A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

COVID-19 Series: 7—There, but for the grace of God, go I

19 Pastoral Thoughts On COVID-19

“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:9–10).

Today, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza was being buried. I was with him in the school of mines at the University of Zambia in the early 1980s. He had also answered God’s call to the pastoral ministry and had even reached the highest level of leadership among evangelical in Zambia until he lost his fight with cancer. Why was it not you or me lying cold in that coffin today?

In these days of COVID-19, this thought should not be too far from our minds. This week, we heard that the Ministry of Health has recorded the first Zambian to die of COVID-19. He had caught the virus while on a trip to South Africa. Why him and not you or me?

There can only be one answer: The sovereign grace of God that is greater than all our sin. We have all long forfeited the right to life because of our sin. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Let us remember that some who have died from COVID-19 around the world took precautions but still got the virus. Ultimately, each time we hear of a death caused by any means—including coronavirus—we should say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

As we take precautionary measures, let us be thankful for each day that God gives us. Let us rededicate our lives to God, as the apostle Paul did, so that we can say with him, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain.”

“Sin and despair like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.”
—Julia H Johnston (1849–1919)

Friday, April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Series: 6—Be responsible: Do not bear false witness

19 Pastoral Thoughts On COVID-19

“You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother” (Luke 18:20).

Of the various commandments that Jesus mentioned here to the rich young ruler, I am particularly interested in the one that says, “Do not bear false witness.” This captures the essence of the ninth commandment. Anyone who spreads lies is a co-worker with Satan, a liar and a father of lies. He misrepresented God to Eve and thus led to the human fall.

As Christians we must not repeat a story without verifying it. The spread of the coronavirus is a global disaster. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost. The virus has reached our country. People are fearful. It matters what you “copy and paste”. If it is not true, you are a false witness. You could also cause your hearers to harm themselves and others.

All it takes on social media is a click on “share” or “forward” and you could be guilty of spreading lies. A lot of videos are doing their rounds about vaccines and cures of COVID-19. Conspiracy theorists are also thriving because of human fear. By sharing their information, you can easily undermine the efforts of qualified individuals who are trying to save lives.

Truth matters. Let us be responsible as Christians. This is not time to be sensational. Too much is at stake. Let us take extra care to ensure that what we pass on has been verified as authentic. If you are unsure, don’t do it, lest you become a false witness and sin against God.

“Be the matter what it may,
Always speak the truth;
Whether at your work or play,
Always speak the truth.
Never from this rule depart,
Grave it deeply on your heart,
Written ‘tis upon your chart:
Always speak the truth.”
—Alfred Arthur Graley (1813–1905)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

COVID-19 Series: 5—Share the world’s only good news

19 Pastoral Thoughts On COVID-19

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).

I hear that in only 3 months we are about to hit a staggering 1 million coronavirus cases around the world and that the virus has been reported in almost every country. This is truly bad news. Indeed, every form of media is relentlessly spreading this miserable news—print media, electronic media, social media, and so on.

This can only have a depressing effect on people. It reminds me of the people described by Isaiah as dwelling in a land of deep darkness. The darkness represented a sense of gloom and foreboding. That is how so many people feel today. You cannot miss the sense of fear because this level of global calamity has never occurred before in our generation.

Isaiah said that the people who were walking in darkness had seen a great light. It must have cheered them. What is that light? He later gives the answer: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Yes, Jesus Christ is ultimately the only good news for this world in every circumstance. In him we experience joy, peace and hope that defies death and hell.

Christian, are you using all channels at your disposal to shed abroad this cheering light? Joyfully share this good news with those around you who are living in fear as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in this world!

“Sing above the battle’s strife,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
By His death and endless life,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves,
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.”
—Priscilla Jane Owens (1829–1907)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19 Series: 4—We truly are frail children of dust

19 Pastoral Thoughts On COVID-19

“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).

These words were spoken by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the great Babylonian empire, after examining his personal achievements. Soon after that, God humbled him. He lost his mind and lived like an animal until God restored him to his senses and to his position of authority. This story shows us how even the mightiest among us are frail children of dust. We are not in control; God is. I think COVID-19 is eloquently showing us the same lesson.

When our bodies are healthy, our jobs are secure, our businesses are going well, and our marriages are intact, we forget our human frailty. We find the worship of God inconvenient. We become too busy for him. Human pride makes us think we reached where we are without God. It fills us with a false trust in ourselves. We think the only ones who need to pray are those in shanty compounds who do not even know where their next meal will come from.

Then in comes COVID-19, and all that changes. This virus has entered royal palaces and has infected heads of state. It has locked down nations and brought the entire aviation industry to a halt. It has reversed the economic gains of the most powerful nations on earth. Clearly, we are not in control of our destinies. God is. All of us should live every day with that reality in mind. I ask, are you as an individual expressing your total dependence on God by heartfelt worship? Do you humbly pray to him regularly?

“Frail children of dust,
And feeble as frail;
In Thee do we trust,
Nor find Thee to fail.
Thy mercies how tender,
How firm to the end;
Our Maker, Defender,
Redeemer and Friend.”
—Robert Grant (1779–1838)