Tag Archives: South Africa

You Think You Know Someone…

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters…When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying,“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 1:12-15, 17-18

AcaciaTree SunriseEver have a really good friend and, somewhere along the way in the relationship, you see him/her in his/her “natural environment” and you come to realize you didn’t know him/her nearly as well as you thought you did? You’ve been through hard times together, you’ve travelled together, you’ve met family and know each other’s triumphs and fears, and you have logged lots and lots of hours just hanging out together. But, by some twist of circumstances, you happen to catch him/her in a situation where the real “natural” self comes out and you think, “Wow. Did not see that coming.” And then it hits you…this is who he/she really is!

I believe John (the apostle and writer of Revelation) and Jesus were best friends. Best. Friends. I believe that is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the gospels. John was clearly in Jesus’ “inner circle” (along with Peter and John’s brother, James). He was atop the Mount of Transfiguration to …

Surviving a Lion Attack

Tuesday Re-mix:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

Want a chuckle for today?  Check out this Wiki article on 7 steps to survive a lion attack.  Yeh, I’m not altogether certain about those seven steps.  I have a question or two about them.  For starters, do I try to recall these steps before I wet my pants or after?

I love that Peter uses this illustration to make his point about our enemy.  It is perfect for so many reasons.

Consider, for example, how a lioness hunts.  She is capable of following a herd of animals for days, even weeks, stalking and studying.  She watches to learn which of the members are the weakest and the most likely to fall behind the rest of the herd.  You see, when it comes to lion attacks, there is protection in the herd.  The lioness watches for lame or young or otherwise “slower” members of the herd who are more likely to make decisions that tend to “distance” them from the herd…decisions that might make the protection of the herd more and more tenuous.

The same is true of our enemy.  He watches the church (the “herd”)…stalking and learning.  He watches for those members most likely to distance themselves from the church…most likely to forsake the spiritual protection of God’s people.  You see, being created for community means we actually need each other’s diligent protection against the schemes of our enemy.  We really must let friends get close enough to us to protect us.  We  must make arrangements with brothers and sisters who will love us enough to ask us some hard questions about our choices.  That, my friend, is what “accountability” means.

My friend, …

Foreigners in Our Own Country

Tuesday Re-mix:

…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.  1 Peter 1:17

Every year my ministry takes a team to South Africa. It is always a Spirit-filled time with old friends and new friends alike.

SA FlagOver my years of making this trip, I have come to know some things about that country…things about it’s people, it’s society, and its politics.  I’m still learning the right questions to ask and the ones not to ask…when to ask them and when not to ask them.  In so many ways, it is not unlike here in the U.S.  Like here, there is within the church a degree of discontent with the moral and political directions that country seems to be headed.

When our team finds ourselves in those conversations, there is always some “freedom” in being able to say, “We’re not from here.”  We can still have an opinion, even a Biblical perspective on the issue, but we are not in any position to impose those opinions on a country where we are only visitors.  We have now grasped what it feels like to be “ambassadors for Christ” in a foreign land.  We have the freedom (and the responsibility) to speak the truth, but no freedom (nor responsibility) to try to force it or to impose it on anyone.  That is not our business.

In the end, the distinction between those two postures can be a thin line. Somehow, being foreigners in that land, it is an easier distinction to grasp.  Speak the truth, in love, but do not seek political power to impose that truth on a country where we are mere visitors.

US FlagAs I meditate on Peter’s words above…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fearI feel just a little more clarity about …

The Truth About Andrew’s Birthday Gift

Tuesday Re-mix –

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:7

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I think the trick to understanding Spiritual Gifts is remembering their purpose…remembering for whose benefit they are intended.

Have you ever been so pleased with a gift you found for someone that you decided to get the same thing for yourself as well?  Should we feel guilty about that?  Do we have to tell the person that we did that, or can we just give them the gift and keep the rest of the story to ourselves?  Is that deceptive?  Does that break any gift-giving rules?  Can we please get a ruling on this?

One of my two team members (Andrew) on last year’s South Africa trip had a birthday while we were traveling.  I happened to be walking through the Waterfront at Cape Town a day or two before and saw the coolest little key chain.  It was African art, a symbol for unity (it shows two crossed crocodiles).  I thought it would be a perfect and simple little birthday gift for Andrew.  I bought it.  But I was so excited about it, I decided I wanted one for myself too!  And then I decided I wanted one for Kelley too, so that our whole Unity Ministries team could have this as a memory from this trip.  And, alas, Andrew’s birthday gift became a team gift for all of us!  I suppose the original purpose of the gift got a little blurred in the process…Very sorry, Andrew!

I think that can happen with Spiritual Gifts as well.  When the Spirit manifests Himself …

Unity is Not for Wimps

Tuesday Re-mix –

You may be aware that my ministry has an on-going relationship with churches in South Africa, where our teams go and teach unity principles.  Do you see the irony in that?  The irony is that anyone from the American church would be teaching South Africans about unity.  There are a great many things the American church has done well…but unity is not one of them.  In fact, our secular culture of democracy and Roberts Rules of Order, etc. have actually worked against us in that regard.  In matters of true Biblical unity, the church in America just does not demonstrate much understanding.  Now, if you want to talk about religious liberties and how the church and the government relate to each other in light of those liberties, we definitely have some answers.  Our 200 years of our cultural experiment in that area have put us way ahead of the rest of the world.  But in the area of unity, maybe not so much.

In a similar way, the South African culture has actually helped that church understand some things about unity.  A collection of many different tribes and people groups, South Africa literally had its unity hand forced by the breaking down of Apartheid and the building of a society in a post-Apartheid season.  It has been difficult and it has been painful.  I suspect most South Africans would say they still have a ways to go.  But they have been doing the hard work which unity in their country requires and they understand that it does not come cheaply.  Of all the lessons they have learned about unity, I am most impressed with that one. Unity does not come cheaply and it requires a great deal of hard work in order to preserve it. They get …

Balancing Content with Discontent

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

While traveling among the churches in South Africa, I would often sit in my room at night, journaling my experience and how God revealed Himself to me that day.  I’m not a very faithful “journaler” here at home, but I am consistent with it when I travel abroad.  It helps me report back to those who are praying at home.  But often I am not able to articulate what I’m seeing until I get home, as in this particular case.  It wasn’t until I was home, preparing a lesson from Philippians 3-4 that another observation about the South African church struck me.

perfect-balance

Paul lived his life in a constant tension between two attitudes which leaned against each other in perfect balance.  The first was his interminable desire to know Christ better.  He had a drive in him to always press forward, always looking for God and always wanting to draw closer to Christ.  His comment in Philippians 3:10 (“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…”) bears witness to this attitude.  Near the very end of his life, the most important writer and church starter of the New Testament church still wanted more of Christ.  It is inspiring.

But leaning up against this constant discontent was the attitude he expresses just one chapter later in Philippians 4: “I have learned to be content in all circumstances…”  Paul was so focused on the eternal, that the temporal, physical circumstances of his life never bothered him much.  Because of this focus, Paul was able to walk in this perfect balance of contentment with the physical but constant discontent  and forward progress with his Spiritual placement with Christ.…

Ubuntu

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“Ubuntu is the essence of being a person.  It means that we are people through other people.  We cannot be fully human alone.  We are made for interdependence, we are made for family.  When you have ubuntu, you embrace others.  You are generous, compassionate...You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others.  You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children.  This is God’s dream.” Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu

It never fails.  I go on mission to a faraway place in order to teach, and I become the student.  My ministry is currently working in partnership with the Baptist Union of South Africa to do unity conferences and pastors’ conferences with churches there.  We have made several trips there already, with another one scheduled for this year.  I have treasured my time in South Africa and, oh, how I have learned from my brothers and sisters in Christ there!

How ironic that God would allow me to teach unity principles in a country so rich with words and symbols for unity.  The majestic white lion is one of those symbols.  And ubuntu is one of those words.

With its origins in the tribal mentality of the very diverse people of South Africa, ubuntu describes the clear sense of living in community with others.  It connotes an interdependence, so that when one member of the community suffers, everyone suffers.  It includes a strong sense of loyalty, such as to family.  It involves belonging to others, and others belonging to you.  It is a word which is so very descriptive of the Biblical concept of unity.…