Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Roy died a week ago. And I find it hard to accept. He has been a friend for the past 21 years. He baptised my daughter Amy, and 16 years later he laid hands on her and confirmed her faith in Jesus. He helped me understand ministry in a Coloured culture. He told wonderfully crafted stories of his experiences in Namaqualand and Namibia. And he loved nothing better than bragging about his grandchildren. Roy - Thank you for enriching my life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

You Inspire Me

This is Jenny. She is very, very bright. But she has cerebral palsy, which means that she finds herself trapped in a body that does not listen to the instructions of her brain. She has muscle spasms and spends her day in a wheelchair. Jenny lives with her parents: her Mom is being crushed by emphysema and her Dad is slowly fading away from Alzheimer's disease. So the roles have reversed and Jenny now cares for her parents. Yet she gets up each morning and gets on with her day. She has a wicked sense of humour and a delightfulyl subversive desire to undermine stereotypes about people who are differently abled. So when I have moments when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself I am inspired by Jenny. She prevents my self pity. Thank you Jenny.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Hotel

This is the oldest colonial hotel in South Africa. Built in 1862. it is in the main road of Riebeek Kasteel, and unsurprisingly is called the Royal Hotel. Royalty is long gone and today the farmers are in the pub and their bakkies are parked outside.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Fireman's home

Tulbach is typical of many South African villages - it boasts a Church Street. The thing that sets this town apart is that its Church Street consists entirely of restored houses from the Cape Dutch period. This is a picture of the home of the fire chief of two hundred and fifty years ago. This was the era of water furrows alongside the roads and thatched roofed homes. The task of the firechief was to ensure that water always flowed in the furrows, that the chimneys of the homes were clean, and that nobody smoked a pipe in the street. I suspect that it is far more complicated today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Riebeek K

On 3 February 1661 a party of Dutch explorers discovered a fertile valley that they named Riebeek Valley, in honour of their commanding officer. Here they established an outpost for the Dutch East India Company's needs. In time this became Riebeek Kasteel, a Swartland town that produced two South African Prime Ministers: Jan Smuts and DF Malan. I am here for the weekend, along with Jenny and her mom. We are staying in the Kasteelberg Country inn to celebrate Granny's 84th birthday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a Week!

Whew! So much has happened in South Africa in the past 10 days: The financial markets are like a rollercoaster; South Africa has a new President; and we have lost many of our national political leaders.

I believe it is important that we must not just accept the world as it happens around us: we need to question, and probe, and wonder what God’s opinion might be. So let me offer some of my own thoughts. I believe that much of what we have seen is fuelled by un-Godly motives:

1. South Africa has lost political leaders. No one ever thought that they were perfect, because they all had both strengths and weaknesses. What disturbs me is the way in which they left us. There is a spirit of vengeance in our country’s dominant political party. The determination to remove President Mbeki in a way that humiliated him can only be viewed as revenge by those who support Jacob Zuma. And no doubt many cabinet ministers felt the cold chill of this retribution too. This is not the way of God! Godly people do not put the knife into the back of a political comrade. Godly people can differ in opinion, but would always seek to respect the dignity of another person. “Vengeance in mine... says the Lord” (Romans 12:19) reminds us not to play God in another person’s life by exacting revenge.

2. We have seen lots of money change hands on the markets – banks have closed, building societies and banks have been bought out by the US Government, and many people have lost their work. This because of a combination of factors: people have taken loans that they cannot afford; the bonuses of many business leaders depend on companies profiting off people spending more than they have; and still to come is the crash of the credit card industry. We in South Africa are not immune to this. We want stuff that we cannot afford, and so buy on credit, and from house bonds, and from micro-lenders. We want immediate satisfaction and will not wait to get it. There is a name for this in the Bible: it is called “Greed”. Greed is not God’s way for our lives. We are to “put to death... greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5) Let us learn to live with less, and trust God for our needs.

Pray for our land – and our world - to learn and practice God’s values.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today, the same Christ is in people who are unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the state and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding.

- Mother Teresa

Monday, September 15, 2008


The most powerful nation on earth discovers that it is powerless:

Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Ike has humbled America's high-flying energy capital and the lives of millions of people across southeast Texas have been dismantled indefinitely by the loss of everything from power and water, to property and even people’s lives.

Wall Street crisis. In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street history, Lehman Brothers said it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself to Bank of America for about $50 billion.

Afghanistan. One of the most experienced Western envoys in Afghanistan said that conditions there had become the worst since 2001.

Pray for the United States of America:
- For strength to those who suffer loss.... that they have courage to put their lives together again.
- For humility for the President, Senators, Generals and business moguls who think that they rule the world.... to discover that their fragile power is not theirs to own, but rather theirs to benefit all of humanity, including the Muslims, and the Mexicans, and the socialists, and the gays, and all others crushed by “the American way of life”.
- For wisdom for the American people .... that they will choose a leader who seeks to serve the world rather than dominate it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dragons and Beasts

The Book of Revelation is a series of graphic images: some deeply disturbing, and some wonderfully comforting. All the images are intended to expose the things that frighten us – and offer the comfort of a God who conquers evil:
Today I shared the images of Dragons and Beasts with my congregation: Revelation 12 & 13.

This is the stuff of nightmares:
• A huge red dragon with 7 heads, ten horns, and a long tail.
• A beast that emerged from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. This beast looked like a leopard, with feet like a bear's feet and a mouth like a lion's mouth.
• And another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon
Clearly symbolic language.... written for an audience who would understand the symbolism. There has been much speculation since then:
- Some say the Dragon with 7 heads – represents the seven hills of Rome...
others say no it is the seven hills of Jerusalem.
- Some argue that the 10 horns represent the ten emperors of Rome,
and other say that they are the 10 rulers of Israel.

There are 500 000 articles about this on the internet...
I am not going to try to link this to historical events of the past or future: I would rather invite us to discover the spiritual truth that has kept this book alive. This is the truth that has transcended every generation.

What do we have?
A dragon that tried to kill the son of the woman, “whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12). But her son escaped death and now rules over all nations from the throne of God.
Not too difficult: this is the conflict between evil, which tried to kill Jesus; and the power of God, which raised Jesus to life.

Then we have a frustrated Dragon: That then tries to kill the work of the Son of God.And does this by means of two beasts.
1. A beast from the sea
2. A beast from the earth.

What do we know about the beast from the sea?
Rev 13:3 The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast.
Rev 13:4 They worshiped the beast also, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?"
Rev 13:5 The beast was allowed to make proud claims which were insulting to God
Rev 13:7 It was allowed to fight against God's people and to defeat them, and it was given authority over every tribe, nation, language, and race.

Here is a beast that invites people to follow it
A beast that claims authority over every tribe, nation, language and race
Here is a beast that makes proud claims that insult the authority of God.
This is the beast of politicians and political systems.
Of course we need politicians, and political systems.
– but we need them to remember that they are accountable to God.

But there is a second beast:
Rev 13:11 Then I saw another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon.
Rev 13:12 It used the vast authority of the first beast in its presence. It forced the earth and all who live on it to worship the first beast.

This beast seems to be like the Lamb (“Two horns like lambs horns”) but it is not the lamb because it speaks like a dragon:
This is the beast of religious distortion:
This is the beast that uses its vast authority to serve the first beast:
Where religious values are placed at the service of political values:
This is the moment when politicians claim that their political plans are the will of God.

So where does all this leave us?
With the affirmation that all power, in heaven and on earth belongs to God.
Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, "Now God's salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King!God delegates authority to human beings –
- Political power is used in ordering towns and countries
- Religious power is practiced in church communities
But beware: they can become beasts that use their power to frighten people
They can become beasts that misuse their power to undermine the dream of God.

So when Jacob Zuma tells an ANC rally in Khayelitsha that it was the will of God that the ANC ruled the country, or that “the ANC will rule until Jesus returns” – the beast is loose in the land. But, like all political systems and leaders, this beast too will pass, and God’s rule will continue.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chile's 9/11 terror.

Thirty-five years ago today Chile faced its own 9/11 act of terror: the army of Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Socialist President Salvador Allende.

President Allende’s socialist views collided with the uncompromising stand of a formerly pragmatic political center and with the ferocious defense of the status quo by the right. At the same time the global standoff between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics led to Allende's Chile being judged a threat by President Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger. The White House declared a silent war to destabilize the Allende administration: slashing aid, denying export credits, refusing to renegotiate the Chilean debt, discouraging investment by American businesses and covertly funding strikes and terrorist actions against the government.

Many of those who backed the 1973 coup had wanted the armed forces to simply restore order and then call for elections. Pinochet did initially bring about order after a period of instability and chaos. But having seized power he decided to keep it. He ordered the murder of union leaders, the exile of thousands of dissidents, the torture and disappearance of political prisoners, and the terrorist bombing of exiled leaders.

But during that time, he also changed Chile’s economic system. Pinochet introduced major free-market reforms inspired by University of Chicago Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. Inflation was drastically reduced, state-owned businesses and social security were privatized, the financial system was deregulated, external tariffs were lowered and non-traditional exports fostered. There was a social cost though: Income distribution deteriorated, and Chileans living under the poverty line climbed from 20% in 1970 to almost 40% by 1988.

In 1998, a judge in Spain issued an arrest/extradition warrant for Pinochet in connection with the slayings of political prisoners, and the former dictator was arrested in London. He was returned to Chile, where he was hounded by those seeking justice up until his death in 2006, although he was never sentenced for his crimes.

Pinochet's memory still conjures up different meanings for different people. Some still view him as the leader who transformed Chile into a prosperous economy -- despite the human and social costs. But as Chile continues to prosper under democratic rule, Pinochet more likely will be remembered as a notorious symbol of repression, one that casts a shadow on the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Pray for the families of all those who disappeared.
And for wisdom for those who have authority and influence in Chile.
And that the USA will stop interfering in the lives of countries that disagree with US interests.

(with appreciation to the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-munoz11-2008sep11,0,2739862.story)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

God used Joe Slovo, an athiest communist, to add impetus to South Africa's transformation. So says one of the chief negotiators of the transition, Roelf Meyer. He bluntly reminded us that God uses anyone to achieve God's will. I am participating in a conference in George. It seeks to move the church out of the building into the community. And last night we were reminded that God is already at work in South Africa - the challenge is for Christian people to join God. Roelf is positive about our land and our metamorphasis. I speak this morning and will be asking people where they need to be transformed, in order to bring transformation to South Africa.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Dave wants me to buy a painting.

He was with me in the South African Airforce in 1976. I did not know him then, be we have worked out that we were both at Technical Services base at the same time. I was a Physical Training Instructor, and he was one of the apprentice Aircraft Technicians that I chased around the parade ground.

We laugh about it today. But the circumstances are greatly changed. I left the SAAF and went to become a pastor in the Methodist Church, while he remained, and eventually became a Sergeant Major. Dave reminisces nostalgically about the evenings in the pub with all his SAAF mates. These are the same mates who persuaded him to resign - tempted by the prospect of a pension payout. These are the mates who then helped him spend his money. And now he lives on the streets.

Dave survives by painting aircraft on hardboard offcuts.
And he wants me to buy a painting, so that he can get some money for materials. The Ysterplaat airshow is around the corner, and he wants to sell his paintings there.

So I paid a deposit on a painting of a Cheetah in a hanger in Hoetspruit. It is still in his mind, and perhaps it might arrive in my office one day.