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!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pray for your pastor

We need our pastors to pray for us and preach to us. Yet, what we often forget is that a pastor’s relationship with his flock is one of mutual benefit. We minister to one another and one of the most important benefits a pastor has from his flock is their fervent prayers.

Let me give you a quick list of some of the prayer items you can keep before the Lord...

1. Pray for your pastor’s godliness. This is the most vital need in your pastor’s life…his walk with God. Out of this his heart will yearn to see godliness in the flock. The day your pastor begins to fraternise with sin is the day he bids farewell to true effectiveness in ministry.

2. Pray that your pastor will be a man of the Word and a man of prayer. Ask God to so fill him with the Holy Spirit that the Word of God will first affect him before he seeks to see it affect his hearers. This will only happen as he spends much time in secret with Jesus alone.

3. Pray that your pastor will be a humble man who works with other elders and church members as equals, no matter how much success he may have as a preacher. Pray that he may be so conscious of God’s glory that it will be all that matters to him—and not his own glory.

4. Pray for your pastor’s family life. What happens behind the closed doors of a pastor’s home is often what breaks him or keeps him going. Pray that he will love his wife and children and that their family devotions may be sustained and lively, nourishing their spiritual lives.

5. Pray for your pastor to be surrounded by the right friends. Many pastors make a shipwreck of their lives simply because they hang out with the wrong crowd. The Bible says, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33) and your pastor is not immuned to this!

6. Pray for your pastor’s physical health. We are in a world of diseases and ailments, and so every so often your pastor will be unwell. Pray that God will enable him to make the right decisions about health so that he may live long enough to bear fruit in the lives of many.

7. Pray for your pastor’s wisdom. As church members you will often call on him with all kinds of perplexing situations in your life and you will want godly answers right there and then. Pray that whenever he opens his mouth, God will give him the right words for your souls.

8. Pray for your pastor’s sermons. Christians are quick to criticise their pastors’ poor sermons. If only they spent as much time praying for their pastors’ preaching as they did criticising, perhaps God would have heard their cries by now and helped their pastors to preach better!

9. Pray for your pastor’s emotional and spiritual strength so that he can withstand trials. False accusations, betrayals, and a sense of in adequacy and failure cause discouragement and depression in the hearts of many genuine servants of God and your pastor is no exception.

10. Pray for your pastor’s ministry to be fruitful in an ever-increasing measure, so that more and more souls may be saved through him. You want your pastor’s ministry to be described “like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Prov. 4:18).

11. Pray for your pastor’s financial needs. He not only needs to feed and clothe his family, he also needs to educate them and prepare for his own retirement when you conclude he is a spent force. Here is one area you must not only pray about but you must also do something about it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Don’t you fear God?

The question that was asked by one of the criminals crucified with our blessed Lord Jesus Christ has been on my mind of late. This has been primarily because of the flood of “prophets” that have poured into the church in Africa in the recent past. It is an epidemic!

Here was a man who had done despicable things. In fact, for a while he had continued to sin even after being hanged on a cross next to Jesus. However, somewhere along the way, he came to his senses as he saw Jesus and heard his dying words. His conscience came alive.

This criminal not only abandoned his sinful ways, but also rebuked his fellow sinner, saying, “Don’t you fear God?” He realised that Jesus was unique. Anyone treating him badly would receive God’s hottest wrath. He then turned to Jesus and appealed to him for clemency.

Anyone whose conscience is alive would behave like this repentant criminal upon realising that the one he is insulting is God himself. That is how true believers should react upon yielding to sin in general and especially to exploiting the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I honestly cannot understand how men and women with consciences can continue with impunity defrauding the church of Jesus Christ exploiting their vulnerable congregants sexually. Don’t they have consciences? Do they not fear God?

We are all sinners. I sin. You also sin. That is not the issue here. What makes me tremble is the arrogance and total absence of repentance or remorse in these people. It is bad enough to sin “out there”. When people rob and abuse the apple of God’s eye you shudder for them!

Such people are like Belshazzar who in a drunken stupor started playing with holy utensils from the Temple until a hand wrote on his palace walls, “Tekel, Tekel, Mene, Parsin”. From the untouchable height of power, Belshazzar was reduced to total impotence and shame.

In one sweep, the Lord is able to humiliate his enemies before a watching world. Read church history and see how he has done this over and over again. It is safer to taunt a ferocious lion while you are in its cage than to play into the hands of the living God in this way.

Implications in eternity

Yet for me what is even more terrifying is not so much how the Lord is able to humiliate hypocrites in this life but more so how he will destroy them in eternity. What is a moment’s embarrassment compared to an eternity in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone?

The apostle Paul wrote, “…we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

It is clear from this that one of the chief springs of self-regulation in the heart of the apostle Paul and in the hearts of his fellow apostles was the reality that each one of us must one day appear before God to give an account to him concerning everything that we have done.

At that time, we will receive from him who knows all things and sees all things our eternal reward or our eternal condemnation. He will either say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or he will say, “Get away from me you wicked and lazy servant.”

That moment will truly matter because from that point we will either go into unimaginable bliss forever or into overwhelming misery for all eternity. A person is a downright fool who refuses to reckon with this fact. Our eternal felicity hangs on that one single moment.

If you want to know how God “feels” about those who exploit his people for their own selfish ends go back in history and see what our gentle Lord Jesus did to those who were making brisk business in the Temple. He whipped them, drove them out, and overturned their tables.

Elsewhere, Jesus said, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7)

Tremble for these

Think of what this means especially to those “prophets” who are wooing female congregants into the bushes and hills and sexually abusing them in the name of cleansing them from spirits that are interfering in their marriages or preventing them from getting pregnant.

Think of what this means to so-called “men of God” who are fattening themselves and their bank accounts at the expense of their congregations whom they are hoodwinking into parting with their money through misapplied texts of Scripture. I really tremble for them.

Think of what this means to the many pastors whose bad example in this realm has opened the door to the current flood in the church of Jesus Christ. Many are now thinking that the best way to make yourself rich is by becoming a pastor, a bishop, a prophet, or an apostle.

Think of what it will mean on the judgment day for those preachers who have turned many from seeking God to seeking gold, from extoling self-denial to pursuing self-aggrandisement, and from looking up to the cross daily to looking up to them for earthly blessings.

Think of what it will mean for church leaders who have traded in the worship of God for entertainment so that people attending church are thinking of having fun rather than offering to God the praise that is due to his name and quietening their hearts to hear from him.

Think of what it will mean for men of the cloth who are persuading their followers to eat grass, snakes, and rats in the name of the Lord while jumping on them as if they were made of rubber. Imagine what Jesus will do to them when he returns in all his power and glory.

Friends, if you are going to sin, go sin elsewhere. Do not scoop red-hot coals of fire into your bathtub and then dive into it with your eyes wide open. God will punish all unrepentant sinners but he will punish even more severely those who exploit his church with impunity.

I repeat, don’t you fear God?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

50 Kitwe Pastors Pray For Zambian Kwacha

A friend recently tagged me on Facebook to an item on an online news website and asked me what I thought of it. It was the news that more than 50 pastors in Kitwe had gotten together at the Oasis of Love Ministries Church to pray for the weak Zambian kwacha.

The way in which the Zambian kwacha was depreciating was indeed a great worry to anyone who earns money in Zambia. On one day recently I remember hearing of it going from K10 to $1 to about K12 to $1 within hours. If that does not alarm you, nothing else will.

So, the fact that a few pastors decided to get together to pray about this should not surprise anyone. After all, a currency that heads in that direction is likely to hurt all of us—church pastors included. I would have joined in the prayers if that was all that was going on.

What bothered me was when I read that each pastor was asked to pull out a kwacha note from his pocket and raise it in the air during the prayer meeting. While other pastors were praying in tongues others were now prophesying that the currency should appreciate in three months.

Later, the kwacha notes were collected and taken to “the altar” where some senior pastors who were present continued to pray over the notes. Then the pastors collected their money again and continued to pray over the notes so that the money gains value.

Whereas many people responded in the comments column and simply called this a joke, I responded to the person who sent me the link saying that this was witchcraft. Since the query was on Facebook, someone else asked, “How is this witchcraft?” Here is my answer.

Bank notes are not the economy

As I have already said, there is nothing wrong with people getting together to pray for the Zambian economy. Prayer is basically a humble acknowledgement that we desperately need God to intervene in our situation. So, I commend whoever initiated this—up to that point.

However, when educated people start confusing a piece of paper with a national economy that begins to worry me. What has gone wrong is not the piece of paper in our pockets. It is the national economy of Zambia that is sick. We cannot carry that in our pockets.

What we ought to be praying for is that God will give wisdom to our national leaders so that they can come up with a team of well-trained economists who will put together fiscal policies that will drive the national economy forward. If we need a miracle, that is where we need it.

The thought that simply by pulling money out of our pockets, raising it in the air, collecting it in a basket and putting it on some imagined “altar” is what is going to turn the economy around belongs to the world of witchcraft and not to the world of biblical Christianity.

This is senseless witchcraft

It is the witchdoctor who counsels you to kill a white chicken and put its feathers on the four corners of your home to keep away sickness, even if that sickness is malaria. What has the feathers of a chicken got to do with the malaria parasite that is ravaging your body?

It is a witchdoctor who calls you to his den, then takes you on top of a hill in the middle of the bush so that he can remove whatever curse is standing in the way of your progress. Is this not what is now being done by church pastors, resulting in many women getting raped on hilltops in the bush?

It is this darkness of witchcraft that has now invaded the evangelical church through so many of these ministries. People have stopped thinking simply because “the man of God” has spoken. They have fallen prey to the mentality of African traditional religion.

For instance, when a person says that he has applied for so many jobs but he is not being employed, these “witchdoctor” pastors do not even ask questions about that person’s qualifications. They immediately start prophesying a job for him within a few months.

Similarly, when a person says that his business is not doing well, they offer to go and march around his business premises chanting phrases and sprinkling oil around the place as a way of reversing his fortunes. Of course, he has to part with some “seed money” before they do it.

Is this not what is causing so many women to be raped by these “witchdoctor” pastors? The women go to them to seek help in relation to their troubled marriages. The “man of God” tells them that if he has sex with them the evil spirits tormenting their marriages will go.

This epidemic is inside evangelicalism

Once upon a time, these things were the preserve of cults that were clearly distinguishable from evangelical Christianity. Sadly, today this is the common fair in many “born again” churches while the wider evangelical community looks elsewhere in criminal silence.

Who among us does not know of a relative or friend who has been defrauded or raped by these charlatans? Who among us has not lost a relative to death because the person was told to stop taking medicine since the prayers of the “man of God” had supposedly cured him?

These “witchdoctor” pastors have become an epidemic. In the prayer meeting being referred to, the district commissioner said, “Everyone is a prophet now… They are cursing the land with their fake miracles… They are the same crooks who are raping young girls.”

Yet, arresting the known notorious culprits alone will not solve the problem. We need to see that there is a womb that is giving birth to these “prophets”. It is the growing syncretism of evangelical Christianity with traditional religious beliefs within Charismatic circles.

When evangelical pastors take out bank notes from their pockets and pray and prophesy over them as a way to heal the economy, they are on their way to do everything that the district commissioner was worrying about. It is the same faulty “witchcraft” logic at play here.

The approach of biblical Christianity

True Christianity is first of all about a person’s relationship with God. The foundation of reconciliation has been secured in the person and redemptive work of Christ. Individuals must come to him in genuine repentance and faith for them to be reconciled to God.

As pastors, this is the most crucial question we should ask when anyone comes to us with any problem: Are they reconciled to God in this way? We have no right to turn God into a fetish or lucky charm to bring people goodwill irrespective of how they live. God is holy!

Once we are convinced that a person has come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our task as pastor is not to simply pray for a breakthrough in their lives but to counsel them along biblical principles. People need to learn to think God’s thoughts after him in their daily lives.

Understanding this is what will cause the Zambian church to offer its members who are godly and astute economists to the government to help the nation build its economy on biblical principles for sustained growth. Witchdoctor antics performed on bank notes are utter folly!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bird watching in Cape Town

I was recently in Cape Town for a Sola 5 Conference and took time to do a little bird watching both at the home of my hosts (Winton and Barbara Gibbs) and at "the water front". I captured quite a few of them on camera and posted the photos on Facebook and Twitter. It crossed my mind afterwards that although Facebook and Twitter get a lot of immediate attention, in the long run hardly anyone ever fishes out your old updates and photos. Blogging does not get as much immediate traffic but the visits continue in trickles for a very long time. In the light of the comments I got on the photos, I thought I might as well preserve them here. So, for those of you who saw these photos on Facebook or Twitter, you might as well go on to other business. This is for those who did not!

I like to think that my bird-watching is done in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ who said, "Look at the birds of the air..." in Matthew 6:26. He wanted us to learn from them how they went about life without anxiety or worry. I also look at them in order to admire the beauty that God has put into the bird-kingdom. The beauty of some of these birds is breathtaking!

Last year I was asked by a book publisher in the UK for permission to use one of my bird photos, which they saw on this blog. It was one that I took of the African Sacred Ibis, while Felistas and I were on our 25th wedding anniversary in Livingstone. This has compelled me to conclude that this must be the final resting place of the bird pictures I took in Cape Town. Here they are!

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Apart from attending the Sola 5 Conference in Cape Town, I enjoyed the beauty of God's creation--especially the bird kingdom. My hosts—Winton and Barbara Gibbs—have a bird paradise in their yard and so I took a few pictures. Here is one of them, a Cape White-eye, enjoying a drink.

Below is a male Cape Weaver. Male Weavers make the most brilliant nests in order to lure females to themselves. If you have seen one you know that they are incredible! I keep one of their creations in my office.

Above is a photo of a male Cape Weaver. Some of you may have begun to wonder what the female Cape Weaver looks like. Here she is! Below is the female Cape Weaver, with one eye on me making sure I do not pull a fast one.

If you want to be visited by birds, one of the small investments you should make is that of a bird-bath. Birds love to come in for a bath after a hard day's work! Here below, a Cape Bulbul had one eye on me while enjoying a good bath. The Bulbul is common back home in Lusaka, Zambia. However, the white eye-ring is a unique characteristic of the Cape Bulbul.

Okay, after a few photos of birds that are named after the Cape, here is a nice break. Below is the White-backed Mousebird. It's white bill and red legs set it apart from other Mousebirds. I first saw this bird in Namibia in the 1990s. It did not endear itself to me!

Below is another "Cape" bird. This is the Cape Spurfowl, which is in the family of the tasty guinea-fowls that we enjoy in Zambia. The Cape Spurfowl has a red bottom bill and a dark grey top bill. They are normally seen in pairs, and so if you look carefully you will see the other one. What amazes me about them are the details in their feathers. Look at this!

The Olive Thrush is a common bird in South Africa, especially on the southern and eastern areas of the country. We do not have it in Zambia. Here it was sneaking in for a bath but watching me very closely...

In an effort to see more birds in Cape Town, we went to the sea front. Below was one of the birds I found relaxing there. It is the Little Egret, named thus in comparison to other Egrets. It is also found in Zambia. Egrets, like Herons, have long legs and necks, which enable them to stand in water and by quick action grab under-water creatures for food. This one was making its way into deeper waters "to go fishing" when I captured it on camera.

The next photo was by far my best shot as I continued my bird-watching. This is the Hartlaub's Gull caught in mid-flight. Sea gulls are fairly common around the world, wherever you have seas or large fresh waters. This species is found along the west coast of southern Africa. Perfect shot!

This next one is a young Egyptian Goose paddling away in a pond near the sea front in Cape Town. Adults have more colour in them. Ducks and geese were certainly created for water bodies by God. He gave them webbed feet for swimming and their feathers are totally waterproof. What I loved about this photo was the fact that I could see its paddling feet in the water and at the same time see its reflection clearly. You usually only achieve one or the other!

Below is my final shot from Cape Town. You can breath now! Here is another bird that makes the Cape special; it is the Cape Sparrow. It is very much like the House Sparrow that hangs around Zambia, except that God has given it a little more colour. It is fantastic! That "C" formation of white around its black head is also its unique characteristic feature. Well, that is all the photos of birds from the Cape that I had for you. I hope you enjoyed seeing them!