Call them by their correct name

by Gavin  

Call them by their correct name

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?


Should Christians be readers?

by Gavin  

Should Christians be readers?

Should Christians be readers?


The SABC’S Hlaudi Motsoeneng thinks too much education is no good:


“All that many educated people know how to do is to read the whole day. They don’t have time to think.”


One could only hope that he was misquoted, but that was apparently part of his address to the SADTU national executive committee at Kopanong Conference Centre in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, on Wednesday 1st June 2016.  That is a bold, yet infinitely scary, statement.  The mind boggles at the long-term implications were that to be heeded by the countless listeners that would clutch on to that as an excuse to not read.


Enter the Christian thinker and prolific author, C.S. Lewis… A biographer records :


Lewis was born into a bookish family of Protestants in Belfast, Ireland. Eclectic in their reading tastes, they purchased and read “endless” books. “There were books in the study, books in the dining room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds,” Lewis remembered, and none were off-limits to him. On rainy days—and there were many in northern Ireland—he pulled volumes off the shelves and entered into worlds created by authors such as Conan Doyle, E. Nesbit, Mark Twain, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


Now, look at Lewis’ life and influence.  One has to question whether he would have developed such weighty thoughts, contributed so much to the literature and thought of Christendom, and being responsible for such prolific and meaningful literary output, were it not for the shaping and formative influences gained by his reading habits.  Surely Lewis’ own thinking was shaped by his engagement with the world, and authors from different backgrounds, traditions, opinions and era?  Surely his own thoughts would have been the weaker if he were not a reader?  Surely the world and Christian history would have been the poorer were it not for a solid foundation of mental process shaped by reading?  Generations of children (also readers, by the way!) would have been impoverished had they not had access to the magnificent “Chronicles of Narnia” series penned by Lewis, shaped no doubt by his own reading.


This is the self-same Lewis who gave this sage counsel :


It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.


He advocated balance, seeing the value of older works and the insights from the past.


Now, juxtapose that wisdom against what the Chief Operations Officer of our national broadcaster is seemingly proposing… that education and reading appears to be a bad thing. Hmmm… really?  I wonder how C.S. Lewis would respond?  In fact, one wonders who will have the greater legacy in the world, and why?


That then begs the question as to whether Christians should be readers.  It should be a no-brainer that a regular diet of God’s eternal truth, as revealed I the Bible, should be normative for the Christian.  We need to hear and respond to God’s written revelation – that is true.  But beyond that?


Interestingly, as an historical vignette on the side, the origin of the Sunday School was founded on the need to see reading as a skill developed in children.  The earliest Sunday Schools focussed on education of children, providing instruction to poor working children on their only free day of the week. To be sure, the teachers used the Bible as their primary textbook, because evangelism and the inculcation of biblical truth was the core goal.   But reading as a means of upliftment was an essential purpose in this emerging ministry area.


Back to our main discussion then… should Christians read?  If so, what?  Let’s assume a solid and rich diet of biblical truth already features – we hope!  Delving into Scripture with a meditative, prayerful heart should be part and parcel of daily life for the believer.  But along with that there is much value in reading Christian books.  We stand on the shoulders of giants, and the insights, observations and applications of wise and godly writers can be a means of growing, stretching and refining us.  Read!


John Piper notes that:


Biographies have served as much as any other human force in my life to resist the inertia of mediocrity. Without them I tend to forget what joy there is in relentless God-besotted labor and aspiration


Warren Wiersbe challenged preachers in this way :


Every preacher ought to read books about words and good writing


I would encourage our Randburg Baptist Church to read – widely and broadly, but with discernment.  One doesn’t have to agree with everything that is written, but the mental engagement with material and thoughts can sharpen and shape us too.


Beyond that, surely a reading diet of the classics, biography, history, contemporary analysis etc is a critical means of just expanding your mind?  While not Christian per se, there is much wisdom and insight out in the world, made possible my God’s common grace.  Even a rank pagan can have much to offer in his analysis and thought on the world, current affairs and politics.  To be sure, it will lack a biblical worldview, but it doesn’t mean that we shy away from engaging on the thoughts, does it?  Different perspective, counter-views and critical debate help sharpen and refine our thoughts.


To close, let’s go back to Lewis for a moment.  In his book “An Experiment in Criticism,” Lewis explained that reading widely has two major benefits: (1) the opportunity to experience places we've never experienced before, and (2) the opportunity to think thoughts we've never before considered.


Surely, that is a good reason to read.  And good reasons for the Christian to read – to keep growing and being stretched, and to have our thoughts stimulated.  Hlaudi Motsoeneng thinks people should stop reading and just think… Lewis would no doubt disagree, and rightly so. 

Praying on Pentecost and beyond!

by Gavin  

Praying on Pentecost and beyond!

This Sunday (15th May 2016) is Pentecost Sunday... 50 days after the Passover, and 40 days post-ascension.  We're still not back in Mark's Gospel, but are enjoying some strategic visits down some vital sidestreams... And so I'll be teaching through Pentecost on Sunday : what it is, and why it is important.


One of the key issues to grasp is that believers have full and final indwelling and empowering of the person of the Holy Spirit.  BUT... daily filling is still needed (Eph 5:18). He needs to take control of our thoughts, actions and behaviour.  We can, and should, be praying for that filling - for the Lord to graciously grant more of the functioning of the Spirit.  This Puritan prayer from the 17th century captures that kind of prayer wonderfully.


Pray this in preparation for Sunday.  Pray this often.  Pray for more of the Spirit to be seen in your life and ministry!



As the sun is full of light,
        the ocean full of water,
      Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be
    full of thee.
Vain are all divine purposes of love
  and the redemption wrought by Jesus
  except thou work within,
    regenerating by thy power,
    giving me eyes to see Jesus,
    showing me the realities of the unseen world.
Give me thyself without measure,
  as an unimpaired fountain,
  as inexhaustible riches.
I bewail my coldness, poverty, emptiness,
  imperfect vision, languid service,
  prayerless prayers, praiseless praises.
Suffer me not to grieve or resist thee.
Come as power,
  to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme
    and keep me thine;
Come as teacher,
  leading me into all truth, filling me with
    all understanding;
Come as love,
  that I may adore the Father, and love him
    as my all;
Come as joy,
  to dwell in me, move in me, animate me;
Come as light,
  illuminating the Scripture, moulding me
    in its laws;
Come as sanctifier,
  body, soul and spirit wholly thine;
Come as helper,
  with strength to bless and keep, directing my
    every step;
Come as beautifier,
  bringing order out of confusion, loveliness
    out of chaos.
Magnify to me thy glory by being magnified in me,
  and make me redolent of thy fragrance

{Excerpt from "The Valley of Vision" published by "Banner of Truth"]

What's bugging you?

by Gavin  

What's bugging you?

Mosquitos are niggly, horrible, buzzing things.  They sneak up on you, and then, out of nowhere, that burning, stinging itch starts.  Some are worse than others… I remember one bite I sustained on a bus in Cairo.  Egyptian mozzies are on steroids, and it felt like my hand had been immersed into sulphuric acid, with a weal that resembled a balloon on my hand.


What remedies do we use for a mozzie bite?  Scratch lots?  Methylated spirts?  Smear on antihistamine cream if available?  Or just leave it, and wait for the symptoms to resolve.


You see, the irritation is actually pretty short-lived.  Not one of us has rushed to a local ER for hospitalization and radical amputation for a mozzie bite.  It is an irritation, and at worst a bad irritation.  But it is not life threatening and not something that warrants major attention.


Can I confess something?  I have probably been a mosquito to you as a church member or adherent.  I am, if we're honest, a pastor that bug you from time to time (hopefulyl, not ALL the time...?) No doubt I have overlooked, forgotten or said something stupid in the last year, month or week.  That’s life in a sin affected world.  It was not intentional, and no malice was meant.  Without being funny or offensive, you have probably been a mosquito to someone else too – through things said, or unsaid, actions done or undone, right?


Think about it.   Imagine the scene…


+  Your favourite uncle promised to attend your soccer game, but double-booked and couldn’t make it. 

+  You’ve bought a new dress, spent a fortune at the hairdresser and manicure parlour, and your husband walks in at the end of a long day, and doesn’t even notice that there is anything different about your new exterior.

+  Your wife moves your car into the garage and nicks the painted side mirror.

+  Your name gets left off the church birthday notices in the weekly bulletin. 

+  Someone walks past you in the pew in church and steps on your toe.

+  That church member doesn’t greet you one Sunday morning in the foyer.

+  Or…. whatever!


The list of seemingly insignificant little things that are done accidentally, thoughtlessly and non-maliciously is endless.  But how do we respond to these things when they happen?  There is no sin intended, no hidden agenda of using that action to quietly launch a subtle personal attack on you.  So then, why is it that those little incidents provoke us to something resembling a nuclear attack on the “offending party?”


Paul wrote this to the Ephesians :


I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV)


Hmmm… bear with one another in love?  What does that mean?  Well, quite simply, put up with each other.  Overlook the minor stuff.  That’s fully consistent with what Solomon counselled :


Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV).


So, how good are you are overlooking offences?  If you are, it is actually commended in the Bible :


Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV). 


Scripture does not commend behaviour that is pride-filled, reactive and explosive.  It upholds patience, long-suffering and forbearance.  Peter even re-states the issue this way:


Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)


So then, what is bugging you about someone?  What is bugging you about me?  What is bugging me about you?  What irritating, mosquito-like behaviours are we inflicting on each other?  And then, how do we handle that?  More particularly, how do we handle that in a way that is biblical and honouring to Christ, as opposed to just reacting in the flesh?


The wise person who is responding in God-glorifying ways does not take offence at the accidental or the inconsequential.  The people who are quick to anger take everything as personal attacks on themselves.  Wisdom does not take offence at the accidental.  That is equally true of the inconsequential – those actions or words that might have been sin, but also might not have been.  “Was his voice too sharp?  Was his tone disrespectful?  Was that oversight deliberate?”  The wise person shows patience and refuses to imagine offences, or construct offences where there was absolutely no malice intended.


In our homes, marriages, families, workplaces and in our church family, do we do this?  Do we overlook the accidental and inconsequential?  The best way to avoid bitterness and lingering, stewing anger is to overlook and ignore the inconsequential and the accidental, and to truly forgive the consequential and the actual sins.  That, according to Proverbs, is to our glory, but also ultimately to the Lord’s. 


What do you need to do in response to the bugging of people?


[This is a repost of an old Facebook blog done in February 2015, and added to the official RBC site as a musings and a resource!]






"Bible" by Shakespeare

by Gavin  

"Bible" by Shakespeare


Before Surinarayan Venkatrathnam was released from Robben Island in 1977 he asked around 30 fellow inmates to sign the book he called his Bible.  Incarcerated as a political prisoner, Venkatrathnam had managed to source a copy of the “Collected Works of William Shakespeare,” which was illicit contraband for a political prisoners.  To keep possession of it, he carefully disguised it as a holy book, and called it his Bible: “I took my Diwali greetings cards that my family had sent me and I stuck the cards on the front, back and the spine of the book and when warders asked me what it was I told them that it was my Bible.”  He is quoted as saying that the Afrikaans guards were afraid of 2 things – lawyers and the Bible – and so he got away with it.   Venkatrathnam’s copy of Shakespeare was his only source of comfort during his long imprisonment.


That famed volume has toured the world, and is a prized exhibit.  It contains the signatures of some famous South African political prisoners.  It is most surely a treasure, and something that is significant in our nation’s history. That is not disputed.


But, I did have a deep moment of sadness as I read that story about Venkatrathnam and his “Bible.”  So much emphasis was placed on Shakespeare, who was indeed a literary genius, and someone who has made an immeasurable impact on English development.  To be sure, there is value in Shakespeare – both in the reading and the studying.


But, there is infinite value in God’s Word.  How might Venkatrathnam’s life, and the lives of others with him, have been radically changed if they were to have access and a desire to read God’s eternal truth?  Instead of disguising mere human words (profound as they are) as a holy book, what if he, like Augustine, took up and read the inspired biblical Scriptures and found total transformation?  Instead of some short-term hope and brightness in a prison cell from Shakespeare, might he not have been set free in his soul forever by the power of the gospel?  As Steven Lawson says, “


God is the one Source and sole Author of truth. Sin is whatever God says it is. Judgment is whatever God says it is. Salvation is what God says it is. Heaven and hell are what God says they are. It matters not what man says but simply what God says. One word of what God says is worth more than ten thousand libraries of what man says. “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4).


Shakespeare disguised as a holy book is an interesting account of national political history.  But reading great literary masterpieces doesn’t change lives.  Reading and responding to God’s truth is of infinitely more importance!


We as believers need to be supporting Bible translation, Bible distribution, Bible reading and Bible preaching – so that the lost can find true hope and lasting joy through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That gospel is contained in the Bible, God's full, final, authoratative and complete Word. 


The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7–11, ESV)


and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15–17, ESV)

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