Hope After Brexit

first published on thegospelcoalition.org - written by Bernard N. Howard

Yesterday, June 23, a national referendum was held on the question of Britain’s future within the European Union—a group of 28 nations united by free trade, freedom of movement, and institutions such as the European Commission and the European Parliament. The choice was simple: leave or remain. (“Brexit,” short for “British exit” is the popular term for the first of those options.) To the surprise of the world’s financial markets and the pollsters, the British people narrowly voted to leave the EU, by a margin of 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.

Jeff Djevdet

If we’re to follow the example of the men of Issachar, who “had understanding of the times” (1 Chron. 12:32), what should we conclude about this decision? What are the likely ripple effects when the nation with the world’s fifth-biggest economy and a long history of Christian mission steps away from partnership with 27 neighboring nations?

I voted for Brexit, so the observations below will inevitably tilt toward that side of the debate. Many committed Christians were for remain, and their thoughts will be different. Rather than pouring fuel on the flames in a time of concern, this article is intended as a defense of Britain’s decision that may offer people some reassurance.

Reasons for Alarm

At first glance, the prognosis might seem gloomy. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Brexit will lead to a British recession, which would inevitably hit poorer people hardest. Early financial indicators could be used to support that negative outlook: the British pound initially lost more than 10 percent of its value, and the FTSE 100 (the main British stock market index) fell more than 8 percent when the market opened. But snap reactions from the markets aren’t a reliable guide to long-term economic effect. And just as British trade didn’t begin in 1973 when Britain entered the EU, it won’t end in 2016 with Britain’s vote to leave. Many smaller nations trade successfully without participating in wider trading blocs; the world’s fifth-biggest economy will be able to do the same.

Aside from the economy, some have claimed that Brexit was the result of hostility toward immigrants coming to work in Britain from elsewhere in the EU. According to that analysis, Brexit fits a global narrative of rising aggressive nationalism, arguably paralleled in the United States with the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

With that in mind, any weakening of the EU—whose existence has coincided with 70 years of peace in Western Europe—looks worrying. It would, however, be more accurate to credit recent decades of peace to NATO than the EU, as demonstrated by the two organizations’ respective roles in the war in the former Yugoslavia. And tensions over immigration in the UK are actually likely to decrease thanks to Brexit, now that the United Kingdom Independence Party, often accused of stirring up hostility, no longer has a reason for being.

Turning to specifically Christian matters, Philip Moore (Acts 29’s Europe director) said before the vote,

The EU . . . offers more gospel opportunities and therefore church-planting opportunities than it denies, and [Britain] remaining in offers British citizens and British churches more scope and ease for their work.

Now that Brexit is on the way, it seems fair to say that those opportunities won’t be so readily available. British missionaries in Europe will, in time, face the administrative burden of applying for visas and a new uncertainty over their residency status. Yet Jim Sayers, who is employed by a mission agency supporting missionaries in Europe, is confident that mission will continue:

The mission agency I work for has been helping support missionaries in Europe for 50 years. We sent missionaries into Spain when Franco was in power, into Belgium and France before we entered the EEC (as it was then) and long before free movement was introduced. We sent missionaries into Austria and Latvia a decade before either of those countries joined the EU. No one had their visas refused.

So the reasons for apprehensiveness have probably been overstated. And a strong case can be made that the referendum’s result is, in fact, something Christians should positively welcome. Two main reasons for cheering Brexit particularly stand out.

Reasons to Take Heart

1. The EU’s deeply ingrained faults justify departure.

The ideals and aspirations of the EU—harmonious international co-operation and peace—are admirable. But the gap between those ideals and the actual nature of the EU has now become so wide that, arguably, it can’t be closed. While it was said during the referendum campaign that remaining in the EU would allow Britain to speak up for reform, one voice among 28 has slim influence. And the following select examples of the EU’s faults have an ingrained nature that makes it hard to see how reform could ever come about:

  • According to the London Times, the European Court of Auditors has now refused to give the EU budget a clean bill of health for 21 years in a row. In the words of The Times, “More than €133.6 billion of European Union budget payments last year were ‘affected by material error,’ with official auditors expected to brand them as irregular and possibly illegal.”
  • Even when money is spent legally by the EU, it’s not spent well. For example, every single month, for just four days, the whole European Parliament moves to an entirely different country, traveling from Brussels (in Belgium) to Strasbourg (in France). The estimated cost, every year, is €180 million ($200 million). Politico explains: “Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament, but Brussels is home to most of its permanent staff and committees and hosts several plenary sessions a year. The dual citizenship means that up to 10,000 people must travel twelve times a year from Brussels to Strasbourg to debate and vote on legislation.” When one considers that youth unemployment in Greece, Spain, and Italy—three of the EU’s core countries—is 48.9 percent, 45.3 percent, and 39.1 percent respectively, the wastefulness of this perpetual motion substantiates the view that a lost generation of young people is being ill-served by the EU’s wealthy bureaucrats.
  • The most serious example of the harmfulness of the EU is its effect on Africa. From Africa’s perspective, the EU is a group of wealthy nations that have banded together to protect their own interests from African competition. The result is that European farmers can prosper while much needier African farmers face the unfair barriers of EU tariffs and subsidies. It’s often said that poorer people and countries should be given fishing rods rather than fish. When that proverb is translated into global economics, it suggests doing whatever possible to assist African trade. But the EU does precisely the opposite. For decades it has been, as it were, breaking African fishing rods in two. This is one of the factors leading many Africans to risk their lives sailing on rafts across the Mediterranean, desperately trying to get into the EU. They realize that everything is currently loaded in Europe’s favor. Brexit will allow Britain to form new trading partnerships with African nations without the barriers that currently get in Africa’s way.

2. The Bible takes a dim view of empires.

On the Canongate Wall in Edinburgh, these words from Alasdair Gray are carved in marble: “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

It’s a powerful quote because we can all imagine the hope and energy a people would share as they begin building a new nation. Try substituting “empire” for “nation” in the quote. It doesn’t have the same ring, because we don’t relate to empires in the same way. When different nations are clustered into one empire, the people in that empire become utterly insignificant and disposable. Their voice no longer has any sway. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the world is divided between three superstates: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. Great Britain has become a portion of Oceania known as Airstrip One. The sheer scale of these superstates is one of the reasons why the people in the novel are so helpless.

The Bible similarly treats empires as threatening and dangerous. In the Book of Daniel, for instance, the four successive empires that ruled over the ancient world in the 600 years before Christ are depicted as terrifying beasts. Nations, on the other hand, are portrayed as God’s invention and a means of grace. As Paul explains to the Athenians,

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:2627)

While some might dispute the idea that the EU is an empire, it can’t be denied that its legislation takes precedence over the internal laws of its member states. And its trajectory has only ever moved in one direction: from a trading partnership, to an economic community, to a pan-national political union. Since 1999 its core nations have shared the same currency. Its leaders, the EU Commissioners, can’t be voted out of office by the people of its member states. These are all imperial traits.

Of course, those who belong to an empire must submit to it as the authority God has set in place (Rom. 13:1). And just as Paul enjoyed freedom of movement throughout the Roman Empire, pan-national union will inevitably have some advantages. But if the opportunity comes for a nation to gain freedom, to take responsibility for its own laws, and to make its leaders accountable to its own people, then from a biblical perspective that is something to be seized with both hands.

Ultimate Hope

The Christian faith should make us more concerned about the health of our nation than we otherwise would be. Paul tells Timothy,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim. 2:12)

In the same letter, Paul points out that God’s law has been laid down not only for believers but for everyone (1 Tim. 1:8–10), which means Christians ought to know what will work best for whole societies.

We should, therefore, have more to say about politics, economics, and international relations than narrow reflections on how those things might affect the work of the gospel (as important as that question is). It’s a mistake to isolate ourselves through pietism, which is defined by Tim Keller in his book Center Church as a focus “on the inner individual experience [that] does not expect or ask how the experience of salvation will change the way we use our money, do our work, create our art, pursue our education, etc.” In pietistic Christianity, “personal salvation is offered without much thought as to how Christianity substantially changes a people’s attitude toward power and powerlessness, art and commerce, cultural ritual and symbolism.” No doubt many British Christians in recent weeks have wanted to crawl under a rock to escape all discussion of the pros and cons of Brexit, but ultimately it’s right to engage as broadly as possible in the disussion.

Yet even while our faith fuels interest in national affairs, it should also enable us to hold these developments loosely. In Psalm 2, the nations gather together in rebellion against God and his anointed one. God responds by saying to his Son,

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Ps. 2:89)

This is the fate of all nations, so our only hope is to pay homage to the Son (Ps. 2:12). He saves us from the rod of punishment by receiving it himself, in our place, that we might receive eternal life in his perfect kingdom.

J.C. Ryle on Christ as Divine and Human

This was first published on thegoodbookblog.com by Kenneth Berding

In his classic book on sanctification, Holiness, J.C. Ryle includes a poignant paragraph on the divine and human natures of Christ.

“I see a marvelous proof of love and wisdom in the union of two natures in Christ’s person. It was marvelous love in our Saviour to condescend to go through weakness and humiliation for our sakes, ungodly rebels as we are. It was marvelous wisdom to fit Himself in this way to be the very Friend of friends, who could not only save man, but meet him on his own ground. I want one able to perform all things needful to redeem my soul. This Jesus can do, for He is the eternal Son of God. I want one able to understand my weakness and infirmities, and to deal gently with my soul, while tied to a body of death. This again Jesus can do, for He was the Son of man, and had flesh and blood like my own. Had my Saviour been God only, I might perhaps have trusted Him, but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Saviour been Man only, I might have loved Him, but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be God, my Saviour is God as well as Man, and Man as well as God—God, and so able to deliver me—Man, and so able to feel with me. Almighty power and deepest sympathy are met together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1956), 200-201.

Feature: Gospel Wisdom for Approval Junkies

First published on desiringgod.org  - John Piper "Ask the Pastor"

Podcast listener Victoria writes in to say: “Hello Pastor John! I often wonder, how would you counsel someone who is addicted to approval, always fearful of what people might think of him/her, and always concerned over the slightest apathy from others, fearing rejection?”

I would say the same thing to Victoria that I would say to me. This is a totally universal problem. This is not a small segment of people who are wrestling with this isolated, little problem.

There is a paradox, an irony in all of us in this regard. We crave approval from others, and we fear rejection by others. Which means that on the one hand we desperately want to be somebody, but on the other hand, by our craving and by our fear, we admit we are dependent on others for the somebody that we want to be. There is a built in irony here.

Or here, put it another way. We want our worth, our strength, our beauty, our accomplishments to be validated by others, and in the very moment of our insecure craving and fearing we are admitting we don’t have much strength to be validated. But instead, we are weak and we need to be propped up by validation. What an irony. And there is going to be an incredible lesson here.

In one sense this craving for approval and this fear of disapproval is both an indictment of the sin of pride and an expression of hope that if we are willing to admit it, we already know that pride is a hopeless way forward. We already know this. We are giving evidence to it every day. And we really need help from outside. And it isn’t the affirmation of other people. It is God. We are trying to convince ourselves that we are okay without t help from outside, ironically by seeking validation from people outside, who are all trying to do the same thing.

But the real way to deal with this craving and this fear of not getting it, this not getting the affirmation, is to humble ourselves and to admit that our real security, our real identity, our real stability, our real joy comes from way outside ourselves; namely, from God. And our problem is that we have replaced God-centeredness with self-centeredness and God-focus with self-focus and God-regard for self-regard.

As I was thinking about this, the quote from C.S. Lewis came up into my mind where I think this is in one of his letters. I didn’t write down the location. I think it is a letter where he says this:

The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch, one does want to scratch, but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard, we shall want the pleasure of self-approval. But the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else: God, our fellow humans, animals, the garden, and the sky instead. (Collected Letters, 3:429)

Now that is a beautiful statement, because what he is saying is: If we would just give up our hopeless self-preoccupation, we would inherit God as our Treasure and the whole world thrown in for good measure. Self-regard is a hopeless way to live. If we are getting our pleasure from feeling self-sufficient, we will never be satisfied with others seeing and applauding our self-sufficiency. It will never work. And we will always be plagued by the fear that they have not seen it or they didn’t respond positively enough or what did a facial expression mean or why didn’t they call back or on and on and on. Oh, what a miserable life. We will always be second handers. Our meaning in life, our joy, our identity, our worth will be constantly dependent on other people. And that is a miserable way to live.

And so Jesus describes the Pharisees — boy, should this go home to all of us. “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5). O, in this media-driven age of ours where you can tweet yourself out in a minute, how we need this. “They do all their deeds to be seen by others . . . and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi” (Matthew 23:5–7).

But evidently there is a void. There is a void in this so-called self-sufficiency. Why? Because the self was never designed to satisfy the self. It was never meant to be self-sufficient. We are only images of God. We are not God. We are not the ultimate thing. We are shadows. We are echoes. So there will always be an emptiness in our soul that struggles to be satisfied with the resources of self and constantly needs others to prop up the self, which can never happen because the self was never designed to be that for the self.

So here is the key problem and the way out. The empty craving for the praise of others signals the absence of faith in God’s future grace. The absence of a restful satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus, the absence of the outward look to God in Christ as our meaning and our identity and our security and our worth and our usefulness. And Jesus himself made the connection between faith in God or faith in Jesus and the opposite; namely, craving for human praise.

I remember years ago I was just powerfully impacted by John 5:44 where Jesus says this: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” Well, what is the answer? You can’t. You can’t believe. Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible. Why? Because faith means being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus. And if you are bent on getting your satisfaction from scratching the itch of self-regard, people’s affirmation, you will turn away from Jesus, because you can’t serve two masters. But if you would turn from self as the source of satisfaction, which is what repentance is, and come to Jesus for the enjoyment of all that God is for us in him, which is what faith is, then the itch would be replaced by a well of water springing up to eternal life.

So my counsel to every Christian who struggles with the fear of man’s disapproval and the craving of man’s approval, which is all Christians, more or less, is this: Realize that in Jesus Christ, in a solid, God-chosen relationship with Jesus, man’s disapproval cannot hurt you and man’s approval cannot satisfy you. Therefore, to fear the one and crave the other is shear folly. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) — free from the fear of not getting other people’s approval and craving it as though you just got to have it.

And the truth that set you free from that is: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). You don’t need to fear anyone’s disapproval when God almighty is for you. Think about it. Let it sink in. And the other truth is that knowing Jesus, looking outside ourselves to the glory of the Son of God in the gospel in the triumph for us over evil, looking to him is all-satisfying. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).

So the itch is satisfied, not with successful self-regard, but with breathtaking Christ-regard.

Feature: 5 Truths We're Keeping from Our Youth Groups

5 Truths We’re Keeping from Our Youth Groups

First published on CrippleGate - Posted: 01 Mar 2016 01:01 AM PST

When I do campus evangelism, I often start the conversation this way: “What are two reasons you stopped going to church?” I’ve asked hundreds of students that question, and the most common responses make me think that church youth groups have failed dramatically.

I understand that every human being is responsible for their own sin, and that even the best of youth groups will have students that fall between the cracks. But the fact of the matter is that too many pastors have believed the lie that teenagers cannot handle certain truths. They have accepted the culture’s belief that today’s teenagers’ attention span has shortened, and that their ability to comprehend deep truths has dissipated.

Whether you’re a parent or a youth pastor, you have to understand that adapting to the culture is something that pagans do. The Church is called to be counter-culture, and we must, despite what the world tells us and sadly what many fellow Christians tell us, stay faithful to Scripture and teach the whole counsel of God. So here are five truths that most teenagers (christian or not) are not being taught, that we must teach, in order to have a Biblical youth group.


Teach them about their depravity

Most parents want the best for their children. They make it their mission to make sure their children live the best life possible. Their greatest desire is to have their children be healthy, successful and happy.

For some reason, what goes hand-in-hand with this, is difficulty assigning blame to their children for almost anything. Seeing dozens of feuds between students over the years has proven this to be the case. Parents generally if not always take their children’s side. Very rarely will they admit any fault. If their children do get in trouble, they end up blaming other influences. If there is no one else to blame, than they blame it on the brain or on some kind of neurological/chemical imbalance issue. Most kids have been trained to blame-shift.

The Bible doesn’t allow for this. Adam and Eve in the garden attempted to blame shift and God not only didn’t allow it but also punished them severely for their sin (Genesis 3:9-19). James in James 4:1-4 also blames our own hearts for our fights writhing the church.

We must teach them to own-up to their sin. Because ultimately, one day when they stand before God (hebrews 9:27) they will not be able to blame their friends, they will not be able to blame their brains, they will not be able to blame their parents, but they will only be able to blame themselves for their sin. We must teach the greatest war they will face, will be within their own hearts because of their great sinfulness.

Teach them about Death

No one ever thinks about death! It’s like the elephant in the room of every Gospel conversation. We have trained our minds to avoid the subject and to focus on this tiny, short life.

Most young people have never attended a funeral in their lives, and by the time they’re in college their hearts are so hardened that they could care less about their own death.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes is constantly reminding the reader about their death. It’s as if he is popping the bubble of every single millennial in the world today. Children are told, that they can be anything they want to be, that they can change the world, that they are special and unique. Solomon reminds us about two simple facts: you are going to die and in the big scheme of things no one will remember you.

I can almost picture what he is saying. Your funeral is around the corner, and 25-2000 people will gather to sing a few of your favorite songs and talk about you for an hour. On the drive home your grandson will shout, “I’m hungry!” After a pit stop at taco bell, and a couple arguments and fights, if people haven’t forgotten about you yet they will once they have to use the bathroom after eating the loaded burrito. Perhaps, you have a great family and they might remember you for a few decades, but let me ask you do you know anything about your great-grandparents?

7 Billion people on earth know nothing about their great-grandparents, and yet we tell our children how special they are and how they will change the world. We must be truthful with our kids. Only then will they see their need for Christ and live lives that actually matter and can make an eternal impact.

Teach them to love like Christ did

Love is validation. Love is being non-judgmental. Love is accepting people for who they are and never pointing out any flaw in your friends. Students everywhere are being told these things and are encouraged to surround themselves only with “positive people”. “Yes-men” and women who will never question anything they do.

In fact, many psychologists tell their patients to do away with negative people. To surround themselves with people who will develop their self-esteem. This in turn teaches teenagers to only be around people who accept them. Not only does it shun them from people who would speak truth to them, but also it teaches them to not love those who are different. It trains them to have a selfish mindset in relationships.

Jesus loved us despite the fact that he couldn’t get anything in return. We could not offer him anything, only our sin. And yet he humbled himself and took the form of a slave in order to serve his murderers. We must imitate Him. We must be counter-cultural in this and teach our youth groups to love the unlovable, to love the outcast. To include those who are rough around the edges. We must go out of our way to encourage others in the Church.

So many young people in our churches think that they are too smart, too wise and too cool to go out of their way to serve and to encourage other people. We must teach our youth to get out of their comfort zones and to love and reach out to others unlike them.

Teach them how to evangelize

What is obvious is the fact that none of these students have ever shared the Gospel before. My second question after finding out where they attended Church growing up is, “what is the Gospel?”

No one has been able to answer this question. Especially those who said they grew up in the Church. Some, even tell me that they used to be an evangelist like me but no longer believe, and yet are incapable of telling me what they would go around and say while “evangelizing”.

We must teach our youth groups the Gospel. They need to know that the holiness of God is part of the Gospel. They need to know that you haven’t shared the good news unless you’ve explained the bad news that man is depraved and is on their way to hell. You cannot share the Gospel unless you explain why Jesus had to be fully God and fully man, live a perfect life, died on the cross and rose from the dead. And they must know that the Gospel is not preached unless the person being preached to is called to repent and believe!

All these are essential components of the Gospel and we must teach our youth groups this fact. We must hire youth pastors that actually evangelize. We must take the students out and do evangelism with them. I have met too many college students who have never shared the Gospel before. Someone needs to train these students to give their life away and to have the Gospel on their lips at all times.

Teach them Doctrine through long, biblical sermons

Many youth groups have bought the seeker sensitive lie. They make their youth-groups into huge parties, they fill the room with unbelievers and after loads of games they sing a few man-centered songs and teach a feel-good message. While it does get non-Christians in the doors of the Church, the actual Christians who attend do not grow.

Most students I talk to on the various campuses have never heard a sermon longer than 20 minutes. When I tell them that we teach the Bible verse by verse, most say that they’ve never heard of such a thing before, and agree that if you believe the Bible to be God’s Word that it would be the wisest approach.

When you teach through all of Scripture you expose your teenagers to the whole counsel of God. And believe it or not they can handle it. Just last week I preached four, forty-five minute sermons to fifty high school students over the course of two days. You should have seen their notebooks. Filled with notes. I got to sit in on small group time following the sermon, and their retention level was amazing.

This would have been true no matter who the speaker was. Because of the fact that the Church has trained them so well. Students are capable of watching a movie once and quote pretty much the whole movie verbatim. If they can do that, they can handle sitting under God’s Word, which has the power to save them and change them for eternity.

After talking with hundreds of these college students who grew up in the Church going to youth group on a weekly basis, I can’t help but realize that the Church has failed. These students have never sat through a sermon longer than 20 minutes. They believe that the Bible teaches that human beings are inherently good. Rarely, if ever, do they think about death. Also they don’t know how to love, because after being referred to secular counseling and exposed to the world, they are taught to only love people who love them in return. And although they claim to have been evangelists and to have shared the Gospel they cannot explain even a basic presentation of the truth.

We have a great responsibility and opportunity with our youth, proverbs 22:6 reminds us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it”. I’m thankful for Immanuel and other faithful churches that despite the culture’s pressures doesn’t waver in these essential areas.

The Colourless Cross

The “R” word is once again making headlines in our country.  Its an unfortunate reality that our nation will continue to be plagued by prejudice and discrimination for generations to come.  The problem of racism is obviously not just something endemic to our country. International news will regularly reveal the reality of race hate in many nations.  It is true, however, that we have a sad history of organized racism in South Africa and we continue to live with the consequences.

While it may be true that some organizations and individuals are using the current racism platform for their own agendas we must not ignore or rubbish this ongoing issue. God's people ought to be at the forefront of declaring and demonstrating just what it means to be reconciled to God and each other.  We know and proclaim that Christ offers forgiveness and reconciliation of sinners with God but we must also not forget that in Christ we have reconciliation with each other(Eph.2:14-18).  This is not just between Jew and Gentile, but between all people of all colours and communities.  The only distinction the Bible makes is between those who have faith in Christ and those who do not - from heaven's point of view there are only “sheep and goats” (Matt.25:31-33). 

We will not make progress against racism without ongoing prayerful self examination and repentance of our own (often unconscious) prejudices.  It is also right for us not to be passive on this issue but to intentionally demonstrate our unity in Christ to the often confused, divided and angry society around us.  Peace with God and with each other is a precious gift in Christ and we would do well to show and tell it to our nation and to our neighbours.  God has given us a timely opportunity to hold out Christ as we hold hands in Christ.  Let us not let the hour pass us by.

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28 ESV)

I am encouraged by a number of our churches who are tackling this issue from a Biblical perspective and I commend to you this recent series of interviews and Bible teaching from Christchurch Midrand.




 written by Glenn Lyons


Feature: Don't Live Strong; Live Wise

Article originally posted on desiring God by John Bloom

As I write this, I’m visiting my mother. On the desk in the guest bedroom is an antique case containing old greeting cards that my grandfather gave to my grandmother more than 80 years ago. These cards are carefully and affectionately preserved because they express a love that at the time felt and was very significant to Roland and Esther.

But that time is long past. There are few of us left who personally witnessed the preciousness of what this couple shared over 60 years of marriage. It won’t be long before their love will pass beyond living memory and these greeting cards will lose all personal significance and likely disappear.

And this is why I recommend that you memorize Psalm 90 this year. It’s only 17 verses long and you can commit it to memory in a week or two and recite the whole psalm in less than 2 minutes.

And the benefits you’ll reap are huge. This prayer of Moses will help you keep life — yourreal life, your really short life — in perspective. It will help you remember what is transient and what is eternal. It will help you live wisely.

Your Life Is Like Grass, Then Comes Eternity

We all suffer from time-confusion. We know our lives are short and yet we all find this hard to actually believe. That’s because God is eternal (Psalm 90:2), we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27), he has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and yet as fallen creatures he has placed us all under the judgment of our bodies returning to dust (Genesis 3:19; Psalm 90:3). So we have both transiency and eternality at work in us — a spiritual dissonance. We will die, but after this there is judgment (Hebrews 9:27) leading either to eternal life (John 3:16) or eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

We also suffer from significance confusion. We intrinsically know that our lives are significant. God himself makes us, and he does so after his likeness, so how could we be anything but significant (Psalm 139:13–14; Genesis 1:26)? Yet sinful pride causes us to want to measure our significance, not by God’s gracious endowment, but by other people’s admiration. Our sin natures are not satisfied by the humble, yet staggering knowledge that God made us in his image; we want people to venerate us. We are significant creatures, but we want to be significant gods.

Psalm 90:1–11 is soul medicine for our time-confusion and significance confusion. Moses reminds us what our earthly lives are really like: Grass that flourishes in the morning and fades in the evening (verses 5–6). To the Maker of such grass, it is significant. In that sense, we are more significant than we know. But we are not as significant as we think, in the sense that we most often want to think.

Live Wise

Lance Armstrong popularized the phrase “Live Strong.” That’s an inspiring motto for fallen humans who so badly want to be self-sufficient and self-determining. We want to live long and live strong. But the belief that we can really do that is a delusion.

Moses is under no such delusion. He knows that under any circumstances we won’t live long and he knows we certainly aren’t strong (Psalm 90:10). What Moses wants is to “Live Wise.” That’s why he prays, “so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Living wise only comes from knowing who God is and who we are.

If God is eternal and our earthly lives are transient, then there is only one place the wise will choose to live: in God, our forever dwelling place (Psalm 90:1). If we are brought to an earthly end by the righteous wrath of God for our sins (Psalm 90:7–8), then there is only one thing the wise will seek during this brief terrestrial sojourn: God’s mercy and favor (Psalm 90:13, 17). And if our fleeting, grass-like lives are full of “toil and trouble” (Psalm 90:10), then there is only one satisfaction the wise will pursue: the steadfast love of the everlasting God (Psalm 90:14).

And daily numbering our days — recalling how increasingly few of them we have — is the way Moses knows will cultivate a heart of wisdom. Living wise is not resolving to increase our strength, but to increase our faith. Living wise is growing in dependence, not a growing independence.

Psalm 90 will help you live wise this year. Commit it to memory and make it part of your daily prayers. It’s a small investment that will yield you a large return. It will help you number your days, it will remind you that you are grass, it will help you trust all your toil and trouble to the providential righteous judgment of God and seek him as your refuge, and it will give you God’s words to pray for God’s mercy and for satisfaction in him alone.

Someday someone will sift through the few artifacts that remain of your life. So much of what seems so important to you now will have passed away into oblivion. Are you spending your short life on what really matters? Life is too short to waste. Live wise

Feature Post: Home where is home?

A feature piece from our very own Godfrey Penduka, writing on kwapenduka.wordpress.com

Home, where is home?

I also want to go home! Like many immigrants scattered around the globe, holiday times are often moments of reminiscing about home. Moreso, as one looks around and everybody near you is pulling a suitcase towards the station or the airport, it becomes a bit emotional. My favourite comfort words are “home is where I am”. Now these words are not sufficient, for home goes way beyond just “me”. What makes home, home? And where is home?

“Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule,” one writer describes.

Many hearts ache for such a place. Where can it be found? For family means so much, but the deepest desires are never their responsibility to fulfill. Friends will give memorable times, but even memorable moments fade as time rolls on. Even while home with a loving family, having downed tools or hung university pencils for a well deserved break, feelings of being lost sometimes assail the mind. We sense we are but strangers everywhere we are. We truly belong neither here nor there.

But there is a place where lost and vacant souls can truly belong to. It is especially made for such souls. If you are like me, you probably want to know where this place is and when we will get there. In one of the Chronicles of Narnia, young Lucy and Aslan have this conversation,

“Oh Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder….”

Aslan’s place is that which is described above, a place of eternal love, a place of confidence and a place where hearts are sure of each other. This is a place which even the homeless, who find comfort on a bench in a dark park, can call it home. The masses of refugees flooding the well developed nations, they too can have a home. After all it is home for the wandering lost soul.

Now if you are like, moyo wako uchidokwairira musha unouya urikure, yearning for the home of righteousness, then we shall blog about our home and talk about how strangers live in a place not their own. And as we talk about our beliefs, our ethics and our practice, slowly we will begin to experience a replica of our true home here on earth. Because we too want to go home!

Feature: Technology Takes

This post is originally found at rekindle. co.za and is written by Graham Heslop

Most Christians have at some point sung along to Matt Redman’s chorus “You give and take away,” ad nauseam, in a church service or coming from your first generation iPod. But forgetting that song, and holding onto the words of the refrain, I want to discuss a few of the ways in which technology has taken from us, impoverished our lives. In his must-read book on the topic, The Next Story, Tim Challies reminds us “that a technology tends to wear its benefits on its sleeve–while the drawbacks are buried deep within. The opportunities are obvious and apparent, while the risks are revealed only after close scrutiny and the slow march of time and experience.” Have you considered the consequences and impact of technology and the digital revolution? Most of us blindly and uncritically use whatever technology we can afford, so in this short post I want to address some of the areas of life where I believe technology is depriving us. Sure, technology gives, but it also takes.


The first point I want to highlight was prompted by reading Alan Jacob’s 79 Theses on Technology for Disputation. In his 5th and 6th disputations he speaks about attention as a resource, hence the term ‘pay attention.’ If this is true then we should view our attention as an economic exercise. Where we invest our attention, which Jacobs says is not an infinitely renewable resource, should therefore be carefully evaluated and planned; we should steward it wisely and not wastefully. I do not think it is an overstatement to say that much of our technology demands attention and also frequently disrupts it. Our attention is nearly always divided and we fail to discern where to primarily invest it. In our unyielding efforts to be connected at all times, our attention is scattered in so many directions that we are barely focused and fully present in any of them. As Jacobs suggests, quite strikingly, we must assess the investment of attention at least as carefully as we do our money.


I admit this heading sounds dramatic, but I am firmly convinced that technology enslaves many people today, not in the same sense that AI sets out to subjugate humanity in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (or Skynet, from theTerminator franchise) but in a more beguiling way. Technology promises to improve our lives at almost every turn – helping us become more connected, efficient and productive – and we wholeheartedly believe it, entrusting ourselves to technology. In aprevious post I wrote, “Many of us fall into the trap of ascribing a godlike attribute of unassailability to technology…we begin to worship the created rather than the Creator.” Alan Jacobs puts it better in his 42nddisputation, “Our current electronic technologies make competent servants, annoyingly capricious masters, and tragically incompetent gods.” Devices and apps meant to serve us tend to take more than they can give, eventually controlling and in the worst cases enslaving us to their service. This process is both subtle and an undeniable threat, making our devices and technology much more dangerous than Asimov’s fictional U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc.


Finally, I fear that the superficiality of the digital age is diminishing our capacity and desire to examine life and the arts. When I reflect on my own conversations I regret how many of them revolve around the latest TV series and Hollywood blockbusters. I guess this would distress me less if those discussions dissected narratives, weighing character development and exploring themes (not that Hollywood really achieves this) but they are for the most part vapid or shallow. I think a reason for this is that, as C. S. Lewis said, we are obsessed with event – to the point that event has become synonymous with story – and have unwittingly surrendered the ability to wrestle with concepts, ideas, and meaning. We are tragically content to discuss whathappened, the twists and turns of a series or the spectacular events in the latestMarvel film adaption but are uninterested in what might be taking place beneath the surface. Book critic David Ulin has written, “Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know.” Sure we have lots to talk about, endless information and inane entertainment is never more than a glowing screen and mouse click away. But, at the risk of sounding portentous, I think we waste countless hours talking about nothing. I have written elsewhere about our fear of deep engagement, suggesting that we possess a consumerist preference for passive entertainment, such as film, but I am seeing more and more how the superficial nature of the digital age has impoverished our ability to critically engage. We strain our attention onto events not ideas, meaning the arts rarely pass our eyes and life is left unexamined.


Tony Reinke has given five foundational principles, taken fromThe Pastor as Public Theologian, concerning the use of technology, based on Genesis 1-11. I will conclude using his final point: “Technology is inherently dangerous because it is the product of purposive human activity, and we need help from God in limiting its use.” Reinke (like Challies) believes that we find this statement exceptionally hard to grasp, since we think all technology is progress. Yet, as I have tried to argue: technology often distracts us, slowly enslaves us, and can weaken critical engagement. So we should be slower to buy into technology, considerate of its impact on how we behave, and weary of its relentless march into all of life.

Feature: The Myth of Race

One of the most harmful effects of evolutionary theory is the concept of race. Despite having zero scientific validity to it, the idea that human beings can be categorized into general “races” that are supposedly connected to their biology has wormed its way into our world views. It needs to make a quick exit—stage left.

Thabiti Anwaybwile (pastor of Anacostia River Church in DC) said it this way: “Believing in race is like believing in unicorns, because neither exist.”

Certainly cultures exist. Certainly ethnicities exist. And certainly racism exists (largely fueled by the whole notion of race to begin with).

But unicorns do not, and neither does race.

Here is a definition of race, followed by four reasons you should evict the concept of race from your vocabulary and your worldview: 


Dictionaries and biology textbooks define race this way: “Each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.” When different races are listed, they often consist of African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Native-American, Native Hawaiian, and other sub-sets. Hispanics are considered (by those who consider such things) to not be a race but to be a subset of White.

Race is distinguished from culture/ethnicity. Race is supposedly fixed, objective, genetic and scientific. Culture is flexible, subjective, linguistic and social.

Here four reasons why you should reject the validity of race as a concept:

Race goes against logic

There is no logical grid for race. If a man can trace his ancestry back 500 years in Africa, and then immigrates to the United States, does that make him African-American? How long does he need to be in the United States before he becomes “American?” If immigration can change his racial status, in what sense is it biological?

And does it matter if his skin is white? What race is he then? Or his kids?

I suppose exceptions like this used to be just that—exceptions to the fixed concepts of race. But in today’s world, those exceptions are the rule. From our President (what race is someone with a Kenyan father, white mother, born in Hawaii, school in Asia, but the president of the Untied States?) to our friends, multi-ethnic marriages are becoming the norm. The concept of fixed races has simply become illogical.

And while we are on “illogical,” how can Hispanics be considered a subset of Caucasian, when the entire concept of “Hispanic” is connected to the mixing of African slaves with Spanish and Native Americans? Plus, Hispanics make up 20% of the American Population! If a concept of race misses—by definition—at least 20% of the population, it is ceased to become functional.

Race goes against science

Simply put: there is no scientific evidence that human beings can be categorized in any meaningful way by genetics.

University of New Mexico professor (Go Lobos!) Susan Chavez Cameron wrote a 2011 articlesurveying the history of scientific inquiry into race. She concluded that humans share at least 99.8% similarities in genes, but that the last .2% diversity is not connected to traits normally associated with race. In fact, only about .0002% of genetic diversity fits into what we might consider “racially identifiable” characteristics.

Chavez Cameron goes on to say that genetic diversity is actually greater within racial groups than it is outside of them. She ends her article by saying the concept of race “itself is passe” and “leads to harm” in counseling, medical treatment, and other areas.

Eloise Menses, Anthropology Professor at Eastern, has written a similar article covering the anthropologic evidences that humans can be categorized by race. She concludes:

“Essentially all anthropologists have given up the attempt to identify races of human beings. This is very simply because the best evidence indicates that there are physically no clear boundary lines between the various communities of people around the world. All of the traits that distinguish human beings from one another are found in all communities, although in varying degrees.”

Collin Kidd, a professor at University of  St. Andrews and the author of The Forging of Races, examined all manner of genetic diversity in humans, trying to categorize people by skin color, height/weight, stature, enzymes, hair types, and even ear wax types (who knew?). He concluded that while people can be divided along those lines, those divisions do not produce anything close to our concept of race.

Which should be obvious. You can have two people stand up side-by-side, and they can look identical, but be two different races; there is no underlying genetic differences that validate our desire to separate them by race.

Race goes against history

Throughout history, the concept of race has been used to oppress people. Here is the logic: if you agree that different races developed differently, and that these differences are genetic, then the obvious conclusion is that they are not equal. And if they are not equal, then some races (or at least one race) must be superior.

This gives way to banning inner-racial marriages—after all, you have to guard the purity of the elevated race. This gives justification for slavery—if people are inferior, ought they serve the superior?

In fact, much of our culture’s current understanding of race can be traced back to the German doctor Johan Blumenbach. In the early 1800’s, he examined skulls from around the world and declared that there were five races (Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American). Blumenbach is the first that I know of to divide races by color (white, yellow, brown, black, red).  But he also argued that because of this diversity, a hierarchy must be established.

Well, it turns out that not only is the concept of a hierarchy based on skin color absent of any scientific backing, but it also is the source of much harm. That harm has been manifest in perhaps every nation of the world, and certainly one of the main evils in American history. While the harm of the past cannot be undone, eliminating the concept of race from our world view would be a good start.

Race goes against the Bible

If you believe in a historic Adam and Eve, then this should be a no-brainer.

The Bible makes it clear that we are all descended from Adam, and that we are all one blood. Every human being has the same genetic core, because we all have a common ancestor.Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of all humans, and 2:7 shows that his occurred through the physical creation of Adam. His name means “man” because we would all come from him.

After the flood, the earth is populated again, but this time with a different approach. All the genetic diversity of the pre-diluvium world was in Noah’s three sons, and the divisions at Babel can trace their roads back to the ark (Gen 10:1-6).

This is why Paul says that all people on the earth are really “one blood” (Acts 17:26; KJV). The Holman says it this way: “From one man he has made every nation.”

The Bible never uses the concept of race, but it does use the concept of ethnicity. God is glorified with there is diversity in the church. The gospel is powerful enough to transcend cultures, social classes, languages, continents, and centuries. Heaven will be a diverse place, and the diversity comes from the transcendent power of the gospel, not from genetic make-up supposed classes of people.

I know our culture treats race like an idol, but the emperor has no clothes, and underneath our skin and hair, we are all pretty much the same. Celebrate diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, but run far away from the idea that humans can be meaningfully divided by race.


Feature: The most misquoted verse in the Bible

Written by Andre Visagie, originally posted here.

Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) is probably the most misquoted verse in the Bible.  This verse has being quoted many times by those who are for same-sex partnerships.  The typical comment on Facebook is: “Who are you to judge?  After all didn’t Jesus say, Judge not lest ye be judged.”  The assumption is that Jesus says we should never condemn another’s lifestyle as we are in no position to judge or evaluate.

Is that what Jesus meant?  Absolutely not.  Jesus was speaking against hypocrisy.  Jesus said in the rest of the passage:

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2-5)

Jesus said that by passing judgement on others or condemning others, his listeners just showed that they knew what was right and wrong behaviour.  Therefore they would be held accountable to that same high standard and we really condemning themselves.   Jesus said, “So you know what’s right and wrong, I will hold you to that very same standard.”

The Apostle Paul said the very same thing in Romans 2:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:1-3)

Some of the Romans, who condemned others, were practising (v1) “ the very same things”.

Human Nature

Are these verses not so true to human nature? We tend to be critical of everyone except ourselves.  We are often in a state of self-righteous indignation over the disgraceful behaviour of others – especially in our Facebook updates.   We gain satisfaction from condemning in others the very faults we excuse in ourselves.  Sigmund Freud called this “projection”, but the Bible calls it hypocrisy.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul argues that in becoming moral experts and condemning others, we only show that we know what’s right and wrong, and thus condemn ourselves more; as we “practise the very same things”.

You who condemn Jacob Zuma for the Nkandla money scandal: are you always meticulously honest in all your financial dealings?   You who carry on about corruption in government: Have you ever taken something not yours; misused work time; or influenced others in some way to your benefit or your children’s benefit?  You who condemn homosexual activity: Are you always 100% faithful to your wife – sexually, emotionally, and socially?  Do you never lust after other women?  Do you never view porn on the internet?


But please don’t misunderstand what Jesus said.  Jesus is not saying we can’t make an honest assessment of people based on their behaviour and lifestyle, as Jesus said in the very next verse:

 Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)

One has to make an assessment of another to know if that person is a “dog” or a “pig”.  Later on in the same passage Jesus says:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  (Mathew 7:15-17)

Recognise them by their fruit

Jesus said we can look at people’s fruit or lifestyle or behaviour or priorities or speech and make an informed assessment as to their spiritual condition.   Jesus said we can recognise or distinguish people based on their fruit.  Indeed, it’s a vital activity to identify, for example, “false prophets.”  Jesus and the Apostle Paul were not saying that we can’t make an evaluation of people based on lifestyle, but rather that we must not be hypocrites.  We must not condemn others for the very same things we do, as we only incur more judgment for ourselves.

So yes, Jesus says we can judge people according to their fruit.