I’m one of them

This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden, under the shadow of these vines. But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out over the wide lands, you know very well what I would see-brigands on the high roads, pirates on the seas; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds; under all roofs misery and selfishness. It is really a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. Yet in the midst of it I have found a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasures of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians – and I am one of them. – Cyprian (?-258), a letter

Advertisements

Nobody noticed

Sometimes I think Jesus was a genius.  Well of course He is… He is the Son of God…DU!!!

I’m talking about the Kingdom of God.  The Israelites knew all about kingdoms.  They had their own for a short while.  They knew the Egyptian one from long ago.  The Babylonian one was still with them.  The Roman Empire came by.  They definitely knew all about kingdoms.  Having your own meant you were the boss.  Not having one meant you were on the lower end of the food chain.  Even the devil knew about kingdoms.  The obvious way to freedom was to have your own.  The the only way to have your own, or to hang on to your own, is through a lot of effort and lots of fighting.

Then one day a Baby was born.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I AM the way, the truth, and the life
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I AM the true vine
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Our Father in heaven
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
You cannot serve God and money
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Stretch out your hand
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I am the good shepherd.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench,
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
So the last will be first, and the first last
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
For they preach, but do not practice.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I AM the door
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me,
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Take, eat; this is my body.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Lazarus, come out.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Neither do I condemn you
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
And they crucified Him and divided his garments among them,
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
And … no one noticed a new kingdom
It Is Finished!
And … no one noticed a new kingdom

The devil probably noticed that something was happening, but he probably was thinking most of the time. “WTF”  (For those of you that don’t know, the Christian version would be,”Oh my goodness, what’s going on here?)

Leo Tolstoy wrote a book called “The Kingdom of God Is Within You”.  What a title.  Dallas Willard said that each of us have our own little kingdom and I agree with him.  We all have this small space where we rule.  Jesus came, and without anyone noticing it, established the Kingdom of God here on earth.  One that works the opposite of all our earthly kingdoms.  He does the same within our little kingdoms.  Question – “Will we notice it?”   The thing with a kingdom is that it means freedom.  I can do what I want, when I want.  Money and power are some of the best means to help me to be free.  Jesus however said “Seek first the kingdom of God.”  The kingdom of God implies God is the ruler.  Do I really want that in my life?

And then
I start to notice a glimpse here and a hint there.  God is here!!  And it strikes me.  If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

The devil is probably still going “WTF” 🙂

Hope

These last few months, I’ve retreated deep within myself. There’s a struggle there that I have no words for. Perhaps struggle is the wrong word. It’s just a retreat to nowhere in particular. Lots of thinking about….everything….nothing and all in-between. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands 🙂 My humour tends to be cynical and my mood varies from pessimistic to gloominess. Perhaps I should say before any alarm bells go off, that I feel God close to me. There is no despair in my life. Am I making any sense? I think I am in-between seasons and I know I can trust God with what’s coming.

I think some of my gloominess comes from what’s happening in our country. Perhaps I can show you a glimpse of the despair and hope that is part of our everyday lives.

About a week and a half ago we went to NAMPO. It’s an agricultural trade show. It’s a wonder-world for children and adults. Here are some pics.

S5002278

Laura with one of the biggest tractors.

S5002283

Hey dad, can we take this one home, please!!

S5002302

Which lever to pull?

S5002304

Will this fit in the car?  Please dad….oh….mom!!!

S5002292

They did this all day.
As you can see it is one of those things you just have to do if you have kids.

NAMPO also has this.

S5002294

It’s a monument dedicated to all the farmers and their families that has been killed since 1994. Basically, it’s a wall of remembrance. The names are put on each wall, according to the province they have been killed in. Over 3000 have been killed we are still counting . They are soft targets.  Many have been killed coming back from church on Sundays.  Most of them are older than 55 years. The oldest person killed was 95 years old. The youngest…..3 years.

S5002269

Kwazulu-Natal the province with the most deaths.  I sometimes wonder what will the outcry be in countries like Australia, America, France etc. if they lose that many farmers.  Here, it is part of life.  Sometimes, words fail me…

South Africa is a violent country.  We have about 20 000 murders a year.  Everybody here have been touched by crime of violence in some way.
It is in times like these where we are tempted to simply give up, give in and surrender.  But if there is one thing South Africa has shown me, it is this:  “Hope is not far away from darkness and despair.”

South Africa a beautiful country with people that love life.  South Africans have a sparkle in their eyes.  Where there is despair, hope also shines strong.

This is where Jesus comes in.  I’ve always wondered (and still do) how Jesus kept His eyes on His Father with everything that was happening around Him?  There were so much injustice around Him.  His own people were suppressed by the Romans.  Violence was a common language.  Social and economic circumstances weren’t looking good and the future outlook was bleak.   People were split into factions.  Even the religious had a plan on how to get God to come quickly and save them 🙂

Somehow Jesus kept His eyes on His Father, and by doing that, He brought Hope to the world.  When economic systems fail us, when violence bares it’s teeth, when our social situation do not improve, we have Hope because He showed us the heart of the Father inside the storm.  We(followers of Jesus) have the opportunity to do the same.  When we “behold” Jesus, we too can walk into the storm and give hope.

God bless

They were fat

If you go to Servant Quarters from Gayle D. Erwin, you will find these “truths” under his humor page. Every few years I go back and re-read all of them.  Here are three of my favorites.

Samson
Usually, Hollywood portrays Samson as being a musclebound womanizer. They are right as far as the womanizer is concerned but not as far as his looks are concerned. If he had looked like Arnold Schwartzenegger, Delilah would not have had to ask where his strength lay. I believe, based on internal evidence in the story, that Samson was short, fat and wore suspenders. Obviously, Delilah would be mystified as to his strength. When Samson erred and let Delilah know that his uncut hair was the source of his strength, he became short, fat, bald and wore suspenders.

Gideon’s Band
Whenever you hear the story of the downsizing of Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300, that final cut that reduced the army from 10,000 to 300 came at a spring at the base of Mount Tabor. “You know the story,” as Jon Courson would say. They were all told to drink and the ones who got down on all fours and drank like a dog were rejected. Those chosen were the ones who, perhaps on one knee, scooped up the water by hand and lifted it to their mouths.

You have always heard that they were chosen because they were the watchful ones, ready for battle. The internal evidence does not support that conclusion. God was reducing this army to the few who would know that they did not win the battle, the few who were the least likely to claim the glory for the victory. Therefore, the ones who scooped up the water with one hand were those who were too fat or disabled to get on their hands and knees. In fact, they were probably all short, fat, bald and wore suspenders.

Peter, James and John
Recent studies have changed my view of Peter, James and John. I have always thought of them as the inner circle, the elite three, the ones Jesus wanted closest to him. But now, after studying them again, I have come to the conclusion that they were not the inner circle or the elite, but instead they were the “remedial group” that Jesus had to have close to him at all times because they were such slow learners, and he could not trust them back with the other guys.

History

Brannan Manning said the following…

History attests that religion and religious people tend to be narrow. Instead of expanding our capacity for life, joy, and mystery, religion often contracts it. As systematic theology advance, the sense of wonder declines. The paradoxes, contradictions and ambiguities of life are codified, and God himself is cribbed, cabined, and confined within the pages of a leather-bound book. Instead of a love story the Bible is viewed as a detailed manual of directions.”

As Brennan said, history shows us that we tend to make God smaller.  I want Him to fit into my comfortable world.  I want Him to become like me.  Hell, if God agrees with me, then I am the good guy.  This is something we all do in our own small way and when we get together in groups, we amplify this effect.  History shows us that we do this over and over and over…and over.

A lot of us however are not in groups at the moment.  We are in the wilderness enjoying the Mystery that IS God.  We try to come to grips with a God that is bigger than we can comprehend.  My question is this; “Is there a way that we ensure that we do not repeat history or are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes?  And yes, I’m talking to those “outside” the organised part of church.  We are not immune and the dangers are much bigger than we think, because our mistakes are small and not easily detected.  How will I ensure that God does not end up looking like me?  For this one, I have no answer.  Perhaps you have an idea.  If you have, I would like to hear it 🙂

God bless

This and that

Just to update the previous post.  We’ve had our elections.  The ANC won, but not with a two-thirds majority.  Voter turnout was 87%.  Mostly everyone is happy.  If you prayed for South Africa, thanks, it helped 🙂

Not a lot is happening in our lives right now.  We sort of go through the motions of everyday life.  Our weather is kinda funny the last week and a half.  Usually our autumn days are sunshine filled while the evenings are cold.  Well, we’ve had rain and hail and thunderstorms.  It’s lovely, but I think some the farmers are on edge.  Hail at this stage is not good news for them.

I’m leaving you with a quote from Edwin Louis Cole.  Somehow you will find yourself in one of the 2 sentences.

FAITH IS BELIEVING THAT WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE WILL COME TO PASS
FEAR IS BELIEVING THAT WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE WILL COME TO PASS

God bless and remember,  Jesus loves you…always.