Category: "General"

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)

 

100% committed

by Gavin  

100% committed

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)

Waking up the RBC neighbours!

by Gavin  

Waking up the RBC neighbours!

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...!!!

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…

 

http://brettfish.co.za/2016/05/27/dont-dare-let-give-easier-name/

 

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?

 

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!

 

O HOLY SPIRIT,

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"]

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