Do the right thing

There’s been so much talk of corruption in the government over the last few years, and yesterday someone was talking about a local non-governmental organization where things were being done which were not according to the rules. Decisions were being made just to please people so that they wouldn’t take offense and leave the organization. The fact that these decisions did not comply with the constitution did not seem to bother most people. It doesn’t matter how small or informal a group is; if there are rules they have to be followed. I do understand that as people with feelings we sometimes can’t see the necessity of some rules, but unless we are going to challenge those rules officially with good motivation or alternative options, we need to follow them.

In the Old Testament God gave the Israelites the Law, which included the Ten Commandments. In that time people were expected to keep the commandments in their own strength using their will power. After the death of Jesus we received the Holy Spirit who gives us grace and the ability to be able to follow them more effectively. We are exceptionally privileged although we do not always see it that way.

What are we supposed to do when we see rules being broken and it affects us?

Ephesians 5:8-14, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

First of all, we cannot be part of anything that is being done in the dark and in secret. These verses make it quite clear. They also say that we need to expose things that are being done that aren’t right. I think this is one of the most difficult things to do. If you know the people who are busy with corruption, what do you do? If they know it is you who exposed their deed they might shun you. Yes, they might, and I would advise you to pray about what you are going to do before you do it. Paul suffered persecution all through his ministry. He was the one who persecuted the Christians and when he became a Christian, he was persecuted. We can expect to be persecuted if we are followers of Jesus.

James 4:17,  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Matthew 24:9, Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Matthew 10:22, And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

All the apostles suffered persecution. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome about 66AD during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down at his own request. He did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Andrew went to the Soviet Union (land of the man-eaters) and also Asia Minor, Turkey and Greece, where he is said to have been crucified. Thomas was most active in the area east of Syria and possibly as far east as India where ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers. Philip is said to have had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul cruelly put him to death. Matthew ministered in Persia and Ethiopia and was stabbed to death. Bartholomew’s travels took him to India with Thomas, back to Armenia and, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the Gospel. James, the son of Alpheus, is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian, Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death. Simon ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god. Matthias replaced Judas and tradition says he went to Syria with Andrew and was burned to death. John was the lonely one to die a natural death of old age. An early Latin tradition has  him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome. He was exiled to the island of Patmos when he is credited with having written the Book of Revelation. None of these apostles were called from the priesthood or the official clergy of Jesus’ day. They were ordinary people like you and me who loved Jesus. If they did the right thing without fearing human opinion, surely we can be expected to do the same.

Death and the tree of life

I have found out a few things about death that really make sense to me. In the beginning there was the Garden of Eden and God had made it perfect. It is described in genesis 2:8-14, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom He had formed.” There were beautiful trees that bore fruit, rivers, gold and precious stones. Also the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the garden. Verse 15, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The only thing Adam was not allowed to do was eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then God made the animals and birds, and He also made Eve. Adam had a companion, he had a whole bunch of pets and there were fruit trees that supplied him with an unlimited supply of fruit. Absolute bliss. What could be better? Well, the devil got in and, found a weakness and brought sin into the world.

In Genesis 3, God bans people from the Garden for ever and He pronounces the curses that they put themselves under by disobedience. One of the things god says to Adam is in Genesis 3:19. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground for out on it you were take.”  In verse 22 God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” I don’t think that man was meant to live forever in his human body. Human bodies age and are fragile. I am speculating that the tree of life was a shadow of Jesus. If you ate from it you received eternal life. Because Adam and Eve were disobedient and brought curses over the earth, the tree of life was no longer an option for them or for the rest of mankind.

Death had become a curse. If people died they went to Sheol or Hades. Hades was the abode of the dead and is personified in the Old Testament as the power of Satan and his demonic forces. Revelation 1:18, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death”

Ehpesians 1:20- “[The power of God] which He worked in Christ when He raised His from the dead and seated Him in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named. Not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body. The fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Hebrews 2:14-15, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

In verse 27 of the sermon that Peter gave in Acts 2, he quotes David (Psalm 16:10) where he says, “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Not will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

Therefore, Sheol or Hades is the place where the dead went in the Old Testament. Jesus came to earth as a man, never sinned, and was crucified. Because He was sinless He could go down to Hades and take the keys of sin and death from the devil. Basically Jesus took the curse out of death by offering eternal life to those who believe in Him. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 20:13-14, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of fire.”

For those who harden their hearts and do not accept Him as savior, death should be feared, but for followers of Jesus death is not a bad thing at all.

Pray for the bad guys

I am reading ‘The President’s Keepers’ by Jacques Pauw. It is insightful and shocking to say the least. I am not getting upset or cross while I read because the things that are written are in the past. They have happened and I can’t change the past no matter how hard I try. I am reading the book in order to understand why the situation in the country is as it is. I want to understand how the politicians and their associates think. Even though there is nothing I can do about the past, there is something I can do about the future.

I can pray.

Last week I heard a gentleman say that the churches have it all wrong because you shouldn’t be praying for corrupt politicians as they aren’t going to change. Matthew 5:44 – ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you.’ That statement Jesus made is so profound I think I should read it every day just to remind myself what prayer is all about. In the next chapter (Matt 6:9-13) Jesus gives his disciples The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. It’s lovely and most Christians know it off by heart. What we choose not to read though is verse 14 and 15 which state the following, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Therefore we aren’t only called to pray for our enemies but we also have to forgive them.

If someone is cursing you, hating you, spitefully using you or persecuting you, you are called to love them, do good to them, pray for them and forgive them. Are you doing all these things because you approve of what they are doing or because you excuse their behaviour? Not at all! You are setting yourself free from the bondage that holding a grudge or living with unforgiveness brings. You are asking God to set you free so that you will be able to live your life to its full potential. Living with unforgiveness makes you sick. It’s like hanging a potato around your neck on a string. At first you feel the weight of it all the time but after a while you actually get used to it. Then, you start to smell something and much to your dismay the potato has started to go rotten. It is in your nostrils all the time and you can’t even get a good night’s sleep because of the stench. You can’t get rid of the potato and the smell unless you cut the string. Cutting the string is forgiving the person for whatever they have done to you and then praying for them. Who benefits from the string being cut? The potato is still in the same state it was. It’s not going to suddenly revert to being a good potato. You are reaping the benefit because now your friends won’t mind being around you again, you can enjoy life and sleep well at night.

So, we have to love and do good and forgive and pray irrespective if our ‘enemies’ are politicians, criminals, acquaintances or our brothers and sisters that we had a disagreement with. What will God do then? In Psalm 35 David is speaking to God about the people who are trying to kill him. Verse 5 says “And let the angel of the Lord chase them.” I believe if we do the things that the Bible tell us to do and if we earnestly see the Lord and put Him first in our everyday life, He is going to make our paths straight and we can say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul! It is well with my soul! 

Pray for the leaders

I have had a very difficult week. Emotionally taxing. On Thursday residents of a certain area were protesting about housing. Apparently the money that was supposed to be used to build hoses had been misappropriated. These people were blocking the main road through out town. Trash, large stones and old car tyres we deposited across the road at various strategic points to prevent traffic from entering and leaving. Soon the tyres had been set alight and the police came along to disperse them. Nobody was injured, some damage was done to the potted palms in the middle of town, and there was a lot of debris to be removed from the street. There were a lot of irate motorists and the businesses in town who are dependent on passing traffic lost business. Then the next day the president fired half of his cabinet and replaced them. This obviously had nothing to do with the protests in a small insignificant town. Speculation as to what the repercussions will be for the country are all over the newspapers and internet. And then one of the opposition parties is saying that farms belonging to white farmers must be redistributed to black people.

These things are causing a lot of negativity. Every time you log into Facebook or other social media there are negative comments. There’s a petition that people can sign which is demanding that the president must be taken out of office. Then I saw another Facebook post where a friend of mine said that we have to pray for our leaders instead of demand that they be removed from their jobs. It was not what I expected to see given all the negative and aggressive talk. I thought about it and I realized that this was exactly the reminder I needed. I have had such negative thoughts racing around my head that I was in a bad mood. I was walking around with a frown and finding it very hard to be joyful. I asked God how I am supposed to handle the situation we find ourselves in.

Phillipians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” and further in the same chapter, verse 8 says, “Finally bretheren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” So, if we want to be joyful and always rejoice we have to think about good things, great and beautiful things, not negative or ugly things. We have to fill our minds with purity and beauty and things that are praiseworthy. How on earth do we do that when the world is in the mess it currently is?

The Bible clearly instructs us to pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour.” I don’t think that Paul said this because he and the ruler had a good relationship. The emperors and kings of that time actively persecuted Christians and Nero gave the order to have Paul beheaded. If we think we’re having a hard time with our ruler I think we ought to update our historical knowledge.

This is how I practically see these verses.

If I want to be joyful I need to think about positive things, but how do I do this when everything I hear and see is negative? I have to start praying for the leaders of my country. I don’t have to like people to pray for them but if I’m praying for them I cannot be negative about them. That means my mind can’t be filled with negative thoughts. If I’m not praying for them I will be thinking about all the negative things I hear and see. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I don’t want to be like the rest of the world who are angry and negative and depressed. I want my mind to be renewed so that I can be in God’s will.

I have to pray for them to receive salvation, to be able to make Godly decisions even if they aren’t godly people (yet) and for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. I am sure that there will be many more things I’m going to discover that I can pray for as I go along. But for now I have to just start praying.