Monthly Archives: October 2014

Blessing and Curse – do we get it?

Blessing and Curse are commonly used terms in a Christian and also a biblical vocabulary. Lately I have noticed something that worries my however:

We have reversed the Biblical idea of blessing and curse.

A blessing in the Bible is that which drives me to my knees and causes me to know how much I need my God.

A curse in the Bible is that which gives me the illusion that I can depend on myself and I’ll be just fine.

In our current society and even community of Christians, we seem to have reversed the understanding of both.

We deem challenges to be from the devil all too often, rebuking the devil, when it is God pruning us and circumcising our hearts. On the other hand we have given a free ticket to anything that soothes our soul, pleases our senses and allows us to stand self-sufficiently in our daily life – even calling it a blessing.

Looking at the biblical context we find real life challenges that men and women of God faced:

Abraham being asked to leave his home country and relatives without knowing where the journey will take them to follow the call of a God, he is yet to get to know; David is anointed as king, yet spends years fleeing from the current king fearing for his life; the disciples of Jesus being requested to leave behind everything and follow Him without knowing what that might entail; Mary, the mother of Jesus, being an unmarried, single teenager, pregnant and claiming it is the Holy Spirit that impregnated her, in a society that is deeply religious;

Every single of these challenges circumcised the hearts of men and women of God shaping them as effective tools in the advancement of His kingdom.

If I am honest, I prefer it when I can be self-sustainable and self-reliant during all phases of life. However none of these moments caused me to seek God more or to draw me closer to Him.

On the other hand, I do admit I have frequent “spiritual growing pains” when the challenges put before me by God really reach deep into my soul and cause me to come to a place of surrender to Him.

All too frequent we hear the resounding echoes of phrases that end with “…I am so blessed” when what they really express is gratitude toward God rather than blessing from Him. And I DO agree we need to openly and publicly express such gratitude.

However confusing our words and calling it a blessing, causes a wrong perception among current Christianity of what a blessing of God is really about.

Understanding what a biblical blessing is all about, will help us embrace what God has for us, instead of rebuking the Holy Spirit.

Understanding what a curse is in the biblical interpretation on the other hand, will help us discern the schemes of the enemy that at times confuse and deceive our perception of matters.

May you be blessed by God!

Understanding the Question

I often find people asking questions, and people answering them. Then a bit further down the line, they encounter communicative problems as a consequence that sometimes lead to broken relationships.

I believe that often the causes of these problems are the underlying implications and assumptions every question brings with it. In this blogpost, we will look at some questions that refer to Christianity and will try and analyse some underlying assumptions to such a question. The idea is not giving you answered engraved in stone. The idea of this post is getting you into a habit of discovering the underlying assumptions and implications that lead to people’s questions. After that we will look at what to do with our discoveries.

Here some typical questions posed to Christians:

  1. Why is your faith the right one?

Assumptions:

  • There is more than one right faith system
  • That again implies, there is more than one God
  • It makes for an abundance of assumptions about other faiths
  • Faith is something that should profit me.
  • I can ‘shop’ for a faith system.
  • There is truth in many places to be found.

 

  1. Are the different religions not all part of the same spiritual thing?

Assumption:

  • The idea behind this is the idea of, a metaphor often used of, an elephant.
    • Each religion is touching another part of the elephant and being blind folded describing it to be what they perceive
    • These descriptions are very diverse, yet all describe the elephant.
  • The fault in this assumption is that it is deeply arrogant because it assumes that the person posing the question is the only one that is NOT blindfolded and that can in fact see truth.

 

  1. Are Christians and Muslims not worshiping the same god?

Assumptions:

  • Their definitions of God are equal (which they are not)
  • Muslims and Christians would agree that the other religion adheres to the same god as they do (which they don’t)
  • ‘god’ is just a concept of an overarching maker you pray to. (the definition of ‘God’ implies something quite different though)

 

  1. Why should I choose your church?

Assumptions:

  • There are many different Christian churches and they compete with one another.
  • What they have to offer has to enrich my life and make it better.
  • Finding a church is like finding a fitness studio – you choose the one that best fits your desires and expectations.
  • For Christians, it’s all about church.
  • The church belongs to people, not God.

 

  1. Does Christianity allow for divorce?

Assumptions:

  • Marriage is nothing more than a contract
  • Divorce is an option I should keep open like a back-door
  • Can my possible choices of the future (which might imply sinful behaviour) be catered for?

 

  1. How ‘far’ can I go and still be in the will of God?

Assumption:

  • God needs to cater for my own needs
  • My will be done
  • The will of God is unclear
  • God is not truly Lord, but just a supervisor of my behaviour.

 

  1. How do you know the Bible is true?

Assumptions:

  • There is more than one truth to be found.
  • The Bible has been disproved (numerous times).
  • The integrity of the Bible cannot be established.
  • If it falters at any given point, I can continue in sin.

 

Now these are just a number of typical questions. The assumptions are neither exhaustive nor elaborated further.

If you are a Christian reading this, you will possibly/probably know that whereas you have heard the question before and were assuming you need to answer it, all the underlying assumptions were wrong (with regards to Christianity). (If you have a question regarding any of the assumptions and are unsure if that assumption is untrue, please contact me via email and I will gladly discuss the matter with you.)

So what now? What should you do with all of this?

First of all, start looking for the assumptions in questions, when you engage in communications with people. In the beginning it will take some time and might not be possible during the actual conversation, but only later. However the more you do this, the easier it gets.

Remember that looking for the assumptions is not looking for fault or doubting the question. It is in fact UNDERSTANDING the question for what it is.

Only once you UNDERSTAND the question, you can rightfully ANSWER it!

If you are not a Christian, this post might have been insightful with regards to your own questions. Please feel free to contact me should you have questions about Christianity or truth. I hope you could none the less make the transferral to your own situation and communication situations.

Be abundantly blessed!

 

Why should I choose YOUR church?

I have recently encountered an atheist and was presented with a question that registered with me as I had heard it before on numerous occasions.

She asked: “Why should I choose YOUR church?”

She had been looking at different churches and faiths … she had visited our church service and had encountered and spoken to a number of our members.

What strikes me in this conversation is the fact that most of us would be inclined to fall for this question. However doing so, will not promote the Gospel.

While I love church and while I will always encourage people to come to church, the church I am part of, this was not the actual question at stake. And the reasons I would give for joining church would not have been a good answer to her question either.

Answering to this question means, we allow the unwritten implications of the statement. Here are some of the implied assumptions that possibly lead to such a question:

  • There are many different Christian churches and they compete with one another.
  • What they have to offer has to enrich my life and make it better.
  • Finding a church is like finding a fitness studio – you choose the one that best fits your desires and expectations.
  • For Christians, it’s all about church.
  • It is OUR church, not Christs.

The fact however is: IT IS NOT ABOUT FINDING A CHURCH! It is about discovering GOD.

If we allow people to believe they do this god-thing for their own benefit and what they can get from it, we allow a needs-based gospel. The problem with that is this: People come to Christ because of need; and when the needs are met, they have no need for Him any longer.

That makes finding a church quite a different thing from finding a fitness studio! You find God and then you follow His lead!

The sad truth in the implications however is: churches are in a ‘beauty’ contest. We have reduced church to being in competition with what the world offers and with what other churches offer.

That was never what church was meant to be.

The word ‘ecclesia’ translates to our current word ‘church’ in modern language. However a literal translation would much rather be ‘called out ones’. Church thus is a gathering of those who have heard the call of God and responded to if with a ‘yes’.

That makes church a living organism. Because we have different views and ways of worshiping God, of formatting a service etc, we have different denominations. However all people who are disciples of Jesus, who follow His lead (no matter in which church they find themselves) form part of the worldwide church of Christ, called the bride of Christ.

Instead of competing with one another (competitiveness is an unbiblical concept) they should exhort and encourage one another.

That would make the search for a church the following:

  1. A listening to Gods’ voice – where does He want you.
  2. A fellowship of believers where you find spiritual nourishment.
  3. A fellowship you become part of and where you find leadership you submit to.

So in essence “church is a community engaged in disciplines that make following the master/teacher possible and sustainable.”

So the next time you are asked the question at hand, let us preach the Gospel.

May you have a blessed week!

What is discipleship anyway?

This is a long post. It is not the typical blog post, but it is me spilling my innermost thoughts on a matter close to my heart. I hope you will read it none the less and that you will allow it to challenge you.

Studying course material on “Exploring Biblical Discipleship”, I have started on a journey of re-determining what discipleship is to me; what the functions of the church are with regards to the topic; where I stand in all of this and what the biblical demands are and what possibilities with regards to enhancing His kingdom are contained therein.

My frame of reference to churches exercising ‘discipleship’ is relatively small, regarding the fact that I have merely been a member of the Lutheran Church, the Pentecostal church movement and the Charismatic church movement, having visited merely one of each throughout my life. However the picture seems somewhat too similar to miss.

If the topic of discipleship even arose it mostly consisted of measures to make people better members, help them understand the doctrines at hand more easily, gain a life filled to a greater deal with freedom God has for us, and propagating conformity to ‘our style’ of church through and by the use of courses, participation in programs, short (often not more an one hour per week, sometimes a day) impact moments that in turn were supposed to transform lives.

If I am honest, I find all these approaches have failed in most of all instances. Looking at my own life, I admit I have often gained knowledge and have achieved becoming a better member, co-worker and participant in the specific denomination I was in. I have learned how to pray, worship, preach, socialize and talk the lingo of the community of that church. I have even acquired disciplines related to that. But I have not necessarily become a better follower of Christ. I have experienced conformity to church rather than to Christ. I have adopted pride for my church, believing I was more holy and godly than before and in that pride hindered myself from becoming more Christ-like.

If I think of discipleship as an apprenticeship however, I notice how momentary events, programs and courses fail to fulfill this task. Watching my mother bake bread, or even helping her mix the dough, will as a standalone event that might happens once in a while, not make me a baker. Following a recipe of Jamie Oliver, to the point, will not allow me to be a cook as good as he is, even if I cook one of his recipes once a week and soon might get the gist of the procedures.

Apprenticeship is just so much more.

I have been involved in and participated in so called discipleship programs, courses or events for the past 18 years (the first nine years on and off, the latter on a continuous basis). I have gained much knowledge, attained some disciplines (some of which were only applicable in a certain type of church) and learned to speak the lingo, be a profitable member to any church and yes, I got to know God more;

It recently dawned on me, that although I have been involved in disciple-making and being discipled the past nine years, my life and walk with God has changed the most when I spent three years teaching at a small private school in Swakopmund. I learned more about the fruit of the spirit in the first year of teaching a grade 5 class, than I have in seven years of being involved in a church. And while spending numerous hours together with my learners in various subject classes, they soon became a thermometer to my walk with Christ by reflecting my attitudes, my moods, my passions, my abilities and disabilities that I unknowingly imparted into them.

If you would ask me today, when I have most likely succeeded in ever making true disciples, it was in those three years, spending my time, my energy, my heart, dedicating and directing my prayers and fasting, my visions and ideas, and investing it into the lives of primary school students.

Why would I say such a thing, when I was taught that true discipleship happens in a church program?

I see the effects, the after-math of my time there. The contact I still have with some of my students; the fact that they confide in me; that their parents contact me when needing advice on their child’s dating; that they ask for prayer – even over a facebook chat and are overjoyed when I take the time to answer some of the difficult questions in life or just listen to them; when they honour me by mentioning me in the best possible contexts without me ever knowing beforehand that that is how they see the impact that I had in their lives and that it pointed them to Jesus, then I am truly humbled, then I stand fearing God, knowing I didn’t pray enough for them, that I have failed giving them my best in so many instances and yet Gods grace was sufficient to allow a divine impartation to their lives through mine.

These facts let me question how we do discipleship. They urge me to reconsider my stand point.

I have read much about discipleship be it in articles, books or the Bible. I have listened to teachings, participated in courses and am even now again participating in a course that seems to revolutionize my view completely. However most of the material, out on the market, seems to propagate a discipleship I have also encountered and described above. Some of the material has challenged me to stop, think and critically review my own take on the matter, which leads me to my current philosophy of discipleship. I say current, because I acknowledge finding myself in a process of conversion and reviewing this topic as one of many on my journey with Christ and becoming more Christ-like. I deem it necessary to remain teachable in all this, but at the same time stand firmly rooted on the revelational truth I have thus far.

I carry an ever expanding dream within me. A dream that shouts ‘discipleship’ at the top of its lungs. A dream that seems impossible to realize by humanly power, yet seems so much more like a possibility to redeem our culture, our humanity and enhance His kingdom.

I dream of a church that is the center of connecting ministries that we wouldn’t even call such in our current churches:

Imagine all teachers that are part of the church come together regularly to pray; over their challenges, for their students, for colleagues, for curriculums, for families, etc. no matter which school they teach at. Imagine their teaching to be fully acknowledged a ministry of the church, even though it might not be a ministry in the church. Imagine that ministry being backed up by intercessors, feedback, and treated as a branch of the church where discipleship happens without the condition of constantly speaking of Christ and people coming to church first. Yet living Christ and allowing through work appropriate transparency to make one’s own faith tangibly visible.

Now imagine doing that with many other professions also. Imagine the impact we could have!

I dream of a church where family becomes an intentional ministry within itself and also to replenish where our community lacks. Imagine, men of all trades in church, rising not only as priests of their own households, but even rising to replenish something where our society is broken, becoming fathers to the fatherless and considering that a full ministry with all it needs.

Imagine young university students, pitching at the netball and rugby matches of school going learners, supporting them, cheering them on, and celebrating their lives through that. Imagine the lasting relationships that would be build and the spiritual impact that could and would happen at the side of such a field, when suddenly teachers, friends, parents and even enemies would notice the impact in that sportsman’s life.

Imagine the church instead of protesting in front of abortion clinics offering a home for the next 12 months to these women (no matter whether they abort or not) to live with families or couples (of course with a certain reasonable and appropriate contract) in the time of finding their feet in life (whether healing emotionally after an abortion, or learning to be a parent). Either way it would be offering a solution, rather than condemning them and leaving them alone in a stigmatized society trying to find their feet and survive.

Imagine a church that connects people to real life experiences like these and many more – for ideas in this respect seem endless. I dream of a church where discipleship is not a word, a course or project or seminar, but where it becomes a way of life. A church where the Sunday sermons and the time of fellowship before and after are merely a mean to rejoice, receive some teaching and instruction, but likewise to make connections that enable true life relationship, apprenticeship, yes discipleship to happen. A church that is church more outside of the Sunday services, than it is now.

Only such a church enables apprenticeship that leads to a transformation to our master, Jesus Christ. We would find ourselves outside of our comfort zones, living closer together than we deem socially the norm, being more transparent than we feel comfortable with and constantly challenged by the reflection in the lives of those around us that reflect the impact we make, and give constant live-feedback on our own discipleship progress through conversion on all levels.

I do not have a plan how to change our lives and church experiences to match such a philosophy of discipleship.

I know that one step I am taking myself, is returning to teaching in the upcoming year. Considering the impact this changed view will have on the kingdom of God right there where I will be, fills my heart with anticipation and fear of God recognizing my own depravity in the light of who I am and who He is.

As I continue to journey, a mere disciple of Christ, helping and facilitating others to become disciples also, I find I have much yet to learn. But I trust, that by His grace, we will be able to redeem ‘discipleship’ for His kingdom in a way, that is worthy of our Lord and God, our master, our King.

Dare to dream bigger, dare to trust God and go, LIVE discipleship with all you are and have!

 

 

 

 

 

Social prejudice causing gender confusion

We all have prejudices – we just seem unable to prevent it. However how we allow them to influence us is a matter of choice.

In our churches, I sometimes find that prejudice causes tremendous harm to the body of Christ.

Allow me to illustrate some of the prejudice I am talking of by giving a few illustrated examples:

  1. If a young man loves to play rugby, soccer or tennis we are 100% fine with that.

If a young man loves to do pantomime, clownery, theater… well that                         is odd, but ok.

However if a young man loves to do ballet, rhythmic dancing or the                           likes, we presume he is homosexual.

  1. If a lady decides to choose to be a hairdresser, teacher or secretary, we seem ok with it.

What if a woman chooses to become a car mechanic for trucks and                              big machinery… and does so with absolute passion?

  1. If teenage boys hold hands to express their friendship and give hugs to one another to express their friendship when greeting one another…
  2. If men love knitting, sowing wedding dresses, become a make-up artist, …
  3. If woman become the president of a huge corporate company full of men in the management department, or if a woman becomes the president…
  4. If a young boy loves playing with dolls for a change …

What would your honest and most inward reaction be? Can you see how some of these touch on prejudice you carry?

While I am sure, we all have prejudice regarding some matters, and while I agree that at large we need to redeem the purpose and meaning and office of true manhood or womanhood, this is not the matter at stake here.

I have met young men in churches, who passionately worship God with rhythmic dance. They are men of God, in love with Jesus and fully steadfast in their gender as a man. However they are stigmatized due to our humanistic societal view of such behavior. They struggle, and if it weren’t for their love for God, they’d probably had left long ago.

But now let us stop and think here for a minute:

Would that not mean that we as a church are somewhat an “exclusive club” where people need to fit into pattern A or B? Do we thus perhaps even promote gender confusion?

What if a young man, were to leave church, find social acceptance in a society outside of church, to just be able to live their passion? And if with that comes the deception of the world, tempting them to enter sin as an unfortunate, yet life-destroying add-on to their passion?

I fear, many do.

I say, in that way we as a church fail all too often. We collect burning coals on our heads, as a consequence of our ignorance and lack of Christ-likeness, driving those seeking to sin.

What if today a lesbian couple were to enter our church, with an earnest longing for God. Would we facilitate an encounter for them, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict of sin? Or would we treat them as lepers and try doing the job of the Holy Spirit ourselves?

We as a church should be different from the world but without the help of God, we will be no different. Changing our reactions to prejudice, facilitating God encounters for everyone, and creating space for people who are different, even if they might be just as broken and imperfect as we are, is something that needs divine enablement!

Let us be the change so longed for by a broken world. Let us love in spite of prejudice, let us embrace difference as what it is: Gods beauty in diversity on display.

And let us stand in unity on a path of conversion and transformation, where incomplete, broken people come to stand side by side to – by the grace of God – achieve advancement of His kingdom!

I am not saying, let us approve of sin, but I am taking a stand, that we should be able to discern when it is our lack of sensitivity and love, that keeps people from God.

Let us seek His face and trust for Him to reveal to us, where we can become more Christ-like in our daily walks, in our churches and communities.

May God bless you abundantly!