Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Saturday, February 13, 2016

ON THE PUBLIC READING OF SCRIPTURE

Saturday Seminar 
Recently,   our  eldership,   which  ordinarily leads  the public  worship services has decided  to encourage  men in our congregation to participate under our oversight   in the public reading of the Bible. Subsequently  we have organised this seminar  on a Saturday morning to  prepare men for reading  the Scriptures. With the help of periodic evaluation we  have also committed ourselves to  practically help each other to become better readers  of the Word of God.  Below is the sum and the substance of what was shared at this seminar , followed by a  time of application.  


                         THE PUBLIC READING OF THE  SCRIPTURES

“Until I come , devote  yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…”  (Paul to Timothy – 1 Timothy  4:13)

“ … man does not live by bread alone , but man  lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Deuteronomy  8:3 and quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:4)

The Bible is the very Word of the Living God. It  is  breathed out by God and given to us to train us in all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:16).  As God’s people we are deeply reliant on Scripture, since  the Bible is the only means through which God speaks reliably by His Holy Spirit to us. For this reason  the   Scripture ought to  be central to our worship services. We ought to read it, sing it and preach it every Sunday,   trusting that this is a means by which the Lord blesses, instructs, pursues, convicts, heals  and draws us to Himself.

Because of the importance of the Word of God,  we  desire to help people to read  the Scriptures well.  The reading of the Bible,  is in fact  a teaching ministry since  the reading of the Bible imparts to us the knowledge of the Word of God, which means  that in public worship  this  is a ministry reserved for men.  Having said that,  all would benefit from reading the Bible well,  whether  it is in a Sunday School setting or  at a  women’s bible study or simply reading the Scripture to someone in hospital. 

 A SOLEMN THOUGHT: To stand  before a church and to  read the Bible is to stand in the place of God and to  proclaim his Word. This must  therefore be done  with  reverence and thoughtful  preparation.

         -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
        HINTS  AND HELPS  FOR READING THE SCRIPTURES

1.   PRAY!  Pray  for  the Spirit’s illumination on the passage  that   you are asked to read.

2.  UNDERSTAND!  In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it. You need to understand the  message, the genre, the tone, the purpose for which this specific portion of Scripture  was written. You need  to have a general comprehension of what the passage says  so that you can reflect the tone which  the  specific Scripture  message bears.   Is this a triumphant passage proclaiming the glories of God?
·         Is this a poetic, meditative passage reflecting on pain and persecution?
·         Is this God speaking to man or man speaking to God?
·         Is this a story or a letter?
·         What is God seeking to communicate to us in it?

Use  a commentary  to help you understand  the text  better.  Although we use the English Standard Version in our public worship, it may be useful to read the passage in a couple of other translations for further help and clarity.  It may be useful (but not necessary)  to give a very short introduction  or explanation   to  the passage  you read.  Remember however that you are not called to  preach, but to  read  the Bible at this stage.

3.  PRACTICE: Once you have a basic understanding of the passage, you will need to practice reading it. As you read you will  need to understand its flow,  and to take notice of any natural divisions. You need to ensure that you know how to pronounce every word. Because you will be reading out loud, will need to practice  by reading out loud. Read the passage from beginning to end until you are confident that you will be able to capture its flow.  As you practice, learn which words or phrases you will need to emphasize, find natural places to pause and look for places where you will need to increase or decrease volume. Practice varying your tone and pace, but be careful that people do not become more overawed by your  skillful presentation  than  the Word of God.  Your task is to read the Scripture in a way that aids understanding without drawing attention to yourself. You have succeeded well if people are drawn to the Word of God and take no notice of you!
If you encounter any difficult names, places or other words, you can visit  websites like http://thebibleworkshop.com/category/bible-pronunciation/a-words/ to help you in your pronunciation.  Make sure  that you practice those difficult words enough times that you will not hesitate or mispronounce them   when  you read.   

4.  BEFORE THE SERVICE: Dress appropriately and according to the front-of-the-room dress code. Shorts and  T-shirts  are  casual wear, and   whilst not expecting you to wear a tie, be sure that  you look presentable to all.     Make sure  that the passage you will be reading has been bookmarked in your Bible so you can turn to it without  wasting time in finding your passage.  Adjust your microphone to your height. Make sure that the microphone is switched on.  Keep a distance of  at least  30 centimeters  from the microphone.

5.  READING: At the appropriate time in the service, walk to the front without hurrying, turn to face the church and open your Bible to the relevant  passage. We like to preface our readings with these words: “This is what Holy Scripture says.” Stand tall without slouching.  If possible, try to make  eye contact  from time to time with the people you are reading to. Use your hand to guide your reading, if necessary.  

Here are a few common mistakes that you should be aware of   when reading. 
a.   Too Fast!  Do not be surprised if you find yourself a little bit nervous at  the beginning. This nervousness typically causes people to  read too quickly.   This is why preparation is important. Preparation provides confidence.  Try to keep a good, natural pace. Your natural  tendency will probably be to read a little  too  fast.  Slow down, and read  with emphasis.  Through it all, remember that you are reading for the benefit of the church,  and so serve your brothers and sisters by reading God’s Word to them with love and care. 
b.  Not Enough Preparation:  Let us make this point again ! Do all you can to prepare properly for the reading of  God’s Word. God’s Word deserves our best efforts. If you are constantly stammering  and mispronouncing words, you may be irritating  those who  know how to read, and thus  you  are   not serving your brothers and sisters as well as you could. 
c.   Voice:  The key to good vocal projection is to take a good breath  before your first word and then to use  your  diaphragm to push the sound forward out of your mouth. Read clearly and loudly (without shouting)  as  if you  were  trying to help the man sitting at the back wall  to hear you without amplification.  Keep your voice constant  and  practice  clear pronunciation throughout. One bad   habit is   to project well  in the first part of a sentence, but  then   drop  off to a near-whisper by the  end of the sentence.
d.   Emphasis :  Here  are two dangers:  (i) Reading without feeling or (ii)  reading  with too much feeling.   By all means do all you can to “feel” the text as you read it. Having prepared well you will understand  the text, and  you will  allow the truth  impact your  own soul  and cause you to  interact appropriately with the  text as you read  it. Now, while you want to “feel” the text as you read it, be careful that you do not become an actor performing a dramatic recital, drawing attention to yourself rather than the Word of God.
e.   Lack of Authority :  God’s Word is  read  publicly to call people to listen  and to act, so learn  to read  as a messenger  or  as a town-crier[1]. You are  a messenger of the King  and you  have something to say and you must  expect those  before you  to give it attention.  Let this frame of mind  accompany you when you take up the Bible to read  to the congregation.  Much public reading of the Bible  fails  at this point, because the  reader does not carry the  authority of God with Him.

6.   ENDING WELL! At the end of the passage pause for a moment, look at the congregation before saying your words of conclusion: “this is the Word of the Lord. Amen.” Thereafter, go  back to your seat, but do not rush.

   PASSAGES FOR PRACTICE

Psalm 22:
*How will you read the first 2 verses?
*How might David have spoken them?
*How did Christ speak them?
*Are you reading as David or as Jesus?
*What kind of transition will there be between verse 2 and 3?
*What kind of transition will there be between verses 5 and 6?
* What tone will you use in the final words of verse 31?

Isaiah 52
*How will you transition from verse 2 to 3 and then from verse 6 to 7?
*Will you pause at the end of verse 7 between “who says to Zion,” and “Your God reigns?” *How will you speak the words “Depart, depart” at the beginning of verse 11?

Mark 15
In any of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion we are faced with different voices—the officials, the soldiers, the thieves and, of course, Jesus himself.
*How will you read the words of mockery (verse 30, 31)?
*How will you pronounce and how will you read Jesus’ last words without being too dramatic (verse 34)?
*How will you capture the faith and wonder of the centurion as he realizes who he has just crucified (verse 39)?

Proverbs 9:
*What genre is this and how may that inform you as you prepare?
*How will you transition between description and speech (e.g. verse 4)?
*How will you transition between verses 12 and 13?
*How can you indicate that Wisdom is calling out but without over-acting?

Romans 3:
Paul uses lots of big words, long sentences and Old Testament quotes.
*How will you read all the questions in verses 1, 2 and 3 without making it sound forced? *How will you read the exclamation in verse 4?
*Will you vary your tone or voice in some way between verses 10 and 11 to indicate that you have moved from Paul to an Old Testament quote?

Revelation 21:
*How will you indicate that in verse 3 there is a loud voice from the throne without over-acting that voice?
*How will you pace the list of sins in verse 8 so that each one receives emphasis and it doesn’t all blend together?
*How do you pronounce “carnelian,” “chrysolite,” “beryl” and “jacinth?”
*Can you pronounce “the twelfth amethyst” without stumbling over it?  




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_crier  :   in England, town criers were the means of communication with the people of the town since many people could not read or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier. In Goslar, Germany, a crier was employed to remind the local populace not to urinate or defecate in the river the day before water was drawn for brewing beer.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Shepherd Bushiri - Namibia's Continued Love Affair With The False Prophets

"How long  will you go limping between two different opinions? If the  LORD is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him." 
1 Kings  18:21 - The  true prophet Elijah challenging the false prophets  of Baal 


Last week gullible   Namibians welcomed yet another false prophet, a man called  Shepherd Bushiri, a Malawian into their midst. He follows  a string of many self proclaimed  prophets   who follow the horrible  model   of  American  and African prosperity teachers. 


Here's what one  Namibian newspaper reported ....
http://www.informante.web.na/bushiri%E2%80%99s-shoddy-miracles.17267

Bushiri’s shoddy miracles
Gabby Tjiroze

The gala dinner hosted by self-proclaimed Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, which was supposed to be the event of the century in Windhoek last week apparently melted into a historic flop with social media erupting with calls of sham, deception and robbery.

More than 3 000 people paid N$1 000 each, while others paid amounts up to N$100 000 just to sit close to Bushiri. Attendees of the much-hyped dinner registered their displeasure at the way the organisers handled the event on Thursday, 28 January, at Ramatex complex in Windhoek. “I think the organisers were not serious, they did not put in much effort to ensure the success of the dinner. It was daylight robbery and not worth spending my N$1 000 on.” said a furious devotee.

On Saturday, about 20-thousand followers packed the Sam Nujoma Stadium to capacity, where holy water sold for N$70, anointed oil N$150 as well other memorabilia.

When Informantè tried to get hold of the organisers of the event to seek comments, the cellphone numbers on the advertising posters were all unreachable. After several attempts, a certain Alexia answered and immediately said “I have nothing to answer to,” and hung up the phone.

Bushiri is a Malawian-born self-proclaimed prophet who currently resides in South Arica. He calls himself a filthy-rich multi-millionaire, a business magnate and a miracle performer who has thousands of followers.

He has also been entertaining the media, not for his prophetic powers but for staging prophesies. Last year he challenged his church members that he can capture a photo of a child who was home using an i-Pad in the spirit kingdom in the presence of the father. The video was uploaded on YouTube, but attracted multitude of negative comments branding him as a fake prophet, when his finger was seen tapping several times on the i-Pad.

The self-proclaimed prophet also challenged his followers that he can walk on air in a wacky video displaying him walking down the stairs with both arms stretched out. As he reaches the bottom of the stairs, the camera pans down and he appears to walk on air for a few seconds with only his lower body in frame but then shadows of his two henchmen carrying him on both his arms was clearly visible in the video.
                              ----------------------------------------------------------------



All this  begs for serious  analysis  and answers  to  help Namibian Christians  to  make  a right judgement in this matter . 


Here are a number of indicators or marks of a false prophet, from the book of Jeremiah - a true prophet of God :

· They draw their inspiration from pagan sources e.g. Baal worship (2:8)

· They enjoy a great deal of influence and popularity (5:31)

· They are greedy for material gain (6:13)

· They offer misleading assurances of peace (6:14)

· They lack any sense of shame (6:15)

· They deal falsely with people (8:10)

· They end up being punished by God (8:12)

· They prophesy from their own imaginations (14:14)

· They were not sent by God (14:15)

· They were shown wrong by subsequent events (14:16)

· They drove Jeremiah (the true prophet) to tears (14:17)

· They were allied to a corrupt religious leadership (14:18)

· They were a result of widespread spiritual adultery (23:10)

· They were basically ungodly people (23:11)

· They were slippery and manipulative (23:12)

· They were a long-standing problem to true prophets (23:13)

· They told lies which hardened people against repentance (23:14)

· They encouraged widespread ungodliness (23:15)

· They encouraged a casual attitude towards God’s Word (23:17)

· They never had a real calling (23:21)


· They failed to proclaim repentance (23:22)

· They set great store on dreams (23:25) 

· They had nothing in common with true prophets (23:28) 

· They perverted the word of the living God (23:36) 

· They often left a bad reputation behind them (23:40) 

· Their behaviour often caused public controversy (26:7) 

· They persecuted true prophets (26:8) 

· They were closely associated with occultic sorcerers (27:9) 

· They told lies which led to disastrous consequences (27:10) 

· They told people what they wanted to hear (27:16) 

· They brought desolation (27:17) 

· They lacked a deep prayer life (27:18) 

· They counterfeited the work of the true prophets (28:1) 

· They used God’s Name to mislead others (28:2) 


A PLEA TO RETURN TO GOD! 

This message goes out with love and concern for all those who have been hurt by false prophets. You are probably depressed and ashamed that you have been deceived. You may wonder whether God still cares for you. There is hope for you! 

What can you do? 

· Repent from your sin of following man rather than God! 

· Accept the forgiveness that God gives you in Christ! 

· Live a life of humility and dependence upon God. Stop seeking signs and words from men!   Seek the Lord Jesus! 

· Read your Bible. Get to grips with it! Do what it says! 

· Attend a Bible believing and a Bible preaching church. 

· Pray for discernment! Always look to Jesus alone !

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Thinking about YOUR New Year











Every beginning   of a new year  is a good opportunity  to  re-evaluate and to re-think  our lives.  Whilst  the Lord Jesus Christ   does not encourage us to be anxious about  our life  in terms  of what we shall  eat or drink or wear (Matt. 6: 25-34)  there is    much encouragement  for us to commit our ways and our plans to the Lord. The Bible encourages  God-centered planning. 

Proverbs 16  offers  helpful guidance in this regard.  
  • "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord"  (Prov. 16:1)
  • "Commit your  work to the LORD  and  your  plans  will be established" (Prov. 16:3). 
  • "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."  (Prov. 16:9)

So, as you  consider  your year ahead,  be mindful  of this fact that God encourages you to plan, but to do  this prayerfully and humbly, always remembering that  God  your heavenly Father knows best what is good for you.

  
I also recommend that you should consider  this article below which  Don Whitney  wrote some years ago. He  greatly   helps us here   to  think God centered thoughts as we make our plans for 2016. 

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you. Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

11. What's the most important decision you need to make this year?

12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what's one way you could simplify in that area?

13. What's the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?

15. Who do you most want to encourage this year?

16. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?

17. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?

18. What's one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year? 

19. What's one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?

20. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?

21. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?

22. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year? 

23. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?

24. What's the most important trip you want to take this year?

25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?

26. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?

27. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?

28. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?

29. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?

30. What's the most important new item you want to buy this year?

31. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn't considered the question.
If you've found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace—in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc.—where you can review them more frequently than once a year.
So let's evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let's also remember our dependence on our King who said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).




Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney.

Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the Spiritual Disciplines.org website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald S. Whitney. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

SO, WHO IS THIS JESUS ? Advent Meditation 2015

Mary had fallen pregnant  with Jesus by the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit. Joseph  her fiancée was very worried, for he did not understand what had happened.   So, to the  naked  eye   we find  a  pregnant woman,   dubious  circumstances  and a disturbed fiancée.

But this happened not to be the reality. For this reason God sent a messenger, an angel of the Lord  to help  Joseph to understand what he could not see with the naked eye. The  explanation  he receives  is this :

“ Joseph , son of Mary  do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus , for He will save his people  from their sins.”  

And  then the  angel backed  it up with  an  ancient  7th century BC Old Testament  prophecy : 

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “ Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call  his name Immanuel, which means “God with us.” (Matthew  1:18-22)

Information  provided   by way of a supernatural being  changes the picture completely   so that : 

·         Mary cannot charged  with  immorality. This is a  supernatural conception.

·         The supernatural conception  will  produce a supernatural child .

·         He will accomplish  a supernatural  thing : He will save His people from their sins .

So,  who  is this Jesus?  The Bible shows us  that  He is  BOTH,  human and divine.  But  in this He is  not  half God and half man. He is fully divine and fully man at  the same time [1]“ In him  the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily...” ( Col. 2:9)   This means that in the single person of Jesus, He has both a human and divine nature. The divine nature was not changed when  He, the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). Instead, the Word was joined with humanity (Col. 2:9) and His divine  nature was not changed  by this. Jesus is not merely a man who "had God within Him," nor is He a man who "manifested the God principle." 

He is God  come in the  flesh,  the second person of the Trinity. 


"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Heb. 1:3).

The following   table help us  to  see the two natures of Jesus "in action":

AS GOD
AS MAN
He is worshipped (Matt. 2:21114:33)
He worshipped the Father (John 17)
He was called God (John 20:28Heb. 1:8)
He was called man (Mark 15:39John 19:5)
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)
He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59)
He prayed to the Father (John 17)
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22Heb. 4:15)
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1)
He knows all things (John 21:17)
He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)
He gives eternal life (John 10:28)
He died (Rom. 5:8)
All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9)
He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)

So, it is utterly impossible  to be neutral about  Jesus. He was by far the most remarkable man  that ever walked this earth. He is infinitely  more  than remarkable. He is God !   
Listen to  what  C.S. Lewis , a former atheist  had to say   about Jesus :

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


[1] This is  called the “Hypostatic union”.