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!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We have lost the sense of God

After my last blog post in which I addressed the issue of believers abandoning going to church on a Sunday in preference for watching a football match, I tossed and turned most of the night. I kept asking myself how believers could do this. I could not understand how even pastors are now joining in this revelry with a clear conscience. I mean, how?

I was sure that the football craze that had engulfed this generation is only a symptom of a greater disease. But what was that disease? That is the question I was wrestling with. By the time the sun rose, I think that I had an answer. The best way to phrase it is by the title of this blog post: We have lost the sense of God. I know that this sounds like an outlandish accusation but that is because we are comparing ourselves with ourselves. Hear me out.

There is an experiential knowledge of God that profoundly changes a person from the inside out. God is known in the soul in such an overwhelming way that it affects a person’s entire perception of life. It is perhaps what the hymn writer meant when he wrote, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The things of this earth growing strangely dim.

A Christian can never rise higher than his experience of God. God is infinitely profound. As one hymn writer has written, he is an immeasurable sea without a shore, a blazing sun without a sphere. When engulfed in his presence, whom thousand and tens of thousands of angels worship day and night, the soul can only lie in the dust in adoring wonder. This profound knowledge brings eternity to bear on the soul of a believer so that everything in his life is judged from eternity’s perspective. How one spends his time and money, how one enjoys his recreation, how one relates to believers and unbelievers, how one handles his work—all these are subjected to eternity. The great Day of Judgment is never far from mind.

There is, therefore, a godly gravity upon the brow of such a believer. Perhaps it would be better to call it a solemn dignity. You cannot miss it when you are in the presence of such a person. You sense that there is a depth of spiritual experience that is not disturbed by what often excites the worldly mind. It is the difference between the stillness of a deep river and the noisy current of a shallow stream. This cannot be manufactured overnight. It comes from regular close dealings with God. The sense of God leaves an indelible mark upon the soul.

In 1875, Fanny J Crosby wrote these words in her hymn (notice the chorus in italics),

O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend
When I kneel in prayer and with Thee my God
I commune as friend with friend

Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou hast died
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To Thy precious bleeding side

Deep thinking and meditating upon the cross of Christ is what produces spiritual giants. To begin with, you are melted to tears when you have drunk in how your God has quenched your hell by taking your place on the cruel cross. Such love is too overwhelming. You want to give to God everything you have in response. You do not want to hold anything back. There is a peace and a joy that radiates in your soul that the people of this world know nothing of. Theirs is the cracklings of twigs in the fire. You feel sorry for them rather than join in their empty mirth. Your joy defies disease, disaster and death. As John Newton wrote in 1779,

Saviour, since of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.

I am sorry to say that as I mingle with the younger generation today, I cannot help feeling that this culture of deep meditation on God has been largely lost. There is too much noise. Noise from the television, noise from the radio, noise from the internet, noise from the smartphone, noise from the computer, noise from the sports stadium—noise, noise, noise. The injunction of Scripture seems to be largely missing that says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). Our young people always want to be with the bawling crowds and where the music is loudest. The result has been a tragic loss of this weighty sense of the living and majestic God.

Even when it comes to church…there is very little pausing for a moment of silence to prepare the soul to meet with the living God. You have a band that is already playing as people chat. The worship leader starts with jokes to get the atmosphere exciting. The songs are painfully repetitious of next to nothing—“God brought me from here and has taken me there,” over and over again! The preaching is also deliberately calculated to bring people back next week rather than to bring them face to face with the living God. Hence the preacher behaves more like a superstar than a prophet from God. Can such gimmicks surely give us a sense of God?

I recall my own formative days that were spent mostly in the pew than in the pulpit. There were many Sundays when all I wanted was to shut out the world after worship at church and close myself up with the God. Glorious hymns had extolled the immensities of sovereign grace. I had heard God’s voice, especially through the faithful exposition of his word. I had been moved to the very depth of my being. I had seen the heinous ugliness of sin and the magnificent beauty of my Saviour. The powers of the coming age had overwhelmed me. I had been transported, as it were, into the third heavens and back. I felt as if I would burst at the seams if I did not go away from everyone to worship and pour my heart out to God—to the living God. Tell me. Please tell me. How can a person experience this and then shoot off to the stadium and join the rowdy crowd shouting at people chasing a ball? I mean, how?

O for a generation of young people who will once again have the atmosphere of eternity upon their souls. O for a band of young adults who will have a profound sense of God that will make them to cry as Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” O for authentic biblical Christianity to once again permeate our churches. When God raises up such a generation, we will rest assured that the future of the church militant is in good hands, for the people who know their God will do exploits for him. Until then we should weep in prayer and refuse to be comforted. We have lost the sense of God!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To go to church or watch football?

This is an almost embarrassing question to ask but I am sure this weekend many Zambian Christians asked themselves this question and even concluded that they would skip church and go to watch football instead—with a clear conscience. It is sad but true.

For those who are regular readers of my blog and live outside Africa I will need to explain. Zambia, like most African countries, is a one–sport nation and it is football (what Americans call “soccer”). It is the main game that is played in villages with balls made from clothing and plastic materials. It is also the main game played in our stadiums with leather balls.

When the Zambian national football team is playing, that becomes the chief talking point for the whole nation. The adrenaline of the entire nation rises. Social media is abuzz with excitement as goals are scored. The goal scorers literally become the heroes of the nation. If the national football team wins a regional or continental cup, the whole nation goes agog. When our entire national football team perished in an airplane accident, the whole nation came to a stand still and mourned. That is how attached Zambia is to football.

Here is the catch. Every so often, the big matches are played on Sunday and Christians miss church in order to watch the games on television or out in stadiums. This is what bothers me. How can Christians fail to see that this is wrong from every conceivable angle?

Desecrating the Lord’s Day

The greatest tragedy is a failure to keep the Lord’s Day. The God whom Christians worship says in the Ten Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:8–11).

Once upon a time, when Christianity was stronger than it is now and believers were taking their faith seriously, this is how they interpreted this command. I quote from the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of the 17th century.

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labour, and do all your work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.

Q. 59. Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Q. 60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Nothing can be clearer than that. In the book of Isaiah, God made this promise to his people, “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13–14).

Sadly, we have lost all this. It is very clear as I read postings by Christians and church pastors on social media that there is not the foggiest sense of guilt that God’s people have desecrated the Lord’s Day. I would not be surprised if some churches cancelled their worship services because of the football match today. What I know for a fact is that many churches end up with skeleton congregations and haphazard preparations for worship when the Zambian national team is playing a major match on the Lord’s Day. Sadly, pastors accept this.

I have never forgotten, one Sunday in the early years of Kabwata Baptist Church when we were still meeting in the Kabwata Community Hall, the Zambian national football team was playing a decisive match at world level. When I got to church, nothing was ready. The building was open but the place had not been swept and the pews had not been arranged. By the time the church service was supposed to start, even the hymnbooks had not yet been brought. We started the service very late. By the time I got into the pulpit to preach, I failed to preach and started crying. I wept because my own church members had voted with their feet. Football was more important than the worship of the living God. How could I simply continue with the sermon that I had prepared to preach? I could not. I could only weep.

A form of idolatry?

Zambian Christians need to ask themselves a heart-searching question: “Could it be that football has become our idol?” An idol is not necessarily a carving made of wood or an object of metal. Whatever competes with God’s place in our hearts is an idol. When we spend a whole week anticipating a football match instead of the worship of God on the Lord’s Day and then when the day comes we abandon the worship of God in order to shout and jump and scream in a stadium (or at home in front of a television set) with the energy that would make the makers of Red Bull feel their product was redundant, is this not a form of idolatry? I opine that we have merely exchanged a carved idol with one that is made of leather and air!

What breaks my heart is when I think of the price that was paid by God to bring us our salvation. As Dottie Rambo sang: “[Jesus] left the splendour of heaven / Knowing his destiny / Was the lonely hill of Golgotha / There to lay down his life for me.” More than that, God moved men and women to leave the comfort of their developed countries in the West to come to our dark continent when it was infested with untreatable malaria and ferocious wild beasts at great cost to their lives and their families so that they could bring us the Christian faith. Many of them never saw their relatives and friends again. Many died in their prime. Now that the baton has been passed on to us, we are willing to abandon the worship of the true God because twenty-two men are kicking a piece of leather across a field for ninety minutes. This is heart breaking. Our pioneer missionaries should be shifting in their graves—to use a well-known expression. Is this what Christ died for? Is this the gratitude we show those who sacrificed their lives? Or, as the apostle Paul would argue, did football die for you? Sadly, it is a well-known sin of the fourth and fifth generation. They take their religious inheritance for granted and will not sacrifice anything for it—not even football on the Lord’s Day.

I know that someone will charge me with being legalistic. I only ask those who want to do this to show me anywhere in history where believers have gone sport-crazy and the cause of Christ has gone from strength to strength. It is the cause of Christ I am concerned about. Is it glorifying to God when a congregation that is normally 100-strong suddenly reduces to half its size when there is a football match in town? Or are we supposed to “look elsewhere” and pretend this did not happen in places where God, our universal Benefactor, is worshipped?

To my fellow pastors

I have much more to say about this but let me end with a word to my fellow pastors. We are the ones who grieve God the most because we ought to know better and we ought to guide God’s people. In the book of Malachi, God was displeased with the priests. He said to them, “A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favour? says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6–8).

If we who are pastors do not stand up and warn our generation that the abandoning of the true worship of God whenever there is a “major” football match being played on the Lord’s Day is sinful, God will hold it against us when he brings judgment upon the church. Sadly, on social media the only denunciation I am hearing from the lips of pastors is against the Senegalese team for its alleged use of witchcraft in the game. Even pastors whose church doctrinal statements categorically speak about keeping the Lord’s Day holy are mute about the sinfulness of the trend that has engulfed us. The silence is a betrayal of Christ! Are we afraid of upsetting our paymasters? God forbid! We must be a prophetic voice in our day even if our message is rejected. God will honour us for our courage on the day he rewards his own. On the other hand, if we are the very ones leading the pack into the stadiums to desecrate the Lord’s Day, what hope will there be for today and tomorrow’s church? None!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wanted: Burdened Preachers

The story is told of a nervous young man who once came before a selection panel for the Methodist ministry. During the interview, this rather shy young man took the opportunity of explaining that he was not gifted enough to set the River Thames on fire. One of the interviewers, Dr W E Sangster, responded with these words: “My dear young man, I’m not interested in knowing if you could set the Thames on fire. What I want to know is this: If I picked you up by the scruff of your neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?” In short, what these interviewers were looking for, as of first importance, were not men of great learning and abilities but men set ablaze by the truth of God’s word. They wanted burdened preachers.

That this is one of the crying needs of our times must be obvious to all who have the prosperity of the church militant at heart. There is no shortage of men going by the titles of Pastor, Reverend, Bishop, Evangelist, etc., for they are being churned out of our Bible colleges and seminaries like comic booklets off the press. Never in the history of the church have we had so many BAs, BThs, MAs, PhDs, etc., in our pulpits. Yet, we must equally admit that very few of these men would sizzle if dropped into the Thames. Professionalism is the order of the day. Men prepare their sermons with the same cold-bloodedness with which they prepared their college assignments, and are therefore quite content when in the place of an A+ they get a “Thank you, Pastor, for that wonderful sermon” at the end of the service.

Obviously, something needs to be done to redress this situation, because no church can rise higher than its pulpit. The present prevalent deadness in the pew can be traced back to a lukewarmness in the pulpit. It is the lack of solid biblical conviction in the pulpit, which has begotten the almost total absence of decisiveness in the pews. If this be true, then all our efforts at restoring biblical Christianity in the pews will go to waste unless we remove the blight in the pulpit. If every Sunday, the opening of preachers’ mouths is like the opening of deep-freezers, then how can you expect the church to warm up to God’s bidding?

We need to begin by asserting that simply giving out a text of Scripture, and then droning along monotonously on a religious subject related to it is not preaching—at least not in the biblical sense. Read the messages delivered by the prophets in the Old Testament and by the apostles in the New Testament and see if you do not feel animated. These men were gripped by the word of God and there is no mistaking it. They did not just know their subject; they felt it! To them, preaching was more than an attempt at the art of communication; it was an unburdening of themselves. They all knew something of a Jeremiah-like experience when that prophet said, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones notices this from the writings of the apostle Paul. He imagines someone saying, “If you have true scholarship you will not be animated; you will be dignified. You will read a great treatise quietly and without passion.” “Out of the question!” he retorts. “That is a quenching of the Spirit! The apostle Paul breaks some of the rules of grammar; he interrupts his own argument. It is because of the fire! We are so decorous, we are so controlled, we do everything with such decency and order that there is no life, there is no warmth, there is no power! But that is not New Testament Christianity.” (The Christian Warfare).

If this “articulate snoring” (as Charles Haddon Spurgeon calls it) is not preaching, biblically speaking, then what is preaching? Allow me to quote Dr Lloyd-Jones again, who, in answer to this question, says, “Preaching is logic on fire! Eloquent reason! …It is theology on fire… Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire!” (Preaching and Preachers). And to this definition, we give a hearty Amen!

This definition inevitably implies that the very truths we handle in the pulpit are calculated to develop the burden and passion in the preacher. A man talking about the weather may be forgiven if he sends half his hearers to sleep, but the preacher of the gospel handles issues of eternal life and death. How can we speak about the living God, the tragic fall of man, the glorious redemption in Christ, the omnipotent power of the Spirit, the blood-bought church of the Firstborn, the bliss of heaven and the torments of hell without so much as a tremor on our lips? It is the truth of God that made the prophets, the apostles, the reformers, and the evangelists to be the burning and shining lights they were.

Yet it also needs to be stated with real emphasis that unless the Holy Spirit burns these truths into our being, we may know them but without feeling their awesomeness. Two preachers can preach sermons with excellent theology in them; from one it feels as if you are getting it out of the deep freezer, while from the other your heart is melted and you are stirred to the very depths of your being. I am persuaded that the difference lies in the study. To the first, the study is but a workshop in which sermons are assembled; to the other, the study is a womb in which sermons are conceived by the help of the Holy Spirit.

The example of the great evangelist, George Whitefield, is worth noting. “Whitefield spent hours of each day on his knees with God’s word opened before him, and it was from the audience chamber of heaven he went forth to speak those marvellous words of power, which stirred the souls of the multitude. These eternal truths thus passed in him beyond mere intellections, they took possession of the whole man, and he could not but speak with tender pathos and holy boldness, as he saw light in God’s light, and the spiritual world was thus all ablaze with light around him” (Hezekiah Harvey’s The Pastor).

If we are going to know the return of powerful, biblical preaching in our pulpits, we will need a reformation in those rooms we call our studies. We will need to learn to look at our studies as the place we go to meet with God to receive a word from him for his people. Therefore, we will need to go about our sermon preparations with a devotional spirit, poring over the sacred Scriptures “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Yes, we must refuse to rise and go into the pulpit until the messenger and the message have become one, welded together by the Torch of God—the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, shall we be burdened preachers concerned to proclaim “the burden of the Lord” to a sin-sick world.

We must never look down upon ministerial training. Nor must we ever kid ourselves into believing that commentaries, concordances, lexicons, etc., are optional extras on which we can allow dust to accumulate. No, we must ever be grateful for all these tools. But let us ever remember the words of J W Alexander: “No man can be a great preacher without great feeling” (Thoughts on Preaching). Therefore, let us never stop at depending on our preparatory training and Bible helps. Rather, let us like Elijah of old turn to the Lord in prayer for that which he alone can give—fire from above.

O that out of our studies may rise the prayer of Elijah, as I am sure it did in the days of the Reformation! “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36,37). Amen!

(NB: This article, with minor editorial changes, is being reproduced from the Canadian magazine The Gospel Witness of July 1994. It was reproduced from the now defunct Reformation Africa South magazine where I first submitted it for publication. A friend, Andre Pinard, sent it to me and later posted it on Facebook. When I read it, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt this way 23 years ago. My convictions have not changed and so I thought of turning it into a blog post and thus giving it extra life. I hope it blesses many more people!)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facebook and Me

As I commence 2017, Facebook is among the many blessings I am thanking God for. Let me explain. My journey on Facebook began a few years ago. I remember the day quite vividly. I had been preaching for a pastoral friend in the USA and while there on a couple of occasions he asked me why I was not on Facebook. I cannot now recall what my answer was. He kept insisting that “a guy like you needs to get on Facebook” but I kept up with whatever excuse it was that I was giving him. Finally, as we came to my last night and I was preparing to go to bed, he told his eldest daughter to get my laptop and open a Facebook account for me. When I woke up in the morning I was given my laptop back with the news that changed my world: “Conrad, you are now on Facebook!”

I recalled that it was in precisely the same way that I started blogging. Again, I was preaching for an American pastor and while I was having lunch with him he raised the subject that I should start blogging. I gave every excuse in the book as to why I could not but he kept insisting, “A guy like you needs to have a blog”. Finally, with lunch out of the way, he took me to his son’s office and asked him to open a blog for me. Within a few minutes I was told that I had a blog.

But I digress. I was talking about Facebook and me. Once I got over the initial shock of seeing thousands of “friend” requests streaming in—compared to a few hundred followers on my blog—I sat back and asked myself the question, “How was I to use this power that was suddenly at my fingertips?” I noticed that many people used Facebook to talk about inconsequential aspects of their lives—what they ate the other day, what they saw yesterday, where they visited today, etc. I came to the conclusion that each person must determine what he or she will do with this power that was now in his or her hands. I felt that I wanted to use it for a greater purpose.

I decided that Facebook was going to do for me what my regular prayer letters did. Once I settled that in my mind, I was ready to fly. I processed it this way. Missionaries and pastors of a former generation kept journals, which were often published many years after events had happened, sometimes after the writers had already died. Readers were challenged to greater heights of Christian living and service by the feats of these servants of God. Although that was not my generation, I too became a pastor before I had access to the Internet. I would type out prayer letters on a manual typewriter, duplicate them, and send them by post. Within a week my friends would know what was going on in my life and ministry and feel a part of my life. Enter the Internet and Facebook! Now, in the providence of God, I can do what God’s servants were doing and what I used to do but this time the waiting period between writing and reading is a millisecond.

That is not the only change I am grateful to God for. I recall that I used to send my prayer letters to about 50 – 100 people around the world—largely around Africa, Great Britain, and the USA. Facebook has changed all that. Now I share what is happening in my ministry with about 10,000 “friends” all over the world at the click of a button. I have had to open a second Facebook account because the first one can only allow me to have 5,000 “friends”. Bear in mind also that some of my “friends” further share my posts. If you add Twitter to the list, the number doubles to about 20,000. Also, previously, by the time news got to many of my would-be recipients some of it was stale, but now the news is hot-off-the-press. I am able to post “as it happens”. I often meet people I have not seen in years that tell me, “We are following you on Facebook.” Oh, to turn a lot of that into prayer!

One more advantage with Facebook that my prayer letters could not do is to report to members of Kabwata Baptist Church about my itinerant ministry and other ministries outside the church. I always kept my fellow elders up-to-date with where I was and what was going on there, almost in real time. But the wider church only got to know when we had our members meetings, which only took place once every four months. It was too little too late. Enter Facebook. Now those members who are my “friends” on Facebook—and that accounts for almost all our younger members—get to know what is happening in their pastor’s life as it happens. They are able to comment on it and, I trust, pray for me while I am in the battlefield and the bullets are flying past my head. I really appreciate this.

Perhaps the bonus has been my love for photography. Initially, my prayer letters had no pictures due to the primitive nature of duplication in those days. Then when the personal computer became domesticated my prayer letters would have one or two photos, which I would scan in after the whole event was over. Now I am able to take digital photos and post them while an event is still in progress. This enables people to pray more intelligently as they see with their own eyes what is happening in real time in a place far away. It has made hauling my heavy camera paraphernalia around the planet worth all the trouble.

Facebook has both hindered and enhanced my blogging. It has hindered it because I now spend much more time writing short paragraphs for Facebook and quickly posting. It is easier. It is faster. And so I lack the time and enthusiasm that I once had to sit down and write my long blogs (like this one!). That is a loss…a major loss. However, Facebook has enhanced my blogging experience because when I write a blog I am able to share the link on Facebook and the traffic going there has grown exponentially. Many more people read my blog posts now because they see the link on my Facebook page. So, again, I am grateful for Facebook.

However, as with all human inventions, Facebook is riddled with minefields too. One of them is the fact that there is a very thin line between sharing what God is doing in the various ministries in which I am involved and “showing off”. The former glorifies God while the latter stinks. The warnings of Matthew 6 are relevant here. Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). He then went on to give three examples and in each case he had in mind aspects of our religion that are meant to be private—giving to the poor, personal prayer times, and fasting. Another issue Jesus was concerned about is the temptation towards ostentation—“to be seen by them”. It is an issue of motives. I have to ask myself the question every so often: What drives me to share on Facebook? I wish I would say that my motives are always God honouring and pure but as a fallen creature I sometimes catch myself wanting “to be seen” by men. O this carnal heart!

Looking back now, I thank God for Bill Ascol, who prevailed on me to get onto Facebook, just as much as I thank God for Tim Bayly for prevailing on me to start blogging. Between these two men, I have been able to use Internet technology in my ministry far beyond merely sending emails to a few friends. I have become a journalist without my writing passing through an editor. I can only pray that the many friends that I have acquired through these two avenues—especially through Facebook—will go beyond being entertained by reading what I post. I pray that they will often take a moment to pray for me. I am a sinner saved by grace. Left to myself I will mess up everything. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” Yet, with the prayers of God’s people, God can pour abundant grace into my life resulting in genuine spiritual growth in me and in the ministries I am involved in—to his glory!