Monthly Archives: November 2014

An adventure with God

P1150561 (South Africa upon arrival.)

It was last year late September, that I heard – first from people, then from God – that I was to go to Stellenbosch, South Africa to partake in a year of youth and student pastor training at our churches head quarters. And though the idea excited me, I was clearly unsure about it at first, until I heard from God about it.

Now I have approached my last week here in Stellenbosch, before returning to Namibia and then immigrating to Germany.

This is a letter of reflection … may God speak to you about your own life, as you read it.

So 1st October I resigned from my teaching job in appropriate time (our school year in Namibia ends in December).

January 2014 came and I was about to leave Namibia to go and live in South Africa, in Stellenbosch for a year. I had never in my life visited the Western Cape before, nor was I familiar with church services of 1000 people, rather than the 150 I was used to. I did not have family here, I did not know where I would stay or with whom, I did not know what the training would entail in detail or whether I would be able to relate to or love the people I was about to meet.

Whoever has ever visited Swakopmund in Namibia and also visited Stellenbosch in South Africa knows, that when it comes to surrounding nature, the two could hardly be more different. I love the desert and the Atlantic Ocean (like in Swakopmund) and here in Stellenbosch I was to be surrounded by mountains, oak trees, squirrels I would see daily, rivers that actually carried water and so called rain spiders, that have a solid hands-palm size, are black and hairy and enter your home when the rain comes and are able to jump.

P1150596(surrounding areas to Stellenbosch)

There are those moments where you repeatedly in seasons of your life would certainly affirm you have not only hatched, and grown feathers, but are also already able to fly and soar like an eagle. I had such a moment when I moved to Namibia end of 2010, just to be surprised that I had just left the nest for the first time in my spiritual journey and yet knew nothing about flying – contrary to my assumption. Now I would again encounter such a moment when arriving here in Stellenbosch… and even though I knew much more about flying at that stage it was a sorrowful flapping and had nothing eagle-like about it.

But with every such desperate flapping of ever-tiring wings, I learned lessons that would change my life. Allow me to elaborate on merely five of them (I chose some that most people, Christian or not, will be able to relate to):

Flying-lesson 1: God knows me AND he knows the people that are now around me, that is: my boss, my colleagues, etc. If I want to be offended, I must be offended with God, rather than with them – God intentionally put them there, knowing how our characters would clash!

THAT sorted things quickly and painfully! It would be the first and most hurtful lesson to learn, but one ever so valuable!

Flying-lesson 2: People are different! (This sounds like an obvious lesson, but believe me, when you are in it, it is not.) They respond to things differently than I do. What excites me doesn’t excite them. The social values I find enculturated in me are not theirs. My ideas do not always create excitement in them and the way I do things is not theirs. Oh yes, and communicating about it, doesn’t always help.

In short… you discover you are not a good communicator, for otherwise not as many misunderstandings would happen. And without friends that love you even though you come across rude most of the time in their culture – the time would have been aweful.

P1160370(Youth Service snap-shot: matching text with scriptures)

Flying-lesson 3: Never assume you will not undergo a culture-shock. There is that moment, after having arrived when flapping-lesson 2 hits home hard. You have found yourself constantly misunderstood and feel like you are swallowing everything handed to you as challenges, but others are not. It is good to have a mentor to pray during this time and bring the issues you are having to God as quickly as you can and as often as needed as to avoid offence or bitterness.

Flying-lesson 4: Language barriers are real, even when you understand basics of a language. The best way to deal with it is be open about it, let people know when you need translation and do your best as to learn the language!!! I started off this year struggling to follow a simple conversation in Afrikaans, asking people to speak slowly or to swop into English. During the past months I have taught Bible School year 2 in Afrikaans, comfortably pray for people in Afrikaans and answer phone-calls in that language at ease.

The challenge I am now left with is being tri-lingual and sometimes my brain gets the wrong language *laughs*.

Flying-lesson 5: You learn things, you never planned on learning. However never underestimate the power of a servant’s heart. I noticed the other night as I was about to fall asleep: I know the exact coffee, tea and ‘other’ drinking habits of 34 people here at Head Quarters. Why? I make them tea, coffee, … . Is it my job? NO. But I learned for what reason who of them likes and appreciates it how at which stage of their daily routines. For the one it is all about the touch on the shoulder when I bring the coffee, for the other it is just that short friendly smile interaction and for some it is just what it is… an urgently needed cup of coffee.

The amount of lessons I learned would be much longer than any email, blogpost or letter can hold. I chose these five at random and trust you will be able to relate to some of them.

P1160456(Youth Service snap-shot: what is the Gospel to you?)

I feel privileged when I look back at this year. I never had as many spiritual growing pains ever in my life – and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all of them! I can see how I grew. I can see how not only my knowledge and intellect was fed and increased, but how I grew relationally equally much!

I was privileged to live with the most amazing woman of God, and her life-style and how real God is to her life, challenged me daily. Thank you, Co – I grew because of the legacy you left with me!

I was privileged to experience financial, time, relational and informational … impartation by Shofar Christian Church, our pastors here, my home base church of Shofar, friends, colleagues, students, and people I met. I never had too little, I never found myself wanting because of you… and I now not only have heard about covenant relationships, but I have experienced them first hand! You changed my life!

P1160460(Youth Service Worship snap-shot)

However my biggest thank you goes out to my family. The skype conversations were like a lifeline at times, your sms’s and whatsapp messages, the times spent on holiday, … you are amazing! My parents who supported me throughout, even though I presume they sometimes find it hard to relate to how I live my faith. My siblings who encouraged me, gave advise and where always also a part of the journey, my grandmothers and other relatives, that shared in my journey by reading regular emails.

I am about to say my good-byes to some of the most amazing people I know to return to Namibia. And while my heart is filled with sadness, it is also filled with gratitude, awe and excitement for the future.

Many of my friends as far away as Thailand, Germany, UK, America, Namibia, South Africa, Brazil, India, Australia and New Zealand and Pakistan… have prayed for me throughout this year. They carried me on eagles wings (the wings I did not have), they interceded and inquired how I was doing, they held me accountable, encouraged me and cheered me on. They loved me and journeyed with me, most of them via newsletters I would send out. To you I want to say: if I changed and matured in this time, it was because of Christ in you! I love you and I pray we will journey together some more!

I loved my year here! It has been the most exciting and amazing journey! Yes, it had plenty challenges… but it was like climbing mountains… it is hard to get up at times, but once on top it is breathtaking. You are the ones who made it possible!

May God bless you!

Yours,

Jessica

A game of pretence

I have met many Christians and non-Christians alike, who play a game of pretence with God with regards to their own behavior.

Here is why:

Allow me to bring-up a number of well known festivals in most countries:

Halloween, (Holi) Colour Festival, Christmas.

Or some other common topics that do more than just touch on this area:

Vodoo, Makumba, Yoga, Heaven and Hell, Music, God, … .

What do they all have in common? They have a history and an unavoidable truth attached to them.

This truth is foremost a Spiritual Reality, that we encounter when being exposed to or participate in these festivals, games, topics, beliefs, … . But our community and society would like us to belief otherwise.

We are told to believe, that if we do not believe in its spiritual nature or existence or truth, it will not affect us.

This is a lie.

It is like saying: “If I do not believe in love, I can never be hurt emotionally.” or “If I deny the health hazard of ONLY eating sweets and do not belief it is harmful, it will not affect me.”

We are all aware that that is nonsense. We are beings, created by God with Spirit, Soul and Body; denying the existence of one of the three parts, will ultimately lead to psychological illness and disposition.

However interestingly enough, we do not allow people to constantly punch us in the face – because it would cause hurt and damage. Our society becomes more and more aware, that verbal bullying has long lasting effects on our soul. AND most of the people worldwide, seek for a thing to worship and to connect to, spiritually (no matter where they might seek this).

If you are a Christian, you cannot shrug this off in ignorance – we cannot afford to do that!

Celebrating some of these festivals, give worship and honour and glory to other gods.

Listening to secular music, some of which is filled with sexual remarks, reference, abuse, activity; violence, greed, love for money, hatred and so much more, WILL affect your Spirit and Soul!

Watching TV, WILL affect your view on violence, sex, love, prestige, integrity, sin… !

As a Christian, our God is a jealous God! He wants to be LORD over our lives, so HE sets the standard by which we must live. No longer do I/ME/Myself reign, but He does by guiding me on paths of righteousness and I surrender completely to that path!

So let us keep that in mind, when we do listen to such music, watch TV and participate in festivals… and let us choose wisely.

If you are NOT a Christian, allow me to say this:

Not believing in hell, will not prevent you from going there, unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Not believing in God will not make Him go away, or make his laws or rules to life any different.

Should you have any questions with regards to faith that are not answered b y previous posts, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to facilitate your journey to discover the truth.

I understand you might have been badly hurt when these messages and sentences have been used out of context… please forgive me.

To all of us however, Christian or NON-Christian let us get educated and consciously get involved or abstain from involvement when we do.

We live in a society that turns values, morals and beliefs into a grey mixture of make-believe happiness and thoughtless blind following of what we are uncertain and unconscious of it is.

May God bless you, and may you have an encounter with Jesus, that will change your life forever!

The Leap-Frog

A group of scientists studying frogs did the following experiment:

They took a frog and measured the distance of its jump. After three consecutive jumps the average was taken and noted down. Then they removed one of its legs and repeated the experiment. Every time they repeated the experiment round, they removed a further leg.

Every time they had removed a leg, they commanded the frog: “leap, frog, leap!” And it did.

When it failed to do so after removal of the fourth leg, they decided to draw their assumption: “When you remove all four legs of the frog, it goes death.”

Now while this is a small anecdote, in our Christian communities, often much of this happens before our noses and we do not seem to realize. Allow me to contextualize this anecdote in merely two possible ways to explain what I mean:

  1. The drawn assumption does not match the condition.

The underlying assumption of the frog having gone death after removal of all its legs is like assuming the love for Christ can be measured by the person’s active involvement in church ministry.

The love of a person for Christ can be absolutely genuine and deep without that person being a leader of some ministry or being constantly actively involved in such a ministry. It might very well be, that the respective person is called to minister Christ to people outside a church setting primarily. Likewise the opposite might be untrue. A person very much involved in church, might merely be religious or lonely outside of church and thus find own fulfilment within the service toward others, rather than demonstrating devotion to Christ.

However we as Christians often fall into this pit, without even noticing, judging people unknowingly and falsely at that.

  1. Increased pain eventually stops our listening skills.

This is true so some extend. While some pain in a person’s life might draw them (closer) to Christ, surmounting pain, will make them oblivious to anything significant said to them, outside of this pain.

It is this knowledge that allows us to understand that the starving person will first need food before they will be effective listeners to the Gospel.

At some stage, constant and increased pain will blindside us. Then it is vital to get perspective again and re-calibrate our faith and lives with the help of others and God.

Unless the pain is alleviated however we will die (physically – possibly due to severe illness and thus might be with God; or spiritually – turning away from Christ due to pain experienced.).

Recognizing this second condition in time, will prevent unnecessary damage to people’s faith.

While the “leap frog, leap” is a mere anecdote, it points to significant issues of life. Living a balanced life in the midst of emotional and societal pain and prejudice/assumptions, we will have to learn to not only cope with these two scenarios effectively, but likewise to anticipate and when possible learn to prevent them, living a pro-active rather than re-active life as a Christian.

May God bless you!

It’s all about ME.

I remember standing in a school line up some years ago where junior primary students prayed the “Our father”. What I heard as a sweet mistake of one of the smallest ones however is SO fitting to our current society: “[…] MY kingdom come, MY will be done, in heaven, as on earth.”

In our Western world, it is common for our thoughts and ideas and beliefs to circle around us. Quite similarly to the old idea of all the planets circulating around the earth, the idea is propagated that everything in our lives must serve our own ideas/needs/thoughts/desires/ideals … .

The challenge is … this is a humanist idea, it is NOT biblical.

When we look at what the Gospel is all about, we find the most fitting and shortest summary is given by Jesus himself in Mark 1:14+15 (The time has come, the kingdom is near, repent and believe the good news. paraphrased ).

In short: It is about a kingdom, a king, a change of rule, you and me as subjugates, and good news.

To put it even more plainly: it is NOT about ME, but about HIM. It is not about MY dreams, but HIS. It’s not about MY plans, but HIS.

Thing is, God has a plan, a vision, a kingdom, a purpose … for His creation. He is inviting me to join Him in it. He is not so much concerned about my own ideas, plans, dreams, but He is concerned about my future in eternity. Everything we experience now will become relative, once we enter eternity. What is important to me now, will probably NOT be important to me then.

It is His love for me/us that moves Him to compassion and that causes all these gracious gifts we so desire and love. And there is nothing wrong with desiring them and asking for them – please do not get me wrong. But it is not the main purpose or goal of my existence here, nor should it ever be the reason why I follow Christ.

Our society sometimes assumes that we as Christians adhere to faith as a crutch. This is a consequence of a need-based gospel. A gospel in other words, where people come to Christ for what they want or need. However once they get what they needed/wanted, they no longer have a need for Christ and leave. Allow me to say, THAT IS NOT THE GOSPEL, and we should not preach it!

Once we understand the principle of His KINGDOM more, we start realizing, it is all about Him. He is king and I am subjugated. He decides and rules in my life and I get little say in the rules to this life and His kingdom.

HOWEVER, understanding His LOVE for us, allows me to ask for His favor, his grace, gifts in my life, His everything He promises in His word, as asking a father.

The good news is GOOD because this King is extraordinary. He protects perfectly, He cares, He is involved, He truly loves, He forgives, He provides, … . His love is unconditional and never-ending!

The good news is NEWS because we are talking about a living relationship with GOD. We are talking about communication with God who is NOT bound by our own ideas of what is and is not; who created me, and who literally has NEWS to share and loves to do so.

So allow me to say: It is all about HIM. His kingdom is NOW. Allow the change in dominion. Surrender all. And rest assured that it is both GOOD and NEWS. Now… be ready to sacrifice ALL for Him.

May God bless you!

A revelation of the Cross

A few years ago, I sat at a theatre piece in one of the Aldiana Clubs one evening and was watching “the Lion King”. At some stage in the piece, Scar or his hyenas threaten the little Simba after his father’s death.  At that very moment, with an authority that came completely unexpected and extreme outrage a 4-5 year old boy, jumped up and screamed his outrage, threatening the hyenas and Scar, waving his fist and making his way across the rows of people. In fact he made 4-5 rows literally over people, raging and swinging his tiny fists in loudly voiced rage and accusations against these perpetrators, before anyone was able to grab him and even try to contain him. He spent the next 2 minutes kicking and outraged and continued his endeavour until his parents were able to calm him down. The interruption had the actors on stage flabbergasted. And in retrospective it caused a very entertaining evening and served for many lovely conversations afterwards.

Why do I mention this anecdote at the beginning of something as vital as a revelation of the Cross?

Because this young boy, had a revelation of something that was outrageous in a way the others in the room did not. He reacted promptly and appropriately (considering it had been a real situation instead of a theatre piece).

In have talked and heard about the Cross plenty times. I have watched “The passion of Christ” and was moved to tears.

But did I really have a revelation of the Cross?

Would I talk about it the same way, if I had witnessed it; if it was a loved one like my brother being crucified?

I guess not. And I am ashamed to say that. For I fully understand that I will certainly fall short of representing Christ, if I lack revelation of the Cross.

Too often, we do exactly what the crowd in the short anecdote does, we dismiss outrage as inappropriate and unfitting (even now it would be both, appropriate and fitting), we hold back those who react the appropriate way, we stop authority and later chitchat over the entertaining aspect of it all, ridiculing the person at stake.

However as Christians the Cross is part of the centerpiece of our walks with Christ. I say ‘part of’ because there is so much more to the Gospel of God than the Cross, but none the less, without it we would not be reconciled to God.

Now if you allow me, I will take you on a short journey, hoping to open your eyes to something that only the Holy Spirit can open them to:

Imagine you were there… right there, in the dust and heat and sun scourging, with sweat and blood in the air. Witnessing the crucifixion of the person most dear to you (whoever it might be)… the crucifixion of an innocent person.

Imagine you are there, smelling, feeling, hearing, and seeing. Yes, witnessing in its full implication.

Every moan and scream of pain coming from your loved ones mouth will cause you to writhe in your gut; will draw up disgust that brings guile to your mouth; will cause you to want to turn your eyes away and hold your ears shut – but you cannot.

Every expression of pain draws to your innermost being two emotions at once:

  1. Outrage and disgust
  2. A painstaking reality, that if they are not in that position right then and now, you would be. And admittedly, you’d rather not be.

Just allow yourself to interrupt your reading right here right now. Spend some time… just close your eyes and let that realisation sink in. Take your time. Allow what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life right now.

Do you recognize the bitter-sweet fragrance of it all? Bitter for all that it was and is…. and sweet, for it redeems you for all eternity.

Once we recognize the Cross for what it is… once we recognize the price paid for us… once we acknowledge our own depravity… we are ready to be changed.

How could we/I/you ever not want to talk about this outrageous demonstration of love? How could you not want to do everything in your power to help people recognize what you have just started seeing?

I believe more words in this post won’t make it better.

I challenge you to walk a new road with Christ, thanking Him for the Cross more and more, as you come to recognize, what it actually means!

May God bless you!