Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Going into the New Year

Going into the New Year
When I watched how the world celebrated the New Year in all the big cities of the world I realised the best they can do is to have a countdown and a fireworks display! We had an amazing time in God's presence! The church was chock-a-block and the people were in tune with what the Holy Spirit wanted to do. Chantal led us in awesome worship and then Nola released a new hymn that led us to new heights in worship - you could hear the 10 000 voice Angel Choir sing along with us! We had some testimonies of God's mighty works in our midst and then I preached on 'The Peerless Man' (He had no peers to be compared with!) We ministered to people when they realised Jesus came to deal with our wrong being rather than our wrong doing, and afterwards we ministered to people for divine healing by the laying on of hands. It all went very quickly because the members of the body of Christ worked together in tandem and no one looked for the superstar among us with all the gifts of the Spirit! No one fell asleep. It was too exciting and too liberating. Just before midnight the meeting was over so we had about ten minutes to do 3 Blues numbers! A young man from Pretoria that repairs pipe organs came up to me afterwards and said, 'how do you do that? How do you play the blues?' I said, 'it is easy!' then he said, 'I'm going to try that!’ The joy of being in the Lord's presence as the old year faded and the New Year dawned, was amazing. No one wanted to leave. People lingered around for a long time. It was awesome. No fireworks display, no countdown, but what a way to end the year and start the New Year! Money cannot buy the privilege of being part of the body of Christ especially when the year ends and the new one begins! We give all the glory to God. Oh yes, and we also gave our offering: it was the last offering we could sow in 2012 to invest in 2013! I was so exhilarated by the service that I could not go to sleep immediately. Nola made me another Mexican Taco (leftovers from dinner) and we had a midnight feast. Hilton Skyped his new friend in Caracas, Venezuela. 2013 had begun!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Parting is such sweet sorrow
Something I have always observed in places of travel is the high level of emotion on display. Whether it is a trains station in Europe, a dock in New York or an airport in Cape Town, people openly let go of their feelings and have no shame to show it. The moment is too big. The moment is too real. The moment is too unbearable. There are releases of great joy and abundance of happiness as people rush to embrace after long absences and glorious reunions; there are neck hugging moments of tear filled farewells that touches the hardest heart; there are moments of tip-toe waving and blowing kisses and there are sad shouldered turn arounds with cheeks dripping with moisture of tears.
When will I see them again?
The long wait is the thing that gnaws at the heart.
I remember distinctly when my parents said goodbye to me at Jan Smuts Airport, (it has changed name twice since then and probably will change again, so for those who do not know where that is, it is Johannesburg International Airport, now also known as O.R. Tambo International airport) when I left South Africa to go and study the Bible in the desert of Arizona in Miracle Valley Bible College, how they smiled through the tears and said: 'if we never see you again, we give you to the work of the Lord, son!' Their words echoed in my mind for hours afterwards and I also shed some tears.
Many years later I found a video film in Milnerton Public Library, entitled, 'The Black Robe'. It told the tale of the Jesuit priests who gave up their lives to reach the north Canadian Indians in a snow covered environment. When one of the young priests greeted his mother, he said, 'you will never see me again.' She knew and she shed a tear and took one last look at her son. Then she turned and walked away. He gave his life to reach those heathen Indian tribes and died there. The medicine man told the Indian chief: 'he steals the souls of our people by making that sign of a cross on their foreheads.' The chief had him murdered. That movie made me cry. I could never watch it again, but it keeps on returning in my sub-conscious mind.
The plane is made in the shape of a cross: the body with the two outstretched wings...if seen from the tail camera it resembles a cross. I once heard the words inside of me: 'planes have become your cross,' while watching the plane on the small video screen in the economy section.
When I was young I heard a voice say to me: 'I've counted your travels' (In Afrikaans: 'Ek het jou omswerwinge getel.' I cried because I never bothered to count my travels to other lands at that stage. So I retraced my steps and counted 26 journeys. Since then I have had 246 International flights (not counting the inland flights in all the countries I have been to, like Australia, South Africa, South America, America, India, Europe, UK, China.) Flying has become a part of my cross, yes.
So when I go to an airport and experience the overwhelming emotions of people who might not travel as often as I do, it still touches me, after all this time, especially if I know them.
We said goodbye to our daughter Yve who married Don, an American. There was much tears, although we were also filled with joy for their future. The admixture of joy and sorrow is strange, but true, especially at an airport, or at a harbour, or on the platform of a railway station.
Parting is such sweet sorrow - Shakespeare.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Original Genius

Graham Bernard Shaw wrote about original genius and said there are those who contribute to the life force and they are normally original thinkers. Japan tends to copy America in everything. It's quite sad because America just about destroyed that nation with the A-bomb and now they bow to them in copying them in everything. It was something I observed while in Japan. In life too there are people who copy what original genius create. 

Luke, one of our church musicians, remarked yesterday: 'the reason I do not like most Christian music is because they always try to copy what is in the world already and they do such a bad job of it!' 

When the Beatles emerged, suddenly there was a host of other boy bands: The Animals, The Troggs, The Small Faces...everyone suddenly grew their hair to hang on their foreheads and every band had three guitar players and a drummer.

Pioneers pay a price of being rejected and despised at first but later on they are emulated for the very thing they have been rejected for. Moses for instance: Acts 7 they say that the Jews rejected Moses as their leader but the same Moses led them out by the hand of the Angel that appeared to him in the burning bush. They said, 'who made you a judge over us?' That same Moses became their judge in the wilderness. What people accuse you of can become your epithet. The Jews said Jesus is not our king, and they got Pilate to crucify Him, but Pilate wrote in three world languages: The King of the Jews! And hung it on the cross above Jesus' head. The accusation became his title.

They used to mock me as a little boy and call me 'apostolie!' from across the street and at school the teachers called me 'Pastoortjie'. Little did they know they were announcing my mission and ministry in life, simultaneously? It was hard being mocked and despised because I was Pentecostal, but I am what I am today because of the persecution I have received.

If the devils knew what was happening when Jesus was crucified they would have prevented the crucifixion. When they rejoiced that Jesus died, they were sealing their own defeat forever!

Think about this principle and it will bless you too - for all of us have some area where we have been rejected and despised, but God is our redeemer, He redeems these areas and turns our negatives into positives.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Do what you can

One of the most amazing statements Jesus ever made was when he released a woman from the opinion of other people. It happened when he was having a meal with some religious scholars. She came in and broke an alabaster box full of spikenard, a very expensive perfume that was normally a savings account towards a wedding, and poured it over Jesus' feet and dried his feet with her hair. Can you imagine the mess of the broken vessel, the running oil and the oily hair? And not to mention the smell in the air: the food smells and the strong perfume mixed. Judas Iscariot the treasurer of Jesus' party was offended. 'She could have sold the perfume and given it to the poor!' he reprimanded. The religious scholars were alarmed that Jesus did not know what kind of woman that was. She was a street lady, but Jesus did a lot for her when he cast 7 demons out of her and set her free. She wanted to return the favor. Can you see her standing in the entrance, hesitant, not sure if she is doing the right thing: she is giving up her savings for her future marriage to spill it on a man that helped her. How will he react? Will he be upset? Will he accept her offering? It took so many years to gather the spikenard... and now it will all be gone in a few seconds! But then she took the courage of her conviction, burst forward and broke the alabaster box and scooped up the flowing perfume and washed Jesus feet with it. Then she dried it with her hair... for at least she will have the perfume that she washed the Master's feet with in her hair for a while. She will treasure it as long as it lasts. When everyone scolded her and told Jesus he had to stop her, Jesus came up in her defense: 'Leave her alone - she did what she could! Since I came in here you did not offer Me any water to wash My feet, but she washed it for me! And what she did will always be remembered as a memorial to her, because she anointed Me for my burial.' He was speaking prophetically and most of them did not understand that He was referring to His crucifixion. She did what she could - that is really all the Master asks of us. Sometimes we feel that we never do enough, sometimes we overdo it - but as long as we do what we can, the Master is satisfied and He will come to our defense. It takes such a strain off us when we know we can simply do what we can and then it will be sufficient. It breaks the yoke of other people's expectations and cracks the burden of their opinions about us. The Master is happy if we do what we can for Him and for others. It is so simple it is staggering!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Along the Way

Along the Way Along the way I saw a little boy play Bull-Fight with a long horn African cow. He used a sheet of white plastic for a cloth which he dangled in front of the cow. He stared at the cow and challenged it to charge at him. The cow paid no attention to him, even as he stepped closer and closer! I saw the many roadside stalls along the way selling just about everything you can think of, from raw meat hanging on hooks in the sun, to manikins nailed to wooden crosses to display clothes! I saw a traffic officer clad in white trying to direct the traffic but no one paid attention to him. He blew his football referee’s whistle in vain. The drone of traffic noises overpowered him. I saw a vendor leading four goats on four strings, but one of the goats kept on lying down in the tall grass to rest! I saw a huge crane sitting on a steeple like a weather horn waiting for the wind to blow. I saw a deserted mission church in the jungle. I saw school children walk along the road in the villages balancing their books on their heads. I saw people walking on railway tracks because the railroad system is non-existent in Uganda.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Unsung Heroes

Martin Luther made a sudden vow to become a monk when a lightning bolt killed his mate next to him when they were on their way home from a drinking binge. Well, so the story goes!
Think about that...without that event Luther would never have gone into a monastery and the Reformation that changed the world would never have taken place and the bible would not have been translated into German! Wow!
But we do not know anything about the friend who literally gave his life to spark off the desire in Luther, or the fear, really, to dedicate the rest of his life to God!
Sometimes a friend's death is the thing that changes someone's life!
Well, Jesus's death changed millions of lives...When you realise He died for your own sins (that you should go to hell for) you suddenly feel like dedicating your life to God as well, maybe even become a reformer, like Luther!
It is often the unsung heroes that never get a mention in history that sparked off the bravery and dedication of the known heroes. Who will remember them? Who will reward them?
Barrabas was a murderer and a thief and he got set free instead of Jesus on the day of the Passover Feast. Jesus died in his place and he was allowed to go free! Imagine his surprise when the Roman prison warden came to tell him, 'You are free to go!' When he was told an unsung hero would die in his place he must have been flabberghasted! Imagine the scene...why would a stranger die in my place? Who is this man?
I wonder if he stayed to watch the crucifixion of his substitute? I wonder if he watched them kill the person that should have been him? Or did he just vanish into the milling crowd?
Who could bear to watch the torture of someone on a cross? Who could stand the torment and the pain? Only Jesus' mother and the beloved disciple John had the guts to stay close to the cross. All the other disciples fled away - even big mouth Peter! ('If all forsake you, I never will!) Big deal! Yet Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and 3000 got saved and baptised! Peter raised Dorcas from the dead! Peter's shadow healed people in the street! Peter sat with the leaders...yet when it counted he wasn't there.
In Charles Dicken's novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Darnay and his friend exchange clothes in a prison and the one dies instead of the other with the following words on his lips as he steps to the scaffolding of the French guillotine: 'It's a far, far better way to go...' so that his friend could be united to the woman he loved. What an amazing climax to a love story!
There is no greater life than a friend giving his life for his friends!
But often that moment comes unexpectedly, unplanned, uncalculated...who is ever ready for such a sacrifice?
But those men and women who died in the great wars of the world, who gave their lives so that we could carry on with life, who died so that we could be free from world domination by insane dictators...all we have for them are some statues, a flame somewhere, 'for the unknown soldier'...
In Christianity there are scores of martyrs, unknown to us, who died so that we could have the Word of God and experience salvation through Jesus Christ. Today coptic Christians in Muslim countries are still being executed for their faith...
Communism in both Russia and China destroyed the lives of multiple thousands of believers and we have no clue who they were. But they are the unsung heroes of our faith!
I have often watched cricket when someone scores a century and I've seen how others honour him as a great batsman, but his partner at the other end who kept on encouraging him, and kept on giving him the bowling, and kept on supporting him is often the unsung hero of the game. Its great to see a teacher go up to the unsung hero and say, 'you did your job well!' to a schoolboy who did his utmost to keep the partnership going.
When will our eyes open to see all the unsung heroes around us? The mother that kept on praying for her son until he turned to Christ; the mother that worked hard to pay the school fees of her daughter; the father who accumulated wealth for his children and grandchildren to enjoy; the old lady in church who gave her car to help with the purchasing of the church property; the boy who gave up his scholarship to obey the call of God in the ministry; the missionary who sold all he possessed to support his family on the mission field...
Have a look around you and see all the unsung heroes in your life and begin to thank them in whatever way possible, for you never know when you might be called upon to become an unsung hero as well!
It's a far, far better way to go...the way of love's ultimate sacrifice. Michael Caine once starred in a War Movie entitled, 'Too Late the Hero', which is also one of my favorite movies. Caine plays the part of a soldier that just wants to survive the jungle war, but in the end he gives his life to save a friend. He played the anti-hero perfectly and eventually became the hero.

Potatoes Sunny Side Up?

And so I was asked: 'What can I get you for breakfast? Boiled Potatoes, sunny side up?'
For a moment I was baffled. My mind raced to try to imagine what this dish looked like. Then i put two and two together and realized breakfast normally included the question about fried eggs, sunny side up? So it had nothing to do with eggs at all, it simply meant, the best we can offer. So I obliged and said, 'ok, let me have it!'I literally got small boiled potatoes for breakfast in my plate. I have never eaten potatoes for breakfast anywhere else except in Kiev, in the Ukraine, where I ate nothing but potatoes for a whole weak until I went with the lady of the house to buy some withered vegetables and a bit of meat in a shanty shop location two hour bus ride away from their community apartment.
But I was in a little village somewhere in Nigeria and in a hotel and the young man was put in charge of training the hotel staff. He was ambitious, energetic and high spirited and put his best foot forward all the time to impress the foreigner, but they did not have everything in place yet, not the right equipment nor the right products for meals. For instance they do not have Coca Cola in the bar. Only Sprite. They only serve from the bottles that are open - otherwise you have to purchase the whole bottle.
They are making great improvements all the time. They are training the staff - and the young man, whose name was Paul, was in charge of all the training, which happened openly. He corrected staff members on the spot and reprimanded them in front of the guests and also met with them every morning after prayer and worship, to give them instructions. He warned the older men not to be offended by his youth but to learn from him. He was giving them a three week window to improve before he would recruit other staff.
He felt obliged to look after me and ordered my meal, then sat with me at the table watching me eat it, all the time asking if I enjoyed it. It felt very uncomfortable being watched with every mouth full. If he had to go and attend to something he would asked to be excused and then rushed back to take up his position where he could watch every movement I made from the plate to my mouth.
When I went for a swim the pool man walked up and down the pool like an Olympic Coach. I felt hard pressed to swim faster with each stroke. Even if I felt like quitting after so many lengths I felt guilty and kept on turning and swimming to the other end.
I gave one of my blues CD's to Paul and to some of the other senior members. When I went to the pool bar they played my CD over the extremely loud sound system that was supported with speakers stacked up to the sky on both sides of the pool. I heard my voice being boomed out to the whole neighborhood. They particularly liked the slow songs such as 'Come sit by me' and 'Memory be kind'. It set quite a drastic contrast to their up tempo African rhythms that was all about dancing and not about melody.
In church I observed how they dance and being a trained actor, simply imitated them to their great delight! Legs bent, buttocks stuck far out, arms dangling in front as if you are playing a bush drum and head forward looking down at your feet, you cut your steps to the left and the right and move forward and backwards shaking the hands at intervals or clapping them once or twice. You let out a yell of excitement now and again, 'Jeyh!' and then throw yourself into interpreting the rhythm in a dance.
I preached in an unfinished church building in Umuahia in Abia State. The pastor received me well and so did the people. When I ministered on the I AM Principle the penny dropped after an hour and a half of preaching and suddenly people lay prostrate on the dirty worn out cement floor and started weeping quietly. You could hear them repeat the gist of my sermon, 'God wants me to be myself!' It was a revelation to them. They had been trying so hard to live up to all the demands of religion that the burden became to heavy to bear. The simply message I brought cleared up all the jet and flotsam of years of religious bondage and they were allowed to go free! There was a long silence after I preached where people just lay on the ground and some wept quietly - very unusual for Nigeria. The pastor eventually took the mike but said, 'I don't know what to say...' He dismissed the people but no one wanted to leave. It was a moment of divine glory and we all wanted to linger a little longer.
They invited me back for their annual conference.
On the Sunday morning a visitor stepped forward and offered to pay for th