Dancing in the Rain

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Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Oh yes, you can dance in the rain!

 You can dance like nobody is watching. You don’t have to find a shelter; you don’t have to wait for the rain to stop. You can dance until the rainbow comes out. Optimism isn’t about not acknowledging the reality of a situation; it’s about trying to find happiness despite its bleakness. For even in the darkest dark, there is the star; in the rainiest rain, there will be a rainbow. For without the rain, there never would be a rainbow. So in the midst of the rain, throw your hands out and dance! Even if you can’t dance, you can jump around laughing happily. That’s the spirit! Until the inner strength overcomes outward adversity by enjoying its adrenalin rush!

It is highly possible to smile in the rain. There is beauty even in the things that we were told where not beautiful; when others only see a canvas, you can see a work of art just waiting to happen. When others cannot see beyond the seed- you can see the tree, the fruits, and the beauty. You can believe, you can dream, you can hope.

You can smile because you know that the rainbow is going to come. For it is the rain that brings out the rainbow. Some want the rainbow, but are not willing to put up with the rain. But moreover, once it has rained, then flowers blossom, dust settles, trees grow, life flourish. For the rain, although seemly as a deterrent and a source of destruction- actually carries with it life. Some people get caught up in the storminess of the rain, that they forget that in the end it brings life, growth, progress, fertility. There is nothing that I loved as a child and continue to love as the smell after rain! The calmness, the freshness, the quietness, the cool air, the relaxed atmosphere. That is why it is important not to confuse your path with your destiny. Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean there won’t be any rainbow afterwards. Just because it’s stormy doesn’t mean you are not headed for sunshine.   The storm is just a path; it’s not your destiny.

The other day I was doing some gardening at my home. I then realized clouds were beginning to collect in the sky. The weather immediately started to change- heavy winds started to blow, it became darker and as I looked up in the heavens the clouds were dark and heavy like coal.  A few hours later, it started to pour- the rain had finally come. As I watched the cold sharp waters falling down and seeping into the fiber of the earth, I questioned where this sudden rain came from did. The point I came down to was that:  It rains because the clouds can no longer handle the weight; just as tears fall because the heart can no longer handle the pain. After the rain, the sky opened up and the sun was slightly beginning to be visible again; the same thing that happens when a saddened heart has allowed itself to shed tears and wail- afterwards the heart feels much better and less heavy and can face the situation with clearer lenses. So crying always end in relief and a sense of disclosure; the same is true of the rain. So when it suddenly rains in your life, it is a sign that your relief is near. Your release is nearer than ever before; you’ve carried the weight it’s enough- ease and lightness is now at your door. Your trouble is about to end.

The magnitude of the rain, and the duration of the storm is determined by the density or heaviness of the waters. The same is true of the sunshine and rainbow that comes afterwards. Have you ever realized where it has not rained for a very long period of time, the hour it rains it is going to be great and prolonged. But afterwards more time for relief is granted and greater lengths of time go on without the rain.

Everything happens for a cause. In the same manner the rain does not come down without watering the ground. No matter how windy or stormy it sometimes proves to be, one can always find beauty in the rain. The life, the providence, the fertility, the coolness and freshness that comes with the rain; moreover the awesome smell after the rain and the dawning of the cool sun. But most importantly, you can’t have the rainbow without the rain. So thank God for the rain! How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain.

Chris Mhlongo: A short extract on Luke 22:32. As preached at  New Dawn Annual Conference 2014

To Whom Much is Given Much is Expected

baby_plant.28104733From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. There is an inextricable connection that exists between giving and receiving- the understanding that one has so that they can become a channel of receiving for others. The other day I was watching Spiderman’s movie, and it was his uncle that gave him this advice: “with great power, comes great responsibility”. It was only after a while, having applied some imagination that I realized that one is not privileged with power, resource, intellection, talent, thoughts for the sole purpose of individual consumption; but they are a limited resource from which others become gracious beneficiates.

There is an honest expectation that is imbued upon whoever is in the position of having or being. To exhaust this point further: the head of a state is afforded particular comfort and security with respect to the immense responsibility of looking out for the wellbeing of the civic; an executive officer of an enterprise is rewarded in accordance with greater managerial authority and workforce skills which they must apply. Every promotion presents with it greater challenges and pressures. And the officer is remunerated to express the magnitude of pressure inherent in their position of authority.

This ideation is highly extensive and can most possibly encompass endless illustrations. But the one thing that is similar in all instances, is the assumption that given any adjustments, the end result will complement if not exceed the initial reality. For instance, a company invests in a deal, project, or initiative that promises to bring even greater profits and advancement. A good employee is induced with greater remuneration packages or experience for them to jump ship; one rarely decides to marry unless they perceive the investment as making them better in the long run (the short run is always herculean).    Parents send their offspring to schools so that they can receive a superior education and can be beneficiates of a better life experience. So expectation is something that is deeply inculcated in facile human systems.

It is within this deep understanding of human cultural systems that the Christ presents this fable. Human people appreciate figuration (saying something about something in which something is compared with something else) just as much as we enjoy illustrations, symbols and tales. Parables are allegorical reserves from which one can extract an elixir of understanding. He thus begins by saying:

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down

Luke 13: 6-9

Jesus speaks to us in parables and parabolic truths are extremely profound from which we can extract a panacea of wisdom for years to come because they have the fluidity of being used by God to portray many different things; they are idioms of communication that are designed to appeal to our situations at various times. Unlike eschatology, or anthropology, or entomology, which has a specificity of thought and rigidity of content; a parable has a liquidity of wisdom.

So Jesus uses parables as a teaching tool, for example when you look at the prodigal son, and one day you look at the older son and the next day you look at the father’s household, we are able to see for instance the sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered so that the son could be forgiven, and then we see the coat which symbolizes the propriety of our sins, and then the ring  we see the seal of sonship and there is also mention of the swine and the hog pen which characterieses the fellowship that we had with inequity but God who is rich in mercy called us whilst we were fellowshipping with swine, excommunicated us from our past delivered into our destiny and set us free.

The power of parables is so profound, is so prolific, and is so didactic, that every time we look at it we see things that we did not see before. So the Christ is not just playing with our minds when he speaks of the fig tree. The fig tree is symbolic of a profound truth. A truth which has personal resonation with one’s individual person and life. This is particularly true of this parable: it is especially selfish- requiring self-surveying and critical examination of essentia.

And he says “a certain man”, which in direct interpretation has reference to God, “had a fig tree that was planted”.  I want to talk a minute about the thought of being planted.

I am Plated.  This is not a wild tree this is not a wild branch; this is not something that came into existence by happenstance or by incidence. This is not the birthing of a tree that happened to fall to the ground from a fermented fig and started to grow on its own volition. This tree was planted, in a specific place, by a specific time, by a stronger vessel than itself, because you cannot plant yourself. So it would grow in a particular place, in a particular direction so it would produce a particular fruit.

One of the things that are particular to understand at the very rudiment of the text is that you have been planted. This means that regardless of the situation of your birth, regardless of whether your father stayed with your mother, regardless of whether you were born out of a rape, or molestation. Regardless of whether you were adopted, regardless of any circumstance you have to know that you have been planted.

You are not an accident, you are not an incidence, you are not something that just happens or by stance, but you have been plated in a specific place, in a specific time, in a specific gender, in a specific ethnicity, with specific talents and gifts for a divine purpose.

For Such a Time as This- There is a specific correlation between my birth date and my purpose, because I could have been born any gender, any time. But I am handcrafted for the time in which I am living in. I could have been born Caucasian, or Indian or White. But he planned me, prepared me, and chose me for such a time as this. I could have been born during in the industrial age, I could have been born during the Cold War, I could have been born during apartheid- but he set me aside and chose that I should be born in this time, in this generation, in this age. I was born for such a time as this! I am not a mistake. Joseph was born for the days he was living in. He rescued and preserved a nation through the tough time of drought, famine and economic decline. Jonah was born for the time of his generation. Ester was born for the days of his generation. Jesus was born just at the right time, for a special purpose that was specially timetabled for the days he was living in.

He owns me.  What the man planted was his. He owned what he planted. The fig tree was his. It is possible to plant something that is not yours. I am his- everything I am, and everything I am not- I am his. He owned the fig tree before it produced anything worth owning. He owned it as a seed. He owned it as a seed he owned it as a sapling. He owned it when there was no benefit in owning it. When there was no gain in owning it. When it was more of a liability than an asset, He owned it. When it was so small when no unskilled eye could tell what kind of tree or seed it was, he owned it. He saved it and preserved it and kept it, and nurtured it because he owned it. He knew what it could be before it was, because he owned it. He believed in it enough to plant it because he owned it.

The expectations of the owner-  You don’t take care of a seed, prepare a soil, plant it at an appropriate time, in a particular spot, where the weeds will not overcome it, and the rocks will not destroy it, and the various rodents will not kill it- if you didn’t have an  expectation. Expectations are very important. The same thing is true of noble parents. They don’t just feed their young and send them to sleep without expectations. They don’t go to work and enslave themselves just so they could provide for their youth without having some expectations.

Return on Investment- it is clear in the text that the owner has a definite expectation. And periodically he comes around to see his return on investment (ROI). ROI is a business term which means return on investment. You evaluate the worth and the wealth of a business project or a money market account, or anything within which you have made a deposit or an investment based on its ROI. It doesn’t matter the magnitude of the investment if the return is good enough it’s still a good deal. What you don’t want to do is be in a situation where the ROI is less than the investment. If the return is less than the investment then you have to make a decision.

When Justice demanded death, Mercy said No- Justice demands that I collect on my investment. Justice demands that if I loan you some money I have the right to knock on your door and collect. I am not being mean; I am not being unfair; justice demands what belongs to it. It is evident from the text that Justice is frustrated and now says for three years I came expecting you to grow up, and again and again I found you in the nursery of intellectualism, still playing in the playground of foolishness, drunk on the milk, and have a problem of childish ideology.

One More Chance- Now dung is the stinky unpleasant stuff. But it is necessary for the growth of a healthy plant- Nothing you’ve been through will be wasted. God can use the waste, the history, the bad stuff the stinky stuff to bring us to the next level of breakthrough. How many times do we fall short and fail to live up to our calling? It is terrifying to think that we- who are living in the digital age, when there’s so much technology and convenience; when we have bibles in our cellphones, and in every room in our homes; when we can hear a sermon anytime online, and are constantly exposed to so much information- fail to bear fruit. Isn’t it only far, considering the immensity of Gods investment on us, that we should be cut and destroyed for unfruitfulness? But he gives us more grace. He is the God of the second, third and fourth chances.  His mercies are endless and anew each morning. But there’s also a time when divine mercy can be exhausted- God forbid that this should happen to any one of us.

Chris Mhlongo: A Short Extract, as ministered @ Main-Church

Chosen

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 You are Chosen For Such a Time as This!

And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you:and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded:and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him”

Mark 11:1-11

The triumphal entry was the last week of the Christ’s earthly life, when he made his appearance in Jerusalem as a meek King, riding upon a colt. Such was a crucial point in history and of the entire making of the biography of the Christ. In the midst of such an important agenda, and preparing for the triumphal entry which was to signal that he is the victorious king, the conqueror, the reigning lord; he bid his disciples to go find a colt which has been specially prepared for such a time as this. The colt is nowhere before and after mentioned in scriptural discourse, yet it is such an important actor in the life of the Christ. It was chosen at the right time, for the right purpose, by the right person.

The beauty of the text lies in the understanding that we (just like the colt) have been CHOSEN to fulfill a divine destiny. To each is specially subscribed and attached a special mandate: a song to sing, a move to dance, a text to write, a story to narrate, a part to act. None of us can be described as a mere crash of event, an accidental purpose, an unexpected phenomena. The truth of the text llies in the comprehension that, you have been chosen! You have been picked, set apart, and ordained with a special sacred mandate that only you can fulfill. The mandate might not have been made clear yet, you might not understand where you fit, what your purpose is; but this does not remove nor diminish the truth that you are chosen.

The design of a product always reflects the purpose it will fulfill. The same is true of the colt. The mouth of a bird is designed to allow it to feed upon its prey. The fish is designed with gills so it can breath in water; the bear is designed with thick coat of skin that retains heat so it can survive in extremely cold weather. The eagle is designed with strong feet and claws so it can pick up prey double its weight. The way you are is never far away from your purpose. Your purpose is never far fetched: it is within your abilities, your personality, your likes, your passion, your interests, your inspirations.

Christ knew exactly where the colt was.  Christ is one area, and he speaks of a colt tied somewhere in another area. How did he know? Not only does he know its geographical location, but he knows the exact spot it is situated. Isn’t it beautiful to know that God knows where you are. When others seem to pass you by, when others have forgotten about you. When you see stuck in one place, in one position in one station in life’s cycle- God knows where you are! He sees you, and he is not oblivious to your situation.

Not only did Christ know where the colt was, he also knew its history. he knew that no body had ridden it. God knows us infinitely. He is well acquainted with our past. He knows where we have been, he knows our background; he knows how we grew up, he knows what we struggled with.  The tendency is we always want to shield our history and background from people, because of fear and insecurities. We keep it in closets because we perhaps don’t want the pity, shame, and sometimes the judgement that comes with our past exposed. For many of us, our past is not good, and thus it would make sense why we would want to hide it. But God wants to use your history, your background, your past to bring about a great purpose.

Prepared for a Blessing- the colt was divinely positioned and it was prepared for a blessing. For with divinity there is no room for accident, incidence or coincidence.  This lets us know God is “God of Preparation” and he prepares people to fulfill their purpose. You are more than prepared to fulfill your purpose.  Divinity has invested time and potential in you. Divinity believes in you. God invested in you because he knows you can bring the return. You are more than capable. God prepares people and resources through which to bless us- “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”.

God has his own timetable- when the time was right; God loosed the colt, sat on it and led it unto its divine destiny. For with God, everything has its own perfect time! The tendency sometime is we want to be loosed too soon. We want to be like everyone. But not all meals cook right about the same time. There are some light meals that only take a few seconds in the Microwave to cook; and then there are solid meals that require time in the heat to boil and cook deep and properly. In the very same sense, when one’s shopping list is long, one relatively takes longer in the grocery store. But one whose list is shorter, comes in and immediately out of the grocery shop. The means, the greater your purpose the greater the time you can be expected to wait. The time waited, is not time wasted. Christ waited for thirty years to prepare for a ministry that was to last for only three years, have generational impact and consequences. Waiting can make you gain the necessary weight to carry your purpose!

If God can use a colt then surely he can use You- “The Lord hath need of him”. How can the Creator have need of the created? How can he need a colt that is ‘all-tied-up’? BUT even the lowliest things have some high purpose, or capacity of glorifying God. They may exclusively or more fittingly express the divine glory. The truth of the matter is, God has a purpose that he needs you to fulfil on earth. He needs you to fulifl that mandate. He has faith in you, and he needs you to take your stand and bestow your gift to the world. A colt can be regarded as a weak thing, a cheap thing. A colt is not worth comparing much with a Stallion of a horse. But even the lowly horse, the lord has use for it. He could have chosen a white horse, but he chooses a rejected, looked down upon despised, seemly useless colt.

Sit on me! – When Christ sat upon the colt, the colt began to move! The word sit in Greek has the idea of taking charge, or command or being in authority- “Heaven is his Throne and the earth is his footstool”. God sits on his Throne, just as a king, judge, or executive would sit to show they are in charge. Before Christ sat on the colt it did not move; but suddenly after he sat on it, it moved to its destiny. If only Christ can sit on you, you will do wonders; if only Christ can sit upon families, if only he can sit upon our churches, if only he can sit upon our children, then everything will align to its purpose. When Christ sits, he takes charge. When the judge sits, it says to everybody that the court is now in session. If Christ can sit upon you, he will ride you to your destiny. 

Christ has chosen us in Him before the beginning of time to fulfil divine destiny. When we meekly submit to him, he will sit on us and elevate us to walk in that destination, unleash our full potential and ride us into the presence of greatness.

Chris Mhlongo, A short Extract as Preached @ Victoria Falls Synagogue

She’s Worth it

shes worth it

 Give her the reward she has earned; and let her own works bring her praise her in the city gate

Proverbs 31:31

she is not less of a man, just because she is a woman: why women don’t have to outcompete & outperform men, just to get the same recognition that men receive.

The strenuous advocacy of the rights of women by shrill oratory has injured the true cause of women by covering a serious subject with ridicule, and suggesting the unreality of the grievances urged. When extravagant demands are made, people assume that every just right has been conceded; and when the self-elected advocates of women put forth a programme which the great body of wives and daughters repudiate, it is supposed that there is no ground for considering any complaint as to the legal and social treatment of women. But this is unreasonable and unjust. There are women’s rights, and these fights are by no means universally conceded.

The Oriental notion, that women are but idle ornaments of the harem, finds no place in the Bible. Here they appear freely in the world, and, though their first duties are in the home, they are not idle, nor are they wanting in enterprise. The ideal woman in the Book of Proverbs is a manufacturer, a merchant, and a landowner. Woman’s work cannot be wholly the same as man’s, because nature has placed limitations upon her physical energies. But she has spheres for work, and it is cruel, unjust, and selfish to keep her out of any region of activity where she can do good service, by law or by social displeasure. To choose to work as a woman is not some form of rebellion or wayward thinking that needs correction. To choose to prioritise your career as a woman, relative to the pursuit of an immediate family is not a wrongful shameful act that needs to be pitied. Even to choose not to marry, and commit oneself to civil service and the pursuit of human politics is not a lone, sorrowful pursuit devoid of fulfilment and happiness. Women have the right, and even the divine privilege to choose to order the discourses of their lives in a manner that is not essentially in keeping with societal accepted norms and expectations. Two wrongs in particular need to be swept away.

1. The motion that work is degrading to a woman. Surely idleness is more degrading. It is rightly said that woman’s sphere is the home. But it is not every woman who has a home. Surely it is a degrading and insulting idea that the main business of a young woman is to secure a husband, and so obtain a home. There are women who are manifestly cut out for other positions; many women never have an opportunity of obtaining a home of their own except by sacrificing themselves to men whom they do not love. In early life young girls are not the better for being kept in idleness, waiting for the chance that may turn up. Half the ailments of women of the comfortable classes come from want of occupation. It needs to be known and recognized that it is a right and honourable thing for a woman to be engaged in any ordinary occupation that is suitable to her powers.

2. The fear of rivalry with men. There have been professions the members of which have bitterly resented the invasion of their ranks by women. Such trade unionism is most ungenerous. It is an humiliation to have to confess that men could not hold their own unless under a system of protection against the competition of women. Certainly no Christian principle can justify such selfishness.

Give her what she’s worth 

1. In payment. The wife who earns wages has a right to her purse as much as the husband to his. Where there is a true marriage, no thought of separate interests will rouse any jealousy as to the several possessions of the two. But true marriage is not always realized. We see brutal husbands living idly on the earnings of their wives. It is not enough that the poor women are supposed to be protected by a Married Woman’s Property Act, for the husband is still too often the tyrant of the home. We shall only see a more just arrangement when Christian principles are applied to domestic practices.

2. In honour. “Let her own works praise her in the gates.” Women who contribute to the service of society are deserving of double honour, because they have had to work under exceptional disadvantages. Women who have proved themselves wise, industrious, and generous in the home life do not receive their meed of praise. Too much is taken for granted, and accepted without thanks, because the service is constant and the sacrifice habitual. In after years, when it is too late to give the due acknowledgment, many a man has had to feet sharp pangs of regret at his heedless treatment of a wife’s patient toil or a mother’s yearning love.

3. In position. Opportunity should be proportionate to capacity. If women can work, they should have scope for work. It is the duty of Christian society to give to woman her true position. If she be “the weaker vessel,” she needs more consideration, not less justice. Christ gave high honours to women, accepted their devoted service, and laid the foundation of Christian justice in regard to them.Within the job market, there is wide spread job discrimination, paying men and women unequally who have the same job of equal standards and have equal seniority. Although this has been illegal in the United States since the 1963 Equal Pay Act and Title XII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it does not, however, mean that unequal pay for men and women is a thing of the past. Jobs of comparable work that are traditionally held by women consistently get paid less than those traditionally held by men. Women although diligent hard workers are seen as the cheaper instrument, they are more subservient and obedient, and they rarely dream anything above being an administrative secretary or nurse, but openly and unceasingly fantasise about the idea of marrying the doctor-guy colleague or the manager-boss. It becomes an accepted norm that women rarely dream beyond and above finding someone to love them, marry them and give them children.

Within the job market women are mostly less competitive, and less demanding, and relatively honest and faithful to the company. They will not unlike their male counterparts rise to the boss’ office and demand a raise. They are able to do more with less, and be complacent with a meagre salary, and a fixed lifestyle. Their ideal however is accepted as finding a male partner who will provide financial stability for them, but this is not a duty they perceive as their own immediate responsibility. Many women are happy for instance with a man that pays for dates, and always searches his pockets, as this is viewed as a sign that he can provide security and stability, the same however is never expected of them.

Particularly because of such judgements of women as consisting of aspirations that are limited to getting married and having a family, employers engage in valuative discrimination. Women’s careers are interrupted among many things by pregnancy, marriage and quitting the job or staying off the job market to spend time to rear a family. Thus the male is a much more stable job candidate when considering these regards.

This is especially saddening because the role of being a mother is unappreciated and less acknowledged in this male driven society.In this white male dominated business culture, which alienates and isolate minorities and women, when woman choses to quit their career to become a mother this is seen as a step backward, as a weakness, as somewhat a not so positive thing to the economy- there is in fact a name for this and it’s called, motherhood penalty. Mother’s Work is Not Acknowledged. Whenever economic statistics are taken of the goods and services in the economy, the unpaid services performed inside the household are always left out. Mothers at home are, by definition, unproductive, even though by educating and socializing their children they contribute to the human capital that is critical to economic growth. And because their work isn’t quantified, they disappear from pictures of the economy that are drawn with the data.

Chris Mhlongo, as preached @ Main-Church

Worth More than Rubies

rubies

You are more important than you realise

What beauty a stone a ruby is. It is rare, it is scare and a priced jewel. In many instances, and considering its rarity, it is more expensive than even a diamond. Of such value, the virtuous woman is considered. She is not comparable to the most expensive stone.  You can get a ruby but it still cannot afford her. She is worth more than many rubies. Just as the ruby is scarce and rare so is a woman with virtue.

And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Such a one is more valuable than precious stones. There may be allusion to the custom of giving treasure in exchange for a wife, purchasing her, as it were, from her friends. At any rate, few only are privileged to meet with this excellent wife, and her worth cannot be estimated by any material object, however costly. You may go to the ends of the earth to find her equal in value, but there is none. She is like a costly treasure not everywhere to be found; no commonplace blessing: an ornament and a joy above all that earth affords of rare and beautiful. A treasure on which the heart of the possessor ever dwells with delight

The Proverbs 31 woman is a wife, she is a mother, she is a chef, she is seamstress, she is a philanthropist, and she is a landowner, an entrepreneur. Many a women do noble things but she surpasses them all. She excels first at home, and she excels in society. In the first instaces she is pictured as existing within the beautiful framework of a home; she is a house wife. But before we go any further let me correct a few misperceptions: it is not wrong to be a house wife; there is nothing shameful, derogatory to be a wife and mother who does not dream of becoming ‘the wolf of wall street’. The problem with modern age feminist teaching is that they assume that every woman is against the idea of being a housewife, and can’t wait to get an opportunity to be liberated and challenge the corporate world. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have met many women who aspire to be house wives. I have also met many other women who don’t want to be housewifes. Let me make it clear that this is a choice and a preference. Not every woman is cut to be a house wife, and not every woman is all for being a business woman.

The Proverbs 31 lady is presented within the framework of marriage. She is a wife. She is not a virtuous woman because she is wife, but she was a woman of virtue long before she became a wife. One in the like sense does not need to be married to be a Proverbs 31 lady. There is invaluable service for the world which only women who are free from the ties of home can accomplish; there is a noble mission for single women. But there is nothing in Scripture, reason, or conscience to suggest that virginity is more holy than marriage, that the maiden is more saintly than the matron.

Her character which is closely tied with her virtue comes out in quite a striking manner.  This is described in a graphic picture of her life—a picture which is in striking contrast to the ignorance, the indolence, the inanity of an Oriental harem. Observe its chief features.

She is trustworthy. The true wife is her husband’s confidant. She must be worthy of confidence by icing. She does not speak badly about him, or gossip him with her friends. She respects him, serves him, and looks out for his best interests. In short she plays her part in the marriage irrespective whether the husband is living up to his side of the bargain. Her husband trust her, and has no reason to doubt her; her friends can rely on her. Her word is her life. And she considers carefully the promises she makes, and rarely goes back on her word.

She is a hard working woman. Nothing can be more foolish than the notion that a “lady” should have no occupation. The ideal woman rises early and busies herself with many affairs. In old days, when the spinning was done at home and most of the family garments were made by the women of the house, the clothing of husband and children bore testimony to the industry of the wife. Machinery has destroyed this antique picture. Yet the spirit of it remains. The true wife still finds an abundance of domestic occupations.

She is a gifted woman. The wife of the Proverbs is quite a business woman, selling the superfluous work of her hands to merchants, and buying land with the proceeds. Yet by her foresight she provides warm clothing for the winter, and therefore she can afford to laugh when the snow cometh.

She is a strong woman. “She girds her loins with strength.” The idea of being strong is readily and mostly applied to men, but not so with the virtuous woman. She is a strong lady. She cannot be described as fragile, weak, inconsistent, undecided lady. She is strong both in mind and in body. The physical education of women is just now receiving especial attention, and rightly so. It is a woman’s duty to be strong, if by means of wholesome food and exercise she can conquer weakness. No doubt the ailments of many women spring from lassitude, indolence, and self-surrender. But eve, when bodily frailty cannot be conquered, strength of soul may be attained.

She is a charitable lady. The strong, hardworking and strategic, and so would be expected to be hard, cold, and selfish. But the true woman “stretches out her hand to the poor” (verse 20). She has a big and open heart that looks not only for the interests of her own household, but for strangers and members of her community. She is a free giver.

She is gracious in speech. So energetic a woman might still be thought somewhat unlovable if we had not this final trait: “in her tongue is the law of kindness” (verse 26). How much may the tone of a woman’s conversation do to keep peace in a household, and shed over it a spirit of love and gentleness! Words of beauty and consolement proceed out of her mouth. Not idle critiques, negative comments, nasty jokes. She is beautiful in thought and in speech.

It is quite fascinating that no mention is made of the physical attractiveness of the ideal woman. There is no evident connotation to her length, her weight, the width of her curves, and the tone of her skin. It could be that Lemuel’s mother had taught him that outward beauty is fictional and only fading away.

The beauty of the ideal woman is rooted in her virtuous character, who is fully acquinted with matters of spirituality. She is not necessarily a Christian woman, nor is she a Church going woman. She is a woman who fears God. The “woman that feareth the Lord” is to be prodded. Though, perhaps, less beautiful in form and countenance, she has the higher beauty of holiness. The Madonna stands infinitely above the Venus. The grace of the God-fearing woman has its own true attraction for those who can appreciate it.

In deciding how to conclude his narrative, the philosopher, devotes his chapter to the Proverbs 31 woman. She is worth emulating, the perfect example of how a mother and wife ought to carry themselves. Many have dismissed her as an ideal, an unreachable goal, something that only exists in wonderland and cannot be relayed to real practical life. But why would the teacher dedicate his time to a character that cannot at all be emulated? Why teach me how to build a car, when you know I cannot possibly build one?

And although she has to carry all these different titles, she fulfils them all with vigour and passion and fulfils them all well. She is a balanced woman, a visionary, a wise leader, a gracious being who cares for the interests of not only her family but also her community. Many a woman exist around the world, but she outshine them all.

Chris Mhlongo, as Preached at Women of Worth Conference, Cape Town

My Mother

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The oracles which his mother taught him -Proverbs 1: 1

My mother is a woman like no other- she gave me life she nurtured me, she taught me, dressed me, fought for me, held me, shouted at me, kissed me, but most importantly loved me unconditionally. There are no words I can use to describe just how important my mother was to me, and what a powerful influence she continues to be.

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him. Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women, your vigour on those who ruin kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31: 1-9

The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him- the name Lemuel, means, “Unto God”. Dedicated to God. When he was born, his mother dedicated him to the Lord. His life was thus directed from the onset, in this direction. What a beautiful woman, and mother. And how blessed to have been raised by such. How many a mother dedicate their children to the lord, and how many even teach them about deity; how many inculcate on their children a spiritual ideology, how many teach them how to pray.

These are a mother’s counsel to her son—wise and good and eloquent with love and yearning anxiety. Here is a picture to suggest the inestimable advantage to a young man of a mother’s guidance. In thoughtless, high-spirited youth this too often passes unheeded, and precious advice is then wasted on ungrateful ears. It would be more seemly to consider its unique merits.

It springs from a woman’s nature- We have many beautiful pictures of women in the Bible. Inspired women have conveyed to us some parts of the biblical teaching. Deborah (5:7), the mother of Samuel, and now the mother of Lemuel, all help us with great Divine truths or holy thoughts and influences. It is the gift of women to see into truth with a flash of sympathy. The wonder is that we have so small a part of the Bible from the tongue and pen of women.

It is inspired by a mother’s heart- The biblical gallery of holy women does not introduce us to the cloisters. The Hebrew heroines were “mothers in Israel,” not nuns. Maternity completes woman. “The perfect woman, nobly planned,” is one who can think, love, and act with the large heart of a mother.

It is characterised by unselfish devotion-There is nowhere in all creation such an image of utterly unselfish, of completely self-sacrificing love as that of a woman for her child. She almost gives her life for his infant existence. All through his helpless years she watches over him with untiring care. When he goes forth into the world, she follows him with never-flagging interest. He may forget her; she will never forget him. If he does well, her joy is unbounded; if he does ill, her heart is broken. Without a thought of self, she spends herself on her child, and finds her life or her death in his conduct.

It is guided by deep knowledge- The mother may not know much of the outer world; she may be quite ignorant of the most recent dicta of science; some of her notions may seem old-fashioned to her modern-minded son. But foolish indeed will he be if he dares to despise her counsels on such grounds. She knows him—his strength and his weakness, his childish faults and his early promises. Here lies the secret of her wisdom.

It cannot be neglected without cruel ingratitude- The son may think himself wiser than his mother, but at least, he should give reverent attention to her advice. So much love and care and thoughtfulness do not deserve to be tossed aside in a moment of impatience. The wise son will acknowledge that his mother’s wishes deserve his most earnest consideration. It may be, then, that he will be held back in the hour of temptation by the thought of the poignant grief that his shameful fall would give to his mother. It is much for a life to be worthy of a good Christian mother’s counsel.

Lemuel was a king, and these are the teachings inspired to him by his mother. Although he was a high ranking official in his society, he did not despise his mother or even her teachings. He now produces them, as learnt from her bosom. She was no doubt a wise woman, a spiritual woman, an experienced woman, and no doubt a mother who loves her son. She raised him, she taught him, she inspired him, and she guided him. Lemuel could look at himself and say I am where I am, what I am, because of my mother. I am a direct product of her teachings. The duty of teaching children is sometimes thought to be something that the daddy must do; but Lemuel was taught this oracles by her very mother.

These are the words Lemuel sucked from his mother’s bosom, we are not informed of the father. We can speculate as to the position of his father, but as far as we know, his mother was his inspiration, and she taught him valuable lesson on life. He might have been raised by a single mother; but he turned out quite well. Being raised without a father should not be looked at as being a curse, one can be raised and taught by his or her mother, and be a complete being. His mother did not excuse the need to teach his son, by the apparent absence of a father; she took it upon herself to inspire and to teach her male son. She did not push him to the uncles or to the other prominent men in society, but she taught him that ‘my son this is how you choose a wife…’, ‘this is how a man ought to behave’.

His mother not only dedicated him, but also trained him. The early experiences of the mother include much beyond the physical realm; they include the education of the intellect, the training of the Will, and the first imparting of religious instruction, the solemn dedication of her child to the service of God, repeated and earnest prayer on his behalf. Her child is not only her offspring; he is “the son of her vows,” the one on whom she has expanded her most fervent piety.

Give not your strength unto women- don’t spend your life, your energy chasing after women. Don’t let your vigour be sapped and enervated by sensuality. The prayerful, anxious mother would consider rather her son’s personal wellbeing than his worldly circumstances. Women are meant; and the prince is enjoined not to surrender his life, conduct, and actions to the influence of women, who, both by the dissipation and sensuality which they occasion, and the quarrels which they provoke, and the evil counsels which they give, often ruin kings and states. The Septuagint reads, “Give not thy wealth unto women, nor thy mind, nor thy life unto remorse. Do all things with counsel; drink wine with counsel.”

It is not for kings; or, as others read, far be it from kings. The idea is emphasised to signify its importance. Nor for princes strong drink; literally, nor for princes (the word), Where is strong drink? The evils of intemperance, flagrant enough in the case of a private person, are greatly enhanced in the ease of a king, whose misdeeds may affect a whole community. There is no secret where drunkenness reigns. The proverb says, “When wine goes in the secret comes out;” and, “Where drink enters, wisdom departs;” and again.” The Septuagint reads, “The powerful are irascible, but let them not drink wine.”

This gives a reason for the warning. Lest they drink, and forget the Law. That which has been decreed, and is right and lawful, the appointed ordinance, particularly as regards the administration of justice. The Septuagint reads, “Lest drinking, they forget wisdom.” And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted; literally, of all the sons of affliction; i.e. the whole class of poorer people. This is particularly important because the king and his behaviour affects others. The wellness of the community, is rested on his power, and as such in his actions, he must consider others.

Open thy mouth for the dumb. The “dumb” is anyone who for any reason whatever is unable to plead his own cause; he may be of tender age, or of lowly station, or ignorant, timid, and boorish; and the prince is enjoined to plead for him and defend him. In the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction; literally, the sons of passing away; i.e. not orphans, children whose parents have vanished from the earth, nor strangers from a foreign country, nor, generally, mortals, subjects of frail human nature (all of which explanations have been given), but persons who are in imminent danger of perishing, certain, if left unaided, to come to ruin. Septuagint, “Open thy mouth for the Word of God, and judge all men soundly”. Plead the cause; rather, minister judgment, or do right; act in your official capacity so that the effect shall be substantial justice.

We have not many words from women’s lips in the inspired record, and we may therefore esteem the more highly those we possess. None but the mother can say, “The son of my womb;” “the son of my vows.” These claims are based upon: all that motherhood means to us; upon the fact that the mother has borne her child, has cherished him at her own breast, has watched over his infancy and childhood with sedulous care, has shielded and succoured him, has fed and clothed him; as we say in one word—has “mothered” him. Even though Lemuel is now a grown up man, a king, the mother sees ‘the son of her womb’. To her that’s how he will always be. Many people might see many different thing, but the mother only sees one thing: the child that she birthed. People might see negativity, and might project all sorts of harsh opinions but the mother’s view is not at all clouded. She loves unconditionally, and endlessly. And so she guides him and instructs him based purely and sacred on this relationship. And her words did not fall on deaf ears.

The words of Lemuel’s mother are charged with deep affection and profound solicitude. And it is those who truly love us, and who are unselfishly devoted to our interest, that have the strongest claim upon us. A claim which is only that of natural relationship, and is not crowned and completed by affection, falls very short indeed of that which is strengthened and sanctified by sacrificial love.

Chris Mhlongo

Open Doors

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Wonderful things happen when opportunity meets preparation!

Before anything else, preparation is the key. The most beautiful thing happen when an opportunity finds one prepared. But when an opportunity knocks, and one is not ready, leaves one of the most painful regrets in life. To be prepared is key, everything else is outside your control.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you:but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage:and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh

Matthew 25

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. The beautiful thing is, opportunity is always knocking. How we respond to those opportunities will be decisive of whether or not we receive the blessing. But God’s blessings usually come dressed up in oppositions. But if one can look at the opposition right, what initially seemed as an opposition will become an opportunity. Progress is nothing but opportunity meeting preparation. The parable thus teaches about the need for preparation in order to inherit the blessedness of an opportunity.

The text is set like the usual custom of the Jewish wedding. On the appointed day the bridegroom accompanied by his friends proceeded to the brides house and thence escorted her with the bride maids to his own or his parents’ house where a joyous celebration would be hosted for a full week. In the parable however, the proceedings are somewhat different. Here the bridegroom is not in the town, but somewhere at a distance so that though the day is settled the exact hour of his arrival is unknown. He will come in the course of the night and the virgins who are to meet him have assembled in the house where the wedding is to take place.

The two keywords in our discourse are preparation and opportunity. It is a terrible thing to have an opportunity and you are not prepared for it. An opportunity is nothing but a chance for success! An opportunity is a set of circumstances. How I relate or respond to those circumstances determine where I succeed or not. Without opportunity there is no success, because an opportunity is the window or opening, for success for progress, for growth. Now preparation is part of waiting- as a matter of fact preparation is waiting. To prepare someone is to make them ready or able to do or to deal with something. To make ready requires time. Thus where there is no waiting there is no preparation.

Ten bridesmaids- Yod (Hebrew, ten) is a closed hand. In the bible ten is the number of perfection. Such a number was required to form a synagogue, and to be present at any office, ceremony or formal benediction.

Talmudic authorities affirm that the lambs used in bridal processions were usually ten. The bridesmaids are the friends of the bride who are arranged to meet the bridegroom as soon as his arrival is signaled.

Out of the ten bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. They are categorically called wise or foolish because of their inner characters and how they treat the opportunity granted to them. They were the same in other ways: they were the same outwardly, they wore similar clothing, and they were provided with the same lambs, they were to perform the same office. But they had different characters. How they each responded to the opportunities presented to them exposed their individual characters.

They that were foolish took no oil with them. Two thoughts are present here: either they brought no oil of their own at all, trusting to get their lambs filled by others, or they neglected to bring in an additional supply to replenish them when exhausted. They undoubtedly knew the oil reservoirs were small, and so it was a custom to carry another vessel from which to refill them.

Both parties knew this, but they all responded differently. People might be faced with the same circumstance, but yet come out different- because they respond differently. You take away all the power from a particular occurrence or event in your life when you don’t respond the way it would have you respond. We both can lose employment: I can choose to shut my family and the world out, feel sorry for myself, and give myself off to alcohol; or I can choose to accept what has happened, allow the family to support me emotionally, pray and look for another job. It all depends with the final response.

Their lamps- they all made separate, independent, personal preparation for the meeting. In the same manner each believer must have his or her own lamp. Your lamb is not mine and mine is not yours. The lamps were hollow cups/saucers, which were filled with oil. They were fastened to a long wooden pole and borne in the procession (Edersheim).

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept-  all wise and foolish began to sleep. The act in itself was not sinful, it was only natural. We all sleep and we all need to sleep. We all tempted, we all get challenges, we all fall, we all sin, we all face difficulties. It’s only natural. We cannot be on top and up all the time, sometimes we will be down. The text suggests that the bridesmaid ceased for a while to think of the bridegrooms coming. Some of us have began sleeping, some of us the zeal for the lord has cooled away.

We all sleep at one point or another. We all lose focus at one point or another, we all fall short of the glory at one point or another. We all make misakes. It depends on how one chooses to look at their mistakes. If we look at them correctly, mistakes are nothing but an opportunity to learn and do things better. They are wonderful opportunity for improvement. None of us is perfect. Even though the other five were described as being wise, they also for a moment ceased being watchful of the coming bridegroom, at one point they thought nothing of him.

At midnight- the implication is that when sleep is deepest and the awakening most unwelcome. When they are most unwatchful. You cant always be on the watch, but you can always be prepared. The wise can afford to sleep because they know they are prepared and have the oil. The foolish slept without the oil.

Trimmed their lambs- when they all heard the cry that the bridegroom had transpired, the wise quickly woke up and revived their lambs. The trimming consisted in removing the charred portion of the wick and replenishing the vase with oil. The one party was ready to meet the emergency, whilst the other was wholly unprepared. Even if the foolish woke up, they suddenly discovered that they had no oil in their lambs; they had brought no further supply with them.

Not so; lest there be not enough- “ Not at all it will never suffice for us and for you”. No man can protect us if our works betrays us, not because he will not but because he cannot. There comes a time you say no persons that don’t want to do anything to change their circumstances. We can only do so much to help persons that have a negligent character in themselves. No matter how much we might help them, because of they refuse to change their character, their way of life, their attitude, their laziness: there will come a time we cannot help them anymore.

But go ye rather to them that sell- the beauty of advice, it is only persons that truly care that will give a wise advice. The wise cannot of themselves supply the lack. I cannot go for you; you have to go for yourself. You have to buy for yourself- everyone must bear his own burden. But the heeding of the advice was too late because while they went to buy the prepared bridesmaid left with the bridegroom. Opportunity meets preparation is success. And when an opportunity comes and finds unprepared, failure is born. When the time was right, they should have gone and bought for themselves.

I do not know you- I do not know you because you were not prepared for me, they were not in the bridal company, nor joined in the festive processions, so the bridegroom had no knowledge of them. Opportunity is life, and missing out on an opportunity is missing out on life!

In many parables, the final thought usually reads, “depart from me you, you cursed ones into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. But not this one- “but stay awake and be prepared, because you don’t know the day or hour”. Although the bridesmaid might have been unprepared for this particular wedding, another wedding will come and they can learn of their mistakes and do things better. Opportunities are like buses. There is always another one coming. But when it finally comes, will we be prepared for it?

Chris Mhlongo, A Short Synopsis, as preached @ StellenboschCOC

SuperWoman

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Proverbs 31: 10-31

This is the only section of scripture dedicated to the expectations of a principled woman. The book of Proverbs has long since been regarded as a book of wisdom; and after the writer has written exhaustively about every thought of discernment, he now turns his attention to this ideal woman. As with every piece of art, music, and even writing, the end always end with a bang; and the end is always a conclusion of the matter, a summoning of all the thoughts the writer might have raised. And so the author concludes his writing by looking at a woman, whom every man should aspire to be sojourned to. It implies that even though a man can gain all the knowledge in the world, he can be a principled man, well versed in all thirty chapters of proverbs full of wise ways of living, but if he does not choose the right woman he is destroyed. Just as it has been suggested that you are fortunate if you meet the right woman, for she will complete you. But if you meet the wrong woman, she will finish you! No man is complete without the proverb 31 woman. She is the fabric that holds him all together. He can have Proverbs 1 to 30, but without Proverbs 31, he is incomplete.

Who can find a virtuous woman? The expression, woman of virtue actually means “woman of force”; the expression combines the ideas of moral goodness and bodily vigour and activity. It is useless to try to fix the character upon any particular person. Her price is far above rubies; or, pearls; the Septuagint reads, “Such a one is more valuable than precious stones.” There may be allusion to the custom of giving treasure in exchange for a wife, purchasing her, as it were, from her friends. At any rate, few only are privileged to meet with this excellent wife, and her worth cannot be estimated by any material object, however costly. You may go to the ends of the earth to find her equal in value.

The heart of her husband cloth safely trust in her. The husband of such a wife goes forth to his daily occupations, having full confidence in her whom he leaves at home, that she will act discreetly, and promote his interests while he is absent. Her husband has full confidence in her; she is the incomparable, and to him, she is the best! We live in a society where many husbands do not trust their wives; many have need to check their cell phones to see which guys they have been chatting to; they are restless and constantly anxious and insecure. But a man, who has been fortunate to meet the virtuous woman, he rests secure, and has no need to worry because her wife has given him no need to doubt her.

She will do him good and not evil. She is consistent in her conduct towards her husband, always pursuing his best interests. All the days of her life; in good times or bad, in the early spring time of young affection, and in the waning years of declining age.

She seeks wool, and flax. She pays attention to these things, as materials for clothing and domestic uses. Wool has been used for clothing from the earliest times and flax was largely cultivated for the manufacture of linen, the processes of drying, peeling, hackling, and spinning being well understood.

And works willingly with her hands; or, she works with her hands’ pleasure; i.e. with willing hands. She works at the business of her hands. What is meant is that she not only labours diligently herself, but finds pleasure in doing so, and this, not because she has none to help her, and is forced to do her own work (on the contrary, she is represented as rich, and at the head of a large household), but because she considers that labour is a duty for all, and that idleness is a transgression of a universal law.

 She is like the merchants’ ships. She is like them in that she extends her operations beyond her own immediate neighbourhood, and brings her food from afar, buying in the best markets and on advantageous terms, without regard to distance, and being always on the look out to make honest profit.

She rises also while it is yet night. Before dawn she is up and stirring, to be ready for her daily occupation. A lamp is always kept burning at night in Eastern houses, and as it is of very small dimensions, the careful housewife has to rise at midnight to replenish the oil, and she often then begins her household work by grinding the corn or preparing something for next day’s meals. And giveth meat to her household. The word for “meat” is tereph, which means “food torn in pieces” with the teeth, and hence food to be eaten. The wife thus early prepares or distributes the food which will be wanted for the day. And a portion to her maidens. Chok, “final portion,” may apply either to work or food.

She considers a field, and buys it. She turns her attention to a certain field, the possession of which is for some cause desirable; and, after due examination and consideration, she buys it. Land is expensive. We live in a generation where many ladies are looking for men who will do things for them, who will finance their expensive lifestyles, and their costly fashion taste. Although it is not wrong for a man to provide for her wife, as a matter of fact it is highly encouraged. But this woman does not make it her goal to depend on her husband. She sees a field, she goes and get the funds and she invests into it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. Her prudent management and economy give her means to buy vines and plant a vineyard, and thus to increase her produce. Vineyards are a good (although also costly) investment. She is in all understanding a business woman, and she knows where to invest her money. Many a man today are in financial pitfalls because of their wives. They are merely interested in spending and shopping, they know nothing nor care anything about investing.

 She girds her loins with strength. This seems at first sight a strange assertion to make concerning one of the weaker sex; but the phrase is metaphorically expressive of the energy and force with which she prepares herself for her work. Strength and vigour are, as it were, the girdle which she binds round her waist to enable her to conduct her operations with case and freedom.

She perceives that her merchandise is good. The pleasure that is derived from duty done and successfully conducted business is legitimate and healthy, a providential reward of good works.

She lays her hands to the spindle. This is probably not the spindle, but the distaff, i.e. the staff to which is tied the bunch of flax from which the spinning wheel draws the thread. To this she applies her hand; she deftly performs the work of spinning her flax into thread. Her hands hold the distsaff. This is the spindle, the cylindrical wood (afterwards the wheel) on which the thread winds itself as it is spun.

She is not impelled by selfish greed to improve her means and enlarge her revenues. She is sympathizing and charitable, and loves to extend to others the blessings which have rewarded her efforts. She stretches out her hand to the poor. She knows the maxim (Proverbs 19:17), “He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord,” etc.; and she has no fear of poverty. Yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household. “Snow,” “covers the streets of Jerusalem two winters in three, but it generally comes in small quantities, and soon disappears. Yet there are sometimes very snowy winters. .

She makes herself coverings of tapestry. Pillows for beds or cushions are meant. Purple garments were brought from the Phoenician cities, and were highly esteemed. The wife dresses herself in a way becoming her station, avoiding the extremes of sordid simplicity and ostentatious luxury.

Her husband is known in the gates. Such a woman advances her husband’s interests, increases his influence, and, by attending to his domestic concerns, enables him to take his share in public matters, so that his name is in great repute in the popular assemblies at the city gates. She is indeed “a crown to her husband” (Proverbs 12:4).

She makes fine linen, and sells it. The word for “fine linen” is sadin, and denoting linen garments; or body linen. Delivers girdles unto the merchant; literally, unto the Canaanite; i.e. the Phoenician merchant, a generic name for all traders. Girdles were necessary articles of attire with the flowing robes of Eastern dress.

Strength and honour are her clothing. She is invested with a moral force and dignity which arm her against care and worry; the power of a righteous purpose and strong will reveals itself in her carriage and demeanour. And thus equipped, she shall rejoice in time to come; or, she laughs at the future.

She opens her mouth with wisdom. she guides her family with words of wisdom. When she speaks, it is not gossip, or slander, or idle talk, that she utters, but sentences of prudence and sound sense, such as may minister grace to the hearers. Wisdom is often attributed to men, and the man in the house is often the one expected to advice and guide his children with wisdom, but this is not so with the virtuous woman.

She looks well to the ways of her house; the actions and habits of the household. She exercises careful surveillance over all that goes on in the family. Eats not the bread of idleness; but rather bread won by active labour and conscientious diligence. She is of the opinion of the apostle who said “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Her children arise up, and call her blessed. She is a fruitful mother of children, who, seeing her sedulity and prudence, and experiencing her affectionate care, celebrate and praise her, and own that she has rightly won the blessing of the Lord. Her husband also, and he praises her; in the words given in the next verse.”

Many daughters have done virtuously, but you out beat them all. We may regard it as a representation of the truly Christian matron, who loves husband and children, guides the house, is discreet, chaste, good, a teacher of good things; such a woman out beat them all. She is the Best!

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain. Quite interesting there has been no mention of the physical attributes of the virtuous woman. The author did not find her physique, her sexiness to be of any importance. He wholly focuses on her personality and her mind.

But a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. So we come back to the maxim with which the whole book began, that the foundation of all excellence is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Such, too, is the conclusion of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 12:13), “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

This is a short yet concise description of the Proverb 31 woman. She is also a wife, but she is a woman. For a woman does not need to have a husband to be a wife. ‘Wife’ is not a noun, it is a verb. One is called a wife because of what they do. No mention is made of the husband and how he exerts his influence on the proverbs 31 woman. She was a wife before her husband met her. If a woman is not a wife before you put a ring on her finger, putting a ring on her finger is not going to make her a wife. She has to be it to become it. Everyone can be the Proverb 31 woman, because this ideal is not generic, but humaric.

Chris Mhlongo, A Short Piece,  As preached @ AGAPE Women’s Conference, Cape Town.

I’m Still Standing

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We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

2 Corinthians 4: 8, 9

Tough times don’t last; tough people do. They refuse to quit, they refuse to stay down. No matter how many times you flung them on the ground, they always bounce back up. And ultimately they win, because they refused to give up. So if you are bruised, if you are hurt, if you are bleeding, if you are tired; if you are exhausted, if you are struck down, if you are troubled on every side- that’s your motivation! Don’t let it all be for nothing; get something out of it!

Our text is inspired by a man who has endured many life situations and trials. He has known pain, suffering, disappointment, persecution, lack, fear, sadness, loneliness, and rejection. And he here writes as one involved in a hand to hand combat; He writes as one who is in a wrestling match (for life in many ways is indeed like a wrestling match) and he fighting at a loss. He is cast down, flung to the ground. The circumstances of life have thrown him down, as one wrestler might throw another in the arena; but he is not yet finished. He is down, but he is not yet out.

In a wrestling combat opponents strike each other and punch each other until the other one is out. When the count begins, and the opponent resuscitate themselves, the match continues. In the sport of boxing, for instance, there are all kinds of ways that a boxer can be knocked out. If a boxer is knocked down, and unable to get up to his feet and gain his balance and composure before the referee counts to 10, he is considered technically knocked out. And if and when he gets to his feet, he’s given a standing 8 count. If the referee feels that though the fighter is on his feet but he’s in no condition to continue the fight, the referee will stop the fight, and the boxer is considered technically knocked out. Then there’s the three knock down rule.

But being punched down, and knocked down comes with its own hurt and injuries. Life can sometimes leave one scared and injured; broken and bruised by the troubles and trials of life. But although he was damaged, he still had some energy left in him. He can still stand. And so long as he can stand, the match continues.

In many ways many of us can relate to the apostle, we have been punched, pressed, persecuted, and perplexed. Sometimes life leaves all confused, unconscious, but we are still alive. After everything life has thrown at us, we are still standing. The very essence of life in us, implies the battle is not over, till it’s over. We are not flattened; we are not defeated.

Don’t throw in the towel yet. You might be down, but you are not out! You are still in the game. You are not defeated, even though sometimes it might feel like it. Life might have knocked you down, but you don’t have to stay down. You can still get up, because there is still life in you; you are still kicking! You may not know that you are a fighter, but just the simple fact that you’re still standing and still holding on despite all the hell you’ve gone through tells me you’re a fighter. Life will through an unexpected blow and knock you clean off your feet. Is there anybody in here that’s been hit with something in life that left you totally numb?

A fighter can train all he can; be in the best shape of his life, and still get hit and knocked down by an unsuspecting punch. Thus it is with us. I don’t care how much Bible you know, nor does it matter how strong and prayed up you are life will hit you with a blow that will literally knock you senseless. Don’t get me wrong. It pays to be prayed up and it pays to study and learn the word, because that’s your training. And it’s according to how well a fighter train that determines how fast he recovers from a serious knock down.

You are able to stand, and the reason you still standing is because, you are not alone. God is able to make you stand. You might be persecuted from all sides; forsaken by friends and family, but you are never alone. No matter how many are against you, and you have no one on your side- you are not alone. They might fail you all, they might forsake you all, but God will never leave you. When you go into the storm he is with you. When you can’t see clearly the way ahead, he is still right there beside you.  He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, a confident, and a comfort in difficult times.

You have took the licking, but you have kept on ticking. Quitters never win! Life will throw so many curves at you, that sometimes it seems like quitting is the only way out. No one has ever won a race when they have fallen down and stayed down. No fighter has ever won a fight by staying down after they get knocked down the first time, and you cannot win, by falling down and staying there. You have to learn to get up, and dust yourself off, stick out your chest, and refuse to stay down.

It’s not over yet. I may be broke right now, but I’m coming out of this. I may be sick right now, but I’m coming out of this, I may be confused right now, but I’m coming out of this. My mind may be a mess, but I’m coming out of this. The bible says in Ps. 30:5 weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Just because you are going through a night time experience, does not mean that the sun won’t shine again. Weeping may endure for a night…….

The righteous man falls down 7 times, and rises back up again. The difference between a winner and a loser, is that a winner will get back up when he falls down, and continue to fight. A lot of times we will look at what we are going through in life, and get confused and think that this is where we are staying. Do not confuse what you are going through, with where you are going to. In order to get to the top of a mountain, you have got to climb up one side or the other. You cannot see a rainbow without first seeing a little rain. In order to get away from the bondage of slavery, and get to the Promised Land, we must go through the wilderness.

I am coming out of this. I’m coming out of this and I don’t care what it takes. I’m trusting that God will bring me through and I am confessing victory in life from this day forward. I have tried everything that man has given me, and it did not work, I’m pressing through the crowd. You might be challenged, but you are not conquered.

Pain is temporary, glory is forever. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. So don’t quit; you have already gone through heavy stuff, you are already in pain, you are already hurt, you are scar and bruised. So get something out of it; get a reward out of it. No one who ever fought one more round regretted it. Rather suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion. Every champion was once a contender that refused to quit.

Chris Mhlongo, As preached @ Church-on-Main

I Will Rise Again

the-sun-sets-to-rise-again-elsewhere1

Like a moon I will fade away; but like the sun I will rise again

So long as there is life, there is a potential; so long as there is a potential, there is success! You can sprout again when cut down! You can rise again even when you fall! We all fall sometimes, it’s not wrong to fall; but when you fall down, rise up. When you fall again, rise up again. It’s not the fall that gets you down; falling is not the end of the matter. You don’t get drown by falling into a river.  You get drown by remaining there. Falling accidentally and rising immediately is what distinguishes one that drowned and one that survived.

What makes a hero is not courage, strength, morality, but the ability to withstanding a fall.  Not at all for we is all fall, but a hero one who is able to fall and bounce back- one who is tenacious enough to bounce back after every fall. Inflate yourself with a genuine passion always. This makes it possible for you to bounce back when you fall. The football is loaded with air and no sooner does it hit the floor than it bounces back again!

Falling down, is a process through which essential life lessons are learnt, and victory is nourished through every fall. So go ahead and fall down. For it is a natural progression for life and maturity. A baby does not come from the belly walking- they fall and fall and fall; but this is an essential process for growth and development. When you decide to try something, you will fail. You only failed because you tried something. If you decide to fly, you’ll fall. But you can rise up when you fall down.

You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

Mark 16: 6

We all fall: even the Christ fell. There were times when he felt like giving up, when the task was too much to bear, and felt like he could not do it anymore. It was particularly at this point that he asked his father, that “if possible may this cup pass me by”. What he meant was, “I feel I cannot do it anymore; if there is any slight possibility, may I never have to endure the task at hand, if there is any slight possibility, may we let it just slide and act is as this duty never existed.” The Christ felt like throwing in the towel. But he did not!

He was arrested, flogged, tied, and imprisoned. He was beaten and mocked by the soldiers, and was brought before the crowds who had witnessed some of his miracles; and yet the crowd chose another convicted criminal over him. They cried he must be crucified, he must face death, and he must be done away and finished with.

He was then carried on to the hills of Golgotha, laid upon the weary rugged beam of wood. Nails were driven through his palms and his feet, crushing every muscles and every vain in his body; he was bruised, he bled and he was completely humiliated. Those who passed by questioned as to how come he was able to raise others from the dead, yet he can’t save himself. He was able to heal others but yet, he is helpless on the cross. His enemies (the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, the Pharisees, members of the Jewish council, the Sadducees) were delighted to see him laying on that cross, to witness his fall and his defeat. Even Satan might have rejoiced to see him finally coming to a close.

The Christ was indeed down, and out. And in his last breath, he uttered the words, “it is finished!” His enemies might have no doubt rejoiced at hearing this words. For to them, this words meant he is giving up, he is finally done away with. He is out! Indeed the Christ bowed his head and died. His death was confirmed by the thrusting of a spear through his side, and blood mingled with water came gushing out. He was laid in the grave. No doubt, on this night his enemies rejoiced. Satan had his own party to celebrate the fall of his foe. It was no doubt one of those Friday night parties, and it lasted all the way into Saturday night; but early Sunday morning, the tomb began to shake, there was a great earth quake and the great stone that was laid at the entrance of the throne was rolled away- he broke the sting of death, and gained victory off the grave! On the victorious third day, there was a shift that took place; that changed history and divided our calendar into B.C. and A. D. The Christ refused to stay in the grave; the grave could not hold him down: it was able to hold him down for day one and for day two, but on day three there was a shift that took place.

I’m sure as they were crucifying him these are the words that the Christ uttered, Go ahead, and drive the nails in my hands; Laugh at me where you stand. Go ahead, and say it isn’t me. The day will come when you will see, because I’ll rise again. Ain’t no power on earth can tie me down! Yes, I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep me in the ground.

Go ahead, mock my name; Go ahead, and bury Me. But very soon, I will be free!

Cause I’ll rise again. Ain’t no power on earth can tie me down! Yes, I’ll rise again; Go ahead and say I’m dead and gone. But you will see that you were wrong. Go ahead, try to hide the Son. But all will see that I’m the One! Cause I’ll come again! Ain’t no power on earth can keep me back! Yes, I’ll come again.

The Bible teaches that the very same spirit that resurrected Christ from the dead now lives in you. And if that spirit was able to cause a shift in the situation of Jesus, it can also cause a shift in your situation. If Christ can rise again, so can you. He resurrected so you can also gain victory over whatever situation in your life. You can make a comeback!

So go ahead and rise up, break new territories, empower yourself and take a step. The only way to know that you still have some amount of strength in you when you fall is to attempt to rise up. However if you believe you don’t have any strength, you will remain where you are.

Rise again! You can change direction if you feel like you have missed your way… Decide to do that now! Go back a little more and begin from where you missed it out! If only you are ready to rise again, you can make a right decision in that tight belly of the shark.

The sun sets, only to rise again.

Chris Mhlongo, As preached @Church-on-Main