Fans of the old TV series “24” will connect with this… Jack Bauer, the CTU Federal Agent, was renowned for the phrase, "I give you my word." Fans of “24” will also know how that often didn’t count for much in the heat of the moment and difficult moral and ethical decisions needed to made. That “word” – the unbreakable assurance and commitment – often got broken.
That raises a challenge for us as believers. How firm should our “word” be? Scripture seems clear that we should not be known as fickle people who vacillate and flip and flop on issues and commitments…
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37, ESV)
“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.” (2 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)
Our men – the crazy “Okes” gang – bounced this around this morning at dawn, with coffee in hand – flowing from our discussions on integrity in Psalm 15.
So then, what did David mean when he wrote this?
“… who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4c, ESV)
Remember the context is outlining patterns of integrity – things that a righteous person will do, flowing from his belief in God, as a normal course of daily life.
Can I suggest the following then? This person – this man of integrity – holds himself accountable to what he has said or promised. He is accountable before God, and possibly even before other people, to keep to what had been promised, even if it was to his own cost.
This is someone who commits to something, but due to changed circumstances, would battle to keep the commitment. To do so would involve sacrifice – there is some form of hurt, some form of loss, some negative that comes through keeping the commitment. This could be time, finance, convenience, comfort etc.
But this person has a sense of honour before God, and seeks to keep that word. The true man of integrity keeps his commitments, even if it does cost him in some way.
And in that he does not change! That means that this person is not fickle.
That may well be related to the preceding financial issue – that of making a promise or commitment. But maybe the principle here is a little broader as well… does it not mean that in life in general this person does not blow hot and cold? Does it not mean that they are consistent, and behave and act in ways that are not hypocritical or 2-faced? Is this not a question of honour? Seeking to stay consistent in circumstances, but also not allowing varying circumstances to have a significant effect on attitudes and responses?
Hmmm… that’s fine on paper, but it applies to our lives in real and awkward ways… as we saw as the “Okes” chatted about that earlier…
How might this apply to these hypothetical scenarios?
- You made a pledge to support a ministry with regular financial giving for a period of time, but your work situation changes, and you are retrenched and have a monthly struggle financially…
- You committed to a local body of believers to love and serve and attend as part of that community (Hebrews 10:24-25 in action), but that commitment takes second place to family, sport and social stuff at a moments notice… church life gets put aside.
- You committed to serve in a ministry area, and people rely on you, but that gets turfed when it becomes inconvenient…
- You promised to fetch an old lady for an event and take her home, but then realised that it would intrude on Manchester United game scheduled for the same time… and you really want to watch that…
- You assured the leader of your Fellowship group you’d be there at the meeting, but you got home a little late and feel tired (not thinking that maybe he is too, of course!)…
- You’re scheduled for a turn to sing, serve tea, put out chairs, greet at the door, and then remember it is a family event on that day...
In those situations, varied as they might be, what do we do with David’s hallmark of integrity? What is God saying here?
“… who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4c, ESV)
Is there not a place to say, “Hey, I know it is not what I want to do, but I’ve committed, and so I’ll still do it… I’ll go, play, give and help even though it will cost me money, time, convenience and maybe clash with something else I really want to be at.”
This is not legalism at all… merely poking and prodding at applications of life that may well resonate with us in some way. But we need God’s Word to do that, right?
Now, having said that, does this leave NO room at all for getting out of what we committed to, and where we should be?
Well, I think that there is a counterweight to this…
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (Proverbs 6:1–5, ESV)
This text gives instruction to try and extricate yourself from situations where unwise promises and commitments have been made. The context in financial, but I think the principle holds in a broader sense. And I don’t see this as contrary to Psalm 15:4c!
If the situation is dire, and poverty might result, then go and talk and find a reasonable solution. Engage with the other person. Negotiate. Try and find a compromise. Free yourself from the commitment. This could be financial. But it may also be a promise about time, involvement, a scheduled turn for something, an assurance of help… whatever!
BUT – this “extrication” is done in full and open discussion with the other party. There is no sense here of a quick clinical SMS, WhatsApp or e-mail… “Hey, sorry, I can’t help or can’t come anymore… Sorry for you!” No, one goes to someone, talks to them, explains to them, and asks them for release from that commitment if it is at all possible.
But, in general, as far as possible, the sense of Psalm 15:4c is this – seek to honour the promises and commitments that have been made.
Don’t be like Jack Bauer and say, “I give you my word,” and then do a 180 degree turn on that commitment. That is not integrity. That is not God-honouring. That’s flipping and flopping like the world around us. It works for the “24” screenplay, but fails to work well in the life of a professing believer. Let’s seek – for God’s sake and others who depend on us – to do what we said we would do – even if it hurts us in some way!
The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."
"How come He doesn't do it?" she asked.
OK, so stop laughing now….!!!! J That was NOT my daughter, and even so, she would NEVER had said something like that… I hope!
There are many passages in Scripture that could (and should!) be used to shape our praying for those who, in God’s goodness to us, are charged with the exposition of His Word to us week by week. We lack no depth of content as to what we could be praying for our preachers – at Randburg Baptist Church and elsewhere.
But as I was busy with my own reading plan earlier this morning, I came across Ezekiel 2… I know, these are words given to Ezekiel, and not to me. The context is different. He was in exile. Israel was still rebellious in outlook and action against God. But – there is a consistent challenge to faithfulness in prophetic ministry that I think ripples through the centuries, is there not?
1 And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. 8 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Randburg Baptist Church family, will you not commit to pray for the men who occupy our pulpits, at 9am and 12pm services, at our Diepsloot church plant, and also in the various teaching modules and Fellowship Groups, men’s and women’s meetings?
- Pray for diligent study, wise application, excellent delivery – but above all, a commitment to have God’s Word heralded, irrespective of whether it is liked, disliked, appreciated, resisted or heeded.
- Pray for the ministry of the Spirit to convict lost sinners, to warn professing believers who don’t truly follow Christ, to edify the saints and to bring life change to all of us.
Pray by name for our preachers:
- Gavin Johnston
- Khulekani Mzilankatha
- Gideon Mpeni
- Bafana Tshabalala
- Elias Masango
- Lulamile Galoshe
- Enoch Mpiko
It’s staggering to think of the sheer commitment to Christ that was shown in previous generations. My mind is blown by the accounts from church history and missions of the men and women who truly grasped what Jesus meant when He said,:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35, ESV)
I have been challenged to think through that this week… in light of last week’s sermon on v34, and again this week as I turned my attention to v 35. Shew – we live and strive as believers to make our lives and churches and ministries and missions trips as comfortable and easy as we can. I don’t think (at least, I know I don’t) that we have a clue as to what 100% devotion, sheer abandonment and radical commitment actually looks like.
But as I worked yesterday, tidied up today and hit “Print” for the manuscript to come through, my mind was replaying something I’d read… and so I went and looked it up. I’d just finished typing and editing comments on how we in the modern church (maybe even at Randburg Baptist Church?) are consumed with comfort and ease, and choose to pursue our pleasure and careers and academics in a way that lessens commitment to the Saviour.
And a letter written by Adoniram Judson is a timely reminder. Judson was the first real American foreign missionary, ministering in Burma (modern day Myanmar). While preparing for his missions work in Burma, he wrote a letter to his propsective father-in-law asking if he could marry Ann Hasseltine. This is an excerpt from the letter:
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
I can’t imagine that being written in 2016…. I am not sure I could pen that so easily. What if I were the father receiving that?
Well, Judson hadn’t finished yet. Mr Hasseltine granted consent to their marriage. Judson then sent the following letter to Ann Hasseltine before their marriage on 1st January 1811…
It is with the utmost sincerity, and with my whole heart, that I wish you, my love, a happy new year. May it be a year in which your walk will be close with God; your frame calm and serene; and the road that leads you to the Lamb marked with purer light. May it be a year in which you will have more largely the spirit of Christ, be raised above sublunary things, and be willing to be disposed of in this world just as God shall please. As every moment of the year will bring you nearer the end of your pilgrimage, may it bring you nearer to God, and find you more prepared to hail the messenger of death as a deliverer and a friend. And now, since I have begun to wish, I will go on. May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take a final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean, and dwell on the other side of the world, among a heathen people. What a great change will this year probably effect in our lives! How very different will be our situation and employment! If our lives are preserved and our attempt prospered, we shall next new year’s day be in India, and perhaps wish each other a happy new year in the uncouth dialect of Hindostan or Burmah. We shall no more see our kind friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of the heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods. We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die. And that time may soon come. One of us may be unable to sustain the heat of the climate and the change of habits; and the other may say, with literal truth, over the grave–
‘By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed;
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed;
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned;’
but whether we shall be honoured and mourned by strangers, God only knows. At least, either of us will be certain of one mourner. In view of such scenes shall we not pray with earnestness ‘O for an overcoming faith,’ etc.?”
To use a common South Africanism… EISH! That’s hard-core stuff. That’s not the anaemic, superficial, “Better Life Now” drivel taught in the modern church, right? This was an era of truly following Christ – denying self, taking up the cross and following Him with 100% devotion… as Jesus expects all believers to do!
Well, did it end well? Ann Hasseltine married Adoniram Judson on 5th February 5 1812 – 13 months after that letter was written. They left for India (and ultimately Burma) in that same year.
Ann never returned. She died of disease in 1826, after struggling for 21 months with the vigours of missions life – disease, death and loneliness. Their third child died six months later.
But when Adoniram Judson himself died many years later, they left 100 churches in Burma and 8000 Burmese believers. Today Burma (Myanmar) has the 3rd largest number of Baptists worldwide.
Methinks we can be shattered and shaped by these testimonies of what it means to heed the call of Jesus Christ himself:
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”” (Mark 8:34–38, ESV)
We haven't terrorised our neighbours for some time, but that changed this week!
It was cool hosting the 5C’s Holiday Club at Randburg Baptist Church this week…
Christ Church Christian Care Centre is a project in Hillbrow, seeking to demonstrate the love of Christ in practical ways to children at risk from previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa. 5C’s have 60 such children between the ages of 4-22 to whom they provide accommodation, education, counselling and care.
Charmaine Koch ran a 3 day Holiday programme for the junior kids from 5C’s, but hosted at Randburg Baptist Church this past week. Good to see our premises used for purposes of the gospel!
Great to see some of our teens committing to help during their holidays, so thanks to them all as well: Daniel, Hayley, Luke, TK, Simphiwe, Nqobile, Sanelisiwe, Ntando, Tsepo, Elvis, and ‘The General.’
NOW... we refocus on Saturday and the kid's programme to be hosted in Diepsloot, alongside our church plant there... praying for a great morning of Christ-centered ministry...!!!
Do you like it when someone mispronounces your name? Hmmm… Or just fails to call you by name because it is too mong, too hard or too complicated?
In preparing for last Sunday’s final reflections on the race issue, I was helped by an article by a blogger in Cape Town who I know from many year ago at Baptist youth camps… I cannot claim originality, and need to give credit where credit is due for the thoughts contained herein…
Well, let’s pick up on the issue like this:
Martin Luther King wrote some telling statements in his powerful, insightful and moving “Letter from Birmingham Jail” :
“…when your first name becomes “Nigger,” your middle name becomes “Boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments…”
The point is simple – the very fact that people’s names are dropped or altered is actually offensive. It is demeaning. That could push the boundaries of what is actually ethically rude… Tweaking, adjusting, shortening or just dropping names which are difficulty.
Luther King’s point hold true in South Africa as well, right? The prevalence might be less today that decades ago, but do we still not hear of middle-ages “girls” who work in homes, and elderly “boys” who work in gardens? Coupled with that, easy-to-say Anglicised names are the order of the day, as ethnic names are dropped to make it easy for white, English-speaking employers to pronounce.
Is this not rude? And while “rude” in Scripture includes all offensive behaviour, we could make a case that just dropping, tweaking or altering ethnic names we struggle with, could be a sign of rudeness…
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude…” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5a, ESV)
Maybe this is a real practical measure to work on. I accept that at times it might be difficult to get our tongues around certain names with nuances and clicks. But surely some attempt should be made to actually get the names of people accurate and right?
Sure it is hard to an English speaker… I can’t get my tongue around certain sounds naturally, and some languages are more difficult that others (isiXhosa with the clicks).
But surely we should try in conversations, the home and church meetings etc…
For example, our church gardener’s name… Mbuso is really easy… but it is not Muso, or Buso or Ozo… or worse still, Busa.
One of our young people in the high school ministry is Simpiwe. But he called himself Karabo for a long time. Until we questioned it. Seems he figured Karabo was easier for whities to say, and so he changed his name. Sad. How many of our black folk actually do that because they are tired of having their names slaughtered?
I thought I was styling for a long time with another young person, Nqobile Mutavhatsindi. Seems my attempts at the inherent click failed, and I needed some lessons on correct pronunciation. But at least she didn’t make it Susie or Anna.
Sure, this might take some effort… but we manage OK with names like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. We know that the Sioux Indians are not the “Si-ox.” “Aah-kan-sis” is mostly got right when we talk USA towns. Makhado is even easier than Louis Trichardt, right?
So then, why not love people and respect them by a serious attempt to get their ethnic names correct?