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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gladston & Mallory

Jesus said in Matthew 16 "...I will build my church..."  This is a promise that we as believers can bank on.  And this is a promise that ministers of the Gospel cling to.  Jesus' gospel is power to salvation.  Every day we get to experience this transforming power in our lives.  And every so often He blesses us to experience firsthand as someone else experiences it for the first time.

A couple weeks back we were able to have a young couple to our house for supper.  Along with this young couple, we had our favorite old couple - Lawrence and Tricia Dargie.  Pops and Trish have become close friends of ours.  They often fill the role of surrogate grandparents for us here at The Village, since we live so far away from ours.  These two don't fit the typical mold of elderly believers.  They only came to Christ a few years ago and have the deepest passion for knowing Him more dearly every day.

The young couple, Gladston and Mallory, have only been attending church with us since January 12th. They were invited by one of the faithful youth at our church (cool story...more on that another time).  At supper that night, at our prompting, Gladston began sharing his story.  He related how he had grown up in church but during his teenage years really moved away from scriptural teaching and pursued his earthly passions.  After a few years he realized that the things he was worshiping did not truly satisfy him as he thought they would, so he began again to read God's Word and attend church.  He said that overall, looking back over his life he could see that he had been a pretty good person.

It was at this point in the conversation that Trish interjected.  When Gladston said "Overall I'm a pretty good person" she vehemently disagreed.  She said, with no room for doubt "Gladston, you are not a good person."
"I'm sorry, mom?" he responded.
"You are not a good person," Trish said.  "You are wicked."
To which Gladston, a bit taken aback, replied "Maybe I said it wrong, english is not my first language."
Then Trish said to him "It really doesn't matter what language you say it in.  You aren't a good person."
(For those of you who know Trish, you can probably hear her say it in her thick British accent.  And for those of you who do know her, let me assure you, it didn't come across as the least bit offensive.)

Gladston looked a bit confused, so I jumped in to help explain.  We all got out our Bibles and read from Philippians 3.  Gladston was familiar with the story of Paul, how he had persecuted, even killed Christians, how he was miraculously converted and how he became the greatest missionary EVER!  I asked Gladston if, pre-conversion, Paul was a good guy or a bad guy.  Like all of us, he assumed Paul was a bad guy.  But then we read his autobiography from Philippians 3.

In this passage Paul establishes his own worldly righteousness (an oxymoron, I know).  From a human perspective you couldn't get more righteous than Paul.  Like tightening concentric circles he shares his qualifications.  But like those concentric circles, Paul's righteousness in himself was like a noose tightening around his neck.  Eventually Paul testified that the law was in him, a ministry of death.  He learned that he could never keep the whole law so his righteousness was polluted.  In fact, he says, "whatever could be considered gain to me, I count it as loss...more than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I might gain Christ.  And be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, but the righteousness of God that comes on the basis of faith."

You see, as sinners we all stand deserving judgement.  How can we offer God our righteousness when it is polluted, when it is nothing but filthy, bloody rags?  It would be like me coming to NASA asking for a job because I can make a paper airplane.  They would laugh me out of the room.

That night we had the privilege of going to Scripture with both Gladston and Mallory.  God offers us His righteousness because our own just doesn't cut it.  The transaction that takes place when God puts our sin on Jesus and Jesus' righteousness on us is called Justification.  And according to Luke 18, Justification takes place the moment an individual falls on their face before God and says "God, have mercy on me.  I'm a sinner."  At that point, we receive our introduction into the salvation so lavishly offered by an extravagant God.  He spares no expense for us.

We eventually made it to Matthew 7:13-23, where Jesus describes the broad road to Hell and the narrow road to Heaven.  He also describes the final judgement, where millions will be shocked as they stand before Him, requesting entrance to Heaven based on all the service they've done on His behalf.  His response?  "Get out of my sight.  I never knew you!"

I challenged Gladston and Mallory both, that if they had never entered a personal relationship with Jesus through repentance, they needed to do so.

The conversation then carried on into other veins.  About 30 minutes later, out of the blue, Gladston says "You know that challenge you gave us?  Why would I wait until I get home?  I don't even know if I will make it home tonight.  Wouldn't I want to remember the night that I passed from death to life, that I did it here with you all with me as witnesses?"

Wow!  What do you say to that, other than "DO IT!"

At that point we all stood and prayed together, with Gladston leading the way.  Jesus is building His church.  And the gates of Hell is powerless against His regenerating power.

Praise Jesus with us for both Gladston and Mallory.  They have continued to be faithful in church and just this past Sunday Gladston approached Pastor Josh and me about being baptized.  Pray for Mallory that she will respond as her husband has.  Keep them both uplifted in prayer, as they have 2 small children and have many struggles, especially financially.  God continues to work, in spite of us.  It is so good that this work is His work, because we are in no way sufficient for it.  But we have this treasure in broken clay pots, so that the excellency of the power may be of God, not of us!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Funny & Spiritual - Win/Win

Okay, so this evening I was busy fixing some of the paving stones in the driveway.  They needed to be fixed because Brian and Revival ran a new water line and had to dig across the driveway.  The reason it needed to be done this evening instead of "this morning" or "this afternoon" is germane to the story.  We received a call this morning asking us to take a 10 year-old boy.  We had agreed, so preparations for receiving this boy took up part of my morning and most of my afternoon (of course, we found out later the boy is actually much older - too old, in fact for us to take him).

Kamohelo, our 9 year-old boy was my big helper for this project (that reminds me, I owe him 5 Rand). Kamohelo is kind of impish, in a really good way.  When he first came to live with us he went through a serious adjustment period - it seemed that if there was a decision to make, he had a special gift for making the wrong one.  He wasn't particularly bad, he just always chose the wrong way.  But he's come a long way since then.  In January 2012 he professed his faith in Jesus as his Savior.  And since that time we've seen some cool fruit in his life... this evening...

There we were, Kamohelo and I, kneeling on the driveway and replacing the paving stones that were missing.  I would level the area, he would hand me a brick, then I would hold it while he pounded it with a mallet.  It was all I could do to keep from getting my 8 fingers and 2 opposable thumbs smashed.

Anyway, I asked him if he was disappointed that the boy wasn't going to be coming.
He said "Why?"
I said, "Because you need a friend here."  (He's the only big boy.  All the other boys are 5 or under.)  So Kamohelo says "Yes, that would be nice."
Trying to paint the glass as half full, I say to Kamo, "You know, if another big boy comes he might beat you down all the time."
Kamohelo responds "No, I know how to fight."
Surprised, I say "Oh?  Tell me about it."

"Well," Kamohelo tells me, "One day at school a big boy push me.  So I tell teacher and teacher, she say 'forget it'.  So when he push me again I punch him in the face.  Then he start crying."

"Really?!" I say.  "That's what you do at school?"

Kamohelo looks up at me with his impish grin and says "No, that's what I used to do at school before I know Jesus.  I do that in Grade R (Kindergarten).  Now I know Jesus and know He say that's a bad idea.  Now I just love people!"

Oh, Kamohelo!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Elephants In Town!

We have lived in South Africa for 5 years now.  In fact, it's 5 years tomorrow.  It should have been 5 today, as we left the States on March 9, 2008.  But an unexpected 24-hour visit to a desert island in the middle of the Atlantic brought us to South Africa on March 11th.

Having lived here so long we have pretty much adapted and its rare now that we experience culture shock.  In fact, this past summer when we were in the States we felt a lot of culture shock dealing with American culture.  But every so often something happens that reminds us - TIA - This Is Africa.

Last week one suce incident occurred.  We were driving through town, on our way to the mall on some errand or other when we look to our left and see none other than two full-grown elephants feeding greedily on an open plot of land.  And let me assure you, elephants are huge!  Of course, we had to stop and watch for a bit.

If you look at the first picture below you'll see behind the elephant some trees with a branch on the ground.  About a minute before I took the picture that elephant used its trunk and ripped that branch right off the tree.  It's about 6 inches in diameter and he or she snapped it like a toothpick.  If you've ever tried to break a twig, stick or any form of woody object you'll know how much force it would take to do something like that, especially considering it was a live branch on a live tree.  These two things were massive.  And so amazing to watch.

When I was young my brother and I had an ongoing argument with our cousins over which animal is better, the elephant or the horse.  This close encounter further assured me that elephants are indeed much better than horses.  So Boo-Yah!

...Oh, I forgot to mention there was a circus in town.  On the one side of this empty lot is the mall, on the other St Dominic's school, a third side is the Welkom Courthouse.  And the fourth side was occupied by the circus tent and trucks.  These elephants were clearly part of the act.  The trainers were sitting there watching the elephants.  In fact, after the one broke the tree branch the trainer called it over and scolded it like a disobedient puppy.  That takes some nerve!  So, while the elephants were loose in town it wasn't exactly like they were renegade wild elephants stopping by for a snack.