dinsdag 28 april 2015

A Christian perspective on the death penalty.

In spite of the death-penalty having been abolished from (civil) legislation in many countries, society uses the death penalty as soon as a martial law is declared or during a situation of war. It is acceptable under military law for a soldier who defends his/her country to kill an invading soldier whose intend is to kill him. Under civil law it is also acceptable for a policeman to kill a criminal who is trying to kill him in a shoot-out.  The same is the case when a civilian is attacked by another civilian which could result in being killed and then in self-defense kills his/her attacker. However, is it acceptable for society to defend itself against a habitual murderer who intends killing some of its citizens by killing him? My answer to this question would be ‘no’. Death is final and there is nothing we can do to compensate the victim for his or her death if later on more evidence is discovered and he/she turns out to be innocent.  From a Judeo-Christian perspective I believe in the value of all human life and that this translate in the ethic that no human life should be terminated unless there is no other less harmful alternative. Christ teaches that we should live according to one supreme law and that is to love our fellow human as we love ourselves. The theologian-philosopher Paul who stood at the cradle of European Christianity stressed that this is our prime obligation from which all other laws are derived (Romans 13:8). In his writings he explains that such neighbourly love is expressed in respect, practical care, solidarity, brotherhood as well as equal and just treatment. The off-chance that we may be accidentally be executing someone who later turns out to be innocent of the crime therefore makes the death-penalty unacceptable in the light of this supreme moral obligation. In human history it has happened too many times that an innocent person was executed for a crime and even large amounts of money given in compensation to the bereaved families do no not rectify such injustices.

Now in the case of a soldier defending his country or a policeman shooting in self-defense both find themselves in a me-or-him scenario and they have very few (if any) other options. The Biblical principle of ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ here puts one in a fix for one has to protect his own life too as well as the lives of those one is tasked to protect. In this scenario the life of the soldier and policeman doing their duties, or an individual protecting his family during an assault is more important than that of the enemy soldier or of the violent criminal as he represents more than just himself. Ethics demands that if we have no other choice but to choose between saving one or saving many, we must choose the latter.  However, as soon as a soldier is captured or a criminal is caught the dynamics change. They are now fully at our mercy as a society which brings responsibility for us to execute justice. It is no longer a life and death crisis scenario but there are suddenly many more options. Killing them is no longer an urgent necessity and incarceration is to be preferred so that we do not take the risk at all to kill an innocent man or woman. At the same time I do believe that the government does bear a grave responsibility to society to ensure the well being of all its citizens. From this perspective an unrepentant (mass) murderer who is still a danger to society should never be allowed out on the streets again. I am therefore both against the death-penalty but also against limiting a life-time in prison to only 20 years. There have been too many incidents of murderers being released from prison after serving their sentence only to murder again shortly after. By releasing unrepentant murderers into society we are actually indirectly exacting the death-penalty on unsuspecting victims. So based on my belief in “do unto others as you would like to have done to yourself” my conclusion would be that if I were a (mass) murderer I would rather be incarcerated for a lifetime than being killed.  However, on the basis of doing unto others as I would want to have done to me I cannot expose society to people who are likely to murder someone as I would not want my loved ones or myself to be exposed to such people. To lock them up forever then seems the least harmful solution for all involved, including the perpetrator unless it can be guaranteed that they no longer pose a danger to society. This means for example that if a murderer gets infirm due to old age or paralyzed due to a disease and no longer is a danger to society he/she should be allowed to leave prison and go to a nursing home.

Sometimes the argument is given that giving criminals the death penalty is much cheaper. This off course is true as incarceration is expensive. Not all societies are able to fund proper prison facilities which guarantee that criminals can’t escape and pose a threat to society. However, the death penalty is not the only way to cut costs. Some nations resort to banishment of long-term prisoners to penal colonies where they have to work for a living but cannot leave the region/island. In other situations prisons cut costs by providing basic but decent shelter, clothes, beds and meals but for any extras prisoners are expected to work in factory facilities in the prison.  As long as the state ensure that this does not become slave labour or exploitation it may be acceptable from a Judeo-Christian perspective to take such measures.

Finally some extremists will point at the Old Testament’s use of the death penalty as an argument for using it today. However, to do so would be ignoring the fact that Christ in His sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) makes it very clear that He stands for a different kind of justice than that of Moses and the Old Testament. He stands for a kind of justice which goes beyond retribution and states that we ought to love our enemies. Loving our enemies does not mean aiding them in their evil or allowing them to do as they please but it does include treating them humanly with respect, kindness, care and fairness. Treating them as we would wish we were treated in their place. In conclusion the death penalty does not comply with the kind of justice Christ promotes.

donderdag 23 april 2015

Let no one Lord it over you for only Christ should be your Lord

If someone gets angry, irritated or starts sulking when you do not take their advice or share their opinion they demonstrate a lack of respect and love for you as a person as their behaviour shows their true intention was to dictate to you what you should do or believe. The same applies to those who respond with manipulation using guilt and shame and blame tactics. Or those who use sabotage or quiet subterfuge, gossip or resort to other over and covert methods to make you comply with their demands. Let no one be your master. The only obligation you have is to love your neighbour as you love yourself as Gods word tells us in Romans 13:8-10. The yoke people try to put on our shoulders is harsh but His yoke is light

So why allow others to Lord it over us and place burdens on us? After all, if the Lord of Heaven and Earth whose will is perfect does not force us to comply but humbly invites us to follow Him for our own good, who is "greater" than Him that he/she can lord it over us?

woensdag 22 april 2015

Let us stop playing church

Well maybe soon I won't be invited to preach anymore as I talk about things that people don't like to hear. However Gods people need to hear Gods truth before they go astray too much and the last bit of spiritual life in them dies out as their love grows cold.

1 John 3:14-23

14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 

20If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 

21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 

Too many of us do not get what we ask from God because we are unfaithful in how we use the resources God has entrusted to us. We use them for ourselves rather than for ourselves + others. If we do not obey our Lord by properly loving our brothers and sisters who are in material need because they are orphans and widows in distress, are homeless, refugees or work full-time for the gospel and as a result earn little then how can the love of God remain in us.

Old Testament tithing example

Already in the Old Testament tithes were predominantly used for taking care of people in need and of those who served God full-time.

The New Testament 

In the New Testament God calls us to go beyond the law and be generous and share.

We are reminded that looking after orphans and widows in distress is the religion God seeks and that our faith should be shown in works of kindness towards the hungry and needy. How can we live in our comfortable houses, drive our nice cars, enjoy expensive holidays and spend more money on personal luxury than we spend on helping people in need? How can Gods love remain in us? No we are not talking about our basic needs and obligations, I am talking about all that money each of us spends on top of our basic needs. God commands us to love your neighbor equally and not just think of our own needs, wants and interests!!!

That includes looking after those who have given up everything to serve Christ. It is not their personal hobby but they work on Gods behalf and they work also on your behalf, that is if we are truly part of the body of Christ and Christ's love in us has not totally died.

The New Testament also decrees that those who work for the gospel may live from the gospel and it is the responsibility of Gods people to look after those who are in full-time ministry.

Our spiritual poverty today

Yet today we find churches with fat bank accounts but missionaries and evangelists go without pay or very little. Some have to scrape a living together both at home and abroad and can hardly do the work they have been called to do. Some need to spend a lot of time otherwise spend for the gospel to make ends meet by doing piecework or other income generating activities.

Are our churches really churches in the Biblical sense of caring communities of faith who together do Gods work, or are we simply religious clubs that worship in a location we call 'church' where we confess Christ loudly with the mouth so that we feel good but we hardly show obedience in deed so that we become Christlike, Gods love remains in us and we can be truly full of His Spirit of Love?

Today’s "church" often spends most of its money for personal comfort in the Sunday services, for buying nice instruments so we have nicer outward worship, nicer materials for our children and on other things that may benefit us but hardly benefit those in need.

How can the love of God remain in such a community of believers if those with whom Christ identifies (I was hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison....) are systematically neglected?

How can Christ give us our much needed revival when His word is willfully disobeyed by us?

Jesus is very clear: If you are not faithful in handling a dirty, unrighteous thing as money, you can certainly not be given more valuable things to handle:

Luke 16:9-11

9"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11"Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Stop being proud, repent!

So instead of being proud about the crumbs you give from our table to the needy we should weep and mourn. By not having been faithful stewards of the resources God entrusted to us we have failed to store up treasures in heaven and have prevented God from entrusting us with true spiritual riches.

How can the Holy Spirit work in our midst when we grief Him by the way we treat the needy parts of the body in which we are baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13)?

Jesus says to His disciples who worked full-time in His service the following in Matthew 10:40-42

40“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

It is time we do what 1 John 3:18 says: Start loving the needy with actions and not just with words!!!

dinsdag 21 april 2015

Faithful stewardship

My child you want a greater understanding and experience of my love, you desire spiritual experiences and miracles. But my child, did I not tell you that unless you learn to be faithful in handling earthly things such as money and material resources I will not entrust the more important things to you.

9"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11"Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? (Luke 16).

If you are not faithful in loving God and in loving and taking care of your neighbour's needs as you love and take care of yourself in the way how can I give you more of my things to handle? If you cannot even properly handle the unrighteous wealth, how can I give you holy things to handle? You pray 'enlarge my territory' but you are not faithful in small things, so why would I do so? I know that those who are unrighteous in handling earthly things will be equally unrighteous in handling things of eternal value. So instead of asking 'why God do you not reveal yourself more to me and why don't you entrust us me with much' you should repent of your unfaithfulness to me in the way you handle 'your wealth' which actually is not yours at all, you are just a steward of these things. But if you repent and become faithful in handling earthly goods, then the Father will entrust you with more and more.

Remember faithful stewardship in my divine economy is gathering treasures in heaven and not increasing wealth on earth.

zondag 19 april 2015

Dealing with immature adults

Helping emotionally immature people

Insecure and emotionally immature people are often bullies and employ many techniques to get their way. Bullies and harassers have the emotional age of a young child and will exhibit temper tantrums, deceit, lying and manipulation to avoid exposure of their true nature and to evade accountability. How does one respond? The worst thing one can do is to become their apologist. To accommodate and cover up their wrongs and pretend they are not there. You do not help them grow up if you help them avoid the consequences of their behaviour and allow them to do as they please. They may be happy if you do so but deep down they know that their behaviour is wrong and they will resent you for facilitating it.

When Jesus says "let no one call you father for you have only one Father in Heaven" he is addressing the human tendency to become someone's parent, taking away part of their responsibility and allowing them to remain irresponsible and use you and others. Usually the fear of being alone or abandoned causes us to be weak in this area. We need to be needed so someone doesnt leave us. However God wants us to be guided by faith and His love, not fear of being abandoned for irresponsible persons will use it to manipulate us.

God want all people to be responsible for their own lives and not be dependent on people but live in healthy interdependency as brothers and sisters who share responsibility for eachother while depending on God as our parent. So do not give in to their dysfunction, whatever it may be. It does not help them grow up. They won’t attempt to change their ways until they are faced with no other choice because right now, they are getting by just fine manipulating, bullying etc. Why change if it works for them? Remember, you can’t change a person. But remember only they can change themselves.

We cannot make people grow up but what you can do is to learn how to say “NO”. But do it in a respectful and firm manner. Work on your self and protect your boundaries. Change how you interact with them and do it only on your (adult) terms, not their (childish) terms. Don’t react to them if they are being irrational. Develop an arsenal of phrases like, “Look, I don’t want to discuss this anymore. Let’s talk about it another time when we’ve both calmed down.” or “Sorry, I’m not comfortable doing that.” or “It’s clear we don’t agree but we aren’t communicating effectively.” Another way to communicate is to simply state the facts. How they chose to respond is really up to them. It’s a good idea to write a few phrases and practice them so you have them at your disposal when necessary.

Change will be very slow. Believe that changing how you respond to things will be the catalyst of change in how you are treated. So long as you behave like the adult in the room, you keep your dignity. Eventually, the other person will learn they cannot get their way acting like a child. However even after all of this, your relative may not change and you may need to maintain some emotional distance in order not to get harmed by their behaviour.

Now if you are in a relationship and your partner shows some immature behaviour do not right away refuse to parent them. We all sometimes are weak and seek a bit of parental love and nurturing. What should not happen is that one partner has to be the parent in the relationship most of the time and the other the child most of the time. The parent in such a relationship does not have his/her emotional needs met, is required to be strong all the time and may be punished and eventually abandoned if they fail to meet the need of the demanding adult-child. This is a burden too heavy for anyone carry and is not part of Gods design for marriage.

For another perspective see:  http://www.systemiccoaching.com/sw_articles_eng/immature_adults.htm

donderdag 16 april 2015

False gospel

A gospel that emphasizes getting rich on earth which gives power, influence and status with men is a false gospel. Such a gospel is in direct contradiction with Christ's teaching and personal example (Matt. 6:19-33). Following this false gospel we will stray from the narrow road of salvation and fail to experience the fullness of life God has in mind for us. We will go from bad to worse and if we do not come to our senses and repent we may be lost forever (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

dinsdag 14 april 2015

A spiritual insight the size of a mustard seed accepted by faith is powerful enough to bring down a mountain-sized illusion that may have been holding our lives together in a less wholesome way. Once the gospel of Gods enormous love for us and the immense value every human being has in his mind is accepted as truth in our hearts. Once we act upon that belief by treating ourselves and others as valuable and worthy of love and care, forgiveness and grace, whole societies are changed.

Matthew 13:31

31He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES."

maandag 13 april 2015

Let us love one another

1 John 4:7-8
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

It is Gods desire that we know him more and more and His enormous love for all people. We must allow His loving presence to fill and govern every area of our live so it will in turn inspire our behavior and day-to-day actions so that we indeed live a life of love towards all people. This normal Christian life is demonstrated in doing good to all people, including those who oppose us, but in particular do good to those who cannot refund or repay us: the weak, the defenseless, the oppressed and the vulnerable

woensdag 1 april 2015

Looking for an emotionally and spiritually mature partner

It is better to live in a corner of a roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. 

Proverbs 21:9

Thoughts on looking for a mature partner

There is a big difference between someone who can harness his childlike spirit, and be playful, loving, funny, and obnoxious, and someone who is still stuck the fragile emotional state of a teenager. Such a person can suddenly change like a leaf in the wind and blow up, loose their temper, become contentious and so on. A person like that is not truly ready for a mature adult relationship and will first need to work on his/her emotional development.  Such people can be recognised by the following characteristics:

1). They never explored their own emotional landscape or done inner personal work. They resist critical self-evaluation of their emotional make-up and responses. They certainly avoid extensive therapy or personal and emotional coaching.

2). They do not take responsibility for their errors or wrongs. They expect others to accept and forgive their emotional outbursts, issues, triggers, unresolved childhood stuff or dysfunctional family imprinting without wanting to talk about it, let alone ever take responsibility for personal emotional change and growth.

3). They are insecure and project their fears and emotional wounds onto you, but try to spin it in such a way that others look like the ones who have issues.

Emotionally stunted people are an epidemic in our culture where puberty seems to last longer and longer and sometimes a life time. A lot of emotionally stunted people have awesome and attractive personalities on the surface. They are really cool in every way until things do not go as they want or people do not do what they want.  They can hardly tolerate any hardship, conflict or disappointment and are unable to deal with their emotions in a mature manner.

Almost all of us get caught up with these types at one stage or another until we wise up. Why is this? Because in Western culture the emotional intelligence of people has been neglected for rational intelligence. Besides it often takes some time for people to see others as they actually are. Unfortunately a lot of us are so starved for connection that we then begin to make excuses for the immature behavior significant people in our lives display. We may even get roped into long-term relationships or marriage when WARNING LIGHTS have been flashing the entire time.

How can we avoid this in marriage? Stop falling for someone’s potential. Too many men fall in love with the idea of how a woman is, rather than with who she really is. Also too many women fall in love with the idea of how their man is and keep their eyes closed for who he really is. They sacrifice deep emotional intimacy and mutual caring friendship for good looks and hot sex, and then complain once the relationship fails.

If we enter into a long term relationship with someone who is emotionally immature we may end up babysitting, playing mommy or daddy, and in fact enable them to continue to behave like big spoiled irresponsible children.

We must encourage them to seek Gods help and the help of others to work through their issues. However we must avoid nagging them to do so. The desire to change must be genuine. It must come from within them and not from us or any other external pressure. For if they are not motivated to change it will never work. At most they will do better window dressing in order to appease us and give us the false impression all is now fine when it is not.

It is important that we choose partners who wholeheartedly value growth and emotional and spiritual development and demonstrate this in the way they live.

But a one-sided relationship where we are basically a surrogate-parent to our partner will eventually leave us and them unfulfilled and lonely if not bitter and resentful.

In our search for a partner we should therefore be looking for someone who stands out because he/she is seriously striving to follow Christ; Someone who does not hide or deny their sinful nature and human weakness, but seeks Gods help to overcome these. Someone who takes responsibility for overcoming his/her weaknesses in the genuine desire to be changed more into the likeness of Christ guided and aided by the Holy Spirit. Someone who by their whole lifestyle challenges us to grow as well.