What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

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Count it all joy when you face trials of different kinds. Because the testing of your  faith develops perseverance (James 1:2)

We make it a habit to count our blessings. But few of us ever count our losses. We like to count our blessings, but not our trials. Counting trials is not a pleasant experience. Naturally, we despise the very presence of trials. But trials are an inescapable part of life. As such James is not teaching us how to avoid trials, but how to properly respond to them. In life, you cannot stop things from happening to you. But you can learn how to respond better to them. Accepting them for what they are without judgement, empowers you. Judging them as unpleasant and undesirable on the other hand (no matter how legitimate) makes us victims to life’s circumstances, and ultimately contributes to our pain and suffering.

Count it all joy: It is easy to count it as joy when we win, but how many of us can count it as joy when we lose? It  is easy to count it as joy when things are working out positively in our lives; but how can you count it as joy when nothing seems to be going your way? James says, ‘count it all joy’. Which means in your calculations, include everything, leaving nothing out. Count it when you won, but don’t leave out the times you lost. Count it when you were excited, but don’t forget to count it also when life brought you down on your knees. Count it when you got married; but count it also when you received the divorce papers. Count it when you got the job; but dont leave out the time you lost the job. When you suffered big and when you suffered small: count it all. When you  felt alone and isolated- count that also. When you had no one to support you- count that also. When your health gave in, when you suffered in your flesh- count that also. When your financial resources depleted, and you became in want- count that also.

Count it all joy when you face trials of different  kinds. It is not a matter of if you will or you will not,  depending on some conditions. James uses the word ‘when’, which means that it is only a matter a time before you face your next trial. If you are not facing any trials at the present moment, then prepare yourself: they are on their way. But if you are facing trials in the present moment, theres a good way to deal with them, and then theres a bad way. How you handle them will ultimately determine, if you will advance to the next level or degenerate to mediocrity.

Trials of different kinds: trials are different in as much as they are experienced by different people. And different people respond differently to different trials. But it is not the trial that does it for you: it is how you respond to them. And the  attitude which James recommends is one of joy. But how can one be joyous in the midst of trials? I can understand the state of joy in the midst of progress, abundance, and well-being. But how do  you expect me James to be joyous in the midst of degradation, misfortune, and loss? This is one of the many questions that I had to grapple with when addressing the text.

But it is only when I realised the power of a correct attitude behind any trial, that I began to relate with what James is trying to teach me. If your attitude towards a particular trial, is one of  abjection, loss, and dislike you will learn to despise the situation and wish it away. We always wish away that which we do not like. But James invites us to be friendly to the situation; to like the situation; to consider it not as bad, but as inherently good. As such, we rejoice at the presence of the situation. And because we are not fighting the situation, then the situation assumes a state of harmony with us. And instead of working against us, the situation begins to work for us, for our own good.

I dont have enough space deal with the power of acceptance. But enough to say, there is a powerful force to overcome any situation, and that power is acceptance. What you resist persists, and what you fight you strengthen. And thus, when you fight the situation in you life, it will fight you back. And because none can win, you will dwell in a perpetual state of warfare and mental anguish. But what you accept, and begin to be friendly to, you ultimately disempower.

The testing of your faith: James says that throughtout the trial, what is really being tested is your faith. What is being tested is not your bank account. It is not your health. It is not your marriage. It is not your parenting skills. It is not anything that you might think it is. What is really being tested, is your faith.

Jesus says to Simon Peter: “Simon Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith might  not fail. And when you have been restored, confirm your brethren. Satan had asked to sift Simon, just like he had asked to torment Job. The idea of Satan asking, means that Satan understands property rights. And because neither Job nor Simon belong to him, he thus presents himself to ask for user rights, because you do not touch that which is not your own. And thus Satan sought permission off the  Lord, that he might sift Simon.

In full understanding of what Satan desires to do to Simon Peter, Jesus comforts Simon with the knowledge that he had prayed for him. But what did Jesus pray for? It would have been ideal if he would have prayed that Simon should not be sifted. It would have been nice if he should have prayed away the sifting. But Jesus did not pray that the sifting must be removed. He prayed that Simon Peter’s faith might not fail. What is more important is not the situation. God is not concerned about the situation- he is concerned about your faith.

Every situation that you encounter has to do with your faith. It either strengthens your faith, or weakens it. And as long as the situation can make you doubt  God, or the presence of God in your life, then the enemy has won. The trial has overcome you. But when you understand that every situation is aimed agaist your faith, you will reach forth from that which is your greatest strength,and the reason for your attacks- your faith- and you will declare even more your faith in God, who is above any situation.

The testing of your faith, develops perseverance: Now it is very clear why we can rejoice in times of trial. It is because we are not focused on the trial. But our focus is on what the trial will accomplish. James establishes a link between trials and development. He argues that trials results in development, and thus the more the trials, the more the  development. We count the trials as joy because we are looking out of the situation into the resolution. And we then come to the realisation that the trial is not working against us, but in our favor. It is building your character, and making you strong.

You cannot be strong without the fight. Some of us want to be fit, but we dont want to exercise. You cannot be fit if you dont want to sweat and suffer the pain of exercising. Just like you cannot be multiplied without being broken. It is through your brokenness that you multiply and abound. You cannot get the trophy without running the race. And so it is that what doesnt kill you makes you stronger. The situation is not there to make you bitter, it is there to make you better.

Notice for instance, how God  chose Joseph. He had already intended for him to be premier of Egypt. God wanted to manuevre him in a position so that he could be able to rescue Israel- the brothers of Jacob- the very same people that sold him as a slave. But if Joseph did not understand the significance of the tribulation, it would have made him bitter, and not better. Had he been bitter, he woud have blown his assignment cause he would have used his position to destroy his brethren. But instead, he looks at his brothers, from a lofty position which they helped to create, cause hadn’t they sold him as a slave, he wouldnt have become what he became. And now, instead of being angry, he says to his brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”.

God is never concerned about the situation- he is working on you. And he can use whatever you are going through to make it work for your good. So you can be grateful for what you are going through comforted in the knowledge of what it will produce out of you. At the end of the day, the situation is not there to kill you. It will make you better. God is able to make all things work together for your  good.

Love
Chris

Homosexuality is NOT a Sin

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The Bible has been  used in the  past to sanction slavery, racism, genocide, homicide, colonialism, imperialism, territorial wars, and wars over resources, the oppression of women and the oppression of gay and lesbian couples.  It is true that as human beings, we never learn. We cognizantly repeat the same mistakes again and again, failing to realise that we are doing precisely that which we did in the past: oppressing other people  in the name of God.

Homosexuality is not a sin. The unfounded notion of homosexuality as sinful, is cultural, not Biblical. The Bible does not define  homosexuality as a sin. As  such, we will look at homosexuality, in the  context of  same sex relationships, from a Biblical perspective. Let me first start by saying that the Bible is there to be engaged. Many Christians do not engage the Bible. They approach the  Bible from a simplistic narrow-minded perspective. One of the common misconceptions you’ll  often hear christian folks say is that, ‘the Bible says it, therefore I believe it’. This is utter ignorance, because there are so many things in the Bible that we do not believe or practise. I will highlight later on some of those things. But a great deal of  the Old Testament we just do not practise it today, and cultural customs in the New Testament such as the covering of head, socialism as evidenced in the New Testament church, and temple worship we do not practice those things today. We are selective in our approach to scripture, and we know that certain texts and practises fitted a particular culture, and dispensation to which the Bible writers were primarily addressing their texts to. For instance, Paul is very clear in his writings that women  should be silent in the Churches, but we have found a  way to explain those texts in light of  our own cultural setup. Thus the  notion that ‘the Bible says it therefore I believe it’, is simply untrue, and misguided.

And  many Christian folks are quick to say that they are not homophobic. You’ll often hear them say, ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’. But this is just not true. And  when you look at it correctly, it’s quite contradictory. There is absolutely nothing that Christian Churches are doing to love, care and support homosexual individuals, except of course the usual bashing, judging, and condemnation. Next time someone tells you ‘hate the  sin,not the sinner’, ask them, ‘what have you done lately to show love and concern for  a homosexual person?’ And then wait for an answer. You’ll  pick out one contradiction after another.

Heterosexuals like to speak from a standpoint of moral superiority. As if their existence  is better, or normal; and they will claim this is how God created things to be. But there is nothing better, normal or even  natural about heterosexuality. Heterosexuals have actually done more  to hurt and break up the institution of family than any gay or lesbian person. Couple this with rampant divorce, infidelity, and children born out of wedlocks- this has been the reality of heterosexual relationships for many years.

But we are here not interested in who is morally better than the other, because no one is morally superior than the other. But it must be said the church has done more to hurt, isolate, judge, bash, exclude and condemn homosexual individuals. Many homosexuals have faced ridicule, hatred  and violent attacks from the hands of heterosexuals. Today, the church sees gays and lesbians as the worst sinners, and has demonized an entire people because of the words or actions of a few individuals. I need to also mention that the church has done nothing to provide a safe, loving and caring environment where homosexuals can work through their challenges, and the rampant discrimination and violent attacks they receive from society.

The  christian church has put itself forward as the judge- proclaiming God’s judgement more loudly than his love. The christian church has sinned against the gay and lesbian community and continues to do so through the incorrect interpretation of scripture and fiery condemnation of homosexual individuals. For that, I’d like to apologise. Im terribly sorry to every gay or lesbian person that had to endure exclusion, hatred, insensitive judgements from the christian community and society. I feel your pain, and I feel called to take up this issue, and stand up against homophobia wherever i see it rearing its ugly head.

Let us now go to the Bible and see how it explains homosexuality:

Leviticus, 18:22- you shall not lie with a woman as with a man, and vice versa. It is abomination.

Leviticus 20:18- If a man lies with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall be put to death. Their  blood is upon them.

These are the two verses that are usually used from the book of Leviticus to teach on same sex marriage. But let us start by looking at the context of the book. Leviticus deals with the holy character of God, and as such, the Israelites are expected to also be holy. It is a book  of laws, rituals and prescriptions. Roughly divided, there was a part for  priests, and then for the people. Some of the laws were for cleanliness, some for procreation, some for family order etc. so the Israelites could have a mapped out  guideline when entering the new land. Some of those laws we don’t practise them today, like not having sex with your wife when she’s having her periods or wearing clothing  made of two different materials, or not eating bacon.

Please note, the text is about men having sex with other men, it doesn’t say anything about lesbian relationships. Another important thing to know is that Christ came to fulfil the  law, and as such we no longer live by the old testament law, but by the law of Christ. And as such we have to analyse laws and see whether they are for us today, or were  limited to the nation  of Israel then. So we cannot take this verse (and many other verses in the Old Testament) at face value, we have to contrast them with the teachings of Christ in the New Testament.

There are so many laws in the Old Testament that no longer apply, for example, the dietary laws, laws about temple worship, about clothing, about the Sabbath, about temple priests, offering sacrifices etc. We use the Old Testament for our learning, and we see how God dealt with the Jews in the Old Testament. We then contrast that with the teachings of Christ in the New Testament, which is in many ways different from the Old Testament. For instance, the  OT  deals with the Jews, whereas in the NT Jesus ceases this discriminatory ideology, and makes the Kingdom of God accessible to everyone around the world.

So  let us look at what the NT teaches about this issue:

1 Cor 6: 9- Do you not know that wrong doers will not enter the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived. Fornicators,idolaters, male prostitutes, thieves,the greedy, revilers, robbers, none of these will inherit the  kingdom of God.

I Tim 1: 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent,  but for  the lawless and disobedient. for the Godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who  kill their fathers and mothers, for murders, for fornicators, for sodomites, slave traders,liars,and whatever else is contrary to the  sound teaching to the glorious gospel of God.

In both texts we are reading a foreign language with a completely different worldview than we have today. These texts throughout time they have been interpreted in different ways. The two words, malakoi and arsenokoitai, used in the two texts respectively never meant homosexual until in 1946. As a matter of fact, until this time, the Scriptures never had the word ‘homosexual’, nor the understanding that we have of it today. Since then all the dominant versions (NIV, NRV,NRSV etc) have since had the interpretation homosexual in them. In 1946, the two greek words were both changed to mean homosexual. And ever since then the words, male prostitutes, sodomites and sex offenders have been used.

But also it is important to note that the word sodomites did not mean homosexual. Many people like to think that Sodom and Gomorrah refers  to  the sin of homosexuality. This is a big lie. An ignorant one for that matter.  Sodom and Gomorrah is about the wickedness of the men of Sodom. Please note, no women. And the city of sodom wasn’t wicked because they wanted to rape the male angels- it was already wicked even before the men wanted to rape the angels. it is not as if their demand to have sex with the male angels made it a sinful city. The men demanded Lot to turn over the males so the men could gang rape them. This is what the story is about: violence, rape, extreme perversion, and inhospitality to others. The story is not about same sex relationships. But nonetheless, the word homosexual has been used to denote somody, or what was happening in the city of Sodom. But the correct understanding would be male on male rape or  sexual violence.

As a matter of fact, what is more troubling in the text, is that Lot offers as a solution, her virgin daughter so they could rape her. I hear no one taking an issue with that. The christian church chose to avoid this wrongfulness, and then point to the sin of ‘homosexuality’ as the worst thing. How can Lot, a God-fearing man offer up her daughter so that she could be gangraped by a bunch of crazy men, and yet no  one says anything about it, or sees nothing wrong. If men wanted to rape my daughter, I’d rather  have them rape the angels, since angels have supernatural powers. I would never give over my daughter in protection of super celestial beings.

The greek word malakoi, meant soft, and it was used in relation to cloth. The term then came to be used against soft men, that is men who weren’t masculine enough. As such in Paul’s world, this referred to young, effeminate prostitutes, and it was common in ancient Greece and to some degree also in Rome.

The second word, arsenokoitai, scholars are not clear what it means because we dont find it anywhere else in the Bible. Some scholars think Paul  made up the word. Others have concluded that since, malakoi meant the younger submissive male sexual partner, then the other must be the older dominant sexual partner. It was common in Greek society at that time that older wealthier men, would take over under their care a younger man with the permission of their father, for the purposes of teaching mentoring and friendships. Part of the relationship included education, part of the relationship included learning how to be a greek aristocrat, and part of the relationship included sexual favors between the younger and the older male. The younger man was always in the passive role and the older man was always in the  active role. Thus this became common occurrence in Greek society with some philosophers such as Plato even criticising it.

This was also becoming common in Roman societies and by the time paul was writing older rich men were going out in search of younger slave men, or poor greek men in order to have a sexual partner on the side. So when Paul writes about same sex relationships, he’s not thinking of orientation, or a loving relationship between a man and a man, he’s not thinking of an intimate committed relationship, instead he’s having in mind younger men pursuing sex education with older men.

Let’s look at one final texts that has been used to condemn homosexuality:

Romans 1:26-27- For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Paul is here talking about Gentile idolatry. They worshipped their own sense of pleasure: sex included. And so  back then they worshiped aphrodite and venus, the Greek Gods of love,and they would go into temples and participate in debaucherous sex rituals, and the philosophy of the day was that what we ought to worship is our own sense of pleasure. And as such people did whatever felt good to them sexually,and for some it meant leaving their marriages and having sex with whoever they pleased. Paul makes the point that this is not how God called us to live. But the text is rooted in idolatry, dealing with sexual sin to fulfil one’s pleasure above all else and that’s what Paul is condemning in Romans 1.

Now those are the 5 verses in the Bible on Homosexuality. Jesus doesn’t say anything about it. The Old Testament does not refer to it anywhere else. The New Testament  is not concerned about it. The Bible does not name homosexual relationships as sinful. Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit. The truth is there are so many loving, caring, and hospitable christians who are gay and lesbians. Furthermore, he said, it is those things which come out of a man which makes him sinful (Mat 15:18-20). Homosexuality is not one of the things he mentioned that make a man sinful.

The christian church has unfairly raised issues that have to do with sexual orientation as the worse offence than anything in the Bible. The Bible only speaks about it 5 times, they talk about it all the time. The violent protest that some christians show against homosexuals show an anxiety and a fear that betrays anything in the Bible. It has even led some to believe that the world is coming to an end. Well, the world will end, since everything  that has a beginning also  has an end, but not because of homosexuality. As humans we are naturally scared of that which we don’t understand. and as such I would invite you to broaden your knowledge and understandin on homosexuality.

Christians dont simply speak about sex and sexuality in church. They are largely ignorant about these things. The local church doesn’t even support marriages and families. That is why divorce is rampant within the christian community. And there are so many things heterosexual couples do that are not supported in the bible.There are so many sexual behaviours done by heterosexual couples that can raise the hair off your head. But yet, heterosexual couples like to act as if they are the closest to godliness. They are still a long way to go.

21.5 % of gay and lesbian teenagers have suicidal thoughts compared to 4.2% of straight kids. In religiously conservative areas these numbers are higher. In other words, in places where people go to church more, where they claim they love God more, to follow  the Bible more, are the places where gay and lesbian teenagers are the most oppressed.

But many Christians would claim  that they love the sinner but hate the sin. But they are just fooling themselves. For even the churches that  do preach that homosexuality is a sin are doing nothing to love and support teenagers that are gay or lesbian.Instead we’ve created an environment that is fundamentally hostile to these young people.

The christian church today needs to reanalyse and introspect itself. It has spent too much time analysing the world, and failed to pick  out its own failings. The christian church is out of touch  with reality, and is itself dying a slow death. The christian community need to come with good ideas in terms of how it will support marriages and crumbling families.  It needs to spend less time dismissing, criticising, or hating people. To each and every gay and lesbian person, mother, father, sibling, aunt or uncle of a gay or lesbian person, the ten ton weight of guilt, and sin, and self doubt and condemnation, and fear that you live with, breaks my heart. And the church has perpetrated this. And I feel called to preach what is  true, to create an environment where you all are welcome. Paul spoke of it: where there’s no Jew, Greek, woman man, black or whitte, homosexeual or heterosexual. Where the  only thing that  matters is your love for God. I don’t believe you are inherently sinful because you are attracted to people of the same sex. I don’t believe you are sinful. and you don’t have to feel despair and forever judged for being who you are.

Love
Chris

Gratitude

image Gratitude is a state of Being. It is being grateful for what you have. This post is a follow up from the previous piece on Contentment. When you are content, you become grateful. As such, gratitude is the child of contentment. Contentment is always a giver, discontentment on the other side, always steals from that which you have.

Gratitude is one of things that contentment will freely give you. And then you will naturally exurberate thankfulness, gladness, wholeness, positivity, and so much love for life. Discontent takes all this from you, and leaves you empty, sad, angry, fearful, anxious, depressed and pretty much disliking life.

Gratitude is not having enough. Its turning your attention to that which you have. It is appreciating and acknowledging the presence  of other life forms in your life,  and as soon as you become grateful,  that which was previously not enough, becomes enough. As such, gratitude has a beatiful way of turning that which you have into enough. It wasnt always enough; but when you become grateful of it, it suddenly becomes enough.

Gratitude is an attitude that you carry with you. It isnt so much about mental concepts; it is a quiet recognisition of other life forms around you, whether it be the beautiful nature around you, the loving people in your life, or just the blessed  ability to breath in and out without a pipe hanging in your throat. If you still feel you have nothing to be grateful for, then be grateful for you. Be grateful that you can think that you have nothing to be grateful for, and then that ungratefulness will soon disappear, for it cannot abide so long as you have even one thing to be grateful for, no matter how big or small.

One of the most beautiful things about the attitude of gratefulness is that it always attracts more. Being grateful, makes room for more. When you see the good that is already in your life, there is a tendency for more goodness to  come into your life. And the more you see goodness, the less bad there is. Ive never met anyone that was  grateful and always had less. You see, when you are thankful, there is a tendency for people to want to pour more into your life. If someone is  not thankful for the gift I bestow to them, I naturally tend to withdraw my gifts to that person in the future. But theres nothing like a thankful person to make me wannna give some more. You see thankfulness, invites more. It naturally says I’ve got capacity for more: more love, more friendships, more care, more happiness, more of everything. I naturally tend to show and give more of myself to people that appreciate me. If you dont value my presence, then youll see less of me. The same is true of gratefulness: it is more,and more naturally begets more.

And because gratefulness is a state of awareness, you sometimes need to quiet down the  noise and screams in your mind, and just be still and recognise what you have. Ultimately, you have you, and you are enough. You are lacking nothing to complete you. You are just sufficient and perfect as you are. Yes, the screams in your mind might tell you that you need this or that, that you lack this or that; but you should not take your thoughts seriously. You create your thoughts, you are the one that observes them, you are the thinker behind the thoughts. So you are not subject to and product of your thoughts. You think your thoughts. They dont think you.

So make room each time, to be still, and look, and appreciate what you have. And when you look at everything and appreciate it, you begin to see goodness in everything. You begin to see life for what it is: for life is circular and balanced. Life is enough, and lacking nothing. The good and the bad make up life. Life  is not life without them. And as such  in life, theres nothing like bad times, for life is always balanced. It has night and day, sunlight and rain, winter and summer. Life is complete and in constant peace with whatever is.

It is humans beings that are in constant struggle with what is, and in the process create a lot of anxiety for themselves. Humans want to contol and dominate life, and so they become fearful when theres something they cant manipulate. But life is not about control, ownership and dominion- life is about just  being. And when you are grounded in the present state of being, you are fully alive.

We’ve already dealt with how Jesus showed the disciples that there was nothing that they needed that was outside of them. The disciples presented to him that they had no food. Christ asked them what do they have, deliberately reflecting the question back to them for they thought they had nothing. But Jesus was teaching them that as human beings we always have something, and it is never far away from us. If only we can be still, instead of allowing want and fear to  run us around, we will suddenly realise that we have something.

For in stillness, we always find. Stillness is never without; the reason we are sometimes running around  is because we are afraid. To be still in the midst of chaos takes courage. And so, when one chooses to be still they proclaim to want, that I am not afraid of you, and want ceases to exist, because it can no longer torment whoever is unafraid of it.

Christ then took the five  loaves and two  fish, and then before the sight of everyone, gave thanks. This is the next shift in the text. What is Christ giving thanks for? He is giving thanks for that which is not enough. He is expressing gratitude  for not enough. He is not being thankful for abundance, he is being thankful for the limited. It is easy to be thankful for much, but how many of us can be thankful for little? Instead of being consumed by need, Christ thanked God for what he had. He realised that even though it wasnt enough, it was better than nothing.

He had something and was grateful for the little that he had. Instead of praying  for more, he appreciated the little. Instead of asking for more, he became grateful for the little. Insttead of worring that it wasnt enough, instead of being consumed by insufficiency, he became rooted in the state of having- no matter how little. Until you can be thankful for something that is  not enough, then what you have cannot be multiplied into what is more than enough.

Greed is a human problem that is even visible in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the plentiful fruit bearing plants in the garden- they wanted more.  They werent satisfied with the knowledge they had, they wanted more. And the problem with wanting, is that it is an ever perpetual  system of  servitude. More always wants more,  and theres no end to wanting. As such, then one is doomed to an unending cycle of serving want. Adam and Eve by that one act, exposed themselves to greed, and then fell away from Godliness, for God knows no greed.

Jesus comes and he restores the  order. He becomes thankful  for the little. And he teaches one of the greatest principles in life and growth: thankfulness brings about multiplication. Christ taught us that instead of being consumed by greed, we should be thankful for what we have. When Jesus blessed them, it was only two fish and five loaves. But when he broke it, thats where we lost count.

The implication becomes that the blessing is in the breaking. This ultimately means that, that which refuses to be broken refuses to  be blessed. It is the breaking of life, that produces the blessing of life. Brokenness is not a weakness, brokenness is actually a strength.

There is tremendous power in Brokenness. We shall deal with this theme next time, when we look at what happens to things when you break them. It might be that you yourself, in some part in your life are broken- we’ll take heart soldier: the most blessed people in life have gone through something that broke them. Brokenness is the only means to blessedness.

Are you naturally a grateful person in your daily life? Are there perhaps some things around you and in you that you now realise you should be grateful for? Not being grateful will get you nowhere. Infact, ungratefulness will eat out from  the progress that you now have. Ungratefulness is a thieve, it always takes from you. It takes energy out of you, it takes passion out of  life, it takes joy out of normal activities, and ultimately it will take your life from you.

Ive never seen an ungrateful person, who was always pessimistic, and full of complaits about life have a good circle of friends. This is because negativity and complaining always repels  people.  People want to be around loving, caring,hopeful and grateful individuals. This is because grateful people always have a capacity for more: more love, more friends, more opportunities, more of everything.

With lots of love

Chris

Contentment

image Contentment is a state of being. It is a state of having. Take away the ment from the contentment, and then you are left  with content. It is a present  recognition of what you have, and being grateful for that which you have, for you always have something. When you become grateful, a sense of fullness suddenly attends you, and you realise you are  not  void, empty or lacking. You need nothing that is outside you to complete you, and make you happy. For when you are content, then you are full- you have, you don’t lack, or want. You are at peace with yourself, and you in harmony with wherever the state you are in at the present moment.

Please note that contentment doesn’t mean you don’t have dreams or goals- you have them, they are yours already, and every produce that comes out of them. Contentment is a shift in perception from not having, to having. You don’t have to be comfortable where you are at in life at the present moment,  but you can be content no matter the form life takes. If you cant  be content with little, you wont be content with much. If you cant be happy with little, even abundance won’t do it. If you cant be content with the present stage you are at in life , the next stage wont make you content. And when you become content with the present stage, you suddenly realise the present  stage isn’t as bad as you thought it was. It is the same stage, but your perception of it has changed. You suddenly realise you are not the poor  victim, you are the victor, for in the state of contentment , you always own- you always win.

Discontentment on the other hand, is a state of disharmony, discord and  division. When you are discontent you are divided within yourself. And most of the time, we are divided over material things. Contentment on the other hand, is a state of peace, state of satisfaction, a state of thankfulness. Contentment is a state of divinity, for God is content. And so, to be content is to be like God. Are you ready to be like God? Are you ready to be God? Because that’s who you are, and it’s high time you start acting like one.

Contentment has nothing to do with your situation- but it has everything to  do with your perception of the situation. It is about the inside, not the outside. To be  content says that you are not ruled by what is happening on the outside. You are disciplined and grounded from the inside. Contentment says you have it in you, . You are  the content. You are sufficient- you are complete, and in lack of nothing to complete you. When you are content, you cease to identify with form. 

Contentment says you dont have potential- you are the potential. You dont have gifts, you are the gift. Paul says, “I have learned the secret  of contentment, that whatever state I am in, therewith to  be content”. How to be content in any circumstace is a secret, it is not public knowledge. Not everyone can be content in any circumstance. Paul says he learnt to be content, which means that he wasn’t always content. Particularly, our culture teaches us to always want to have. Popular culture is driven by materiality and consumerism ideologiy. As such, we are always wanting to more, not based on need or utility, but based  on our identification with form.  Paul  learnt to be content, and you can also learn to be content. You can learn the secret to contentment. You can know for sure that you are not lacking- you are abundant. Let me illustrate this truth further by using an example from the teachings of Christ:

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”  “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Beauty  of life lies in problems:  our text begins with a problem, and life is full of problems. One can even say,  it is the problems that make up life. Problems make life interesting, and sometimes  give us things to live for, fight for or even die for. Life would be really boring if it wasnt for problems. We dont usually desire nor welcome the problems of life, but they are inevitable. The best we can do is to expect them, and be friend with them. For life is the sum of problems.

In my free space, I love to watch movies. If I could, I would even make a career out of reviewing movies:) I’ve learnt that all movies regardless of genre, have a similar pattern. The movie usually starts well, and then not too long into the movie, there is suddenly a problem or disturbance that develops. How the main character (s) react to the problem will determine whether the movie will be judged as a good one, or a bad one. If the main character reacts well to the problem, and comes out victorious in the end, then we say it was a good movie.  But if the main character (s) werent well prepared for the problem and didnt react well, or the movie ended abruptly, then it was a bad movie. And so  one can say it is the problem, that suddden shift in the story line, that makes up the movie. The character (s) is born out of the problem or challenge in the movie. So a problem isnt a bad thing after all. Actually when you look at it  correctly, you realise it is an opportunity. If you can only change your perception of what you consider as a problem, you might realise that underneath all that problem, theres a beautiful opportunity.

The problem in our text is that there is no food. The people are hungry, and theres  not enough to feed them.The text begins with a want; there is a perceived lack. There is an apparent need. There is a hunger that needs to be filled. And such, when the disciples encountered the need, they took it to Jesus. What is it in your life that is lacking? We all  have an area in our lives that is hungry, that is in want, that is malnutritioned. But then again, some of us dont even know what we lack. We are indifferent and ignorant to our own insufficiencies. And instead of acknowledging our lack, we’d rather hide it so others wont see that we are lacking. In what area in your life, in your spirituality, in your social responsibilities are you lacking? Do you know yourself enough to understand your insufficiencies? Most of us know our strengths, but are indifferent to our weaknesses. We’d rather act like they dont exist. Most of us are clued up about areas in our lives where we are rich, but blind to areas where we are poor. The text begins from a natural state of lack.

The material world is infinitely limited-Its quite interesting that the people are in the presence of Christ, listening on his teachings, feeding on the bread of heaven;  but still, as if that wasnt enough, there  was a lack. They are not existing in heaven, they are on earth; and earth is a place full of wants. So long as you are on  earth, you will lack something. Lack is part of the material world, and it is always filled with endless limitations. The world of form and matter is always limited, and as such, when you get your identity from the limited matter, you’ll always be limited. The people are well nourished spiritually, but they are starving physically. They are flowing with abundance in one area, and completely deprived in another.

Being well spiritually, but poor physically creates an imbalance. Dont ever get caught up  in the habit of sometimes focusing on the spiritual, and forget the physical. Both the spiritual and the physical, infact matter. A healthy spirit lives in a healthy body; so just as much as  I take care of the spiritual, I also take care of the physical. Focusing on one and forgeting the other is not good- all extremeties are bad. But then again, there are those who focus too much attention on the  body, and forget the spirit. They look after the body, clothe the  body, feed the body, but starve  their spiritual lives. They forget that at the core of who they are, they are spiritual beings, who are having a physical experience. You are not the body, but you are in the body. You are the spirit incarnate. You are formless, limitless, nameless, and timeless. You’ve just temporarily taken the  form of a physical body. But you are beyond form and matter.   

What do you have– when they presented the problem  to Jesus, he asked them, ‘what do you have?’ Jesus is trying to teach them one of the most fundamental truths in life, and that is: the solution to any situation in your life is never far away from you. You are always in direct possession of the solution to any problem in your life. It is never outside of you; it is in you and with you. All it  takes is for you to realise what you have. You are not just a passive  victim to life’s circumstances.  You are empowered to act, to react, and to change. Jesus asks them a somewhat obvious question, ‘what do you have?’

You sometimes got to realise that you have; you have some content. You have in you and with you.What do you have around you?You have something already that can help you adress the  situation. You just need to come to a consciousness of what you have. This is the same seemingly obvious question that God asked Moses, ‘whats in your hand?’ When  God asks an obvious question, he already knows the answer. As such the question is not for his benefit, but for your benefit.  The question is meant to bring you to a realisation that you are not empty, void and wanting. We all have something. We all have a treasure of gifts that God has laid in us. 

Moses was a shepherd. He probably didnt think himself much, never mind seeing a leader in himself. But what he had in his hand was a staff. Now, his staff signified three things: firstly, it signfied his identity- that he was a shepherd; secondly, it signified his asset- his sheep; and lastly, it signified his influence- that he uses his staff to direct, and rescue the sheep. Somehow, no matter how lacking we might think ourselves to be, we all have roles, assets and influences. What are you doing with your roles, assets and influence?

From needing to having– Significance comes when you realise what you have. We all have something to give, because we all own something. The greatest lie is that you dont have. So Jesus takes the disciples from a standpoint of needing, to a standpoint of having. From a needing mentality, he brings them to a having mentality. What would you say if i told you that whatever you need, you already have it? Peter says, God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have what we need. We wouldnt need it if we didnt have it. The very fact that that we are cognizant of of its need, means that we have the potential to fill that need. We have it, but in a different form.

This comes from the understanding that you cannot be cognizant of that which you are void of the utility to reach. If you can need it, you can have it. Infact, you have it, before you can even need it. If you capable enough to need it, then you are capable enough to have it. So your goal is not to need, but to have. You need to come to a point of having, and be less needing. Needing implies lack. It implies you are not enough. This violates your divine identity. It divides you and makes you less than you are. Whatever it is that you need then becomes greater than you. When you dont need it, then you are greater than it.

When God created Adam, he had no need. He was complete. Need comes from our fallen state of being. In your natural state, you are needless. You are God. And God needs nothing  that he doesnt already have. Neediness creates anxiety, stress, worry, and depression. Neediness creates all forms of psychological pain and suffering. Neediness creates an inferiority complex. Whatever it is that you need begins to own you, and you begin to become its servant. It is servanthood that is always in a state of need. Masters need nothing; they dont even need the servant, for they can easily get another servant. But the servant needs the  master. So which one will you be, a needing servant or a having  master? And what is fascinating is that, the more you need whatever it is you think you need, the more it has its hold on you. If you need it, then you are slave to it. You will tire yourself out to get it; you’ll betray and backstab to get it; you’ll break relationships and trusts to achieve it. Neediness makes room for  corruption. Neediness is dangerous, because it comes from a place of emptyness and desperation.

Neediness is a violation of your divine identity. Adam and Eve needed nothing, for they had everything. They were created to have, not to need. But the serpent came in and planted neediness in their hearts. He told them that they were not enough; that they were lacking. He told them that God did not want them to be like him, that it is by needing the fruit of the tree that they will be complete, like God. But they were already like God; the serpent implied to them that they were not yet sufficient, that they were lacking. And from the lack that he fashioned, he offered them a solution: ‘eat of the fruit, and then you’ll be like God’. But needing only bred more need,for theres no end to needing. It is a devious cycle that will ultimately consume its subject. But Adam and Eve did not have to need to be like God. For they were  already like God. They were created in the image and likeness of God. So need made them violate their divine identity. By having need, and being controlled by that need, they fell from their Godly identity. For God cannot need.

So today we are living in that Godless state, of being dominated by need. We have less than we need and sometimes we need less than we have. This creates an imbalance. Particularly because we need for the sole purpose of needing. When we dont know what we need, or even what  we need it for; we just  know that we need it. Our lives are then driven by human needs; and we have no means of fulfilling that need because need never ends, and  we were  not created to need. We were supposed to seek God, and have all things. Instead, we need all things, and have not God.

If only we could seek God, and when we find him, we would find ourselves. For God, is who we are. When we find God, all need disappears, for in God there is no need. But one can ask, ‘how can you need God, when he is all there is to need?’ In the end, when we seek God, it is the end  of all need. When we need God (in the sense of choosing him) we cease to need. For God and need are totally opposed  to each other. God is complete, whole, abundant, God is all in all. God needs nothing to fulfil  God. God is that which is God.

So Christ is bringing them from a human identity, into a God identity. They are not supposed to need. They are supposed to have. He wants them to realise that they already have it even before they even need it. It is a paradox- Jesus is saying to them ‘you are needing that which you are already having’. So ask yourself, what do you have? Notice that Jesus did not give them anything. They were expecting to get something out of Jesus, that  explains why they brought the need to Jesus. Jesus says to them, ‘I am not going to give you anything that you dont already have’. What do you have? Greatness lies at the realisation of what you have. Greatthings happen when you move from a state of neediness to a state of havingness. Everything you already need is already provided for. You have it. When you dont know what you have, you cannot multiply what you dont recognise.

Provision out of unexpected places-  yet there was a boy. What is quite ironic is that they did not count the women and children, and yet what they needed came out of whom they did not count. Sometimes what we need can come out of places we never counted. It can come forth from areas we despised, from resources we overlooked. And so the boy had five loaves and two fish, and the 5,000 men were made to sit down and organised in groups of 50. This must have took a while for such a large group  of people. But sometimes in order to bring about what we need in our lives, we’ve got to put in place some order, some organisation, and some discipline.

What this means is that the fulfillment of the perceived need is going to take while. It is true that the people are hungry, and a microwave meal will do; but the best meals usually take some time. The fast meal that will decrease your life and killl you before your time dont require  time. But meals that are full of goodness and health, and that’ll give us good long life take a while. And so Jesus puts some order into place. And when there was order and structure in place, and those who were previously not counted are now counted, he took the meal and blessed it.

We’ll look some more into what happened after he blessed the meal in the next chapter, when we look at gratitude. Gratiitude is the child of contentment, when you accept what you have, you suddenly overflow with thankfulness. The reason you not thankful now, is because you are not yet content. You are caught in the illusory world of wishful thinking. You wish you had this or that, you wish you were  here or there, you wish you were doing this or that; as a result of this, you dislike the present situation. You are not at peace with the present moment. The present moment then fights you back, and you are caught in this back and forth tug of war.

If only you could relinquish this warfare, this wishful thinking, this need to  have. Yes, you  can wish for things, and not let wish be your master. But this takes a knowledge of who you are and what you have. The need to have comes from a very unpleasant part in human beings: the need to dominate, the  need to control, the need to acquire, the need to own, and the need to ultimately conquer. It comes from our survivalist instincts- that the worlds resources are limited and so we must own and take over wherever and whenever we can. But this is not so.  Life is abundant. Theres more than enough for all of us. And what you need unfortunately, does not need you. It has an owner wherever it is, and it just keeps changing  owners. It understands it was meant to be used, not to be needed.

You can be  free from need, provided you have the right mindset.You dont have to try to be free from need. If you are trying, then you are doing it all wrong. Your goal is to find what you have. And ultimately, what you have is you, and you are complete. You are the  source that creates everything. You are wholeness. Cultivate that you, for ultimately, it is your identity. None of us is ever completely free, until we free from need. For so long as we have need, we are not ourselves.

With lots of love
Chris

When I Became a Man

tumblr_nby9v14Ss81qbrhrwo1_r1_1280When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

There comes a time in one’s life when ones got to up their game. Life is growth, change, and development and sometimes if you are not careful, life can move faster than your development. This simply means that you can be a 40 year old with the mind, speech and understanding of an 18 year old. The reality of life is that you can sometimes develop in one area, and be completely underdeveloped in another. You can be mature in one area, and be completely immature in another. You can be strong in one area, and be utterly weak in another. Contradictions exist in all forms of life. I’ve known persons that were intellectually sound and scholarly present, but romantically weak and lost. One person can be a good mother, but a terrible daughter. That’s the nature of life in all its contradictions.

May I make it clear that the text is not about gender.  It is rather about maturity, growth and development. The text lends itself to a scenery of growing up, when a line of demarcation is drawn- between childhood and manhood. When one realizes that they are now grown up enough to be a man, and no longer a child. But when does this transition occur? At what age does one cease to be a child and becomes a man? Is it at the age of 12, 18, 21, 30, or 40? Many religious and cultural practices have put forth different ages in one’s life when this transition actually occurs. But it is clear from our text that no precise date or time is mentioned at which one becomes a man. It is somewhat presented as a process, rather than an ideal destination. It is the constant process of putting away childish things.

Paul says, at one level in my life, I spoke like what I was. I thought like what I was. I understood like what I was. And because I spoke, thought and understood as a child, it was fine to be a child. Because after all, that’s what I was. But then, I looked around and realized that my situation had far exceeded my system. My circumstance had outgrown my system. The way I speak, think and understand was no longer in sync with what I was. I suddenly realized, I had an outdated system.

We all function based on our system. And it is precisely the nature of this system that distinguishes the man from the boys. How you speak, think and understand tells me your system- whether it is one of a child or of a man. This is because you can’t speak any better than you know, you can’t understand any better than what you are exposed to, and you can’t act any better than you think. This means that if I am to transition from boyhood to manhood, I’ve got change the way I speak, think and understand.

Paul says, I became a man, but I still had some childish things that I needed to put away. In other words, he realized his body had outgrown his system. And so now, here he is, a full grown man, with some boyish issues. Before going any further, let me ask this question: have you outgrown your system? Has everything around you changed to such an extent that your world has outgrown your system? Has your outdated system rendered you irrelevant to yourself?

As I was writing this message, I received a notification from Google Play, notifying me that a new version of What’s App was available.  I tried to open up my old Whats App but I couldn’t because it kept prompting me that I need to update it. This made me realize that unless I update my system I will not be able to take optimum advantage of this cost-friendly communication application, which is Whats app.

To understand you, you’ve got to investigate your system. To know you, I need to know your system. Your system tells me who you are. How you speak, think and understand- this is you. There’s no need to mention looks, actions, and sounds. This immediately lets us know that manhood is not about looks. You can look like it, but not be it. You can sound it but not be it. You can equally pretend to be it, but not be it.

The first indicator of your system is your speech- the way you speak, tells others who you are. You speak to the outside world what you are on the inside. You cannot speak that which is not in you. A salt river cannot bring forth sweet water. You are a direct production of what you are. The second indicator is understanding- we can read the same book, watch the same movie, but understand it differently. Our level of understanding is related to our level of maturity.

Relationships are relationships, marriage is marriage for everyone. But they differ in their outcomes, because of different understandings of them. Family is family, we understand it differently, thus benefit differently from it. God is the same but we understand him differently. Life is the same, but we understand it differently. It is ultimately our understanding that determines to what extent we can reap out of it.

And lastly, our understanding is a product of our thoughts. How I come to understand something is influenced by my thoughts of it. For instance, if my understanding of God is that he’s an angry vindictive being, then my thoughts of him is that he desires to punish me. If I understand or perceive him as loving, then my thoughts of him towards me also change. As such then, God becomes a creation of our thoughts and understanding; the same is true with life and everything else.

He doesn’t say I looked like a child- you don’t have to look like a child to be a child. Our generation is concerned with looks- looking like something whereas you are in reality not it. Some people will invest in looking rich, and buy the symbols of wealth, but knowing that they themselves are not rich. It is possible to look rich, but be utterly poor.

But our generation tends to pay less attention on how we speak, understand and think. If how you look on the outside, doesn’t come from a place of being on the inside, then the looks are of no real value. You can look pretty, but if you don’t think you are pretty, no matter how many people tell you how pretty you are, you won’t believe it. On the other hand, someone can look cosmetically different, that is to say ugly, but if they believe they are pretty, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks J

So, it is not about how you look. It is about how you speak, think and understand. Stop spending too much attention on how you look. What’s keeping you behind is your system- how you think, conceptualize and understand. The more you deal with the immature inner life, the more it will catch up with the mature outer life.

I’ve many ladies and men who were mature on the outside, but immature on the inside. I was a conversation with one man, his name is John whilst I was doing a visit with him at one of his homes. John told me he has six concubines besides his wedded wife and he has all in all thirteen children. He informed me that he is a man, and he is got too much love for one woman. Whereas it is not my place to pronounce whether his choice of lifestyle is right or wrong, what I know is, he’s spending too much on maintenance of these women and child support.  It is also possible that they don’t care about him, but only interested in his providence. This is valuable funds and important time that he could be spending with his wife (whom he told me he’s quite comfortable with) and children. If he feels he has surplus, he could perhaps spend them best spoiling his wife and children, instead of going outside his home to attract unnecessary diseases that will torment his family.

John is an example of a man who’s fully mature on the outside, but immature on the inside. He reacts to stimulus like a child, he has a child’s understanding, and he rationalizes like a child. The problem is, John is a grown up man. You see, when you are a child, it is okay to speak, understand and think like a child. The condition is problematized by the inclusion of the conjoiner ‘but’: but when I became a man, It was no longer cool for me to have a childish system.

I used to interpret the text that manhood occurs when one puts away childish things. But Paul says, I didn’t become a man because I had put them away. On the contrary, I became a man first, and then put away childish things. I became a man and still had a childish system that needed to be put away. Because what was appropriate at one point in my life, is no longer appropriate. I had outgrown how I spoke, thought and understood.

Quite interesting, the system did not just leave. He had to put it away. Put away, in the Greek does not have the connotation of annihilating something.  It is put away, it is not destroyed. Putting away means that my relation to it is such that its functionality is severely severed, but it still exists. It is still there, and I can occasionally reach back for it. But unless I put it away, it will put me away. It will hinder my growth, progress and well-being.

But in order to put it away, you’ve got to be aware of it. You cannot put away that which you are ignorant of. Most of us do not want to face and acknowledge our childish sides. We don’t have the humility that only self-introspection brings, to see that we have a childish system. But we have to leg of that childish system. Hiding it won’t do, masquerading it won’t suffice. You can only act grown up for quite a while, but after a while all pretense has to come to an end.

The beautiful thing is, you can change how you think, speak and understand. You can change your perception of life, relationships, family, God; you can even change perceptions of yourself. You can up your game. You can evolve. You can leave some stuff behind.

What are some of the things that you need to change, or uninstall, and let go of? You have to put them away before they put you away. Your maturity hangs in the balance.

Love

Chris

The Misunderstood God

Antecedent to ones professed belief in the divine, the inaugural question is: which God does one profess allegiance to. One of the hazards of organised religion, is a god manufactured after man’s likeness. This god is true to human’s emotional capabilities and understanding of love and life. This God is a master, a lord, a creator, a worship seeking, commitment demanding, money hungry God. This God however, is a detrimental God and leaves whosoever subscribes to them fragmented, empty and completely disempowered.

So then, the initial question  becomes who is  God. The deliberate attempt to avade the risk of a misunderstood divinity is for us to ask the often unentertained but fundamental question of the person and constituency of God. There are things we think God is, and things he’s not. There are ways in which we have been socialised  to picture God and relate to him. Many of us when we refer to God we think of a being- A super being; a person like being. Separate from the universe but related to it. All powerful, all knowing, loving. Authority figure. Law giver, who loves us. Occasionally intervenes in lives. This is sometimes referred to as Supernatural theism- God is a being. This understanding of God bears fear.

And still others understand God as- the encompassing reality, or spirit. But not something separate from the world, but within which the world is infused. It is the comprehension that we are in God like the fish is in the water. As the writer of Acts writes, “in him we live, move and have our being”.

But to wholly identity God we have to know what he is like; what are his characteristics. Generally two interpretations emerge:  Some see God as punitive- even though he is love, we cannot take his love for granted. If we don’t obey he punishes us. Again this legitimizes and necessitates the need for fear. Still God is seen as gracious, compassionate, loving and caring. This conceives a loving relation, one based on affectionate emotions between one and the divine.

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

The passage above is known as the ‘Lord’s prayer’. It was taught by the Christ at the request of his disciples. But I believe this text has more to do with the identity of the divine and how we ought to relate to him than a simple prayer. I believe the text can aid us in unlimited ways to unearth the nature and constituency of God. How we understand God, determines how we relate to him. This relation thereafter shapes our lives- our lived reality. An erroneous interpretation of this passage, creates a religious system that creates empty, sheepish, fearful slaves. One only needs to look around them, and observe how organised religion has created an oppressive dominant God, and oppressed enslaved human beings- but no full humans.

What has been christened the ‘Lord’s prayer’ I suppose is not so much a prayer but an ascribed ideological system. It hits at the root of everything weve come to be taught and indoctrinated about both God and prayer. God has been limited to some self-seeking, never pleased, difficult deity who does not accept you unless you are a ‘good boy’ and not rebellious like the rest.

Having been discipled by the Christ; having walked with him, fully convinced themselves that they were of him and he of them. The disciples present themselves to inquire as to a penitent issue in their hearts. They recognized a seeming fragmentation. There’s something that they recognized themselves not to fully understand and thus not appreciate. It is in this state of insufficiency and humility that they approach the Christ and ask him to teach them how to ‘pray’.

But these are religious men. Weren’t they Jews, didn’t they already know how to pray?  They must most have been in the Jewish synagogues, and other religious temples where prayer is practised. So why is it, that they present themselves to be taught prayer by the Christ as if they knew not how?

Now the fact that they are asking to be taught means that they recognized a gap. They recognize that what they know might not be conclusive- it is definitely not all there is to know. Asking to be taught means that they have questioned their prior learning and found it lacking. They must have when observing how the Christ goes about prayer and how they ‘pray’ a distinct dissimilarity. And as such they humble themselves enough to present themselves to be, not ‘retaught’, but to be taught anew how to pray. It is as if they have never prayed before.

Now the reality that they are question their prior understanding of prayer, does not signify that it was wrong or erroneous. It could well be that they realised their prior teaching was not essentially wrong, but incomplete. Something definitely prompted them to ask the Christ to teach them how to pray. I submit to you, the disciples did not know how to pray.

How many a Christian person are willing to question the doxology of their religion? How many are willing to subject their held belief system to scrutiny and radical judgement, and when having proved inadequate proceed to embrace an alternative or accessory conviction? How many are open to question the etiquette of their religious practises and expose them to the light of undefiled scripture, not even to change ideological subscription but test the legitimacy and sensibility of their beliefs?

The truth is, not many are open to any form of questioning, objecting, criticising and rationalising in any form or extent their religious convictions. This is the fruit of prominent teachings within the Christian realm that God despises questioning; that to ask questions is to imply doubt and God hates doubt. This is the result of years of religious indoctrination that faith is the absence of rational and by its nature irrational; that the very reason for the fall of mankind is because the first human species questioned and challenged the initial command by God not to eat of the forbidden fruit, and thus their untamed curiosity resulted in the fall of man.

But I propose that scripture can be questioned. I believe God is not afraid nor threatened when we ask questions. I am convinced divinity cannot be so weak and fragile and avoids any form of scrutiny and rational judgement. One is doomed to death and stagnation when they cease to question their previous subscribed idealizations. Growth, progress and maturity is only realised when one asks, questions, seeks, and searches a heightened level of understanding and discernment- Not when one has succeeded to convince themselves that they have found and there’s nothing remains for discovery.

Every progress in human civilisation has been as a result of man recognising the inadequacy of the former position- and then seeks ways for improvement and betterment. There was a time when people believed the world was flat; it was only when the original assumption was questioned and proved to be incorrect that a new understanding and thus progress emerged. There was an epoch when men believed the rain are teardrops that result from God’s weeping face; further study and inquiry proved this notion to be untrue, and offered new evidence as to the dynamics of weather and rainfall. There was a time when the world believed ones skin colour is reflective of their genetic and reproductive superiority or inferiority. This went further to suggest that the white race had superior mental faculties and the darker races animalistic and mentally inferior. Added to this were the biblical stories that the black race came from the cursed Ham and the white race from the blessed Japheth. But it only took deeper scrutiny and rational judgement of these diabolic assumptions that a new understanding as to the organization of society emerged- one that seeks to be egalitarian and non- racial, although this still remains to be an ideal than the apparent reality.

This is true of every field of study, whether it be science, technology, philosophy, medicine, art and as such religion cannot be exempt. The death of religious progress results when religion has convinced itself that it has all the answers to everything and nothing more remains to be discovered, learnt and adopted. Creativity and development reaches an eternal plateau and regression and rigidity becomes  natural reality.  Robust debates die out.

In the prayer, Jesus stated that those who call on the Father, will be heard of him. The challenge is, which God are people calling. He has an identity, a name. The second line of the prayer states – “Hallow be Thy name”. Which name is this that a lot haven’t bothered to seek. Maybe that’s why some prayers go unanwered. But which God are people calling upon. For me, this is more important than just believing that the is a God.

It is clear from the prayer that the Christ calls us into a relationship with the transcendent. He refers to God as the father. He relates to him in a personal, intimate manner. He ascribes personage and relation to divinity. Now if God is a person, then why are our prayers impersonal? If we have a personal relationship with him, then why do we refer to him as God, master, creator? Our understanding of God determines our relation to him. If then he is our master and Guardian, what manner of relationship does this foster?

Our heavenly father implies an intimate relationship. Many people simply need to begin by looking at prayer completely different from the way they learned in church. This is the point where your idea of prayer must go from the awful religious mentality of “getting answers” to simply “finding intimacy.” Anything less than that is a waste of time.”

Prayer is a relationship; it is a conversation. Prayer is communication with the divine; it is heavily personal. Some have rather demeaned prayer to a method to get their desires and wants met; a simplified formula to be conjured to manipulate God to give you what you want. That is why you would hear others say, “prayer works”. Some describe prayer as a tool, like a screwdriver. What a horrible picture of the beauty of prayer! While it’s okay to discuss our needs with God and to even ask him for the things we need, if getting answers is all that we care about, then we’ve totally missed the purpose and the beauty of prayer.

Prayer is conversation, a sharing of our heart with God as he shares his heart with us. Anything else cheapens prayer and is a waste of time. How would you feel if you were in a relationship with somebody, and every time they you converge they insist on doing the talking and listing all sorts of demands? The more they do it, the less likely you would want to continue in the relationship. I submit this is also true of divinity.

For many prayer is a way to manipulate God to give them what they want. They don’t know him and thus they cant be in a relationship with him.  Religion has taught us to fear God, but fear breeds distance and dread; thus they pray to him and not with him. They fail to appreciate that prayer is a conversation- A dialogue not a monologue. Everything about God is all about intimacy.

True prayer flows from the heart. Prayer lists, all night prayers, prayer groups, & prayer chains fall short of this rudimentary understanding. Instead of prayer flowing freely from a loving heart, it becomes just a moment to mouth words which are rarely a channel of love reaching out to the other person’s heart. However, when we love, prayer is no longer a chore but a joy and every thought we have regarding that person becomes a prayer.

Many people simply need to begin by looking at prayer completely different from the way they learned in church. This is the point where your idea of prayer must go from the awful religious mentality of “getting answers” to simply “finding intimacy.” Anything less than that is a waste of time. I hear Christians saying things like “Prayer works.” If you really think about this statement, I think you’ll be left asking yourself the same question I’m left asking myself every time I hear it. What the heck IS it saying? It seems that rather than experiencing genuine intimacy with our Father, we’ve taken the very avenue through which that intimacy is expressed and we have labeled it as being nothing more than a machine. Works for what? That’s not even something that can be said about prayer. Prayer isn’t there to “work”. Once again we are saying the wrong things, proving that we don’t get what prayer is for.

Quite interesting enough, the first words that came from the mouth of the Christ when describing God is that he is our father. He would have said when you pray say, “our God who is in heaven”. But he deliberately chose that we should understand, adress and relate to God as our Father.

Of course he is God; but he wants you to see him as a father. He says “I’d rather have you relate to me as your father than as your God. Some might regard me as the creator, but I am happy when you are able to know me as your father. At the very rudiment of your understanding of me, is that I am your father.”

He is not an abusive father or a paranoid leader. But the Christianity has given us, a God who is unsatisfied with us until we behave perfectly. We learn about a God who expects us to obey and worship Him even if our heart isn’t in it, a God who uses guilt to makes us behave better, a God who doesn’t want us to shine too brightly, because it will make us proud and draw attention away from Him, a God who will not bless you unless you give yourself and your money to Him, and a God who needs to micromanage every detail of your life.

This God has immature emotions, feeds on prejudice, demands immoral acts, puts up an amazing and dangerous fuss when ignored; threatens those of different opinion or nations of a different God, and generally delights in recognition and praise. It is hard not to see the Christian God as a complex of emotions not often guided by compassion.

Sadly, the gospel message has been affected by this way of thinking. “God loves you; come to Him,” has been turned into, “Jesus got a major beating that was meant for you, so come to Him”. The message is that we owe God, that he wants us to pay because Jesus took a beating for us. This breeds a compelled in-genuine relationship, and certainly one not flowing from love.

But from the perspective that if God is love, and love is patient, kind, etc., then God must have these qualities. Love is incapable of holding grudge; love does not create hell. Christianity is more about “reward and punishment” and  uses fear as a tool to motivate Christians into a loving relationship with God. The God of Christianity is absent and aloof, he is distant and hard to please; hes more like a cosmic vending machine.

Our understanding of love is so upside down that we’ve actually given Him the personality and characteristics of the devil.

We tell others that we want to be “used by God” as if love ever uses people. We boast of our “commitment to Christ” as if the substance of love consisted of making promises. We testify that God has sent us into the wilderness or made us sick to teach us things as if God would ever do such things.

When we say that God wants to “use us” in some way to further His purposes, we are truly saying an awful thing about His heart…The gifts He has given you are never to be used at your expense. He does not want you to be used by anyone, and He will never use you. Your gifts were given to you for the purpose of bringing joy to your life, not for the purpose of serving Him or furthering His cause. Your happiness is His cause

He does not want you to be used by anyone, and He would never use you. Your gifts were given to you for the purpose of bringing joy to your life, not for the purpose of serving Him or furthering His cause.… He wants people to think highly of and respect you. He loves it when folks are drawn to you and when they are amazed at how gifted you are… Christians today have been trained to purposefully cover their light, rather than let them shine for all to see, for fear that God might get angry at how bright they are. How crazy is that?…

His purpose is for us to be His sons and daughters, and out of those relationships, we become the message.… What is the one thing all good parents want for their children? They want them to enjoy life.… God’s love is not concerned with what He can get; He’s concerned with what He can give.

Whatever we believe about love, we believe about God. God is love. If your definition of love has been filtered through our fallenness and twisted by religion, you will inevitably end up with a screwy picture of God. This is the chief reason why so many people who claim to know God are miserable. They have been told that God values us as servants and that He relates to us as a general relates to a soldier. “Relationship” for them is not about enjoying life together but following orders.

Organised religion has taught us that we must love God more than we love people. I am always mystified when I hear people boastfully say, “I love God more than my wife.” The only way to love God more than your spouse is to love God through your spouse. Your husband or wife would be the direct recipient of the love.… The God who is love loves it when we love.… God is never in competition with your love for people! Any time you love a person, you are not far from God.

Then there are those who love their family too little, possibly because they believe that family distracts from some higher calling, such as ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth: Your love for people is the evidence that God is living inside you.… It shocks me to see so many people who honestly believe that God desires a separate and secret relationship with them aside from their family members. Many men will lock themselves in their prayer closets while their wives are in another room watching the kids alone. I call this adultery.

I know pastors who spend six hours a day reading and studying their Bibles.… But when it comes to people, they’re indifferent. They could take them or leave them. These men think they know God’s heart because they have read and studied his book and spent hours in prayer, but what they don’t know is that they’re being grossly deceived. They don’t know Him from Adam! I also know people who read their Bibles about five minutes a week and pray even less. They secretly kick themselves for it, and they’re afraid to approach God because their religion has made them so aware of their sin. However, they happen to love people with all their hearts. These folks have an intimacy with God that’s irreplaceable. They know Him fully because they love and know his children.

Organised religion has sold us a bunch of lies about the love of God. God never envies anyone or anything. He never desires to take for Himself what others have. Instead, He longs to give away all He has… He keeps no record of the wrong things you’ve done because He refuses to call you by the name of your past… God always perseveres, proving He is who He claims to be. He stands through the storm and walks through the fire simply to express His love for you. He will never fail you, never fall short, never fall out of love, because He’s made of love, the very source of it all.

Paul famously prayed that we would know the measureless love of God, for it’s in knowing His love that we truly live. So how do we come to know His love? God’s love is experienced in loving people. When you truly love someone unconditionally… that flame of love inside your heart is God. So the love of God is experienced in loving people, but the love for people only comes when you already know the love of God, that God loves you unconditionally.

Organised religion has taught us that God wants us to be less so he can be more. That God is happy when we debase ourselves and regard ourselves as utter nothingness. You’ll hear many Christians pray “Lord, I want to do whatever pleases you. I want to decrease; you must increase”.

Imagine if you married someone who spoke like that. “I want to do whatever you want to do dear. It’s not about me, it’s all about you”. That would be fun for about a week. “I just want to be used by you. I just want others to know how much I am committed to you” but after a while it begins to be a serious mental illness.

The notion that God would have us put ourselves down to make Him bigger is completely wrong. In fact, from His perspective, it’s heartbreaking. You’ll hear this taking place in worship services across the country. How many of us believe He gets a rise out of our demeaning ourselves? Who do we think He is? What father enjoys this? We’re literally telling Him that what Jesus accomplished on the cross wasn’t worth spit. We didn’t get it; we’re still scum. We deny the very righteousness He freely gave us and choose to proclaim its ineffectiveness in our lives. And we do it in a sense of worship, no less. This is catastrophic! Believe it or not, when you reject someone’s compliment and “give God all the glory,” He doesn’t receive an ounce of glory.… God’s heart desires that all his glory be upon his children. He is not in competition with us; He is our greatest promoter.

We say things like “God wants you to give Him your life,” and it doesn’t even sound bad to us anymore. Over time it actually begins to sound beautiful. We even encourage others to give their lives to Christ because we are certain that this is what God wants. Christ came that you may have life and have it more abundantly. He never asks you to give him your life. It’s your heart He is after. Only an envious God would give you life and then require you to give it back to him. He gave it to you, and He wants you to enjoy it to the fullest. God never envies anyone or anything. He never desires to take for Himself what others have. Instead, He longs to give away all He has, and He’s never tempted to take things back because He didn’t get enough attention.

Our emotional, spiritual and mental health is directly tied to our view of God. Faulty assumptions about God will sabotage your heart and life. Teachings about an angry God, who demands perfect submission, who is easily provoked, and has created an everlasting fire to throw all those who differ with him is utterly devilish. Even human beings don’t do that: we don’t tell a person that we love them unconditionally and should they dump us or cheat us we will throw them into a deep fire of hell where they will be tormented forever. Far it be from it that God is anything like that.

Love is not easily provoked, love is not based on immature imotions. Love is not proud. Love does not create hell. Love does not sent anyone to hell. Organised religion has introduced us to the proud God, the offensive God, the needy God, the angry God; He’s never satisfied, He wants all the glory, He likes it when we cut ourselves down, He threatens to kill our children, He wants all our money, and He’d light us on fire and feed us to spiders if we didn’t give it to him.

This God has rescued us from our sins. We are his slaves. We are nothing and useless without him. Many Christians are even proud to proclaim “we are sinners saved by grace”. But God is not even about that. Certainly that’s not how he sees you. The reason Christianity teaches that is because today, it has become a religion about not sinning; good/bad; right/ wrong. But I submit there’s more to God than laws, commandments and churchianity.

Relationship with God to this generation of Christianity is all about reading the Bible, going to church, tormenting each other about thoughts on hell and debasing each other to empty useless servants. But Jesus didn’t even come to recruit servants but to give us abundant life. He says “I have called you to be servants, but friends”.

After preaching a sermon, I would have some brethen approach me to say that was a good sermon. And I would naturally respond by saying “thank you”. And then the brother would respond by saying, “Give God the glory”. In the past I used to feel uncomfortable about this; I didn’t know what to do or say if a fellow believer gives thanks for my sermon. But now I am happy and comfortable to say “thank you”.

This is because I’ve come to know that God is not self-seeking. He is gratified and fulfilled when you are praised and honored. His eyes are always seeking the best for you, and He’s never worried about what He gets in return. He isn’t provoked easily or ever angered beyond His desire for complete love. He’s not “high maintenance,” and He never wants you to walk in fear of offending or hurting Him. He’s happy when we are praised and appreciated by our fellow brethren, because he only wants what is best for us.

Organised religion has also introduced us to the God who induces obedience by blessing us for good deeds and punishing us for bad deeds. But this defiles the nature of God. He is not impressed or more predisposed to bless you because you’ve come so far in your spirituality. He’s proud of you because you are His child. God does not bless us for being good little boys and girls. God blesses us because God blesses. He sends rain to both the righteous and the unrighteous.

God is not even vindictive or vengeful. During the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, it was quite common to hear our nation’s pastors explain that this was a plague sent by God to punish the homosexuals. Every bad thing that happens in this world gets blamed upon God. We truly believe that God has the character and personality of the devil.

God’s vengeance is never on people; it’s on the devil. God does not delight in getting revenge on people, and He never participates in it. God delights in forgiveness. I’ve seen people actually get excited when they think God has gotten back at someone on their behalf.

The purpose of the Old Testament is to point the way to Christ …the church continues to run back to the Old Testament principles…They prefer to embrace the comfortable rules of religion rather than the confusing, difficult freedom of relationship.

Chris Mhlongo, A short piece as preached at Believer’s Meeting (Cape Town, 2014)

The Now

live_in_the_now_inspiration_(4)It is a common thing that most people live in the past and in the future. Particularly if the past has been undesirable, then one focuses their energy on building a better future. But by living in the past or future, we forfeit the now. This is because one cannot be in the past, present and future at the same time. Thus if one’s life is centred on some unknown future, then the present is a struggle to realise a better future.

It would seem as human people we are taught from a young age to look forward to the future. But this is more than the mere visualisation of the future. We are taught to adore the future, to work for the future, to live for the future. Very little emphasis is placed on the present. The consequence of this is that, there’s very little appreciation and regard for the people and experiences we have now. As such, they are only minimised to instruments for the attainment of that envisioned future.

Children are taught to dream; it is common place that many a parent would ask their offspring “what do you want to become when you grow up?” The children on the other hand, are well trained to respond to this type of inquiries. The answer would normally be spelled as “I want to be a doctor/lawyer/accountant and have a nice car/house in a particularised suburb, with two children and a dog”. The well socialised parent would then proceed to smile and congratulate their enlightened offspring on the adoption of this organised acculturation.

The entire livelihood of the child will then be directed at acquiring this ‘vision’. For it is glorified as life; a complete life. The imminent implication is that the present is not enough; it is lacking and thus warrants no pride or indebtedness. Sayings such as ‘life begins at 40’ can often be heard regurgitated among progressive homo sapiens.  The only problem becomes, when the child- now an adult- arrives at this esteemed ‘life’ it in itself is not sufficient; it is lacking.  What had been pedestaled as the ideal future is itself not complete and thus one proceeds to hope for a better future- an ever coming future, for that matter- until they time on earth expires.

But to live in the future is to lose the now. Most people are comfortable spending their whole lives waiting to start living. When we view the future as the ideal, then the now becomes a pain- and we don’t appreciate pain.The present moment is everything you have and will ever have. Everything else is actually a product of the now. As such the primary focus of ones life should be on the now.

The past has happened,and it will never come back. The future is uncertain, and none of us know what tomorrow will bring us. The present moment is all you have. Even when you choose to live in the past, you can only live in the past now; if you visualise the future, you can only do so now. So both the past and the future come in junction now.

When your attention is on the Now, you feel peace and stillness. You no longer depend on the future for fulfilment and satisfaction. You no longer look to the future for salvation. Neither do you become attached to the results. Failure and success has no power over you henceforth. This is of course easier said than done, when you are constantly bombarded with social pressure to glorify the future and shun the past.

But anything we do not appreciate brings us pain. Anything we don’t work with, works against us. Failure to appreciate the now breeds a life of strife, suffering and unsatisfactory. If our entire existence is channelled towards the future, then the now becomes an obstacle that we want to get over to realise the future. Instead of working with the now, we work against the now and jeopardise the future.

There’s absolutely nothing in our lives that is never now. Everything we need and want is in the now- in this present moment. It is not waiting for us in some unknown future. It is only our belief system that tells us we must wait for it in the next moment, or the next dispensation of our lives. But only if one can make a conscious decision to be fully present in the now, then they would realise that their whole life is in the now. Life is now; reality is now; health is now; beauty is now. Anything that does not exist in the now does not in reality exist.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire splendor was dressed like one of these.” If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Based on the above wisdom, why do you suppose that the flowers and the birds are provided for with no effort on their part? Because they don’t have previously established traditional false beliefs that create fear which blocks what has been provided to them as their birth right. They don’t fear or worry that they will go hungry or without clothing.They do not live in the future, but they are fully in the now. They haven’t been taught that they must work long and hard at jobs that are displeasing to have their needs met. They receive effortlessly and continually year after year because they fully appreciate the life that is the now.

Chris Mhlongo, A short Extract, As preached @ Main Church

The Power of Belief

belief

At the genesis of all human actions, reactions, behavior and responses lie a fixed belief system. Beliefs have power to make one or to break them.  What propels us forward in life, or holds us back are our held beliefs. At the heart of everything we do, or fail to do lies either an empowering belief system or a defeating belief system. Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Be careful of what you believe, because it becomes your lived reality.

Beliefs can empower us or cage us forever. There was an elephant at a circus that was chained to a pole as an infant. He tried to break away, but was not strong enough to. Over time, he became monstrous. One day, the circus accidentally went on fire, and the elephant died. He was enormous, and could have easily ripped the pole out of the ground to run away to safety, but there was a self-limiting belief in his mind that told him he would not be able to do it, and so he did not even try.

What you believe shapes who you are as a person, what things come into and out of your life, and affects your overall quality of life. What you observe in the external is sometimes a direct product of the internal belief system. Of course, there are certain occurrences that we have no control over; but there are some manifestations that we architect through our ascribed belief systems.

For instance, if one has trained themselves to believe life is difficult, people will always disappoint you, you have to work very hard to get anywhere in life, being rich is evil- one creates the energy internally that manufactures their outward reality. In this sense therefore, belief is the cause and the manifestation and materialization of the outward reality is the effect. What we believe inwardly reflects outwardly.

A held belief system never leaves one unaffected and untainted. I believe a litmus test of what we truly believe is the way we lead our lives. For instance, one cannot claim to believe in a loving, peaceful, caring, abundant and forgiving God, and yet reflect a life that is stagnant, regressive, negative, fearful, restless, lacking and full of strife and hatred.

Sometimes one has to take a deep look inward to see what beliefs truly drive their lives.  To see which God one truly ‘worships’. There comes times when one has to unreservedly and honestly look at how one lives their life and juxtapose that with what they believe. How we see God, and who we have believed him to be determines our relation to him- either one of enslavement or one of freedom.

There tends to be apparent gaps between what one says they believe, and what they truly believe. For an example if one believes God is with them at all times, and always looks after them, they cannot lead a life full of constant worry, anxiety, panic, and fear. One thing has to be true and the other false. Either one does not really believe in this ‘present, protecting, providing’ God, or this God is not really what he claims to be. It is sometimes possible to claim to believe something, whilst in utter reality one actually believes something else. To judge what one truly believes, examine their very lived life.

Any thought that does not reflect what is (reality) leads to fragmentation and that leads to conflict. Conflict leads to suffering. To believe in something, and not to live it, is utmost dishonesty. For example, let’s say I feel hatred and I want to get rid of it. Getting rid of the hatred is a good thing. But the reality is that the attempt to get rid of the hatred is the source of my suffering- I have fragmented myself. On the other hand let’s say I recognize that I am the hatred (because the observer and the observed are the same thing. Then the conflict ends. The suffering is over.

One cannot experience that which they are internally not. And so to hate, one has to become the hatred. One is hate. Anything you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you. You have to be it first for you to experience it. The problem therefore does not become the hatred but you. Once I have conquered self-hatred, I would have exterminated the hatred I feel for another.

So I should first rather recognise that I am the hatred and then having accepted that reality, hatred will begin to wash through me and pass with less resistance. There is a general principle in life and that is, anything we fight we strengthen and everything we resist persists. So this means as soon as there is any energy of non-acceptance, the thought that something should be changed, we slip into resistance and turn our energy in on ourself – in conflict with ourselves. As soon as we bring in energies of acceptance, allowing, surrender, trust – somehow transformation takes place naturally.

The same is true of wanting but not having. A conflict occurs in the inside which prevents what one wants to manifest in the physical. First of all the fact that you want something implies lack. By wanting a thing means that you don’t have it. That wanting creates a specific emotion within you which emanates energy or a vibration of “I don’t have.” And so inwardly you have convinced yourself and made yourself to believe “I want it” or “I don’t have”. As a result your reality becomes “want” or “not having” because that is precisely what you are broadcasting and “asking” for.

So how can you want it and not have it? When you want something you enter a state of conflict instead of a state of harmony. Wanting creates strife, unhappiness, a state of discontentment, struggle and disappointment. What you want to do is not to want but to have. The first instance is not to believe that you want it, because that implies you are insufficient and lacking. But to believe that you have it. You thus first own it in the spiritual become it manifests in the physical. You recognise that you had it in you even before you thought you wanted it. When you know you have something, the external wanting disappears because we already have it on the inside. Once you have developed the inner knowing it won’t be long until you’re experiencing it in the physical outside.

Jesus says, “Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” He doesn’t say believe that you will have it, or hope that you shall have it, or pray that it shall come to pass. But he says believe it now, in the present; even in its physical absence and the consequence of that is that you shall have it in the physical.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire splendor was dressed like one of these.” If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Based on the above wisdom, why do you suppose that the flowers and the birds are provided for with no effort on their part? Because they don’t have previously established traditional false beliefs that create fear which blocks what has been provided to them as their birth right. They don’t fear or worry that they will go hungry or without clothing. They haven’t been taught that they must work long and hard at jobs that are displeasing to have their needs met. They receive effortlessly and continually year after year because they have no concept of non-belief.

Belief is restrainful; It creates boundaries. It establishes boulders where there were previously none. Your beliefs become your life, your reality, the energy that moves you and sometimes stagnates you. So choose carefully which beliefs you ascribe to. For instance some believe life is meant to be hard, you cannot find a job without a degree, being broke runs in the family,  money is hard to come by, its spiritual to be poor, the lesser you have the more closer to God you are, money is evil; these self-limiting beliefs then become their reality.

Your beliefs become your God. So before you proceed to claim belief in God- which God do you believe in? Which God do you truly worship? When belief in a specific God is truly consolidated, then one claims a state of oneness with the proposed divinity. It is in this oneness that peace, wholeness and harmony becomes a natural reality.

Chris Mhlongo, A Short Extract, As presented at Khayelitsha Church, Cape Town (2014)

Dancing in the Rain

girl-dancing-in-the-rain

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