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Reflecting on 2016

Reflecting on 2016

by Fred May
Dear friend,
We look back on a year in which we’ve seen history being made in a truly remarkable yet unexpected way. The elections in America reminded us once again how the world has, in a very real sense, become a village. I watched children’s birthday parties – even here in South Africa – be disrupted as opposing political views took their toll on long standing friendships among sword-crossing moms. And we watched precious family ties get savaged, and in some cases even severed, especially in the aftermath of the election campaign. The same was true for the Brexit backwash in the UK. But, as history would have it, both these events are about to be utterly dwarfed in both magnitude and significance by what has already begun to transpire all across Western and Eastern Europe. God has chosen this particular chapter to reopen ancient wells of salvation, which were mostly considered extinct, until now. Nonetheless, it was interesting and also somewhat disquieting to witness the conflicting views and interpretations of current events erupt into open conflict and hostility, even among professing Christians.
In my opening address at our annual conference I reflected on the unhappy reality of Christ’s accurate prediction of this disruptive pattern of convergence for these times. As He gathers, He brings inevitable separation at the same time. The fact is, we’re now living through truly significant and defining moments of history. It has been clear to me for some time that God has chosen to afford His Church on earth one last window of opportunity to fulfill her predestined purpose before the curtain on earth’s history is drawn. Currently we’re migrating into the vindication phase of what I like to refer to as ‘the Joseph narrative’. It’s a season demanding diligent stewardship on our part of God’s eternal provision for a starving and dying world. It’s a pending period of unprecedented spiritual harvest. For all those with eyes to see, God has opened a redemptive chapter of sovereign intervention in the affairs of men. Before these two startling events – which shook the entire world – transpired, we were teetering precariously on the brink of both a Third World War and the simultaneous launch of a global Islamic Jihad. The ensuing chaos was designed to set the stage for the dramatic save-the-day inauguration and intervention by the so-called ‘man-of-peace’, the Antichrist. The steady global slide into post-democratic totalitarianism, orchestrated from both New York and Brussels, has been temporarily suspended, with democracy given another desperate lease of life.
Thankfully, however, that historical dial is now being set back by at least a decade of merciful reprieve. Also, the full-blown persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ globally has been delayed for a season. And instead of the reign of darkness, the most dramatic shift in the global socio-political power matrix is being witnessed. I have never, in my wildest imaginings, expected to see the day that God would intervene to sovereignly expose the vilest darkness, the most grotesque of sins, all of which have served as the debauched glue driving the convergence of the kingdoms of darkness. This is classic pre-emptive judgment being played out in the Biblical sense. All across the Western world, snugly ensconced, prominent perpetrators of violence and ritual abuse against the innocent – the children – are quietly being brought to book. I never thought that I’d see the day that the long-established, yet ferociously shielded and protected, link between satanic worship and those heinous crimes would become common knowledge, as it is now rapidly beginning to do (see here)*. The same applies to the other false-flag/propaganda strategies, meant to serve as a pretext for the almost-imminent establishment of the New World Order. I never thought that I would witness the beginning of the end of the seemingly unassailable hegemony of the Western mainstream media in modern times. They’re being exposed as liars and frauds, and worst still, they’re being exposed for the delusional and deceived minions that they in reality are. Their so-called ‘echo-chamber’ fabrication/fake-news propagation is being shown up for its patent putrefaction. And to my mind, Hillary Clinton’s passing reference to voters, and especially those opposing her, as a ‘basket of deplorables’, may go down as the “Marié Antoinette” meme of the current season. And this is but the beginning.
That social media and the dogged persistence of the likes of Julian Assange, aided by patriotic security establishment agents in America, and other freedom-loving hackers and bloggers, could win such a decisive round in this battle for truth over the smugly arrogant propaganda juggernaut, is simply staggering. In the year running up to the American elections I felt strongly led to pray for the success of internet hackers in exposing unrighteousness, since I sensed them to be part of God’s hidden hand. But without a doubt we’re witnessing the beginnings of Christ’s promise to shepherd the unsuspecting, hapless multitudes into the proverbial ‘valley of decision’ – the eschatological equivalent of our Promised Land. This then means that all those who would be open to have themselves disabused of deception and delusion would be afforded an opportunity to reconsider Christ and His claims from a less toxic perspective. However, now more than ever, our most important challenge as Christians is to assume the humble, servant-like posture of our Master, firmly resisting the temptation to imitate the pompous arrogance of our still-reeling-in-denial liberal contemporaries. We must trust God to immerse our hearts in an awakening of redeemed brokenness that finds expression in compassion-driven commitment to fervent prayer and intercession, dialogue and sincere social engagement.
The reason much prayer is called for at this time is owed to the fact that a pitched battle for the life span of this redemptive window, this open door in the heavenlies, is about to rage furiously. I believe that Satan is not about to abandon his proven, age-old strategy for usurping power and control. And the main focus of his attacks has always been the strategic key to Biblical unity I so often speak of lately. The psalmist says that the unity on which God commands His blessing is the one that flows like oil from the head and beard of Aaron, not that of Moses [see Psalm 133, Exodus 17:10-12 & 32:15-35, Numbers 12:1-15, Leviticus 8:29-31]. In other words, the relationship with, and attitude of, second-tier leadership is his specific target. He succeeded with this ploy from the start when he preyed on Eve, in her occupation of this leadership position in the Garden of Eden. Her sin, the first one, was not that of disobedience. The first human transgression was the sin of disloyalty. She was tempted to entertain disloyalty in her heart toward Adam, the one to whom God communicated His moral instructions, before her creation.
The same diabolical assignment was successful with the likes of Aaron and Miriam against Moses, or Absolom against his father David. Later Queen Jezebel feigned a caring commitment to her man-child husband Ahab, driven by her obsession for political power. It does seem to remind one of the Clintons somewhat. The good news nevertheless is that there is a discernible power shift against this assignment. However, evidence of its prevalence and its real-and-present danger are seen in the lawlessness manifesting on campuses globally, or on the streets of post-election America, or in the vulgar scenes of wildly celebrating refugees at the sight of the slaughter of innocent nationals. All these incidents share the same characteristics, namely, the marked absence of loyalty toward academic institutions and patriotism toward countries that provide education and shelter. The leaders of tomorrow (i.e. ‘Aaron’s beard’) are seen to be swallowed up by waves of inspiration that are as powerful only as they are patently evil. They are truly and passionately, but unfortunately, pure evil. These movements all bear the undeniable fingerprint of the Lawless One.
As we now come to where we can take a break from a fading year which has brought as much challenge as it did delight and joy, we look forward to one where we can continue the conversation on pursuing the image of Christ by seeking to emulate His mind, His hands, His feet and His heart. A heart from which unstinting loyalty towards us, His followers, flows. 
loyalty’s duality
Loyalty determines our attitudes and behavior in all of our relationships, be they personal, or institutional. One can, for instance, be loyal to one’s spouse, but disloyal to the institution of marriage at the same time – as many people are in fact experiencing currently, being pressured to accept a whole new range of redefinitions of marriage that are all unnatural. And as many conflicted refugees and asylum seekers throughout the world are finding lately, it’s also possible to be attracted to the benefits of a country without feeling convicted to be patriotic to it. By the same token, there are many similarly conflicted Christian ‘refugees‘ within Christ’s Kingdom at any given time. Loyalty therefore is a divisive virtue. It separates virtuous hearts from abusive ones.
Christ, therefore, was deliberately concise in His definition of loyalty. When engaging the disciples on the subject he did the following: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13 KJV, emphasis mine) He was intentional with the question in that He asked them for an opinion, not on His divinity, but rather on His human identity. He could have asked them what they thought of Him as the Son of God, for instance. Earlier on we saw Him demanding loyalty of His disciples on two separate levels: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 NASB, emphasis mine) He drove the distinction between His person, “Me“, that is His humanity, and also His divinity as expressed in “My words“, home emphatically. He wanted to make sure that His followers understood the demands of Christlike loyalty unambiguously.
Loyalty by Christ’s definition, therefore, is equally valid on two levels, namely, toward a person and, at the same time, toward his office. Christ in His loyalty is as equally committed to the ‘who’ of my identity as to the ‘what,’ in other words. He also made it clear that the more a culture or society became ‘sinful and adulterous’, or shame-based in other words, the more lawless it was likely to become. In that condition people would manifest an ever-decreasing emotional-spiritual capacity to fully comprehend and exhibit authentic loyalty. And that’s the reason why that Holy Spirit-inspired moment, when, for an instant, Peter could see beyond the veils or the perceptions of cultural shame, delighted Christ so: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 KJV, emphasis mine) Peter was given the power to see Christ in His eternal office. And that vision of Christ’s true status is what negated all the other shame-based definitions of the ‘adoptive son of the carpenter’ and all the negative images of Him possibly still lingering in his heart and mind. Peter no longer appraised Christ from the perspective of cultural familiarity. He had migrated closer to apostolic space where, according to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit helps us to discern others from an eternal perspective, thus making loyalty authentic: “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NLT) True, Biblical loyalty is possible only where we’re able to view others within Christ’s Body in their preordained, divinely assigned ‘in-Christ’ identity and destiny. From that perspective we’re able to affirm loyalty to both the temporal and the eternal dimensions of their personhood. And when it comes to unbelievers, we respect and dignify them for both their personal and their vocational or relational identities. At this time of rest I would encourage us all to look to the Holy Spirit to guide our reflection on our distinctive calling to loyalty as we follow some and as we lead others.
May God bless you as you unwind with loved ones and friends at this time. And may it also bring you the blessing of new, renewed and deeper relationships. May we all find ourselves experiencing a keener sense of appreciation for the people He has placed around us and may we, even at this time of rest, find the grace to evaluate others graciously and respectfully – from Christ’s eternal perspective.
I especially wish to speak a word of blessing to those who may be mourning the loss of loved ones at this time; or those mourning the loss of good health or material or emotional security even. May this season prove to be one in which you experience the nearness of Christ in a way you’ve not considered at all possible before. May you receive answers to prayers that your heart has not even contemplated, or even dared, to articulate. May you enjoy the comfort of the Father’s smile on all that you are and all that you set your hand to. And may you enter the new year with your heart singing along with an ever-increasing throng of grateful saints everywhere that ours is a truly ‘good good Father’.
Love and peace to you and yours,
Fred
* Be advised, the video links may contain content that is not suitable for sensitive viewers.
 

 

Die familiebyeenkoms 2016

Die familiebyeenkoms 2016

deur Fred May

Wanneer Christus oor Sy kerk van die eindtye praat, sê Hy die volgende: “Dan sal die koninkryk van die hemele wees soos tien maagde wat hulle lampe geneem en uitgegaan het om die bruidegom te ontmoet” (Mattheus 25:1 OV). Hy sê dat alhoewel ons almal in dieselfde stadium van halfgereedheid sal wees, een helfte van die kerk beter voorbereid sal wees vir Sy koms – “En onderwyl hulle gaan om [olie] te koop, het die bruidegom gekom. En die wat gereed was, het saam met hom ingegaan na die bruilof, en die deur is gesluit” (Mattheus 25:10 OV). As die olie die Heilige Gees se inspirerende teenwoordigheid en invloed voorstel, is die ander betekenisvolle deel van die gelykenis die feit dat die olie gekoop moes word. Maar dis interessant om te sien dat Hy nie die betaalmiddel of prys wat nodig is om dit aan te koop spesifiek noem nie. Maar wat wel duidelik blyk in die lig van die weglating wat na my mening doelbewus is, is die feit dat dit tyd sal kos om die ekstra olie te koop. Te veel tyd, om die waarheid te sê, wanneer die lang verwagte oomblik van ontmoeting met die bruidegom uiteindelik aanbreek. Die idee is dat tyd die mees waardevolle betaalmiddel is wat aan die mensdom gegee is. Die inherente waarde van tyd, relatief tot die kortstondigheid van die lewe, is uitermate hoog. Om hierdie rede ag God ons tyd baie meer werd as enige ander geskenk of offerande wat ons Hom kan gee. En omdat God liefde is, heg Hy spesiale waarde aan die tyd wat ons in ‘n verhouding met Hom en met mekaar belê.
Daarom het ek die vrymoedigheid om jou uit te nooi om ‘n spesiale tyd van saamwees en aanbidding met ons te deel by ons Convergence 2016 konferensie hier in die Kaap. Hierdie jaar is die formaat effens anders omdat ons nie gassprekers uitgenooi het nie. Ons hoop om volgende jaar ons tradisie van genooide sprekers voort te sit, maar intussen het ons ‘n behoefte geïdentifiseer om die kort tydjie wat ons met mekaar het op ‘n meer doeltreffende wyse te benut, en ons pas die konferensieprogram daarby aan. Waarna ons werk is die opstel van ‘n formaat/profiel wat ons vir alle ander soortgelyke geleenthede kan gebruik. Ons hoop om die vloei genoegsaam te rig sodat dit sal saamhang met die oorkoepelende tema, fokus en verlangde uitkomste terwyl die ekspressiewe beweegruimte wat ons deelnemers in die verlede geniet het behou sal word. Verder mag dit dalk ook die laaste geleentheid wees wat ons sal hê om ‘n duidelike, samehangende begrip van wie ons is en die plek waarby ons as ‘n beweging uitgekom het aan ons lidmate voor te lê. Ongelukkig het ons in die verlede nagelaat om genoegsame fokus en klem op ons visie en waardes te plaas, en daar is dus ‘n dringende behoefte om hierdie oorsig reg te stel.

Ons voel dat dit noodsaaklik is om die gesprek te begin oor ons behoefte om uit die geestelike ruimte waarin ons tans is te beweeg na ‘n ander een. Op die oomblik bevind ons onsself in ‘n ruimte wat grootliks deur die heersende kultuur met sy godsdienstige tradisies gevoed word. Ons het ‘n meer duidelike onderskeid tussen ‘Evangelie’ en ‘kultuur’ nodig. Ons moet dringend na apostoliese ruimte toe beweeg. En presies hoe hierdie ruimte lyk is die vraag wat ons met nederigheid in gebed moet aanspreek. In Handelinge kry ons ‘n waardevolle kykie na hierdie wonderlike vooruitsig, maar ons moet begin by hoe ons tot daar gaan reis. Terwyl hierdie uitdaging aan die Liggaam van Christus as geheel gerig word, moet ons, as beweging, uitvind wat dit op hierdie tydstip vir ons gaan beteken. Daar is ‘n geskiedkundige, soewereine beweging van God wêreldwyd aan die gang, en ek glo vas dat God wil hê ons moet deel wees daarvan. Dit is waarom die convergence-gesprek hierdie keer beloof om betekenisvol en inspirerend te wees.

Hierdie jaar se tema, OM EEN TE WEES (“BEING ONE”), spreek van twee subtemas: ‘eenheid met Christus’ en ‘eenheid in Christus’, met die tweede wat uit die eerste voortspruit. Wat ons eenheid in Christus betref hoop ons om elke konferensieganger te laat met ‘n duidelike beeld van hierdie eenheid uit ‘n Bybelse perspektief gesien, naamlik dat dit ‘n fait accompli is – iets wat reeds onherroeplik deur Christus aan die Kruis bewerkstellig is. Net soos dit vir ‘n pa nie nodig sal wees om sy kinders wat onder mekaar stry en baklei te oortuig dat hulle werklik familie van mekaar is nie, glo ons dat ons Vader ook eerder met ons wil gesels oor wat die realiteit van familie wees, van een wees, prakties beteken.

Daarom gaan ons van naderby kyk na wat dit beteken om een te wees met Christus. Ons gaan fokus op een wees met die verstand van Christus, een wees met die hart van Christus, een wees met die hande van Christus en een wees met die voete van Christus. Ons vertrou God die Heilige Gees vir ‘n gesamentlike ervaring van emosioneel-geestelike openbaring, die lig van ‘n sluier as’t ware. Ons mik daarna om ‘n doelbewuste fokus op en visie van die verenigende beeld van Christus aan te wakker. Uiteindelik kan ons net streef na of ‘n begeerte ontwikkel vir dít wat ons sien. Die sleutel na ware eenheid lê in die ervaring van die geopenbaarde Christus – “En terwyl ons almal met onbedekte gesig soos in ‘n spieël die heerlikheid van die Here aanskou, word ons van gedaante verander na dieselfde beeld, van heerlikheid tot heerlikheid, as deur die Here wat die Gees is” (2 Korinthiërs 3:18 OV). God se uiteindelike begeerte vir ons is nie soseer dat ons iets groots of betekenisvol vermag nie, maar eerder dat ons soos Christus word. Die Heilige Gees is nie gestuur om ons in staat te stel om die werk van getuies te ‘doen’ nie, maar eerder om getuies te ‘wees’ – getuies van Wie Hy is en wat Hy doen; waar geestelike familie wees beteken dat ons Christus nadoen en nie persoonlike ambisie nastreef nie – “Dié wat Hy lank tevore verkies het, het Hy ook bestem om gelykvormig te wees aan die beeld van sy Seun, sodat sy Seun baie broers kan hê van wie Hy die Eerste is” (Romeine 8:29 NV).

Ek raai ons amal aan om ons bes te doen om nie hierdie afspraak met Christus en hierdie deel van Sy Liggaam mis te loop nie. En aan die meer avontuurlustiges onder ons rig ek spesiaal hierdie nota en vra dat ons doelbewus daardie tyd neem weg van die narsistiese suurdeeg waarvan kontemporêre kultuur deurtrek is, wat maak dat ons eerder plesier/ontspanning opsoek as God. Dit is afgodery wat die beeld van Christus verraai. Beskou hierdie as ‘n vaderlike vermaning om jou toewyding aan Christus te bevestig bo die najaag van plesier. In plaas daarvan om aan te hou om Hom soos ‘n toevoegsel tot ons lewens te behandel, kom ons wys ons begeerte vir Hom deur ander verpligtinge te kanselleer of uit te stel ter wille van konferensiebywoning. Kom ons maak ons dagboeke en begrotings ‘n weerspieëling van ons ewige prioriteite en waardes. Kom ons almal aanvaar die Vader se uitnodiging om in Sy teenwoordigheid in te kom en maak die geleentheid spesiaal met ons gewaardeerde deelname en teenwoordigheid. Sien julle daar.

Liefde in Christus,
Fred

The family get-together 2016

The family get-together 2016

by Fred May

Christ, when speaking on the state of His Church in the last days, said the following – “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1 NIV) He said that while we’d all be in a state of semi-readiness at the time, one-half of the church would be somewhat more prepared for His coming – “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” (Matthew 25:10 NIV) If oil represents the inspiring presence and influence of the Holy Spirit, the other significant part of the parable relates to the fact that the oil was meant to be purchased. However, it’s interesting to note that He does not specify the currency or price required for its procurement. In light of what appears to be an intentional omission Christ does seem to make it clear that buying the extra oil would take time; too much time in fact before the delayed rendezvous with the Bridegroom. The thought here is that the most valuable currency mankind has been granted is time. Its intrinsic value, relative to life’s brevity, is extremely high. For this reason, God values our time more highly than any other gift or offering we could bring Him. And since God is love, He places special merit on our time invested in relationship with Him, and with each other.

Therefore, it’s with great confidence that I invite you to share a special time of fellowship and worship with us at our annual Convergence 2016 conference here in the Cape. This year the format is somewhat different in that we’re not inviting guest speakers. We hope to resume that tradition again next year. But before then we have identified the need to tailor the conference programme somewhat for a more efficient and effective utilisation of our limited time together. We’re working toward establishing a conference format/template applicable to all other similar events. We’re hoping to have the flow sufficiently scripted to make it cohesive in terms of overarching theme, focus and desired outcomes while, at the same time, preserving much of the expressive latitude our participants have enjoyed in the past.  Also, it may be the last time we have an opportunity to present our members with a clear, cohesive understanding of who we are, and where we’ve come to, as a movement at this point in time. Unfortunately, we’ve neglected to place sufficient emphasis on our vision and values in the past and consequently urgent need exists to bring correction to this oversight.

We deem it imperative to initiate the conversation on our need to migrate from the spiritual space we currently occupy, to a somewhat different one. At present, we find ourselves in a space largely informed by prevailing culture and its religious traditions. We’re in need of a clearer distinction between ‘Gospel’ and ‘culture’. We need to migrate to apostolic space as a matter of urgency. And what this space looks like is the burning issue we need to engage humbly and prayerfully. The book of Acts provides us with valuable glimpses into this glorious prospect, but what the journey there would be like for us is where we need to start. While this challenge applies to the Body of Christ on the whole, we as a movement have need to discover what this would mean here and now. There’s a historic, sovereign move of God afoot globally, and I firmly believe that God would have us be a part of it. That’s why the Convergence conversation this time around promises to be a deeply significant and inspiring one.

The theme for this year, BEING ONE, speaks into the two sub-themes of ‘oneness with Christ’ and also ‘oneness in Christ’, with the latter stemming from the former. In promoting our unity in Christ we hope to leave every delegate with a clear perspective on this truth from a biblical perspective, namely that it’s a fait accompli, meaning it’s something irrevocably established by Christ on the Cross. Just as a father dealing with squabbling and bickering amongst his children will hardly feel the need to convince them of the fact that they are in fact family, we believe Our Father too, would rather engage us in conversation about what this reality of being family, being one, implies in practice.

Therefore we’ll be looking closely at what being one with Christ would mean. We’ll focus on being one with the mind of Christ; being one with the heart of Christ; being one with the hands of Christ and being one with the feet of Christ. We’re believing God the Holy Spirit for a collective experience of emotional-spiritual ‘unveiling’ as it were. Our aim is to foster an intentional focus on, and vision of, the unifying image of Christ. After all, we can only aspire after, or develop a desire for what we see. The key to embracing true unity lies in the revelatory experience of the image of Christ – “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 BOOKS) God’s ultimate desire for us is not so much that we accomplish significance or greatness but rather that we become like Christ. The Holy Spirit was not sent to empower us to ‘do’ witnessing, but rather that we ‘be’ witnesses of Who He is and of what He does; where being spiritual family equates to emulating Christ instead of pursuing personal ambition – “God planned that those he had chosen would become like his Son. In that way, Christ will be the first and most honoured among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29 NIRV)

I would encourage us all to do our utmost to not miss this appointment with Christ and this part of His Body. As a note addressed especially to our more adventure-loving members, I’d ask that we make an intentional break from the narcissistic leaven pervading contemporary culture that has us loving a pursuit of leisure/pleasure more than God. This idolatry amounts to a betrayal of the image of Christ. Consider this a fatherly exhortation to confirm our commitment to Christ, over the pursuit of pleasure. Instead of continuing to treat God as an add-on to our lives, let us demonstrate our desire for Him by rather cancelling or postponing conflicting commitments in lieu of conference attendance. Let’s make our diaries and budgets a reflection of our eternal priorities and values. Let us all accept the Father’s invitation into His presence and lend the occasion the blessing of our much-valued presence and participation. See you there.

Love in Christ,
Fred

reflecting on 2015

reflecting on 2015

by Fred May

For me, the past year has been quite an extraordinary journey on so many levels. When it started I had already committed myself to an extended ministry sabbatical. And while we all may enjoy the idea of savouring an extended break from daily responsibility and labour, I discovered that there may be a telling, unexpected distinction observable between a vacation and a sabbatical.
The dictionary defines a sabbatical as ‘a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job, a break or a welcome change from the usual routine. In this sense, it certainly is a delightful prospect, especially when one has already been led to suspect that sustained pressure, stress and fatigue have all started to take their toll in ways that had not become entirely apparent yet but had nonetheless made their quiet presence felt in many insidious ways.

What took me by surprise the most in the process, however, was how deeply dependent one becomes on the familiar, and especially so as one grows older. The rhythmic flow of the mundane throb of a hive of activities that are mostly routine, long since firmly embedded as neurochemical pathways in the brain, become wonderfully, strangely comforting.

We all have an intrinsic need to feel meaningfully connected to life in some way. And of even greater importance is the need to feel an ongoing sense of personal validation, derived at a subconscious level from feeling that one’s personal contribution is, at least, being deemed significant and, at best, indispensable. And while I’m not altogether clear on how this dynamic affects women, what I do know is that for us men this peculiar derivation of job-related affirmation is intimately tied into our gender security. Our masculine integrity feeds lustily off it.

For me, all the aforementioned factors conspired to make for a rather conflicted sabbatical experience at times. I realise that when Christ invited me to follow Him as a disciple I assumed that His demand that I ‘take up my cross’ essentially meant that I be willing to do whatever He demanded of me. What I’ve discovered in 2015 is that in many ways it’s much easier to live a life of challenging commitment and sacrifice ‘for the cause of Christ’ than be asked to stop doing anything at all. Asking a preacher to stop preaching is a bit like husband asking his wife to stop being a mom to their children or for a windmill to stop pumping. It is deeply counter-instinctual. It just feels so wrong.

And yet it’s a most important discipling lesson I’ve had the privilege of learning on a brand new level. It’s what Christ had in mind when He said that only the meek would inherit the earth.  While meekness refers to great personal power that’s perfectly harnessed and controlled, it also means that we’ve allowed Christ to wean us off our natural vulnerability to a performance-derived, emotional reward system and the emotional-spiritual insecurity it represents.

In that great chapter in the book of Hebrews about the valiant heroes of faith, who courageously carried the redemptive torch throughout the ages, the strongest commendation is reserved for those spiritual colossi who had grown to a place where they could resist the subtle temptation to demonstrate a presumptuous obedience instead of meekness, unlike the anti-hero of the Old Testament, the mighty Samson. Scripture celebrates the almost incredible liberty and authority these truly great men and women of God had grown to exercise: “…who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” Hebrews 11:33-34 (NASB)

It may be that our deepest spiritual aspiration or longing may be that of a rich, purpose-fueled existence and the accompanying secret bliss derived from sensing something of the personal distinction, significance and fulfillment that it brings. God, however, would at some point call each one of us to forsake even that hard-won place of ostensibly lofty spiritual attainment.
The consecutive verse in the chapter just quoted marks that mostly unsung, but monumentally significant moment, of transition that every one of us would instinctively dread. Without exception, every honest believer suffers from a triumphalist hankering, one borne out of having to suffer a seemingly ceaseless barrage of frustration and disappointment in this life. This deep yearning for vindication and even vengeance is one that God recognises and even shares, yet without placing the same value on it in quite in the same way we do.

These people are truly great faith icons. “…who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection” Hebrews 11:33, 35 (NASB, emphasis mine)

At this point, the biblical narrative seems to change gear so seamlessly that one may be tempted to miss the mighty chasm that’s just been bridged. But just in case one may have missed it, the author proceeds to underscore the dramatic transition made by way of further illustration. “…and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:36-38 (NASB, emphasis mine)

God deems His saints who embrace the Cross, that is, the meek, of inestimable, eternal worth. In God’s eyes, they are most highly esteemed. Similarly, Christ, while nailed to the Cross, was in a position to summon legions of angels to His defense but He chose to exercise meekness, the greatest power known to man, instead, and desisted. He refrained from exercising His God-given authority and power to which He was divinely entitled.

Doing those things which we deem nobly vicarious and virtuous may be just that, but receiving a command to desist from all that activity is aimed at repositioning us since even divinely sanctioned activity may pose a threat to our relationship with Him. It holds the danger of estranging us from Him, by militating against an intimacy with us which He so deeply longs for.
What I have learnt in 2015 is that God is jealous for my presence. We seem to persist with the pretentious notion that we can, and need to, invite God into our presence, as if we author or create our own space. Fact is, He has placed us in His world and we happen to occupy the time and space that He has created and blessed us to inhabit. He longs for us to come into His presence by learning to be present to Him. But this transition is possible only when we become willing even to desist from doing what is good and right for the joy of being – being with Him.

Meekness ultimately speaks of a willingness to trade the satisfying spiritual modality of ‘doing’ for that of ‘being’, where the latter enjoys constant priority. Christ emphatically placed a primary emphasis on the disciple’s need to learn to value that place of rest, away from the weight of noble obligation and the inevitably ensuing weariness, over the egotistical satisfaction of accomplishment, the ‘thrill of the hunt’ as it were. “Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.” Mark 3:14-15 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

In the last while, I’ve learnt something of what it means to simply ‘be’, with Him. He, more often than not, longs to engage us in a conversation that moves beyond the comforting familiarity and emotional security of a spiritual ‘to-do list’ or job card, even though it would commendably mean that He has been able to move the conversation with us beyond the shopping list and promise box. However, He needs the undistracted time and space to talk to one about His need to be our redemptive physician, our healer, Yahweh Rophe. He, like any medical professional, will not embark on any invasive procedure without informing, clarifying and securing our unconditional sanction first.

In this past year I have learnt, in a newer, deeper way, what loving concern would cause Him to linger at my heart’s door, knocking ever so gently, but persistently, until I muster the courage to reach for the seldom-used handle to invite Him in for what turns out to be a conversation that initially is almost as intimidating and challenging as it is ultimately rewarding and endearing. “Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20 (HCSB)
Nothing else in this life quite compares to this critically important ‘date-night’ with the Master.

‘n terugblik op 2015

‘n terugblik op 2015

deur Fred May

Vir my was die afgelope jaar op meer as een vlak ’n buitengewone reis. Met die aanbreek daarvan was ek reeds verbind tot ’n verlengde bedieningsabbat. En terwyl die idee van ’n lang ruskans van daaglikse verantwoordelikhede en werk genotvol mag klink, het ek ontdek dat daar ’n onverwagse, betekenisvolle onderskeid tussen ’n vakansie en ’n sabbatsjaar kan wees. Volgens die woordeboek is sabbatsverlof ’n tydperk waartydens iemand nie sy of haar gewone taak verrig nie, of wegbreek van normale roetine. In daardie opsig is dit beslis iets om na uit te sien, veral as jy reeds begin vermoed dat volgehoue druk, spanning en moegheid elk stilweg en geslepe hulle tol begin eis het sonder dat jy agtergekom het.

Wat my egter die meeste verras het, is hoe swaar ’n mens staatmaak op dit wat vir jou bekend is, en soveel te meer soos jy ouer raak. Die ritmiese verloop van alledaagse dinge en besig bly met roetine-aktiwiteite, lankal reeds in die brein vasgelêaas neuro-chemiese paadjies, word snaaks genoeg ’n welkome vertroosting. Almal van ons het die intrinsieke behoefte om op een of ander plek aan die lewe verbind te wees en iets te beteken. En selfs belangriker as dit is die onderliggende behoefte om voortdurend as persoon gewaarmerk te word deur die gevoel dat ons persoonlike bydrae as betekenisvol en selfs onmisbaar geag word. En terwyl ek nie weet hoe die dinamiek die skoner geslag raak nie, weet ek wel dat hierdie bekragtiging wat ons as mans op besondere wyse uit ons werk put, baie naby aan ons sekuriteit lê. Ons manlike integriteit groei geil en welig daarin.

In my geval het al die bogenoemde faktore saamgespan om die sabbatsjaar by tye ’n teenstrydige ervaring te maak. Ek besef dat toe Christus my genooi het om Hom as ’n dissipel te volg, ek wel aangeneem het dat Sy opdrag om my kruis op te neem in wese beteken dat ek gewillig sou wees om te doen wat Hy ook al van my vra. Wat ek egter in 2015 besef het, is dat dit in baie opsigte makliker is om ’n lewe van uitdagende toewyding en opoffering ‘vir Christus en Sy Koninkryk’ te lei as om gevra te word om niks te doen nie. Om ’n prediker te vra om op te hou preek is amper soos ’n man wat sy vrou vra om op te hou ma wees vir hulle kinders, of soos om ’n windpomp te vra om op te hou draai. Dit druis in teen instink en grein. Dit voel verkeerd. En nogtans is dit ’n uiters belangrike les van dissipelskap, en ek het die afgelope tyd die voorreg gehad om dit op ’n nuwe vlak te leer.  Dit is wat Christus in gedagte gehad het toe Hy gesê het dat die deemoediges die aarde sal beërwe. Deemoedigheid verwys na oorvloedige persoonlike krag wat ingespan en beheer word, maar dit beteken ook dat ons Christus toegelaat het om ons los te maak van ons natuurlike kwesbaarheid teenoor ’n sisteem van emosionele beloning vir prestasie, en die emosionele en geestelike onsekerheid wat dit meebring. In Hebreërs 11, die gedenksaal van geloofshelde wat die verlossingsvlam dapper deur die eeue gedra het, word die grootste lofprysing gereserveer vir die helde wat gegroei het tot by die plek waar hulle die subtiele versoeking van voortvarende gehoorsaamheid ter wille van deemoedigheid kon weerstaan, anders as Simson, die magtige anti-held van die Ou Testament. Die Skrif vereer die byna ongelooflike vryheid en gesag wat hierdie groot manne en vroue van God geleer het om uit te oefen: “…deur die geloof het hulle koninkryke verower, die reg van God gehandhaaf en verkry wat God beloof het; hulle het leeus se bekke toegestop, gloeiende vuur geblus en aan die swaard ontkom; hulle het in swakheid krag ontvang, was sterk in oorlog en het die leërs van vreemdes op die vlug gejaag” (Hebreërs 11:33-34 NV).

Dit mag wees dat ons diepste geestelike verlange of aspirasie is om ’n ryk, doelgedrewe bestaan te voer met die gepaardgaande stille genot wat voortvloei uit ’n gevoel van persoonlike onderskeiding, betekenis en vervulling. God sal elkeen van ons egter in een of ander stadium roep om daardie plek van oënskynlike hoë geestelike prestasie, waarvoor ons so hard baklei het, te verlaat. Die volgende vers in die hoofstuk wat ek sopas aangehaal het dui op daardie oomblik van oorgang, onbesonge maar van monumentale betekenis, wat elkeen van ons instinktief vrees. Sonder uitsondering hunker elke eerlike gelowige na triomf, ’n hunkering wat voortspruit uit die eindelose stroom frustrasie en teleurstelling in hierdie lewe. Hierdie diep verlange na regverdiging en selfs vergelding is iets wat God raaksien en selfs deel, maar sonder om dieselfde waarde daaraan te heg as ons. Hierdie mense is inderdaad ikone van geloof –  “…wat deur die geloof koninkryke oorweldig het, geregtigheid uitgeoefen, beloftes verkry, bekke van leeus toegestop, die krag van vuur uitgeblus, die skerpte van die swaard ontvlug, krag uit swakheid ontvang het, dapper gewees het in die oorlog, leërs van vreemdes op die vlug gedryf het … Vroue het hulle dode deur opstanding teruggekry, en ander is gefolter en wou geen bevryding aanneem nie, om ’n beter opstanding te kan verkry.”.(Hebreërs 11:33, 35 NV 1953 vertaling, eie beklemtoning). Die bybelse vertelling skakel hier so ongemerk oor na ’n ander rat dat dit maklik is om die groot kloof wat dit sopas oorbrug het mis te kyk. Maar die skrywer illustreer die dramatiese oorgang verder en onderstreep dit vir diegene wat dit wel misgekyk het: “…ander weer het bespotting en lyfstraf verduur, selfs boeie en gevangenskap. Gelowiges is met klippe doodgegooi, in stukke gesaag, met die swaard vermoor. Hulle het rondgeswerf in skaapvelle en in bokvelle. Hulle het gebrek gely, is verdruk en mishandel. Die wêreld was hulle nie werd nie; hulle het rondgeswerf in woestyne en op berge en het in grotte en in gate in die grond gelewe” (Hebrereg 11:36-38 NV, eie beklemtoning). God ag Sy heiliges wat die Kruis omarm, en daarmee saam ’n lewe van deemoedigheid, van onskatbare, ewige waarde. Net so kon Christus, terwyl Hy aan die Kruis gehang het, legioene van engele oproep om Hom te verdedig, maar in plaas daarvan het Hy deemoedigheid gekies, die sterkste krag wat aan die mens bekend is. Hy het Hom daarvan weerhou om Sy Godgegewe gesag en krag, waarop Hy geregtig was, uit te oefen.

Om die dinge te doen wat ons as edel en deugsaam beskou mag dalk wel sodanig wees, maar die opdrag om al daardie aktiwiteite te staak is daarop gemik om ons te herposisioneer omdat selfs daardie aktiwiteite wat deur God goedgekeur word ’n bedreiging vir ons verhouding met Hom mag inhou. Dit kan gevaarlik wees omdat dit ons van Hom kan vervreem deur ons intimiteit met Hom, wat vir Hom so kosbaar is, te bestry. Wat ek in 2015 geleer het, is dat God jaloers is wanneer dit kom by my teenwoordigheid. Ons hou vol met die pretensieuse idee dat ons God in ons teenwoordigheid kan en moet innooi. So asof ons die skepper of outeur van ons eie ruimte is. Die feit is dat Hy ons in Sy wêreld geplaas het en dat ons bestaan in die tyd en ruimte wat Hy geskep het en in Sy goedheid vir ons beskikbaar maak om in te woon. Hy wil hê dat ons in Sy teenwoordigheid inkom en leer om teenwoordig te wees vir Hóm. Maar dié oorgang is net moontlik wanneer ons bereid is om selfs die goeie dinge wat ons doen te laat staan vir die blydskap van wéés, met Hóm wees. Deemoedigheid spreek uiteindelik van ’n gewilligheid om die geestelike vervulling wat ‘doen’ tot gevolg het te verruil vir ‘wees’, sodat laasgenoemde altyd prioriteit geniet. Christus het uitdruklik klem gelêkop die dissipels se behoefte om die waarde van daardie rusplek te besef, daardie plek weg van die swaarheid van edele plig en die noodwendige uitputting wat daarop volg, in teenstelling met die egoïstiese bevrediging van prestasie, die ‘opwinding van die jag’ as’t ware. “En Hy het twaalf aangestel, sodat hulle saam met Hom kon wees en Hy hulle kon uitstuur om te preek en mag te hê om siektes te genees en die duiwels uit te dryf” (Markus 3:14-15 OV, eie beklemtoning).

Die afgelope tyd het ek iets geleer van wat dit beteken om net eenvoudig te ‘wees’ by Hom. Meer dikwels as wat ons weet wil Hy met ons gesels verby die gemaklike bekendheid en emosionele veiligheid van ons geestelike lysie van take om af te handel, selfs al beteken dit dat die inkopielys en belofteblikkie agterweë bly. Maar Hy het ons onverdeelde aandag en ruimte nodig om met ons te praat oor Sy behoefte om ons verlossende geneesheer te wees, Yahweh Rophe. Net soos enige medikus sal Hy geen ingrypende mediese prosedure uitvoer voordat Hy eers ingelig, verduidelik en onvoorwaardelike instemming verkry het nie. In hierdie jaar wat verby is het ek op ’n nuwe, dieper manier geleer hoedat Sy liefdevolle besorgdheid Hom by my hart se deur sal laat talm om sag en aanhoudend te klop totdat ek die moed bymekaar skraap om die stram handvatsel te draai en Hom in te nooi vir ’n gesprek wat aanvanklik na ’n intimiderende uitdaging lyk maar uiteindelik lonend en vol liefde is. “Kyk, Ek staan by die deur en ek klop. As iemand My stem hoor en die deur oopmaak, sal Ek ingaan na hom toe en saam met hom maaltyd hou, en Hy met My” (Openbaring 3:20 OV). Niks anders in hierdie lewe kan vergelyk word met hierdie belangrike spesiale ‘koffie’ met die Meester nie.