Going Deep

This week I shared something that I am passionate about, with several leaders at our church – the privilege of leading others into the joy of a deep relationship with God!

We have been blessed to see God adding new people to our church every week. Many are young in age, many are young in faith. All have a desire to get to know God better.

Our leaders have been working tirelessly to help new people become part of a team that will make a difference in the lives of other people. As part of the process, we help people to know God, and to teach them the basics about our Christian beliefs and lifestyle.

In my determination to fulfil the mandate Jesus gave us to preach the gospel and make disciples however, I sometimes get feed-back from more mature believers in my spiritual community, that I am perhaps not “deep enough” in my focus and teaching, as far as their own levels of spirituality and understanding is concerned.

A great resource that helped me get my head around this issue, is a book by Andy Stanley, called ‘Deep & Wide’ (Zondervan: 2012).

If you will allow me to use the analogy of a garden, I will attempt a hopefully helpful and fitting explanation as to why I believe our ministry focus is the right one for our church and our generation.

As a leader and pastor, I believe that my primary calling is to cultivate new ‘shrubs’ in God’s Garden, the Church. Does that mean that I don’t care for the ‘mature trees’ in the Garden? No, of-course not!

They are an integral part of what the Garden is supposed to look like, and how the Garden grows, particularly in the impact they have on the development of the new shrubs in the Garden.

A healthy garden will always have both mature trees (endurance), as well as many new budding shrubs (legacy). This, I believe is where conflict could possibly arise – a misunderstanding of the role of every plant / tree / member in the Garden.

In my understanding of our mandate as believers, the ‘big trees,’ i.e., mature Christians, are called upon to contribute to the constant growth and development of new plants (new believers / disciples). The way in which they do this, is to make sure that they (personally) grow deeper in their relationship with God and the community they are ‘planted’ in. This however is their responsibility, not the ‘gardener’s…’

I have never seen my gardener at home spending time, energy (and water for that matter) to grow the big trees… No, the gardener spends most of his time watering and tending the new shrubs.

The way in which the big trees contribute (assuming they understand that the garden is not all about them…) is to personally feed the soil around them, by shedding their leaves and providing essential shade (a picture of personal service and sacrifice), in order to contribute to the health and nutrition of the whole garden. These trees do so without expecting to be constantly fed and watered from the surface, because they are mature enough to tap into the deep streams of water that flow under the garden (Jer. 17:7, 8), all by themselves…

‘Deep’ then, becomes a personal responsibility, and not the responsibility of the garden, or the gardener. In fact, the primary responsibility of the gardener towards the mature trees, is the seasonal trimming of dead wood and under-performing branches… at least according to my interpretation of John 15 and Luke 13:6-9.

Allow me to use a different analogy:

My family loves spending holiday times, swimming. When my boys were young, I spent a lot of time with them in the shallow end of our pool. I had a similar experience growing up, with friends and family teaching me to swim. What will always remain most vivid for me about this season in my life, was the day a friend challenged me to jump into the deep end. I knew I could probably keep afloat, I had the basic skills, but the deep end terrified me! Gathering up all my courage (and trying desperately not to show my terror) I plunged into the deep… and found with exhilaration that I could swim! And I loved it!

Many years later, and back to my time in the shallow end with my own boys…

Even though I am a seasoned ‘deep-end swimmer’ now, I still chose to spend time in the shallow end with my boys, because it allowed me the opportunity of being a part of their growth and development. I made sure they were safe. I held on to them, personally, as they grew and became secure and confident in the water. I held their hands. I put safety wings on them. I spent time teaching them to swim and to tread water.

A time came however, when I was confident that they could start navigating deeper waters. The irony of letting them go deeper however, was the way my connection with them felt more distant, the deeper they went. Why? Because if it didn’t, they would never learn to trust in their own ability to swim… by themselves… without me… in deep water.

In fact, this was the fulfilment of the purpose behind my ‘discipleship.’ They went off on their own, without me, and they went swimming in the deep end of our pool! I was ok with that… and my focus shifted to the point that I almost seemed to ignore them, in order to spend time with other ‘younglings’ (e.g., their younger cousins) who needed to learn to swim as well…

Now, for the sake of the analogy, I want you to imagine that my boys could have responded to my apparent disconnection from them in one of two ways, depending on whether they ‘caught’ the heart behind my actions, or not: they could either have surrendered their ‘right’ to be permanently immersed in deep waters (now that they’ve learned to swim) and join me in the ‘discipleship’ of the new swimmers, or they could have huddled around by themselves in the deep-end and complained about the fact that I (their mentor and father) were spending a lot of time in the shallow end lately… Perhaps they might even have begun doubting my own ability to navigate the waters of the deep end… as they struggled to process their feelings of disconnection and isolation.

Should they catch the heart behind the real purpose of the pool (or garden) however, and choose to be a part of the discipleship mission, they will begin to take personal responsibility for their own deep-end experiences, and join the leader / pastor in teaching others, in the shallow waters. This way there will never be a relational disconnection. In fact, their relationship with the leader will grow, strengthen and develop into a unity that is powerful, effective and purpose-driven!

In my understanding of a healthy church community specifically, God’s mission requires every member of His Church to discover their individual purpose, in order to make a difference in the lives of others – especially those who do not know the love of Jesus, yet.

So, my encouragement to every precious, beautiful, deep-rooted “oak of righteousness” in God’s life-giving garden, is not new – it is more than a thousand years old:

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” (Ephesians 1:15)

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. (Romans 12:16)

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:9, 10)

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

The Word of God is given to us, so that we can measure up our own lives against the glorious standard of a life in Christ. For me, this means that I need to regularly choose to submit myself to the call of God upon my life, which is,

1. To make disciples of all nations, teaching them the truth of God’s Word, so that it may impact their every-day living.

2. To teach and empower the church to do no. 1, effectively.

So, if you’ re looking for me, you will probably find me among the young, the ‘shallow’ and the ‘lost,’ hopefully surrounded by the hearts and hands of a community of mature ‘oaks,’ who are as ready to serve the mission of God, as I am. That is my purpose. That’s my call.

I encourage you to discover your own purpose in the same ‘Garden’ or pool. Take your next step in your personal growth and then go there… don’t wait for someone to take you there. Take the plunge and experience deeper. Then come join me, because although we have been given the capacity to grow deeper on our own, we cannot fulfill God’s great commission, alone. We need each other. For the sake of the Gospel; the freedom and transformation of people’s lives, and the fame of His name, we need each other!

As a Pastor, the only other thing that would increase my joy and satisfaction, as I serve my Creator, is if I can do so right next to you.

So, let’s grow together, so we can “go” together.

Going Viral

Hello!

As I am writing this, I am listening to ‘The sun always shines on TV,’ by ‘A-ha.’ If you’re a ‘Millenial,’ you probably don’t know…

A rhetoric on the misleading distractions that often numb us from the realities of life, that ordinary people experience daily, the boys from ‘A-ha’ did not have access to the multiple levels of social media that we are exposed to today. For them (and the rest of us who were shaped by the 80’s), it was the TV screens that painted images of a perfect world.

But the world is not perfect. Those images on fb & Instagram of people who smile and laugh all the time… We spend so much resource and energy portraying the images that we want our ‘friends’ to see, whether these are a true reflection of our realities, or not. Now before you tell me to get ‘A-ha’ out of my ears and the wet blanket off my soul… can we explore a possible flash of reality, just for a moment..?

Life is not always sunshine and ‘jiggy’ (that’s a thing…). but that doesn’t mean that everything and everybody ‘sucs’ either! If life was all that social media portrays, all the time, we won’t need hope. We won’t need to exercise our faith. We won’t need to bolster our trust in God and one another. Why..? What for..? If our lives were perfect all the time, why would we bother with growing our character and strengthening our integrity?

I would like to propose that the strength of our integrity, pertaining to every context of our lives, begins with our ability to be honest with ourselves (firstly), and then to extend this honesty to those people who actually matter; who actually care. As far as the rest of our million-zillion media ‘friends’ are concerned… why is it so important that they even need to know..? What’s more important, that our seemingly ‘happy’ existence goes viral, or that we build a strong foundation of true friends and family that will love us, regardless of our happy smiles or our tears? This is where integrity starts: the moment we surrender ourselves of authenticity and controlled transparency.

There will always be things about me that my wife needs to know, but my family don’t; things my family need to know, but my friends don’t; things my real friends need to know (and maybe even my boss…), that is none of the rest of the world’s business..! Integrity does not require that we all live in a fish-bowl. Integrity is built on the foundation of strong family and friendships, anchored in the Love, Grace and Mercy of a God who actually cares.

Yes, the sun does seem to always shine on TV, but that’s not real. What is real, is that we are all on a journey through life. A journey of growth, of trust, of honesty and of developing our integrity. It’s a journey through the good and the bad. The people who can handle both, will be the people that become our travel companions.

The essence of authentic joy, is that it remains, no matter the weather.

You don’t need to be liked by everyone – you just need to be loved by someone.

Today I am reminding you… you are loved!

Ps. J

Stop, rest.

Hello!

When was the last time you had a break?

I remember the first time I turned up on an athletics track, many years ago, in order to begin a process of fitness training. I braced myself for at least an hour of torture and stiff limbs for days after. To my surprise (and disappointment, quite frankly) my trainer instructed me to run two or thee laps, and after taking my pulse after every lap, told me to go home and come back two days later..!

I tried to object, but he insisted, “You need to go rest now. We don’t just rest when we are tired, we also rest when it is necessary.” This was probably one of the most valuable lessons I learned about life, and about myself.

Rest allows us time to reflect, re-assess and to be restored, or refreshed. The great thing about these moments of rest, is that they don’t require extravagant resources or energy, they just need time. Rest is important, because it is important to stop regularly and to reflect on the ‘journey’ we are on in life; to ask important questions like, “Where am I going” and “what’s Growing?”

As we seek accurate and measurable answers to these questions, they will allow (or even demand) that we reconsider some things we are currently doing; choices we have made; directions we are heading into, in order to re-adjust our current reality, in line with our vision for the future.

We don’t like the idea of self-assessment, because we don’t like to admit that we can do better… But discovering that you are ‘on the wrong track’ (or have high blood-pressure, or too much cholesterol in your blood-stream) doesn’t make you an ‘idiot.’ Not re-adjusting your course of action or direction however, when you have had the wisdom to recognize the fact, will probably make you one.

God never called you and I to perfection – He didn’t call us to a life of blissful ignorance either. He called us to a life of constant education.

This is what ‘growing’ is all about.

Rest aids us when we have been ‘through the mill’ in some area or aspect of our lives and we need time to recover and be restored back to normality, whether we feel like resting, or not. I had three wisdom teeth removed from my top jaw, a few weeks ago, and although I was blessed with much grace, in the sense that I had no bruising, experienced no real pain and had almost no swelling, I knew that I needed to give my mouth a moment to rest. Rest is an essential habit, not just a means by which we deal with the trauma we create for ourselves, when we have neglected rest.

Don’t wait until your Doctor’s insistence, or your spouse’s threats of divorce until you choose to stop, to re-assess, to make necessary adjustments, and to rest a while.

Prevention really is better than cure.

Ps.J

A soft landing

Hello!

I had the privilege of visiting my ‘Gogo’ (granny, for all you white folk…). As far as I know, she is the only remaining family member I have, still living in Kimberley – my place of birth. She also turns 87 next week, and remains as strong as she is stubborn – still living in her 3-bedroom home, that is getting a bit ‘cluttered,’ as she does not really have the energy anymore to keep it as tidy as she would want it to be. But for her, change is not an option. In her mind, to let go of the stuff, means letting go of the memories.

I disagree of-course. But my disagreement will not change her convictions, and I am ok with that. She is 87 years old now – She has already made her sacrifices, delivered her contributions and created her legacy. She’s awesome! She can do whatever she wants, as far as I am concerned.

I, on the other hand, cannot claim the privilege of maintaining the status-quo in my life, yet. At my age, my emotional reluctance to change today, will have a negative ripple-effect on the momentum I need to create for the next generation after me. For as long as I stubbornly hang on to my right to continue living in the ‘3-bedroom spaces’ of my old mind-sets, furnished with the nostalgic memories of my 8-piece ‘ball & claw’ lounge suite, or the legalistic convictions of my 10-piece solid imbuia dining set (where nobody else cares to sit any longer…), I am taking up space that the next generation could effectively utilize for the creation of a renewed forward momentum.

The only way this will change however, is if I am willing to let that ‘stuff’ go. I need to recognize that I can actually retain the memories, without having to hold on the methodologies; the set-in-stone convictions, attached to an out-dated world-view, or an ‘old-time religion,’ that good enough for me… but does nothing for my kids.

In order for me to up-scale the potential for tomorrow, I have to down-scale the old ‘Beta’ movies I am still playing in my head, today. But that won’t make any sense, when today is more important to me than tomorrow. And honestly, so what..? Shouldn’t today be that important? Shouldn’t today be my turn – my moment – my reward..? Sure! It all depends however on what is more important to us today: our right to reward today, where we are, or the privilege to invest in the incredible possibilities that are locked up in ‘tomorrow,’ where our kids and their kids will be.

This is a huge shift! It is a shift that will require of us a greater investment of our wisdom, our energy and our resources, during a season of life when we are consciously or sub-consciously descending our efforts, in preparation for a ‘soft landing’ somewhere nice… where we can rest in comfort and just enjoy our stuff…

Here’s a thought to ponder, by Robert Arnott: “An investment that is comfortable today, will hardly be profitable, tomorrow.” 

Mmmm… maybe it’s time for a new attitude and a more exhilarating altitude.

Ps. J

Old man

Hello!

I had a weird experience at my local shopping centre last week. I was driving into the parking area of the centre towards the entrance, when one of the security guards flagged me down to a stop. As I rolled down my window, he had a startled look on his face, which turned into an embarrassed smile of sorts, “Oh… sorry sir, I though you were an old man…” 

Really! I’m 50!

So, what happened was, is that he seems to be in charge of the reserved parking, right at the entrance, for elderly people. He obviously looked at me from a distance, through a very dirty wind-screen, I must add… and assumed some things about my age..!

It reminds me of the woman who tells the story of her visit to the Dentist. As she scrutinized the man’s face leaning closely over her, she realized that he looked a lot like a class-mate she remembers from high school. As soon as she got a chance to speak, she asked if by any chance he attended this specific school and enquired about his matric year. After confirming her suspicions, and noting excitedly that she recognized him from back then, he responded, “Oh wow, which subject did you teach me…”

I know… how do you come back from that!

These moment, as shocking as they are to our systems, are often the jolts of reality we need to face up to, in life. Like the fact that I am changing. I am changing because I am growing older. Look, I am still a walking miracle as far as my looks are concerned, compared to my age… and my wife would concur, should you ask her the same… I know that one day, in the distant future, I would probably be considered one of the most good-looking ‘old-age’ corpses ever..! None-the-less, I am growing older and I am changing… and that’s a good thing!

The greatest injustice I could commit to both my generation and to the next, would be to desperately try and hold on to my ‘youth’ for as long as I can. Someone said that if you think you are old, you will be. But if you think you are still young, you are nothing more than a delusional old fart…

As much as that may be true, for someone out there… we should not loose sight of Paul’s encouragement to the age-ing: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” (2Corinthinas 4:16).

Now I am certainly not looking out for my retirement years as yet, but I am certainly doing whatever I need to in order for my mind to remain “renewed.” At the same time, I am also applying my renewed mind to the succession of my life’s experiences, accrued knowledge and exercised Gifts, to the next generation. A refusal, on my part, to acknowledge the limitations of my own life-time, will not benefit a generation that will out-live me. My stretch of the run, will eventually come to an end, and when it does, I need to be fully prepared to hand over the baton of my legacy to a new, younger, faster, stronger generation of runners, long before the moment of my departure. For that to happen effectively and timeously, I need to commit to some things right now: Diligence; Integrity; Perseverance; Wisdom; Discernment; Sacrifice; Grace and Generosity.

Watching and listening to the next generation right now, as they begin to take the first strides in creating the start of their own momentum @ChurchAlive (our church community), @home and in South Africa, is the best thing that is happening to me right now. I am convinced that if they continue to grow in what they are already showing the world, they are going to far exceed the impact and influence of my generation! That’s awesome! That’s worth celebrating! That’s worth growing old for…

At the same time, as I watch them develop and mature into their God-given potential, it inspires me to make sure that I spend the next season of my life, inspiring; encouraging; equipping and pouring myself into their lives. They’re so different… That’s so refreshing! Can you imaging another generation of me… us..?

When God promises to do “a new thing” I have found that He more than often engages a new generation with that which He has in mind. Moses was a great ‘deliverer’ for his generation, but Joshua was a better warrior, in his generation. Often the generation that was effective in the liberation of their world, is not always the best choice to govern that same liberated world… just a thought.

So, right now I don’t qualify for a parking spot close to the entrance, yet… I still have the ‘legs’ to walk from wherever… but I have given myself the grace and liberty to recognize that fact that my turn to benefit from an exclusive parking spot at all the great shopping centers in my world, as well as all kinds of other retirement benefits, is certainly getting closer, and that is also cool.

When that time comes, I will be able to stand back with a huge smile on my face, as I watch my awesome adult kids create their own ripples on the stage of Life.

To Keith, Steph, Yesh, Athi, Robs and Elan, thank you for blowing us all away the past few Sundays (and the next few Sundays) @ChurchAlive with your insight into scripture and your encouragement to live a life that engages our world.

Love you madly!

Ps. J

Champion!

Hello!

I watched Wayde v Niekerk smash Michael Johnson’s 17 year-old world record in the 400m Olympic sprint, to bring home the gold for South Africa! It was one of those jump-in-the-air, fist-punching, YES! moments for me.

One of my first thoughts, as I took some time to process this incredible win, was that Wade has created a sporting legacy for the next generation of athletes, that will certainly force them to raise their aim much higher than what they perhaps may have imagined… there is a brand new world record on the table, waiting for someone to challenge it!

So, who is this guy, Wayde..? Where does he come from and where has he been?

Wayde v Niekerk typifies the old saying: “Champions are not made in arenas, they are simply revealed there.”

For a guy like Wayde, I can imagine that a long, enduring, sometimes lonely journey ensued during his preparation for that incredible moment when he crossed the finish line. A journey of perseverance and tenacity, that taught him to be at peace with priority, purpose and pain. During this part of his journey, only a few people really knew him well and really cared about him – people who stood by him and encouraged him along the way. Now, everyone wants to know him! Now, everyone wants to care. Why? Because the man has become a national hero and an international superstar!

That is awesome, and may he show the wisdom and maturity to navigate the next season of fame with humility and humanity.

My focus however remains on the journey that took him there. Wayde’s journey to success will teach all of us some important lessons about our own choices, priorities and devotion. Wayde has become a global sporting leader. Yet the path that took him there, demanded that he become a committed and determined follower, first. He needed to learn to follow instruction; follow athletic trends; follow his competitors; follow his convictions; follow necessary disciplines; follow his heart…

For Wayde, I can imagine that it probably started out as ‘small’ as getting out of bed (summer or winter) in the early hours of the morning, when everyone else chose to sleep in, in order to train his body and his mind to become a champion. I can imagine him having to learn to say “no” to so much of that which is deemed ‘normal’ and ‘reasonable’ for his generation and his peers, because he was called to exceed the norms of his generation, not simply live by them.

When we are determined to become leaders, we will learn to make the necessary sacrifice in order to create culture – the alternative is to simply do our best in trying to keep up with the current trends of the ‘masses.’ The question that will determine where we place ourselves on that scale, is: Am I content to always be a follower, or do I want to develop myself as a leader? If the latter is my focus, then I need to start somewhere… even somewhere small, like becoming disciplined enough to get myself out of bed in the morning; making that bed and clearing my floor before I leave home, and washing my own dishes, in spite of the fact that there are other people on stand-by to do these things for me…

Then perhaps I can even begin to raise the initiative bar over my life… like delivering more than what is expected from me, or leaving things; places; people; the planet in a better condition than what I found it in… It’s about learning to grow my own capacity to make a greater positive impact on the world around me.

To be effective in doing this, I need to recognize that some things are good for me, and will actually help me, in spite of the fact that I will not always like it… like eating healthy food; exercise; courtesy; respect; submission; God’s Word; prayer and meditation…

What I put into me, will determine what will come out of me. What often starts with a simple choice, could possibly end up in a world record! That’s influence – that’s cool!

That could be you!

To Wayde v Niekerk we say, well done Brother… and thank you!

Love you madly!

Ps. J

Blessed are those who build

Hello!

I was blessed to be part of the official opening and dedication of a new 3000-seater Church auditorium. Words cannot really describe the experience of walking through the new building – it will probably take a few visits just to absorb the detail. It is indeed beautiful, practical and definitely innovative in it’s design and function.

As a result, many new people will find their way into this amazing facility in years to come, where they will encounter excellence, beauty, culture, worship, but most of all, Jesus. That’s awesome. None of them however, will be able to tell the story of the journey that took this great Church to where it stands today. Why not? Because they are people who only decided to step through the doors, once everything was completed to their satisfaction. In a sense, as great a people as they may be, they are essentially consumers… for now. What do I mean by that? A consumer is someone who demands the benefit of the fruit, without having to endure the labour of planting the tree. Hopefully many of them will become devoted family members of that great House, who will begin to contribute to the next steps that God has for that community.

This got me thinking about the attitude with which many people (particularly in our town) often approach Church.

Living in a world and in a city where there is so much choice and often spare change to spend on those choices, a grave danger exists for a generation growing up in a community where very little is needed and so many options are available to explore. The danger here, lies in the potential this creates (as much as it is a blessing) to suffocate a devoted determination towards anything or anyone, over a life-time. Where so much choice already exists, hard work and innovation seems pointless – why reinvent the wheel, when there are so many cool wheels to choose from already? Why hold on to the wheel in your hands right now? Discard it today, and tomorrow a whole variety of new ones will be on promotion for you to pick and choose. This (I am afraid) could all result in the retirement of the great pioneering spirit that was initially responsible for the wide world of variety we find ourselves in today. Should the culture of ‘acquire today – discard tomorrow’ be allowed to flourish, we could find ourselves in a world where development will slow done, because where there is no innovation, there is no growth.

Dr. Sam Chand proposes that innovation happens when you combine a big vision with limited resources. But when resources are a-plenty in both variety and supply, who needs a vision..?

When a generation of ‘have-it-all;’ shopping mall; deliver-with-one-call people, begin to climatise to this life-style, they may not see the need to get their hands dirty to pioneer anything. I am concerned for a generation who sprints off the starting block with great excitement and enthusiasm, yet soon succumbs to boredom, frustration and the pain associated with hard work and determination, because things are not getting done in line with their preference, expectations and coffee-shop schedules. I am concerned for a generation that only seeks out the places; people and projects that ‘cater’ for the antics of their particular sub-culture and their need to be appreciated, entertained and to be spoon-fed the next awesome thing on the menu of Cafe de Consume.

My point is, when we run around through life, looking for the next better mind-blowing, giggle-inducing, taste-bud-protruding, pain-numbing substance to feed our ever-depleting serotonin levels, we might never get to build anything. Instead, we spend it all trying to maintain the status quo of an hallucinate Nirvana – we never get to create a legacy for our kids (oh, don’t even talk about kids – we’re way to young and cool for that right now) – we never get to tell stories of a journey that empowered us to create tomorrow. Truth is, when we chase after what already exists, we might find happiness for a moment. When we devote ourselves to creating something new however, we create joy that lasts a life-time.

So, to this generation of amazing up-and-coming leaders, my advise is this:

1. Find a great cause that is still in its infancy, and choose to devote some of your time, energy and resources to helping that cause grow to its full potential. If you can’t find one, start one, but be warned, there will be countless moments when you will feel frustrated, disillusioned, and even angry – you cannot give up then; or walk away; or go sulk for 6 months… You need to work through these emotions and remember your commitment at the start. If you learn to develop this incredible skill, you may just (unintentionally) create the foundation for an awesome, life-long marriage you will be a part of one day.

2. Don’t become a consumer. A consumer life-style is nothing more than eating food. You eat what’s in front of you, so that you can temporarily empower the continuation of your present existence. Then, when that which is in front of you is done, you have to find more food. The end-result of all this… well the end result of all this is pretty much summed up in the end-product of all this… Don’t spend your resources and energy consuming more stuff. Invest. Become a builder, not just an eater. Save. Invest. Build something over time. There is no preferable starting age for this – start now. Persevere, even when it sucks doing so. Make the necessary sacrifices to do so. This means that there will be many a moment when you have to say no to the things your peers are saying yes to.

3. Develop a spirit of generosity and ‘other-mindedness.’ Life is not just about you and your happiness. God intentionally created you for community, so you can impact your world, not just your environment. Learn to work hard so that others can benefit from your labours. When they do, don’t expect them to pay you back in some way or another. Learn to be patient with people. Not everyone is as awesome as you are, but they can be if you don’t give up on them to soon. Become a role-model. Nobody has ever really benefited from a stage-show. By all means, show the world what you are made of, but at some point get down from that stage and come show your audience (the ordinary people) that you care about them.

4. Character will always trump talent. How you build your character will depend on how well you do with the first three points.

5. Develop a culture of daily gratitude. You are who you are and you have what you do, because someone paid a price for all that. Learn to appreciate the sacrifices of those who came before you. Never end a day of your life without saying, “Thank you!” As a show of your gratitude, spend some of your time, energy and resources investing in a generation that will occupy this world after you. Do so with no expectation of a return of any kind, back to yourself – that’s called sacrificial generosity, and it will make you a sought-after personality, trust me.

6. Finally, smile! Laugh! Tell stories. If you don’t know any, read Roald Dahl, or go visit a retirement village. Have fun. Be a bit naughty sometimes. Do what you need to do, but do your world a favour and enjoy your life!

Ps. J

Human

Hello!

I had an interesting verbal encounter some time ago.

Someone came to see the cottage that my wife and I have for rent, at our home.

He brought a friend with him to see the place, and when asked about his marital status, he replied that he is single, but has a girl-friend who will be staying over from time to time. I explained to him that this will not be possible. He couldn’t understand why not. So, I explained to him that I have a contract with him only, and cannot take responsibility for any other person staying over on my property, Besides, another person will add to the water and electricity bill, which is not in accordance to the agreement we would have – the rental costs is an all-inclusive one.

So his friend pipes up and gets into an logical / illogical, philosophical argument with me, around the ridiculously unreasonable boundaries I have set for tenants staying on my property…

Amazing how people want all things their way at all times, even if it is going to be at your exclusive expense.

So I decided to cut the debate short, and told him that I am a Pastor…

“Oh… ok, that’s different – I understand now.”

Really!

So let me try and get my head around this –  it’s only ok then, for any human being to take a moral / ethical stance if they be in the pastorate? Pastors are expected to have integrity, show moral fiber, take an ethical stand, and live righteously and by the law, at all times. As for the rest of mankind however, that would be ridiculous..?

In the light of my apparent ignorance, I decided that it would be imperative for me to finally come out of the spiritual closet, and reveal to all of you out there, something that you perhaps did not know or expect about me, the Pastor. Brace yourselves, because I am just going to put this out there, right now…

So here goes, are you ready for this..?

I am, in fact, another human being, just like you!

I experience life the same way you do – I laugh, I cry, I feel pain and need perspective and comfort every now and again; I get tempted; I sin; I have to ask for forgiveness (oh my word… here goes…) every day! I know, it must be awkward for you right now… sorry. My life, just like yours is primarily based on two main factors: the choices I make & God’s amazing Grace.

By the way, I do not have a ‘hot line’ to heaven – you can actually make your own calls!

I struggle with stuff. One of the things I struggle with most, is when people’s entire demeanor changes towards me, once they discover my calling in life.

Having said all this, I will never intentionally down-play the respect people have for me, and the love that myself and my family experience from those who truly ‘get’ us, and who don’t simply view us as paid spiritual service-providers. If you truly knew me, you would know that I am just a sinful human being, saved by Grace and called by God… just like you. I live my life by God’s moral standards, and not by the expectations of others. I stand by my convictions, because I love and believe in a person called Jesus, and not because it is a quirk attached to my title.

So, like Jesus’ critics challenged Him, “by what authority do you do this…” I conclude that my authority to teach. lead, preach, correct, encourage and rebuke was given to me, not by my choice (I do not actually qualify), but by the sovereign will of the God who created me.

Now that this is all cleared up and in the open, can I please be allowed to join the human race again..?

Love you madly!

Pastor J

Creating Tomorrow

Hello!

At Church Alive, we are in the middle of a season of major change… Well, it’s pretty big from where I’m standing, anyway.

During the past few weeks my staff and I have transitioned from an old office block on our campus (which is being demolished as I’m writing) and into a beautiful and functional revamped office block. In the place of the old, we are creating more parking space for our growing Sunday meetings.

It’s great to be a part of something new. Everyone that can say,“Amen” to this however, will also tell you that the journey from the old to the new is not always a pleasant one. Moving house / office is one of the most stressful activities human beings can engage in, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. It is not just the physical demand of moving that is stressful, but more the emotional burden that comes with significant change.

Progress and growth demands change. Change is usually accompanied by discomfort. A season of constructing the new, is usually preceded by a season of deconstructing the old. Deconstruction is noisy, messy and often quite emotional… ask me, I know. What is always amazing about the process though, is the hidden ‘stuff’ that crawls out of the wood-work when you begin stripping things down. Some time ago I was looking at the stuff that has been growing behind the panels of a demolished built-in cupboard… My first comment was, “Did we actually live with that., all this time..?” The context in which these words have been uttered, are numerous.

So, it’s frustrating right now and even scary at times, but I’m not going to get grumpy about it… I am not going to resign my job and walk away.., or tell the builder to please “Stop It!”  Why? Well, because I have a vision of what’s to come! It’s going to be awesome! Right now, I can’t wait, but I will choose to, because I cannot live my life without seeing progress and growth.

Point is, the process will always be uncomfortable. Even though I have moved into my new office, I am still surrounded by the noise and dust of ongoing construction and deconstruction, every day..! I know it will eventually come to an end, even though there are days when I wonder…

Sometimes I look outside my office window and watch the builders break down the walls of what was a great old building that served us so well, for so many years. I begin to consider that someone took the time to build that structure, somewhere in the past. A gifted Architect took the time to plan and design the lay-out of that building and an Engineer made sure that everything was secure and would serve the occupants well. I also imagine the joy that building brought to the people who moved in there first… I sometimes wonder what they were like.., and what they would say if they saw what we were doing to their old house… These are the moments I find myself thinking, “It’s such a pity that we have to destroy such a ‘legacy’ for the sake of parking…”

But I can’t think like that.

We cannot afford to hoard the treasures that served yesterday, for the sake of nostalgia, when they occupy the space we need today, in order to create tomorrow’s legacies. We will never effectively impact the future, when our hearts are still inebriated by the past. The past is not evil.., or even bad.., it’s just.., well, gone..! It has served it’s purpose, like that beautiful old house. We can’t be like those people who stuff their dead pets… No! We have to move on and bury yesterday. We don’t have to forget, but we do need to move on. While the memories remain alive in our hearts, the reality of life’s journey needs a clear path ahead. It is often the clearing bit that is painful and stressful, because we understand that we cannot say “hello” to tomorrow, unless we say “goodbye” to yesterday.

The coolest thing for me about all this, is that once we are done.., and the dust has settled.., and the grass has taken root on the new parking bays.., and the quiet returns to my new office.., we will do it all over again! Until Jesus comes, we will never… never… never stop growing! Can I get a loud “Amen” from somebody..?

Ps. J

Mud Fights

Hello!

Somebody said, “Stop cursing the darkness. Instead, light a candle.”

These words of wisdom can be applied to so many aspects and contexts of life. It refers to a change of attitude: stop being so angry; stop feeling so threatened; stop living the cynical life. Instead, find solutions. In fact, become the solution; find joy and hope in every day, and the good that might just arise from the belly of the ‘bad.’

What these words speak most clearly of (for me) is the challenge it places before us, to cease the constant fight against that which (for some or other reason) threatens us most, and to rather live a life that promotes the good, almost to the extent that we begin to intentionally ignore (not be ignorant of…) the threats of ‘darkness’ in order to become Ambassadors who are known to stand for everything associated with the Light!

Those who “curse the darkness” still live in a dualistic world where Light and darkness are constantly at each other’s throats. They believe their efforts to fight the darkness will in some or other way bolster the efforts of the Light to illuminate the world. But there is no competition between Light and darkness. At least (from our perspective) not since Light defeated darkness, once and for all, a little more than two-thousand years ago. But, even that defeat wasn’t really a ‘competition…’ You see, Light doesn’t ‘fight off’ darkness. Light dispels darkness, because darkness cannot exist in the presence of Light.  So, why spend all that energy fighting, when a fight is not actually a plausible option..?

I would rather spend the limited, precious time and energy I have been given, declaring what is good.

The irony about this is that the greatest of all ‘cursers of the dark’ are found within the ranks of those who profess to be ‘Children of the Light.’ I don’t know what it is with Christians who make it their daily duty to protect the world from evil… Why do some Believers insist on spending their life’s breath, providing humankind with a step-by-step analysis of the ‘works of darkness.’

What’s worse is that the ‘cursing’ is happening ‘in-House..!’

Far to many ‘Christian’ books and blogs are written these days by Believers who make it their place to warn the rest of the Church about the ‘darkness’ that apparently exist within the Church… Spiritual leaders are viciously attacked by those who sound spiritual and educated, yet are drowning in their own ignorance and lack of any form of compassion or love for their fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Every other article on FB (these days) represents another spot-light on something that someone said.., proving (beyond a shadow of doubt, of-course…) that they are actually agents of Satan, parading as spiritual leaders…

Here’s a question for all of us: So what?

I am not ignorant. The only ignorance here is that of those who believe that I do not possess any form of discernment in me, that will allow me the freedom to spend my faith declaring the Gospel to those who still need to hear it, rather than fighting my own ‘Family.’

So, here’s what I decided: I am not going to read articles of pessimism, cynicism and attack on other leaders (‘spiritual’ or otherwise) any more. Anyone who continues to send them to me, will be removed from my social media.

Truth is, we become like the people we hang around with…

Last time I checked, Jesus did not say to His disciples, “Go into all the world, find the hypocrites that call themselves ‘spiritual leaders,’ and spend the rest of your days flinging self-righteous mud at them, in my name…”

If you don’t trust a spiritual leader/s, get out from their circle of influence and associate yourself with people you can trust. Don’t start (or share) anything that is intended to discredit people you haven’t even met or spoken to.., largely based on hear-say and ill-contextualized ignorance! We must all give an account for what we did with the time and energy allocated to us in life. Right now, some people stand in danger of being judged for spending it on that which they were not called to do. Perhaps we should all go read up on Matthew 25:31-46 again.

Let’s all agree to stop the ‘doom-prophet’ agendas. Let’s rather spend every minute and every bit of the life in us, going into all the world, and showing people the Light. When we do, and they encounter the ‘darkness,’ the Light in them will simply disperse it.

It’s simple… well, for me it is, anyway. Love God, love people. Stop the mud-fights – not a good culture – lousy testimony.

“Arise, shine, for your Light has come…”