Category: "Current affairs"

Prayers for our President

by Gavin  

Prayers for our President

 The media has called it Zuma’s “Night of the Long Knives.” 

 

The midnight events as Thursday 30th March gave way to Friday 31st March streamed through the news feeds.  A major Cabinet reshuffle in South Africa has occurred, with political carnage being the order of the night.  Hirings, firings and lateral movement was the issue. A week of uncertainty, tinged with some scary certainty, ended as the President expelled the Finance Minister and his Deputy, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas.  Opposition parties are in protest, business leaders cry, “Foul” and the blog sites reflect the anger, disappointment and fear of ordinary South Africans.

 

No doubt opinions will continue to fly.  Emotions will rage.  Discussions will be had across the board in our country, amongst all strata of our beautiful people.

 

As professing believers in Christ, how do we see this all?  What perspective and should we have?  Irrespective of our own political allegiance, what are the umbrella principles and worldview issues that should dictate our responses and conversations and prayers? 

 

In a nutshell, writing as a pastor to help our people, I’d venture this in summary – look high and look long!

 

1)  Looking high involves a robust view of the sovereignty of God – that He is on His throne, that none of this takes Him by surprise, that His will and purposes are being worked out even in this turmoil, and that nothing undermines or thwarts His supreme authority.  Linked with that, consider that petty human kings, rulers, authorities and governments serve at the behest of God… If Mr Zuma thinks it is his prerogative to hire and fire ministers, he might be well advised to consider that he too serves under God’s supreme control…

 

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” (Isaiah 40:21–24, ESV)

 

2)  Looking long is the believer’s hope, isn’t it? Jesus Christ is coming back.  He is coming back as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  He will judge the living and the dead.  Perfect justice will prevail round the Judgement Seat of Christ.  He will restore all things, and make all things right.  There is blessed forward-looking hope for the believer. What is happening in 2017 is a blip on the radar screen of eternity for the believer in Christ.

 

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–9, ESV)

 

In light of that, how then do we pray for our government, and our President?

 

There are many texts to shape that kind of prayer – prayers for conviction, for restraint, prayers for repentance and them to come to faith in Christ.  Ample cases could be made for imprecatory prayer, seeking God’s intervention and justice to be brought to bear to stop the rot, halt the abuses, and bring good for the poor and vulnerable who face the brunt of the aftermath.  To be sure, praying for God’s righteous anger to burn would be appropriate, coupled with His mercy to flow – for the nation, for the government and for the President.

 

But I am compellingly drawn to the timeless words of Psalm 2…

 

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2, ESV)

 

This really should be a model of prayer for South African Christians at this time – for God’s Spirit to bring conviction of the sheer arrogance, power-mad behaviour and godlessness that prevails.

 

Mr Zuma, it is highly unlikely that you will ever get to read this posting – but I hope you read something similar from someone, at some stage.  Believers in our country are concerned – not just about the political issues, which are often mere opinion. We’re concerned about the godlessness, the lack of righteous behaviour, the slide to a moral abyss.  We’re concerned about the heart motives in the corridors of power that seemingly undergird that – what appears to be a wilful rejection of God, an abandonment of His Word and a disregard for the authority of God under which you serve.

 

Mr Zuma, you claim that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes back.  In God’s mysterious providence, that may, or may not be, the case.  But the more compelling issue is this – Jesus Christ IS coming back.  And you, along with every other person, will get to face Him and give an account for your life.  And the Bible is crystal clear – those without Christ, without faith in the glorious Son of God, will be condemned to eternal judgement.  Mr President, will you be ready for that day?  I pray so, for the good of your eternal soul.

 

Please heed the call of God to you as a ruler:

 

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10–12, ESV)

2016 – a year worth forgetting!

by Gavin  

2016 – a year worth forgetting!

As we approach the end of 2016, the usual flurry of reflections and future assessments emerge.  Just today, predictions hit the news of possible fuel increases for our country as we heaf into the new year.  George Michael demised, with a resultant flood of retrospective nostalgia, back to WHAM days.  Ananias Mathe passed into eternity, with comments renewed again on his notorious life of crime.  Predictions abound as to the state of national and international politics and economics in the new year... we are not without a daily dose of doom and gloom, right?  

 

One local reported penned an interesting article, entitled, “2016 – a Year Worth Forgetting.”  She makes some interesting points, summing up with these words:

 

What awaits us in 2017? A toxic mix of the nuclear deal and the concomitant secrecy, ANC succession battles, the flailing economy and Treasury fighting the good fight, the ‘State of Capture’ report which must be dealt with and the ANC benches in Parliament increasingly divided. Oh, and the 783 charges of fraud and corruption hanging over Zuma’s head.

 

So then, 2016 may well be a year worth forgetting – there is much to forget in terms of the pain, corruption, injustice, crime, disease, natural disasters, political shenanigans and the sheer raw side of human sinfulness we see.  That is undeniable.  And that is even without mentioning what happened with Springbok rugby in the last season... the term annus horribilis has been used freely to sum up the 2016 season!

 

The question is, will 2017 be better?  And what happens if it is not? 

 

In fact, just to drive us all into even greater despair, it may well be worse!  We don’t know.  The pain might be worse, the corruption might escalate, the lawlessness [progress to even more levels of degradation, injustice might abound at unprecedented levels, the economy might collapse, the rich and corrupt may get even more rich and corrupt, and South African politics may descend into depths of sordidness that could not be imagined.  Nkandla (version 2 on steroids) might still happen!  Nene-Gate may well pale into insignificance by some 2017 political move!    It’s possible.  Our sin-affected world is in “bondage to corruption” (Rom 8:21).  Paul penned these words, and they still hold true in our own age…

 

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Timothy 3:1–4, ESV)

 

If that’s true, and it is, then our future looks rosy, right!  NOT!

 

Can I offer a modicum of pastoral counsel as the days of 2016 slip away, and we as a Randburg Baptist Church family face 2017?  I know that many battle with the situation of the world, as described above.  I am not immune to the same. I know that our people at Randburg Baptist Church are angry at what happens, disillusioned about the state of the nation, despairing over the slide to greater sin, and boiling inside at the injustice and corruption. 

 

What awaits us in 2017?  Quite possible, even more of the same, if not worse.  And yet we’re called, and indeed equipped, to live joyful and peaceful and faith-filled lives in Christ in the midst of this mess.  Paul Tripp calls it our “Broken Down House” 

 

“Sin has ravaged the house that God created. Our world sits slumped, groaning for the restoration that can only be accomplished by the hands of the Builder.  The bad news is that we’re living in the midst of the restoration process. But the good news is that the divine Builder will not relent until His house is made new again.  Someday we’ll live forever in a fully restored house. In the meantime, Emmanuel resides with us today, returning His house to its former beauty.  You live in a place damaged by sin. But you don’t have to be discouraged and depressed.  Live productively in this broken world.

 

Let’s refocus then on what we know to be true, and hit 2017 with 2 key focus points:

 

  • Look up – gaze and meditate often on the sovereignty, bigness, power, wisdom, goodness, mercies, faithfulness and love of God. Let that be food for your soul!
  • Look long – consider often the fact that this world is not your home, that heaven is your place of citizenship, that Christ is coming back, that justice will prevail and that heaven awaits for you, and that a devastating hell awaits for those who reject God. That those truths shape your thinking in the present.

 

Take some time to read and re-read Psalm 73, even as we hear more stories of political and national abuse, corruption and a slide to greater sin… take note of the slippery slope and the eternal end…

 

A PSALM OF ASAPH. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73, ESV)

 

#feesmustfall 2016 - prayer thoughts for our church

by Gavin  

#feesmustfall 2016 - prayer thoughts for our church

 

We awoke yet again to news of a student protest in Parktown this morning, after a weekend of reports of continued unrest across various campuses in South Africa.  How should Christians respond?  One temptation, I suppose, is to grumble and complain and air opinions.  However, there is a depth and complexity to this whole movement which I fear many of us fail to grasp and understand, and therefore our opinions probably don’t really reflect much true consideration of the deep rooted anger, economics disparity and suspicion that simmers under the surface in our country.

 

This short piece is by no means an attempt to delve into the intricacies of the issues.  In fact, this should be read in conjunction with my previous musings from a year ago (see previous blog).  This is therefore more to urge prayer from our church people as we live and function in this community which is so affected by these protests.  Our church families have students who are in this university cauldron, and their own lives and studies have been affected. There are also families in our church who would really benefit from a #feesmustfall outcome in that they do not have the financial means to afford tertiary education.  Our supported gospel ministry on Wits campus has also been disrupted by the protest action.

 

I know that we as a local church have prayed for this matter – it has featured as prayer items in our Fellowship Groups, men’s “Okes” group and even in corporate intercessory prayer in services.  It is right that we do so…

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” (1 Timothy 2:1–3, ESV)

 

We’re called to pray for our country and government.  Let’s include in that Minister Nzimande, the Department of High Education and other stake holders.  Pray for the various Senates and Vice-Chancellors.  Pray for the student leaders and students involved – for calm, safety and reason.  The way ahead is going to be fraught with many dangers and challenges.   But, for the sake of all in our country, pray!

 

But let’s also pray being mindful of the human sinfulness involved.  Sure, the initial protests have opened up (maybe rightfully) a can of worms, and exposed issues in society that have been forgotten.  But through the potential legitimacy of the original #feesmustfall action, there has been a slide to what the Bible accurately attributes to human depravity… consider the actions and attitudes of the radical protesters, the rampant violence, the arson, the anti-authoritarian resistance etc against the backdrop of Scripture:

 

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28–31, ESV)

 

Is that description of human depravity not reflected in what is happening, in and through the actions of certain students and student leaders?  To be sure, much of what is occurring goes far beyond the original peaceable call for the fee issue to be addressed, but the hot-headedness of the 2016 protests is in stark contrast with the relative calm of 2015. 

 

In fact, the apostle Paul describes this scene in the context of the last days…

 

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1–5, ESV)

 

Are we not seeing just a taste of that through the student unrest?

 

So then, should not a fair chunk of prayer be for the penetration of the gospel into this mess?  Surely we would be better serving the cause of God by praying “Your Kingdom come” when we gather and pray, as opposed to merely rehashing our opinions, “insights” and grumblings?  Pray that those who act like this because they do not know Christ, would indeed, by a divine and gracious intervention of God, come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.  Pray that some dramatic “But God” style intervention occurs, as per what Paul describes…

 

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:3–5, ESV)

 

And in fact, going back to the preceding verses, how should we pray for our Christian students on our campuses?  We at Randburg Baptist Church have students at Wits, UJ, Tuks and North West (Mahikeng)?  How should we pray for them?  Here are some pointers…

 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1–2, ESV)

 

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12, ESV)

 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV)

 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:15–16, ESV)

 

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV)

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

 

So then, can I appeal to our Randburg Baptist Church for renewed prayer in this regard – for all concerned and involved in whatever way?  Let’s appeal to our God for His sovereign intervention – undeserving as we are as a nation for anything good from Him – to work, act, restrain, convict, save, lead, guide, assist and grant wisdom in this #feesmustfall scenario that is playing out across our land.

Pastoral reflections on #feesmustfall (re-post from 2015)

by Gavin  

Pastoral reflections on #feesmustfall (re-post from 2015)

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE RBC FACEBOOK PAGE ON 20TH OCTOBER 2015, BUT RE-POSTED IN LIGHT OF THE CURRENT STATUS ON SOUTH AFRICAN CAMPUSES IN OCTOBER 2016

 

#feesmustfall

 

 

This has been watershed week for our country. 

 

A protest against the tuition fees increase at Wits has sparked a nationwide (and indeed international) response to the matter of tertiary education.  The media is agog with the events as they unfold across the country, on various campuses, city streets and outside Parliament.  Summarising the multitudes of voices in support and against is impossible – from students, academics, politicians and everyone else who has a thought or an opinion.

 

I’ve watched.  Listened. Read. I’ve tried to process and digest and wrestle with some of the issues.  It is clear that there is a level of interrelated complexity in this issue that cannot be resolved easily.  This is not just tuition fees. Issues of economics, socio-economics, race, philosophy, worldview, coupled with our own chequered and painful South African history, all comes into play.  That much is clear to me… the complexity.  I don’t say that lightly or glibly, or as an excuse to not understand.

 

When pushed for a view over the last few days, I have typically been reticent.  I quite honestly don’t know or understand enough.  Maybe I cling to my favourite verse too much :  “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:28, ESV).  I also am not one prone to like conflict… raised voices and fists and passions and red-faced anger and protesting crowds doesn’t sit well.  Having been caught up in explosive and violent students protests at Technikon Witwatersrand decades ago, the intensity of all this brings back bad memories.  It just doesn’t typically end well – for all concerned.

 

And yet, in God’s providence, I am called to try and pastor our people at this time.  And our people are affected.  Some are even involved.  We have church families reflected on Wits and UJ and NWU (Mahikeng).  Parents pay fees, and cry at the increases.  Some really battle – year on year.  In fact, most do, I’d imagine.  We have students on those campuses wrestling with these very issues.  Parents watch from the sidelines.  Our own Randburg Baptist Church family is affected – and grappling with how to understand it all, engage, respond.

 

And so I am forced to enter the discussion – pastorally.  I am not a politician.  I do not pay fees at the moment, although in time that will change.  I have however been there and done that, and felt the weight of financial constraints and burdens and crippling study debt myself.  I am not so far removed from the issues that this is a mere cold, clinical response.  I just feel the confusion and pain that our students, parents and families have been thrust into. 

 

So then, how should we see and respond to what is unfolding with #feesmustfall?

 

What follows are merely provisional musings.  I concede yet again (as I think we all must), that our perspectives are all limited, skewed and sin-affected.  We all carry baggage and prejudice, and look at the world through lenses which are most often not gospel-centered.  While we think we know in our arrogance, we probably don’t.  There is much listening to be done.

 

Firstly, we live in a fall, sin-affected world.  That is our present reality.  Nothing works as it should.  Structures and people and relationships are all sin tainted.  All creation is indeed groaning.  Sad – but true.  It will be different in heaven, when Christ restores everything to perfect harmony.  But, for now, we live and work and study in a world of pain, injustice and disharmony.  That is even seen in aspects of this protest action… what was largely peaceful and controlled has at times degenerated into the picture Paul paints :  “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Timothy 3:1–4, ESV).  The intimidation, destruction of property, sheer disrespect and theft cannot be excused.  Nor can the response of police brutality.  Even as I write, news feeds show that foreign students at Rhodes have become targets of xenophobic attacks.  Sinfulness abounds in much of what is unfolding.

 

That, despite the best interventions and political willpower, will not change.  And yet, in that mess, believers in Christ are called to live out their faith, and be salt and light for the gospel. 

 

Secondly, it is clear that even in that mess, believers carry a responsibility to promote peace and justice.  Again, there is a complexity of dynamics and economics beyond my limited understanding, but it is clear that much of what undergirds these responses is a legacy of injustice.  While the true gospel is always about salvation in Christ, does Scripture also not compel action to ease the situations right now?  There is a case to be made for intervention – where there are broken relationships, hunger and poverty, social ills etc.  Where there is a “neighbour” in need, believers are called to respond, right?  Tim Keller makes a compelling point as he writes :

 

"A strong social conscience, and a life poured out in deeds of service to others, especially the poor, is the inevitable sign of a real relationship with God, of real faith."

 

Hmmmm….  Now understand, doing good deeds does not save anyone.  The gospel is about salvation from sin through Christ.  But our works – deeds done in response to God’s grace – should surely involved helping real need. 

 

Now does that mean solidarity with the #feesmustfall protest?  Does that mean involvement in the #feesmustfall protest?  I don’t know, and can’t answer definitively.  But action is called for to assist those who have been unjustly treated.  What should the response be from professing believers, with means, to those who battle in very real ways? 

 

Now, to more personal matters… I’ve been asked what people should do.  I have been thrust into a situation of needing to give guidance where there is confusion and pain and anger.  There is no easy answer.  Some little throw-away comment will probably not suffice.  But, allow me to highlight some principles which I think can (and indeed should) be helpful.  I’d encourage students and parents and others to just think through these points carefully, and see what emerges in terms of God speaking through His timeless and sufficient Word…

 

  • Should we get involved?
  • What is my motive for involvement?
  • What should my attitude be to authority, Senates, SAPS and parents?
  • What is shaping my opinion and responses?
  • Will my actions be honouring to Christ, and promote the gospel?

 

Look and reflect on these texts to shape your own thinking and engagement:

 

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13, ESV)

 

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17, ESV)

 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV)

 

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17–18, ESV)

 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1–2, ESV)

 

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,” (Titus 3:1, ESV)

 

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,” (1 Peter 2:13, ESV)

 

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14, ESV)

 

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV)

 

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”” (Ephesians 6:1–3, ESV)

 

““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16, ESV)

 

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

 

Those are really just my initial pointers.  If you genuinely seek to be led by God’s Word and your conscience on all of this, then read, study and pray.  Here’s my pastoral counsel as individuals and families grapple with thus – be led by God’s Word and a clear conscience, not popular opinion and mass waves.  Sure, you may well still settle on that being an acceptable option.  But this is a time to pull back, think, reflect and come to a sober, rational, biblical and God-honouring position. 

 

Should we be involved?  Not involved? Supportive?  Opposing?  That’s a conscience issue that we all need to grapple with.  In fact, is God challenging even more from us all, more than merely support for a popular protest?  Are there areas of challenge and cost that might be needed to truly make a real difference in the life of someone who is struggling in tangible ways?

 

In the meantime, let’s pray.  Pray for your country and government and varsity Senates and Vice-Chancellors.  Pray for the student leaders and students involved – for calm, safety and reason.  The way ahead looks rocky.  But, for the sake of all in our country, pray as Paul instructed :

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,” (1 Timothy 2:1–3, ESV)

 

I offer this provisional response humbly, mindful of the multiple pitfalls and deficiencies, and yet hopeful that God will shape our thinking and responses in ways that honour Him…

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. 

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