maandag 29 juli 2013

Ordained or not ordained?

I got a request from a dear sister in Kenya to explain more about lay-missionary work. It is an interesting question especially because the question implies that there are two classes of missionaries: Those ordained to be missionaries and those who are not ordained.  However, personally I do not believe in the concept of lay-mission as this terminology is not found in the word of God. I believe that Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21; Acts 1:8) applies to al disciples of Christ and so every Christian is called to be a faithful witness, a missionary participating with Gods mission of love and salvation to the world. Gods mission to the world started already as soon as Adam sinned and came to a climax when He sent Christ, who provided salvation from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin in our lives through the empowering and sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit. He will one day also save us from the presence of sin at His second coming. He in turn sends us as His followers out into the world to proclaim this Good News of God’s Love and the salvation he offers. This mission will continue until the 2nd coming of Christ when He will restore all things. I do not use the term ‘’lay’’ because I believe in a priesthood of royal priests ordained by God which applies to all those who truly put their faith in Gods Love and the Salvation He offers through Christ and are subsequently born again by His Spirit (1 Peter 2:9-10). They are a people belonging to God with the wonderful task to show their gratitude and love for God by proclaiming His great deeds to a world in need. One does not become part of this priesthood by human ordination ceremonies (which only serve the flesh and the human desire to elevate one person’s position above another). One becomes part of this family, this true church of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). Even though I was ordained and widely recognised as a missionary and servant of God I do not consider it relevant at all. My calling came from God and as His child I am ordained as a royal priest and an ambassador of Christ. It is not about having a position, I simply love to work with my Father in His mission to the world wherever he wants to use me with the gifts, talents, abilities, experience and resources He entrusts to me. I invite you to also take note of your own heavenly ordination and calling and faithfully work with our Father wherever He places you and with whatever He places at your disposal.

donderdag 11 juli 2013

Contemporary Christian Reflection on Authority, The Rule of Law, Divine Privilege & Servant Leadership

Authority, The Rule of Law, Divine Privilege & Servant Leadership
Since Christianity is an invitation to people to become followers of Jesus Christ it promotes a stable and peaceful environment where people are free to choose to follow Christ or not. Christians are therefore encouraged to pray for the government so that they may live peaceful, quiet and godly lives which may attract others to salvation in Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-7). We belong to a heavenly kingdom, a royal priesthood and are a people belonging to God (1 Pet. 2:9). However, we are also aliens and strangers in the world with a divine mandate to live good godly lives (1 Pet. 2:12), being witnesses and ambassadors of Christ, pleading with people to be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:20).

Submission to authority
As ambassadors in a foreign land we are encouraged to submit to every authority, both national and local (1 Pet. 2:13-17). Jesus Christ himself gave us the example in Matthew 22:19-21 where after establishing that it is the image of Ceasar on the coin he proclaims that one should "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's". In other words if you use the system put in place by the authorities you also follow its rules. However, he qualifies this by also stating that we should render unto God what belongs to God.  In so doing Jesus makes it clear that all human beings, by virtue of being the image bearers of God, belong to God and should render their lives to Him. In Romans 13:1-7 the apostle Paul stresses civil obedience to the authorities, including the paying of taxes and revenue, but also the demonstration of due respect and honour. However, when the government in Jerusalem tried to forbid the apostles to speak or teach in the name of Jesus Christ, the apostles Peter and John replied that one should rather obey God than man (Acts 4:18-20). This means that where the demands of the government clearly clash with the demands of God as revealed in the character, life, action and teachings of Christ we are under no obligation to obey such demands.

Disobedience to authority
Every Christian is obliged to obey the laws of the land, unless these laws are in contradiction with the constitution, the supreme law of the land. In that case one may appeal to the higher law to justify not obeying the lesser law. However, a Christian is bound by an even higher constitution than any earthly constitution or international laws or treaties, namely the Law of Christ. If any human-made law, constitution, treaty or regulation, or part thereof is contrary to the Law of Christ, then the contrary part may be disobeyed. This should not be done lightly and only after careful thought and reflection and if there are any ways by which we can obey both the Law of Christ and at the same time the lesser human-made laws, then we ought to pursue this course as part of our witness in the world. If obedience to Gods higher law means we incur persecution we must rejoice in this for in the same way the martyrs of old suffered and received their heavenly reward. But none of us should suffer punishment for breaking the law in any other way, for in breaking it we disobeyed both our earthly and our heavenly leadership. If we conclude that the laws or regulations and requirements in a country, society, corporation, ecclesiastical body or any human organization do not suit our personal preferences we should move to another location with more agreeable laws and regulations.

When in a position of authority
A Christian may end up in a position of earthly authority or someone in earthly authority becoming a Christian.  They need to be reminded that in spite of their exalted position they are still subject to the Law of Christ and all his commandments. Consequently they need to consider how in their position they can best serve Christ, God’s people, the people they have been mandated to rule, and the whole world at large. Particularly for a person in authority with a mandate to rule and serve a defined group of people may lose sight of the fact that as a Christian he/she needs to have a global focus (Matt. 28:18-20).
The statement of Paul in Romans 13:1-7 should not be misconstrued that because all government is instituted by God therefore government or a ruler can do as it sees fit. To the contrary, the ruler is mandated to rule on behalf of God and has the responsibility to promote justice and equality, goodness and well-being for all while suppressing what is evil in society. Regardless of whatever constitution the king or ruler may have sworn allegiance to, he is also bound by the Law of Christ.
In Psalm 72 King David reflects on his kingship in the light of the divine and eternal kingship of God and recognises God as the ultimate law-giver (Ps. 72:1). In the light of Gods law the king must promote justice in society and defend the cause of the weak and the poor and keep oppressors at bay (Ps. 72:2-4). This is as relevant today as it was 1000BC and even if you do not have real power as in the case of a constitutional monarch this does not prevent you from making the above your priority. You can use your God given position to campaign for the cause of the weak, the poor, the needy and the vulnerable.  If God puts you in a position of authority it does not mean you have a Divine right to rule, no, you have been given a Divine privilege to be a servant of all. The Divine King is the prime example of such servanthood as He defends the cause of the poor, vulnerable and oppressed in society (Ps. 72:12-14). For such a ruler people will pray, contribute to, and wish him Gods blessings (Ps. 72:15).

One does not need to be a king or political ruler to apply the above principles because any leader under God is supposed to follow this example, whether in church, business or society.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether you are in a position of authority or not, you have only one Master to whom you are ultimately accountable, for the rest you ought to use your freedom in Him to be the loving servant of all in order to save some (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

Our response and the healing of an abuse victim

The response the victim receives when she/he discloses the abuse either compounds the abuse or contributes to healing; if the victim is met with scepticism, denial and accusations, anger, or no response at all when she/he discloses the abuse she/he has suffered, the effects of the abuse are compounded. It is extremely difficult for an abused person to open up and usually they initially only share a little of their abuse experiences. If this is not met with compassion and genuine care the lack of a support intensifies the abuse and leaves the victim feeling even more lonely, helpless, and unworthy. However, when a disclosure is met with compassion and is followed with effective intervention healing can take place. A caring, loving, nurturing, and listening person in the victim's life lessens the trauma. As Christians we should therefore meet people’s disclosure of abuse and mistreatment not with scepticism, denial or spiritual quick fixes which do not do justice to the magnitude of the problem. Instead we should show genuine love, compassion and care, a listening ear, a helping hand and continuous encouragement so the victim may find the courage to disclose all that has happened and may find deep inner healing. One cannot exorcise painful memories and bad experiences, they need to be confessed, brought out in the open and then the burden should be given over to Christ. It is a painful process and the victim will need genuine love, comfort, patience, encouragement and understanding.

Do not put God or your loved ones to the test

Do not put God or your loved ones love to the test because they will ultimately fail if you are the one setting the standard. I know of a poor woman who was so afraid and insecure about herself that she could never really believe God loved her. She felt so unworthy and dirty because of all the things which were done to her and the things she did herself and the things she allowed to happen. Consequently she started doubting that her husband of many years really loved her.. Over the years hear fears and doubts gave rise to paranoia and she started to believe more and more that her husband's love for her wasn't real and that he was unfaithful to her. Partially this was fuelled by her unfaithfulness to him, but mostly because she believed that the woman her husband loved was her fake self and not who she truly was. Unfortunately she did not give her husband enough credit. He was very much aware of her darker side but was willing to live with it because he loved her dearly. Like a teenager stretching the love of her parents to the limit she stretched his love to the limit. She became increasingly less understanding and more and more accusative, uncouth, humiliating, aggressive, harsh, uncaring and so on. She became also more and more convinced her husband must be having an affair, how else can he be so happy and content while living with such an unworthy wife. She never understood that his happiness came from within his own heart and was inspired by his fait, his gentle and loving nature and his love for people including her. In the end the poor woman run away and divorced him as she assumed he did not truly love her and was going to abandon her one day.

woensdag 10 juli 2013

I abused my husband and children

I abused my husband and children

My mother was typical of women who abuse their husbands and children: Growing up- nobody in the family could do right. No one was allowed to have their own opinion and we never afforded space or privacy. The silent treatment, verbal and physical assaults were her "right" because of how we "behaved," or because of her own troubled past. It was never her responsibility or fault.  Then of course there was the denial that she did any of it after. Some things were denied totally, for others she made excuses and where denial was totally impossible a lame and insincere sorry was all I got. Unfortunately I took those behaviors with me into my relationships.
I abused a man through manipulation and control for 7 years until he withdrew so much from me that he was of no use to me so I dumped him, but not before I made sure he would get all the blame for the divorce. Did I know I was doing it? Yes and no. There were many times after my rages would finally settle that I would sit and think, "This is not a healthy reaction - what is wrong with me?" - and I would feel guilty (as I should have) - but as quickly as that thought came, I went to work convincing myself that he deserved it because of this or that, and that I was justified in my explosions because of this or that. We are masters at convincing ourselves of our own lies. And because he stayed, it reinforced my belief that what I was doing was normal and okay.
I was actually very insecure and because I had gone through so much abuse as a child/teen/adult from my mother, it was my "normality." Any attempt to tell me I was the unhealthy one made me furious and ignited my defense mechanisms. For a lot of us who have abused/do abuse, our anger is near impenetrable. In my case, I didn't recognize the hurt I caused my husband and my children in this way. Whenever my husband or children complained I silenced them with threats, blackmail or used seduction and other forms of manipulation.

After the divorce I still went through the initial phase of blaming him for everything - but in the end, I had were my own demons to face. I am fortunate that I decided to do so because not everyone does. Someone mentioned earlier that it is very humbling to recognize that you are an abuser - I would call it dehabilitating - to have spent so long having convinced yourself you were the victim, just to finally know within yourself YOU were the abuser. I was deeply ashamed and regretful that I had caused someone else so much suffering - and in my case, it was easy to want to change after I realized I was "that" person. However, the behaviors are deeply rooted and I agree with the sentiment here that those take time and proactive practice. Some people will want to and will succeed, others will find it to be "too much work." But it is possible. It has been well over a year for me and I barely recognize myself today from the angry, depressed person I was. Life is a lot more enjoyable. For the first time I find myself genuinely interested in others' feelings and while it is not yet second nature, I find my prior habit of lashing out in anger has been replaced with wanting to understand what the other person is thinking/feeling, and talk about it with empathy and concern and without the blame game.

Whether you stay with your abuser or not, only you can decide, because no two relationships work the same way- different things keep us in our relationships. I can honestly say I don't think I would have recognized it if I hadn't been left, but that isn't the case for everyone. You've just got to trust your instincts and really listen to your inner voice - it is there to protect you.

Abusers rarely change, and they can never be forced to change. An abuser will only recognize that they have a problem, when they are ready. Trying to force this change will only succeed in making the abuser angry, and possibly even delaying the process. Realizing that you are an abuser is very humbling, and so this is a step which has to be taken by the abuser, but support always helps too.


The parable of the foolish donkey

Once upon a time there was a small donkey who had a terrible taskmaster who made him carry loads way beyond the poor donkey’s ability to carry. Then one day he was bought by a new master. The new master was kind a gave him a very light load to carry. The donkey felt very sorry for his fellow donkeys who still carried heavy burdens on their back and because he wanted to help them and because he believed he could handle more than his master gave him to carry he started carrying part of their burdens. Soon the donkey found he was carrying a load way to heavy for him to carry. Unfortunately instead of going to his master and let him take away the burden, he complained to his fellow donkeys who became angry with him for not taking his responsibility and punished him by increasing his burden. Then the donkey found he could carry no more and collapsed. Then his master found him and took away his heavy burden and nursed him back to full health. And so the rather foolish donkey finally learned his lesson and became a lot wiser: Be willing to be everyone’s servant but obey only one master and only carry the burdens He gives you to carry.

maandag 8 juli 2013

It is time to abolish the mindset which gave rise to slavery and colonialist exploitation of vulnerable people

It has been over 150 years since slavery was abolished by most countries although it can still be found in various places in the world, not in the least in the sex-industry. In the same way colonialism is a thing of the past although the neo-colonialist exploitation of weaker and poorer countries by richer and more powerful countries, and/or their companies, both from east and west, is alive and well, if not a growing phenomenon. Also within our societies we can observe the tendency of the law being made, interpreted and applied in the interest of those with economic power, and then superimposed upon the weaker and more vulnerable groups in society.  From the weak and poor only docile submission and obedience is demanded, failing which they will face financial and legal sanctions.  All this reflects the same underlying philosophy which gave rise to slavery, colonialist exploitation and the dehumanization and objectification of vulnerable people who had no means to defend themselves against our power. In Europe the tendency to depict economic and other refugees as illegals, branding the unemployed as people abusing the welfare system, or describing certain groups of migrants as being criminals, are good examples of the same dehumanizing philosophy which led to slavery and colonialism.  The Christian Bible calls money the root of all kinds of evil because where money and economic interests become paramount in society (as if it is our ‘’god’’) those with economic power will attempt to create, interpret, impose and apply the laws in such a way that their interests are protected and served. In such an environment the poor and the weak in society will be forced to make sacrifices that hurt their interests and damages their sense of identity. Idolatry usually results in the weak being sacrificed by the strong upon the altar of the idols of the day. Slavery may be formally abolished and colonialism may officially be over but the idolatrous neo-colonial mindset is still alive and well in our society as well as among our politicians.  It is time the abolish this mindset as well for it still leads to all kinds of oppression, injustice and pain in our societies.  Now is the time to abolish the mindset which gave rise to slavery and colonialist exploitation of vulnerable people.