel ons? Waarom slurp ons nie in massas sulke inligting op nie? Is ons gewoon te dom om te besef dat ons dit nodig het? Of blootweg te lui? Of is dit meer ‘n ingebore arrogansie? (Ons is ‘n DIY kudde wat glo dat, as dit gefix kan word, kan ons dit sélf fix.) Of het ons net nie genoeg respek vir mekaar en vir God om sulke lang, diep geestelike en emosionele treë te gee nie?

Ek vermoed dis ‘n ongesonde kombinasie van bogenoemde, met veral ‘n reuse skep disrespek vir God en medemens. Die tipe inligting waaroor dit gaan, is immers die soort waarin jy jouself en jou eggenoot beter leer verstaan, sodat jy hom of haar se behoeftes bo jou eie kan stel. Sodat jy begrip en deernis kan hê, perspektief kan kry en jou maat kan diens in areas waarin dit regtig saak maak. Sodat jy vir God kan sê: Ek het moeite gedoen om U plan en U manier uit te vind.

Lyk my dat duisende Christen-egpare in die geelbladsye rondblaai op soek na ‘n prokureur se nommer, terwyl hulle geen idee het hoekom dinge nie gewerk het nie. Lyk my ook dat baie kerke nie op Sondae oor hierdie dinge preek nie. Dit word in kursusse verpak wat weeksaande deur ‘n paar koeke bygewoon word.

Lyk my meeste van ons is so bang vir enige verandering dat ons liewer al ons verhoudinge sal sien sterf voor ons nuwe wyshede uitprobeer. In Suid-Afrika skei net soveel Christene as nie-Christene. Ek is nie verbaas nie.


 

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