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!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Well done Birdwatch Zambia on GBD success!

(I took most of the bird photos below last year during our 30th wedding anniversary at Chaminuka Nature Reserve)
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I joined Birdwatch Zambia (BWZ) last month, on 19 September 2019 to be precise. Little did I know what a new world this was opening up for me. I was not only added to a mailing list for monthly newsletters about Zambian birds but I was also added to a WhatsApp group.

This is NOT my photo. It is the masthead on www.birdwatchzambia.org
Since then I have been eaves-dropping on conversations by incredibly enthusiastic bird lovers and conservators of nature. They share links talking about bird populations and migrations around the world. It is evident that Birdwatch Zambia is a great family.

African Jacana or Jesus Bird or Lily-trotter
The group also discusses other issues, such as the illegal wildlife transfer from South Luangwa National Park that took place recently, the current proposal to build a hotel inside the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Livingstone, and the recently failed appeal against the opening of a mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Their love for nature is contagious.

Reed Cormorant
It is also a great platform to post photos of birds that you see but cannot identify. Almost as quickly as you ask for their identity, someone posts a response. For new guys like me, that’s powerful! Some people here in Zambia are ornithology encyclopedias walking on two feet.

Yellow-billed Egret
More recently, the group began to talk about the Global Big Day (GBD) on Saturday 19 October. I have been a bird lover for years but had no clue what it was all about. It is the world’s biggest single birding event, taking place twice a year. I simply followed the conversation on WhatsApp, as Peter followed at a distance when Jesus Christ was arrested.

Rufous-bellied Heron
The first posting was “A quick reminder that the next GBD is just less than three weeks away now. Can we improve our current Top 25 globally and third in Africa? Maybe get into the top 20 and squeeze ahead of South Africa into second…” That was on 29 September.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Teams were formed all around Zambia so that on that particular day they would go out and record as many different species of birds as they could possibly identify. Then that data would be uploaded onto Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology eBird webpage.

Pied Kingfisher
October 19 came. The teams all over Zambia did their job. The results came out yesterday and Zambia logged 419 species of birds. This was 40% of the species recorded across Africa. Zambia was ranked 16th in the world and 2nd in Africa. Well done, Birdwatch Zambia, on this GBD success. I’ve certainly joined a winning team!

Reed Cormorant
The latest information is that a new app has been designed by Derek Solomon, Frank Willems, and Rory McDougall and it is called Birds of Zambia. I have since downloaded it on my phone ($20) and intend to use it to identify birds in Zambia. Things can’t get any better!

Saddle-billed Stork
(This photo was taken in the Kafue National Park a few months later)
God has endowed Zambia with an amazingly rich bird-life. It has been refreshing to discover this group of bird lovers who are doing everything possible to conserve these wonderful creatures. I wish life had a little more breathing space so that I could do more with them.

For instance, Birdwatch Zambia produces an annual calendar with stunning images of Zambian birds. This calendar should beautify the walls of more Zambian homes and offices. The 2020 Birdwatch Zambia calendar is out and is available from their offices in Lusaka. Call them on +260 211 239420 or send them an email on birdwatch.zambia@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

“Jesus Died for Sinners”: Do Your People Know What This Actually Means?

The longer I pastor, the more I’m convinced that pastors should regularly preach the unsearchable riches of Christ not only for the salvation of the lost but also for the believers’ growth in grace.

But sadly, when dealing with the Savior’s work in saving us from sin, we preachers so often say very little. Because of this, something frightening happens over time: those who listen to us fill in their own meanings to the common words “Jesus died on the cross”—and those meanings can be far from what the Bible actually teaches concerning the death of Christ on the cross.

Here’s an example. In Africa, where the blood of birds and animals is used as a charm of protection from witchcraft, it’s become popular, even among Christians, to see a bumper sticker that declares “Protected by the blood of Jesus.” Pulpits are to blame for this serious confusion.

When the death of Christ is merely mentioned as part of the final appeal in sermons, too much is being assumed. I am amazed at how many people hear, “Jesus died because of our sins,” and understand it to mean that he died to merely show us how bad our sins are. I am equally shocked that many Christians, upon being asked where they would go if they died immediately after sinning, think they would go to hell. Is this not due to failing to understand what really took place when Jesus died?

It is our responsibility as preachers to regularly explain the subject of penal substitutionary atonement so that those who listen to us can come to a fuller understanding of what really took place on the cross when the Son of God took our place and paid our debt in full.

What we emphasize in a sermon will often depend on our text. Thus, there will be sufficient variety as we proclaim the gospel. And yet, we must avoid merely mentioning words like “blood,” “death,” and “cross” without ever unpacking their meaning.

I can think of three truths about the atonement that our preaching must elaborate on so that our listeners can understand in this central act of our salvation. What are those three truths?

1. Jesus suffered the penalty of sin.
From the very beginning of history, God had told Adam that he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). That’s precisely the price that Jesus paid when he died on the cross.

2. Jesus suffered as our substitute.
Because Jesus was born sinless and lived a sinless life, death had no claim on him. His death was in our place the same way that animal sacrifices were made to appease God’s wrath across history (2 Cor. 5:21).

3. Jesus satisfied God in his suffering.
Whereas animal sacrifices weren’t sufficient to atone for human sin, the substitutionary death of the Son of God was more than sufficient. The righteous God is totally satisfied, and as evidence, he raised Jesus from the dead.

It’s beyond the scope of this article for me to open up these points. What I want to say is that these three truths about the penal substitutionary atonement should not be assumed. We must teach them line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept.

There’s a perception in the minds of many preachers that the depth of teaching they got on the atonement during their Bible college days is only for them as preachers, that it would be too deep for the ordinary Christian in the pew. This perception is entirely false. It’s also why, over time and across generations, churches lose the truth. The pastor should ensure that in his regular ministry of expounding God’s Word he is plumbing the depths of the truths he encounters in the sacred text.

A tree with shallow roots will easily be uprooted when howling winds blow. But the ones with deep roots will remain standing. In the same way, individuals with a shallow understanding of Christ’s work on the cross are easily unsettled by life’s trials. They also are easily misled by popular false teachings. This happens because false teachers often use scriptural words but fill them with wrong meanings and interpretations. Only well-taught minds will be able to pick that up and reject the error.

Where much ground has been lost, pastors should consider special Bible studies and seminars on this vital subject. Perhaps host question-and-answer sessions that will equip your people. The materials taught can be uploaded somewhere, printed, and disseminated throughout the congregation.

Brothers, my point is a simple one: let’s not assume that our people know the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Let’s teach it regularly in all its depth as we expound the Scriptures. We must not allow the generation growing up under our ministry to lose such a glorious foundation.

(First published in August 2019 9Marks eJournal)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Birdwatching around Lake Victoria, Uganda

Last year in November, Felistas & I were in Uganda for a few days of ministry. Our hosts gave us a day off to visit Lake Victoria & the River Nile. No prize for guessing what I was looking forward to doing—birdwatching! It was a birdwatcher’s paradise. We saw about 30 different species of birds within 2 hours. Yes, we stood in awe of God’s handiwork!

I shared the photos I took of the birds on Facebook that same day. Now that I am back to blogging, I thought of keeping some of the photos here as well. Here they are:

Malachite Kingfisher
A male Black-bellied Sunbird

Black-eyed Bulbul

Openbill stork

White-eared Night Heron

Little Egret

White-breasted Cormorants

Bronze Mannikin

White-winged Black Terns

Openbill Stork

Male breeding Reed Cormorant

Hadeda Ibis

Pied Kingfisher

Breeding Great White Egret

Male non-breeding Reed Cormorant

Pink-backed Pelicans (with Sacred Ibis)

Black-headed Heron

Eastern Plantain-eater

Sacred Ibis

White-throated Bee-eater

Male Masked Weaver

Marabou Stork

Yellow-billed Stork

African Darter

Common Sandpiper

Little Egret

And finally...two Crested Cranes (normally male-female pairs), the national bird of Uganda