Stubborn Prophet, Faithful God

Book Review

]Jonah wasn’t a very good missionary. He was a stubborn man, fearful and selfish. From the start he was reluctant to obey God’s call to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t seem to care much about the people on his mission field, whether they repented and lived or not—not a good trait for a missionary! Yet God used his ministry to accomplish something remarkable in a pagan city. And still today, the book of Jonah is one that instructs and encourages God’s people.
The story of Jonah is of course familiar. In family Bible readings, every child soon meets this recalcitrant prophet who gets ingested by a great fish. But apart from the well-known features of this story, do we really ponder Jonah the missionary? In this way, the book of Jonah is like a mirror. What do Jonah’s disturbing failures reveal about our own tendencies in the prophetic task, including our attitude towards non-believers, toward the urgency of sharing the gospel, and the work of mission itself?
In this book, Rev William Boekestein explores the story of Jonah in order to draw out a Christ-centred and challenging message for the church today. In ‘Stubborn Prophet, Faithful God,’ he combines careful exegesis and practical application throughout. It soon becomes clear that Jonah is a complex character, and one who is uncomfortably relatable. And while Jonah did not have an expressly ‘gospel’ message to bring to Nineveh, Boekestein contends that this story teaches us important truths about mission today, together with many other valuable insights into the Christian life. Through Jonah, we learn to see the pattern of our stubborn hearts and the blessing of God’s faithful love for the lost.
The author is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church (URCNA) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has written several books. Can I mention that he has authored some beautifully illustrated volumes of church history for children and young people? They are ‘The Quest for Comfort’ (telling the story behind the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism), ‘The Glory of Grace’ (the story of the Canons of Dort), as well as ‘Faithfulness Under Fire’ (the inspiring life of Guido de Brès). While ‘Stubborn Prophet’ isn’t illustrated like some of Boekestein’s other books, it is colourfully written and engaging in style—a real pleasure to read.
Besides offering a basic commentary on Jonah 1-4, Boekestein includes three helpful chapters on ethical questions that arise in Jonah: How Can I Know God’s Will? Is Fasting Finished? Why Should I Care about Animals? At the end of the book is a series of study questions for each chapter, which makes the book well suited for group discussion. Gladly recommended!

William Boekestein
Evangelical Press (2022)
192 pages

Available for purchase online and at the Pro Ecclesia bookshop in Armadale WA

Rev Reuben Bredenhof
FRC Mount Nasura

The Little Things

The philosopher Socrates once said: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ He was a Greek philosopher who lived in the fifth century before Christ, and his worldview was not Christian in any way. However, there is a great deal of truth that we can take for our lives today. It is easy for us to move through life as if we are on autopilot. We drift from moment to moment, going through the motions of each day without paying much attention to what is happening or how we are responding. Events happen and we tend to be caught up in the current of change that they bring. As life continues to flow around us, we move forward without much thought to what exactly is happening.
This can be especially true for our lives spiritually. We coast along, doing what we think is the right thing, maybe becoming involved in certain church committees or other activities because it is good to do, or because it is expected of us. We are motivated to do what God commands of us but often don’t think all that deeply about what is really going on in our hearts. Our lives bear evidence of God in the bigger details but when we look to where we are in the small, insignificant details, there isn’t all that much evidence of who rules our lives.

A big part of biblical counselling is looking at the details of our lives in the light of Scripture. Not just the big or important moments but the little, every day, seemingly insignificant ones. What does our behaviour in those moments say about who our God is? What are we believing about God and about ourselves that leads us to respond in such a way? Who is God and how is he working in the mundane parts of your life? This is something that is helpful for every one of us, not only those who are hurting. We are all called to examine our lives and hold them in the light of scripture.
In 2 Peter 1:10 we are told to be “all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election.” As Reformed believers, we believe that God has chosen us and that is not based on anything that we do. At the same time, we are called to actively be sure of our calling. This is not something that can happen if we are on autopilot.
As we look to the wider passage, Peter reminds us of that great and wonderful calling that we have been chosen into: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (vv. 3-4)
Our election is not merely an election to eternal life. It is an election and a calling to continually grow in Christlikeness. A calling to fellowship and communion with the triune God that does not happen if we are drifting through our lives. Peter continues: “For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (vv. 5-7)
Here Peter is giving us very specific qualities, tangible things for us to be busy with—qualities that we can take the time to examine in ourselves and see where we might be drifting, or where we might be caught up in the current of the world around us. Below is a list of questions that fit into those different points, designed to help you dig deeper into your own heart and examine what is really going on.
• Are you continuing to make every effort to grow your faith? Are you busy holding on to the promises of God? What are you doing so that you may grow in trust and confidence that he is busy in the details of your life, a faith that extends beyond your salvation and eternal life? Do you trust that everything that is happening to you and those around you is for your good (Romans 8:28)?

• Are you constantly growing in knowledge of who your God is and what he has done? What other knowledge are you consuming? How are those voices influencing you? Are you swayed by the noise of the world around you? Are their more persuasive voices that you find yourself aligning yourself with? What are you doing to fill yourself with knowledge of the triune God?

• Are you growing in self-control? Do you have an awareness of your emotions and the directions they might be pulling you in? How do you respond when you are commanded/mandated to do something you don’t like (e.g., wear masks, drive a certain speed)? Do you have enough space in your life so that you can engage your emotions with the God of the universe?

• Do you stand firm and steadfast, unswayed by the influences of the world and the circumstances of your life? Are you grounded and secure in the Rock that is your Saviour? Do you whole heartedly sing along with David, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold?” What happens to you as you find yourself facing the storms of life? Do you take refuge in God, or are there things that distract you? In what ways do you find yourself drifting, reaching out for quick comforts, escaping into ideas that only protect you for a moment?

• Are you growing in godliness? What evidence of the fruit of the Spirit is in your life? How is it growing? Does your life bear testimony to the triune God? Not just in the big things but in the small details: how drive your car, your spending habits, the way you respond to a dog barking when you are trying to sleep, how you interact with people in the grocery store, and person you are at 10.30 on a Tuesday morning. These things matter. Do those moments bear fruit as you live to serve God and those around you?

• How do you show brotherly affection? How do you respond and interact with those who have a different opinion than you? Do you interact with people who think differently to you, or are different in some way (e.g., age, life stage, marital status, education)? Do you seek to understand and move toward your brothers and sisters in Christ? What does this look like specifically, right now, as you engage with others who think differently about vaccinations?

• What are you doing to show love to God and to your neighbour? What do some of the behaviours you have reflected on say about the relationship you have with God as you move about you daily moments? What are you doing to make every effort to show love to your family, to your friends, to others in your church and to those in your community? How are you loving your neighbour?
Peter continues, “For if these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep your from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (vv. 8-9)
We must not drift. The Holy Spirit is continually at work in us, sanctifying and nurturing us so that we do bear fruit. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit that we can have the humility and insight to reflect on what these questions reveal about our hearts. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit that we continue to hold on to the grace that God has extended us in our election.
“Therefore brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (vv. 10-11)
Let us continue to grow together, encouraging each other just as Peter was encouraging his readers. May we continue to grow, always making every effort to build on our faith and draw into a closer fellowship with the triune God.

Camille de Vos
Trellis Counselling

Truth be Told !

Truth be Told!

Recently, Apple TV+ begun streaming a new crime investigation series, called
Truth be Told.’ The series follows the stories of a journalist and podcaster, as she re-investigates the case of a convicted murderer, who may have been falsely imprisoned, because of her newspaper reporting. In her pursuit of justice, the podcaster encounters new evidence and information that challenges her perception of the truth.

Conflict as a Story

Like the podcaster, we all present our conflict as a story. It is a story of hurt and pain, of brokenness and betrayal. Not only does the story outline what happened and how it happened, it also articulates the reason why it happened. It’s not a nice story, but it is a story we become obsessed with. It consumes our thoughts all day long and we just can’t let it go.

And it’s a story that needs to be told – to a good friend, to a parent and even our elder. And we need to tell this story, as we need comfort, encouragement and understanding from those around us.

Dr Lenski, a mediation expert, ( explains what happens when we tell our story of conflict:

‘As you tell yourself this story over and over, themes emerge. Certain words, actions or events stand out. These themes shape the conclusions you draw, what you do to soothe yourself, and what you do next in the situation or relationship.
The more you tell yourself the story, or narrative, of the conflict, the more you believe it. It begins to feel right as a way to explain the events. It is the truth.
Except it’s not.
It feels like the truth of the matter because repetition of a message increases it persuasiveness…
It’s your truth, yes. It’s your story, yes.
But is not the story of the conflict.’

Reveals the Heart

The manner in which we frame and present our story of conflict all too often reveals our broken and sinful nature. ‘Our hearts are deceitful above all things’ says the prophet Jeremiah (17:9), and conflict is a sure-fire way of revealing the intentions of the heart.

In our conflict stories, we have a way of editing out our shortcomings and weakness that contribute to the situation. We present our narrative in a way that vindicates our right, and righteousness. We carefully erase inconvenience sinful contributions and perpetuate a story of unprovoked injustice in which we, ourselves are exonerated. Yes, this a proven way to get support and advocates for your cause, but it does not remove your responsibility before God for distorting the truth.

Distorts the Truth
Distorting the truth often occurs when we don’t tell the whole story. We don’t always do this intentionally, however sometimes we do! We remove some details out of the narrative, while exaggerating other details or events. Bit by bit, we slowly revise the story until it becomes our version of the events, our story about what really happened. We tell our story, our way, and the more we do so, the more consumed we become!

All too often the change in narrative is to our advantage, in that we present facts that incriminate our brother, while absolving ourselves of any responsibility. Over and over, as we tell our story, we gain perfect clarity as to the sin and guilt of the offending party, all the while being blind to our sin. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus warns us of our own delusions; ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’. By distorting our narrative, we are building a compelling case that requires condemnation and judgement of the other party. Sometimes we don’t even realise we have done this. Other times, we don’t care, as we are just hurting so badly.

It seems the more the conflict prolongs, the more often we repeat our story. As we do so, the stronger the case we build against our brother. With growing clarity, our story details the gross sin of the other, all the while calling on those in authority to act. As the narrative evolves, so does our role. As such, we become the judge and jury of the case, to the point we feel obligated to propose disciplinary action. In our conflict story, our truth leads the judgement of the other, while we remain unscathed. Yet, scripture has a warning for that as well. If we are prepared to have the other party harshly and unfairly judged, we can be certain that we will be judged in the same manner (Matt 7:1-5).

Condemns others

Supporting a friend in conflict, also requires a heighten sense of discernment. Standing beside a hurting friend ought not to mean unquestioned agreement with everything one says. Rather, with a measure of sensitivity, a good friend will carefully listen to the conflict story, all the while discerning gaps and inconsistencies in what has been said. This is not to deny or dismiss their hurt, but rather to seek the whole story. ‘Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight!’ These paraphrase words from Proverbs 18:17 ought to encourage honest recollection of a conflict story that seeks justice and truth for both parties.

Conflict is a story. It is our story. It is our truth. But it’s not the whole story or the whole truth. As with any story, our story of conflict ought to be written with extreme caution. Actually, it needs to be re-written, with love. ‘Speak the truth in love’ says the apostle in Ephesians 4, in the middle of a passage on unity and maturity in the body of Christ. Note carefully, that there is no trade-off here – not truth or love – but truth in love. Pursing truth in love, is not so much about the manner of telling the truth, but rather the foundation of which all truth is based (cf. Eph 4:15). Our story of conflict must be story of faith.

A story of faith

Re-writing our story of conflict as a story of faith, means we must acknowledge that even in the midst of disputes God is busy refining our hearts and minds for our good. Further, when we suffer, we must not give in to our old nature, but be renewed by His Spirit so that we ‘get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice’ (Eph 4:31).
All too often we become consumed by our disputes, so that it clouds our hearts and minds. If we are to guard our hearts, as Proverbs 4:23 says, then we are also to re-focus our thoughts too. This is precisely what the apostle Paul said to two sisters caught up in conflict. Focus on the good gifts of God, the things that are true, pure, and honourable (cf. Phil 4:4-9). As hard as it may be, we should not become consumed with our conflict – rather, refocus on Christ, being ‘kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Eph. 4:32).

The Truth be Told

Truth be told – we are lousy storytellers. The fact that we do not always get our story right does not remove the reality of the dispute or disagreement. Neither does it diminish the emotional pain that conflict causes.

However, the encouragement is to take time for self-reflection, to ensure that your story of conflict, is told in faith, showing love and respect for the other party in the dispute. It is a caution to keep our emotions in check, to be honest in our narrative, by acknowledging our sinful contributions, both in actions and attitudes. It is an encouragement not to assume to the role of judge, jury, and executioner, rather to provide grace and mercy to the other party, being prepared to forgive, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In the end, being made aware of our sinful inclinations ought to help us to reframe and refocus our conflict story in a way that honours God and shows love to our brother. In this way, justice and peace in our community may be restored and promoted in a way that gives glory to God.

Wayne Pleiter
FRC Byford

Conflict Resolution

Resolving Conflict by God’s Grace

Getting into conflict with other people is easy. We don’t usually wake up in the morning wanting to pick a fight with someone. And yet we end up having tense moments surprisingly often. Your husband or wife can be really trying. You have a dispute with a brother in the church. One of your co-workers is lazy or your boss is micro-managing you. These days it’s easy to get into an argument with someone about vaccine mandates, government overreach, or consistory’s way of implementing the latest COVID regulations. Can you think back to the last time you were in conflict with another person?

So how did you deal with that? Our natural reaction is to respond in one of two ways. We attack or escape. We argue, criticise, gossip, slander, yell, bully or even litigate or hit the other person. But then there is another part of us that hates conflict. And so sometimes we just try to escape. We walk away, avoid the person, give the silent treatment, stop going to Bible study, quit our job, stop showing up at family functions, withdraw from the church or get divorced. Often we both attack and escape in the same confrontation.
This is not the LORD’s way. He is a God of relationship, and he has the character traits that are needed for deep relationship. Our God is loving, good, forgiving, merciful, kind, patient, gentle, faithful and honest. He tells us that peace and unity are extremely important to him. His ultimate purpose is not only to establish peace and unity between him and his church but also between the members of his church. He tells us in Ephesians 1:9-10 that “he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God’s grand plan for all time is to recreate his people in Christ so that they live with him and each other in love, peace and unity.
So what does that mean in real life? How do we find unity with someone who is proud or selfish? How can you resolve a conflict with someone who has hurt you deeply and isn’t willing to apologise? You look to Christ. You trust Christ can resolve the conflict and you plead for his Spirit to work that out in your life. Christ has the power to do that, for he reconciled us and God. Ephesians 1:7 tells us that he restored the unity between God and us by securing the forgiveness of our sins and redeeming us by his blood. He also has the power to restore us to others. If you think you have a serious division that seems insurmountable, you haven’t seen anything. Christ brought the Jews and Gentiles together in one church (Eph: 2:14-16). For generations they hated each other. And yet Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility and made peace through the power of his Spirit and the teaching of his apostles.

He is also willing to help you work though any conflict you may have. As you draw near to Christ, you become like him. Do you know the most important quality? Humility. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, took on human form, and humbly became obedient to death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). Quite a calling! Are you humble? Do you think of others better than yourself? Do you look after the interests of others before your own interests?
In Matthew 7:1-5, the famous passage about logs and specks, Christ warns us against hypocrisy and calls us to be moderate in our judgements. We often judge others by their words and actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. God says it doesn’t work that way. Don’t be hypocritical. First deal with your own stuff before you start casting blame on others. I like the way Benjamin Franklin put it many years ago, “Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.”
The LORD also calls us to try to understand the other person before we try to be understood. So often our focus is on telling others what we think and convincing them of our point of view. In Proverbs 18:3, God warns us against that: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Shame on you if you don’t listen but start marshalling answers in your head even before they are done talking.
And then in Proverbs 20:5, God addresses this issue from a positive perspective: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” You are a person of understanding if you spend your time in a conversation trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint and motives. I don’t do it well, but I like to walk a few miles in the other person’s moccasins before I criticise or condemn them. It helps me to be more nuanced in my approach. How much of the arguing we have done about COVID could have been avoided if we spent a bit more time trying to understand the other person? And then if you have listened well, at times you can speak the truth into the person’s heart. That’s pure gold. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
When you have honesty, humility and understanding, you have the basis for conflict resolution. And then you actually need to talk it through. Unless you overlook the matter (which God commends in Proverbs 19:11 and Ephesians 4:2), conflict resolution is done by talking the issue through. In Leviticus 19:17, God says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in his guilt.” And again in Matthew 18:15 he says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”
What’s the goal? That you honestly admit your sins and they honestly admit their sins and that you forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Pretty tough, for being honest about our sin is super hard. Forgiving others is even harder. If you forgive someone, it means that even though someone has offended you and owes you, you are willing to bear the loss yourself. Who can do that? We don’t have it in us. But thankfully God doesn’t leave us on our own. He does it for us. God demonstrated his love and grace by sending his Son to die for us while we were his enemies (Rom 5:8). This grace is heart changing. As we understand God’s grace in forgiving all our sins, it becomes our great joy to forgive others and put the matter to rest.
Conflicts are not always resolved. In some ways we have a lot of growing up to do, and we can be pretty immature in Christ. Sometimes we refuse to repent. We refuse to give up the idols of our hearts. We are too afraid or proud to admit our contribution to the problem. We are too angry to be willing to forgive. We don’t understand the grace that God has given us and so we don’t delight to extend that to others. What a sadness for our Lord Jesus when he sees us in that place. He has all the power to bring us together, and yet we are not willing.
And yet there are other times when conflicts are resolved. As we look to Christ, he enables us to be reconciled. The trust that at one time was obliterated between husband and wife is again restored. Brothers in the church who are in disagreement are able to genuinely put it behind them and have a stronger relationship than they have ever had. Parents are reconciled to their adult children despite profound difficulties in the past. It’s the work of God, and it is truly astounding.
May God bring us to maturity in Christ so that pursuing unity is as great a priority for us as it is for the LORD. The good news is that Christ will accomplish his work among his people. He will bring all things to complete unity and present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. To him be all glory!

Rev Dirk Poppe
FRC Southern River

Lessons From The Ants

When my wife and I have walked through a park together for some time and we need a rest, we usually head for the nearest bench. There we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. There we also use the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of God’s spectacular creation. We listen to the fascinating song of the birds and admire the beautiful flowers and the colourful eucalyptus trees the Lord created. Now that we both belong to the fourscore age group, we can’t walk so far anymore. But that doesn’t matter because there is beauty all around us, even on our own doorstep.

One day while resting on one of these park-benches, we noticed several ants busily running around. These industrious little creatures worked very hard, and it soon became obvious to us that they were working harmoniously together. They did not seem to have a leader and even the unseen queen ant was not really their leader, although she seemed to keep them very busy. And yet without a leader the work seemed to get done, and done well.

Harmoniously working together
We noticed one ant which was trying to move a tiny little piece of bark. Ants are known to be able to lift weights that are many times larger and heavier than their own body weight. It is claimed they can lift items weighing up to 50 times their own weight, or more.

This time, however, the piece of bark was obviously too heavy for one ant. But this particular ant was determined to move it to where he wanted it. But no matter how hard he pulled or pushed, he could not move it more than a few centimetres. However, he didn’t want to give up and continued his struggle.

Miraculously though, without any obvious signals or messages passing around, suddenly several other ants noticed this ant’s predicament and quickly rushed to its assistance. No hassles at all. No questions asked. There was obviously no issue about who was in charge and who was issuing the orders. No, they immediately got stuck into it and helped the other ant carry its load. And by harmoniously working together they got the job done. We found it amazing that animals such as the ants often know better than humans how to work harmoniously together.

Same purpose and direction
What was also remarkable was that once they got stuck into it, they all pulled, tugged and pushed into the same direction. Not one of them argued about the direction they should go. Without any hassle they all worked together. They all had the same purpose in mind and were all focused on getting the job done. All of them had the same focus: the building of the nest and the wellbeing of the queen.

We found this very intriguing and fascinating, and continued watching the activities of these industrious little creatures. Then we noticed that one of the ants had just discovered a piece of cheese that someone had dropped when having his lunch on this same park bench. This ant did not just quickly eat it himself but proceeded to attempt to carry it to the nest. But this also proved too heavy for one ant. Again, there was obvious harmony. There was no question about who saw the piece of cheese first and who was therefore entitled to eat it. No, the queen needed to be cared for and therefore they all realised what their priority ought to be. Unselfishly they worked together to feed the queen ant. And so, they all pulled and shoved, again in the same direction, towards the nest. No argument about entitlements; instead, they worked in perfect harmony. Their priority was not their own selfish interests but the wellbeing of the whole ant colony. None of them proudly announced, for instance, “I carried the biggest piece to the nest”. Pride was simply not an issue.

All the ants, strong ones and weak ones, big ones and small ones, had only one purpose in mind and that was the big picture, the needs and wellbeing of the ant colony. The wellbeing of all the other ants, including the queen ant, was their top priority. Their God given social instinct was to work harmoniously together. That’s how they were created by our magnificent Creator.

As with all social insects like bees and wasps, ant colonies have a queen whose sole task is to lay eggs. She has no time to go out and look for food herself. That’s the task of the other ants and they do that willingly and without grumbling. The queen is not chosen but certain larvae are given a special nutritious diet which transforms them from ordinary working ants to queen ants. The queen’s only task is to lay as many eggs as possible during her short lifetime. And the amazing thing is that all this happens according to the design and purpose of our majestic Creator.

May we all recognise and be amazed about the design and beauty that surrounds us, even on our own doorstep, close to home and even in our own garden. Then we may come across something unusual or fascinating which helps us to recognise the ingenuity of our Creator. With the eye of faith, we may see so much beauty all around us. And then to think that we are privileged to serve such a Creator and that we are allowed to communicate with Him. This Creator did not only create things, but He is also intimately involved in maintaining His creation. He also lovingly cares for us His people.
Very importantly, we also need to take note of what our Creator is teaching us with the lesson from the ant colony. Small things like ants are not as boring as we may sometimes think. They also teach us valuable lessons. Those of us who are inclined to be lazy are instructed by the author of the book of Proverbs, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (6:6 NKJV). If there are some among us who let all the other people get involved with, for example, ‘busy bees,’ and prefer to have the day off for themselves, then the Bible teaches us to put our shoulder under the task and labour harmoniously together, working with the same purpose as co-workers in God’s Kingdom.
And what ought to be our purpose? Isn’t it, as always and in all circumstances, the glory and honour of God’s holy Name? If that is indeed our aim in life, all our bickering and fighting for our own rights becomes insignificant, futile and unimportant, and will eventually disappear. Then we all work with the same goal and purpose. Then we all, like the ants, pull in the same direction. Only then God’s Name will be glorified.
Ants not only teach us to work hard but they also show us to live towards the future and to prepare for the future. For the ants, the future will be different than ours. We have a wonderful future to look forward to. And, of course, while we wait, we won’t be idle. We don’t just stop working but remain active in God’s Kingdom as His co-workers until He comes. For “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). As Luther said: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree”. In other words, we are called to be busy and work hard like the ants until the Lord returns.

Not entitlements but responsibilities
What else can we learn from the ants? We said that the ants were obviously not so much concerned about their own entitlements. They never argued about their (perceived) rights but were always busy concentrating on their responsibilities. They did not live for themselves but for others, for the care of the community. Their aim is to give, not to receive. Without realising it they live by the biblical principles of our Lord when He said in Acts 20:35, “It is better to give than to receive”. How wonderful to have such lessons from the ants, even right on our doorstep. We have an awesome Creator, who has made wonderful creatures to His glory. Ants can often be a nuisance but at other times they teach us valuable lessons.

Says Rev. R. Bredenhof in his book ‘Wise’, “The little ant in your backyard, always busy with gathering and building, is a model of industry. Without anyone compelling it, and even without receiving monetary reward, an ant does its work with faithfulness and care. That’s a worthy example, an encouragement to do our daily work with diligence and skill”.
To God, the Creator, be the glory.
Great things He has done!

Leo Schoof
FRC Byford

Ignore Body Language – Ignore God

When our daughter was studying for her radiography qualifications, she also had to do a short course which was aimed at making students aware of the importance of body language. The lecturer claimed, and went on to demonstrate, how about eighty percent of people’s communication is actually unspoken, i.e., conveyed by virtue of body language. The course was interesting and kept students on the edge of their seats; it was impressed on them how important it would be to read patients’ body language when they came to radiography under varying degrees of stress and pain.

After she and I talked about this, I pondered this concept of body language some more as regards its importance and implications. In our household we already were fairly keenly attuned to our children’s body language. We addressed negative body language (rolling of the eyes, shrugging of shoulders, and such like) in clear terms as to what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. It became quite clear to us that much silent rebellion in households is expressed—and regrettably unaddressed—in that manner.

Body language has been, and still is, Satan’s tool of choice in cheapening and destroying human relationships. Scripture warns against this very clearly. When the nation of Israel falls into sin, she is more often than not compared to a wanton woman. Thus we read in Isaiah 3:6, “Moreover the LORD saith, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet…’”

The Lord – as does the devil – attributes much importance to body language, as shown in this and other texts (cf. Prov 7; 2 Sam 11:2; Judg 14:3; Ezek 16). The general tenet implied is that female seduction can mean the downfall of kingdoms and great men. Just so today, plastic surgeons make a mint out of surgery which emphasises the alluring physical attributes of a woman. And so we see a big industry involved in Botox lips, enhanced busts, Botox derrieres, alluring hair colours and compositions, and eye lashes that drop down to the cheek bones.

Fashion designers bluntly declare that their creations are not to clothe, but to allure. Their clothing aims at gilding the parcel to the utmost. The beautiful body is also the great advertising centrepiece for much of the fitness industry and for the selling of home exercise contraptions. God made the body holistically beautiful and attractive (cf. 1 Tim 2:9-10) for the noble purpose of God-centred relationships, notably in marriage (Gen 2:20-25). But this has been powerfully perverted, reduced and demeaned to good looks aimed at body worship and seduction.

However, the way the body speaks still makes a powerful statement about man’s relationship with his Creator, be that person Christian or not.

As I am an avid sports hobbyist, both actively and passively, I also started a conscious observation of sports people and their body language at moments of emotional highs and lows. It is quite telling that a sports person at a moment of high elation will raise the arms skyward in celebration. Conversely, when the goal is not scored in a penalty shootout, the failure will result in a shrinking of the body, a bending of the head in shame or dismay. Looking at the supporters and fellow teammates, one can observe many of these with folded hands and prayer-like posture as the penalty shoot-out is unfolding.

This body language is not only common in the sports arena. It can also be observed in other areas of life, wherever there are emotional moments which demand expressing. A child (and many an adult) will try to go small and often place an arm in front of the face as if to ward off the words of correction firmly addressed. A face will light up and look open in a moment of praise. When dismayed or seriously tired, yet needing to push on, a weary head will be lifted skyward and eyes will look to the heavens.

It makes me wonder why people, while having so many potential ways of expressing emotions, choose to express them by turning towards or away from the heavens. Logically speaking, if a person were totally self-absorbed, he would hug himself passionately in a moment of victory rather than reaching upward and beyond himself. If a person were dismayed with himself, logically he would self-mutilate rather than follow the example of Adam and Eve as they tried to make themselves invisible by diving into the bushes.

Scripture makes clear that a person does not lose his connection with God altogether, but that he is in active denial of this link (Rom 1:18). This shows inadvertently in an unbeliever’s emotionally charged spoken language and in his emotionally charged body language.

In terms of spoken and body language well utilized, i.e., to God’s glory, Jonathan Swift sums the issue up in his well-wishing statement:

“May you live all the days of your life,” Jonathan Swift, Irish writer (1667-1745).

Herm Zandman
FRC Southern River

Grace in a Pandemic

We hoped and prayed that the pandemic would be over by now, but it seems to be far from finished. Instead, we’re living in difficult times, experiencing many challenges and uncertainties. And yet, when it is all over, what will the legacy of this COVID pandemic be?

Will we have built walls? Or will we have grown in love and empathy towards our neighbour?

Will we have allowed Satan to drive a wedge between brothers and sisters in Christ? Or will we have grappled with our sinful hearts and shown humility, gentleness and long-suffering?

Will we have become more fearful and anxious? Or will we have deepened our understanding of ‘trust in God?’

The pandemic has brought about many polarising topics: restrictions, government boundaries and vaccinations, to name just a few. There are many differences of opinion and, it appears, much reason for conflict. Emotions run high. Fear is all around us. Information is propagated widely and incessantly.

And while all this goes on, every one of us battles with our own sinful hearts and flesh. In times like these, it is especially easy to look down on a brother or sister who have reached a different conclusion to us. We very quickly become proud or self-righteous, assuming the ‘higher-position.’ We swiftly make assumptions or judge others – even before speaking with them. We can be bitter or resentful for the way we have been treated or because another’s actions have brought hardship upon our lives. We want to speak and debate with force, pride, anger, fear or impatience.

But the thing is, ultimately, our battle is not with COVID. Right back in the Garden of Eden, God declared what the real battle is. And now in 2022, as Australia deals with a pandemic, Satan is seeking a foothold in our hearts and in our churches. While the government causes segregation and society looks to put their hope and trust in a variety of man-made solutions, it should not be so amongst God’s children.

God calls us to a higher standard of living and behaving. In the midst of difficult circumstances, God commands us to show grace.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Grace can be explained here as ‘comfort, admonition, and everything that aids the salvation of the soul.’ Our attitudes, words, thoughts or actions of pride, anger or resentment are things that build walls, and do not unify Christ’s church. Grace, on the other hand, edifies and enables us to help and love each other while we journey here on earth as pilgrims to the new heaven and new earth.

Grace: for that brother or sister who has spoken harshly to us.

Grace: when we seek out a fellow believer and listen empathetically rather than judging or jumping to conclusions.

Grace: as we walk alongside someone wrestling with the mandate or the vaccine.

Grace: for those who have reached a different conclusion or have different convictions to us.

Grace: when a brother or sister shares their fears of the disease.

Grace: as we pray for and seek to obey and respect the government God has placed over us.

Grace: for those who are burdened by conflicting information, stories and opinions.

Grace: when another believer shares the heartache of being unable to travel and visit with family or loved ones.

Grace: for that brother or sister struggling in the face of work uncertainties or changes brought about by the pandemic.

Yet, there will be times when we are confronted with the sinfulness of our own hearts and lives and when we think or speak with anger or pride or fear. There will be times when we must seek forgiveness from a brother or sister, because we have not acted with grace.

Daily, we are all in desperate need of grace. All praise and thanks to God, who knows this and has more grace for us than we can comprehend.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

With this grace of God in our hearts, let us show grace to one another. Let us pray for His Spirit to work mightily in our hearts so that we can think, speak, and act with grace to one another.

Natika Ballast
FRC West Albany

Listen, my son! Teaching Your Children the Christian Worldview

How do you teach your children? When they were baptised, you promised to teach them the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, to instruct them in a god-fearing life, not loving the world but putting off their old nature. It is a question we cannot evade – as parents we have a responsibility to train and equip the next generation.

But how to do that? Is it enough to give our children some boundaries and let them figure things out for themselves? Or should we have a content-rich curriculum in our homes, a curriculum that covers what a Christian approach to business looks like; how we are to think about western culture; the threats and opportunities provided by technology and how to use it in a God glorifying way; how to spend your money; the place and purpose of sexuality?

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Supporting Families where Children have left the Church

Some time ago I wrote an article about children leaving the church. I mentioned that we should never be comfortable with anyone, young or old, rejecting or denying Christ or His church. Leaving the church or turning one’s back on God is a slap in God’s face, a rejection of His promises.

I asked if we sincerely admonish someone who is going in the wrong direction, on a destructive path? Do we take mutual discipline seriously? Do we ask him if all is well when we find his seat empty again on Sunday? Do we approach him, or would we rather not get involved? Would we perhaps rather not get into an uncomfortable situation and prefer to leave it to others to approach him? Many of us don’t want to get into such a vulnerable situation. It is much easier not to be confronting, and instead to be ‘nice’, isn’t it?

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Day 5: Soaring the Australian Skies

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23)

I love the excitement that day five of God’s creation brought to my life. It is a joy to spend countless hours watching the antics of birds and sea creatures frolic in the habitats appointed to them.

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