Wednesday, January 29, 2020
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Jax Okiro

The real #resurrectionchallenge #notmygospel

Chances are you’ve had a good laugh this week at pastor Alph Lukau of Alleluia Ministries International “resurrecting” some poor guy in a coffin (I kid you not).

If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here – but beware; you’re bound to either crack up laughing or throw your phone out the window in disgust.

Of course the incident has sparked somewhat of a social media craze, with jokers all over joining in on the #resurrectionchallenge.   

Here’s the thing: for as long as society has been around, people have lined up to rip other people off in the name of religion. And some of those people have made heaps of money doing so, too! 

Chances are you’re looking at the whole circus and saying something to the tune of: “What a bunch of [insertbadwordhere]. Why bother with Christianity in any case?”.

To which I’d say: hang on a sec, captain. It’s not quite that simple. 

Because the “gospel” proclaimed by these shady characters – which revolves mostly around money – are most certainly #notmygospel. In fact, it doesn’t have much to do with what the Christian faith is actually about at all!

And that’s the issue right there: Because you may be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can’t disregard Christianity itself because some bad people distort it to take advantage of others. You can’t simply throw away Christianity or faith in Jesus because some people use it to do bad things. 

For example: You can’t say “Food is evil – just look at anorexia, bulimia, and all the other eating disorders.” That would be absurd. Food is good. It is necessary to sustain life. You can’t throw it all out just because some people use it for destructive purposes. In its original, intended form, it is objectively good.

In the same way, Christianity is about faith in Jesus. It is about accepting that God loves us very much (so much that he sent His Son to save us!), and showing that same love to others. It is objectively good.

So yes, let’s stop giving a platform to clowns like the “pastor” in question. But in doing so, let’s not do away with something that is objectively good and true. God loves us unconditionally, and wants a relationship with every one of us. Don’t go throwing that away just because some shady conman wants to make a quick buck off of you…

Tired of the restless rat race?

It’s one of those words you hear often during the holiday season: Peace.

But what does it really mean?

What is peace all about in a world ravaged by violence and suffering?

What does peace mean in the midst of the never-ending, restless rat race?

How do you find peace when you’re surrounded by struggle and strife?

More importantly: Where do you find real peace?

The answer to that question may be found in an unexpected place… and since we’re still in the Christmas season, I want to share a Christmas story with you.

The second chapter of Luke, one of the books in the Bible, tells the story of a multitude of angels appearing to a group of shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus – the saviour of all. Here’s the gist of it (Luke 2:11-14):

“Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:

‘Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men

on whom His favor rests!’”

See what happened there? Do you see how the story links the birth of Jesus, the saviour, to the idea of “peace to men”?

That idea – the idea that real peace comes through Jesus to those who put their trust in him – is echoed in many other parts of the Bible. Another passage, part of a letter included in the Bible (Philippians 4:7), talks about the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding”, which becomes ours when we give our lives to Jesus.

If you want real peace, the Bible is clear: it is found in relationship with Jesus – the one who came to restore our relationship with God.

I’m here to say that real peace – lasting peace – comes when you surrender your whole life to Jesus.

If you’d like to know how to do that, click below to chat to our team – we’d love to help!

Christmas cheer? Anyone?

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It’s a familiar refrain – the same old tune ringing out in a million supermarkets across the world every December.

Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.

All is calm and bright and rose-coloured at Christmas, they say. But you know it’s not.

Because you’ve heard the gun shots ring out on a Friday night as yet another gang attack goes down somewhere in the ‘hood. You’ve followed the war reporter on TV as she points out the tracer missiles streaking through the dead of night, while opposing forces are locked in battle in some God-forsaken hell hole. There’s no denying: We live in a world of violence and war and pain and fear and suffering.

‘Round young virgin, mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild.

A young virgin. A holy infant. Such a wholesome scene. Unlike the real world, where drugged-out prostitutes sell cheap sex on grimy street corners. Where tiny infants, far from being wrapped in loving care, are often abused and abandoned and sometimes even left to die. And that’s without even mentioning slavery and trafficking and oppression.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Peace? Really? When is the last time that you’ve had a night of peaceful sleep? When last could you enjoy life without gut-wrenching worry – stress about money; relationship troubles; health issues – eating away at your insides?


Let’s be honest: There’s a stark difference between the lovely lyrics of that good ol’ Christmas carol, and the cold, hard reality we live in each day.

Yet, that shouldn’t surprise you. One of the most ancient books known to man – the Bible – is clear about why everything is a mess: Sin has distorted our world. Mankind has chosen to live life apart from God. Is it any surprise that we’ve made a mess of it?

Thankfully, though, that’s not where the story ends. Here’s what you should know: Christmas is a celebration of the moment the tide began to turn – because in that little infant, the baby boy Jesus, lay the answer to our problem. It’s Jesus who died on the cross so there could be forgiveness for our sin – a way to restore the broken relationship between us and God. The beginning of something brand new. And if we want, we can be a part of that new reality – a “new Kingdom”.

The Bible says the following: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If the pain and brokenness of the world you live in is too much for you this Christmas, perhaps it’s time to consider giving it all to Jesus – so you, too, can begin to live in a new reality…

4 lies about God (that you probably believe)

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It’s no secret that we live in the information age – we know more today than we ever have, after all.

We can look up the population of Liberia in a heartbeat, and get a recipe for deep-fried locust while we check the weather in Peru. We can do online courses on anything from philosophy to history to decorating ice cream cakes. Yet, despite this freely available wealth of information, it seems many people are still easily duped into believing untruths and silly lies (perhaps because we spend most of our time on the information superhighway actually watching cat videos?).

Nowhere is this more apparent than when a conversation turns to meaty topics like God and faith.

Despite the free availability of Bible apps and Christian websites and theology forums and YouTube preaching channels and [insert your favourite platform here], it seems we’ve never been more confused about the Creator than we are these days.

Here are four lies about God that you’ve probably encountered, and may even believe yourself:

1. God hates my guts

Whenever the discussion turns to God, topics like guilt, fear, shame, and a general sense of “not being good enough” seems to follow. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone utter some variation of: “God probably hates me because I’m baaaad”; or “I’m probably going to get zapped by lightning because I lied to my grandma”; or “Heaven has no place for me because I hate puppies”.

Guess what? The Bible’s main message is that God actually loves you – it’s full of stories of baaaad people who found grace. Yes, we all deserve punishment, but God has taken the first step by sending Jesus to take up that burden. God is not a grumpy old man in the sky waiting to zap you for the slightest misstep. If he could love a murderer like Moses, or a cheater like Jacob, or a messed-up sinner like David, I’m sure he’s got you covered.

2. God wants me to be a straight-laced goody two-shoes with a boring life 

Yes, God clearly wants you to be a straight-laced goody two-shoes with an ordinary, mind-numbingly boring life; a sweet guy or gal who never ruffles any feathers. That’s why the Bible focuses so much on stories like that of Jesus, who was such a disruptive presence that he was killed for it. Or like Abraham, who upped and left his home town for a wild adventure in a foreign land. Or like Paul, who caused riots everywhere he went, and was shipwrecked, and stoned, and bit by a snake, and arrested. Or like… oh, wait. Are you catching on to my semi-sarcastic tone, or do I need to spell it out for you?

Life with God is less like morning tea at the Peaceful Waters Retirement Home, and more like a sword fight with Captain Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl with one hand tied behind your back, to the soundtrack of a Rage Against the Machine hit, while Godzilla stalks you as you try to walk a tightrope over an active volcano and… okay, I may be getting carried away here.

Simply put: following Jesus is one of the bravest decisions you will ever have to make. It’s your ticket to a roller-coaster unlike any other.

3. God wants me to blindly believe without evidence

“I can’t be a Christian, because it requires blind belief.” Do you want to know how many times I’ve heard that little gem? Let’s get one thing straight: I believe in gravity because I have investigated the theory, and it seems to be borne out by the evidence. The maths makes sense. Also, when I drop something, it falls.

In a similar way, I believe in Jesus because the best scholarly sources confirm the historical veracity of accounts about his life. I have investigated the historical evidence, and I find it compelling. Similarly, I believe in God because the best thought in cosmology, theoretical physics, and philosophy points to the overwhelming likelihood of the existence and involvement of a divine agent.

Yes, getting on board with God is way more than a “head” decision – it’s a “heart” thing, too. But in the words of author Ken Boa: “The heart cannot rejoice in that which the mind rejects”.

If you dismiss the idea of God because you think it takes “blind” faith, you’d better pick up a good book or two and begin looking at the evidence (we’re happy to help with suggestions if you’re interested!). There’s a good reason why Jesus once said we should love God with our heart, soul, and mind.

4. God is offline/dead/irrelevant 

Get with the programme, cupcake. Not too long ago, all the cool kids proclaimed the end of the God era. But we’ve come a long way since Time‘s 1969 “Is God dead?” cover. Science is putting some major questions about God right back on the table – it’s almost impossible to talk cosmology and theoretical physics these days without going into “that” territory. And the world is catching on slowly but surely. When the Wall Street Journal recently published a column by author Eric Metaxas explaining how modern science increasingly makes the case for God, it virtually exploded – it became (and still is) the most read and shared article in the history of their online platform.

The world is waking up – how about you?

With the reasons to reject God wearing thinner by the day, you have a simple choice: Carry on like you always have; or abandon your outdated misconceptions about God and get in touch with reality.

You can find out more by clicking the “continue” button on the banner below – if you’re brave enough.

Manchester attack: What you should know

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It has happened yet again.

At least 22 people are dead and about 60 injured following what appears to be a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in England’s Manchester Arena – one of Europe’s biggest concert venues.

Once again, the internet is awash with videos of the aftermath of a senseless attack. Thousands are in despair as they search for family members and friends. Law enforcement agencies are on full alert as they react swiftly to the threat. And the world looks on in horror, asking the age-old question: Why?

Why are things this way? Why is this world so messed up? Why would mindless monsters target 13-year-old girls at pop concerts? Why… evil?

I’m an avid armchair politician. I could offer my opinion on the global forces that have led to the current state of affairs. I could share my thoughts on the emergence of Islamic extremism or the role of the West in all of this. But today is one of those days that puerile punditry simply won’t cut it. The last thing you need right now is another talking head spouting pointless theories and shallow solutions.

No. Today calls for more than that. You don’t answer age-old questions about evil on a three-minute CNN segment. Which is why I had to draw on one of the most ancient documents known to man: The Bible.

One of the letters included in the Bible (Ephesians), written more than 2 000 years ago, puts it this way:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Yeah, I know. It all sounds pretty weird. But the idea is actually quite a simple one: It’s the idea that there is something more going on here. Something more than just a physical or natural thing. Something more than simply a rational thing. You don’t walk into a crowd of people to blow yourself up because of rational reasons. There is something more at work here – and the Bible tells us that it’s something spiritual: We’re all involved in a fight between good and evil on a deeper level.

Here’s the truth: Whether you choose to believe it or not, we’re in a battle right now. Evil is on a roll. Darkness is creeping in on all sides. The Bible tells us why: it’s because we collectively chose to abandon God – we chose to step outside the bounds of what He intended this world to be. The world looks like it does because we’re way off course – we’ve walked away from our Creator. We’re broken people in a broken world.

But this is not the end of the story.

The Bible tells us that God’s on a mission to restore it all. That restoration started when Jesus came to die for our wrongdoings, and rose again from the dead. He died to bridge the chasm between us and God. To enable us to return to Him.

Ultimately, the Bible tells us that God is going to make all things new. He’s going to restore all things; piece together the shrapnel; draw together all the pieces of this broken, messed up, to-hell-in-a-handbasket world. The good news is that God has invited us all to be a part of that restoration. He has opened the door for all of us to be a part of His “new creation”. And that process of restoration starts right now: you get to share in that when you decide to accept his Son, Jesus, and start living for God.

That doesn’t mean all your questions about this world are magically answered. It doesn’t mean that things are suddenly set right.

But it does draw you in to a story that culminates in an almighty God defeating sin and death and evil. A story that you could be part of.

If you’d like to know more, why don’t you click on the banner below right now.

Istanbul attack: Why it’s not over (yet)

While the world is still reeling in the wake of a terrible shooting in Orlando, we have yet another horrific reality to process: this time in the form of a brutal attack in Istanbul, Turkey.

By now you’re probably aware that three gunmen walked into the Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Tuesday night, killing at least 36 people, and wounding scores more.

And while political leaders are already promising to avenge these killings at all costs, the unsettling realisation is slowly dawning on millions across the world: This is the new normal. All indications are that attacks like these will likely increase in frequency and intensity over the next few years. It’s not over – in fact, it may only be the beginning of a new, even more violent chapter of world history.

Perhaps, like me, as you’ve tried to wrap your mind around the latest spate of attacks, your heart has echoed three simple but significant words:

Make. It. Stop.

But it’s not as simple as that.

Because there’s a deeper, darker, and inescapable reality we all have to grasp at some point in our lives: This is the world we live in – a world torn apart by hate; fear; terror; pain. A world where evil sometimes wins. Where bad things happen to good people. Where suffering and heartache is the daily portion of countless millions. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, it actually explains this reality in a simple and compelling form: it all comes back to one problem – sin. Because that’s what sin is: people living in a way that God did not intend. Is it any surprise then that sin has torn apart the world, leaving behind the mangled mess that it is today?

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.

Here’s the truth: If you’re living this life on your own, blazing your own trail and doing things your own way, with little or no regard for God and his intent for this world, you may well be taken aback by the bleak reality around us. You may well feel a sense of hopelessness, perhaps even a tinge of fear. Why wouldn’t you?

But there is another way: When you decide to give it all over to God; when you hand over control to Jesus and tie your story to his story, you become part of a narrative that’s bigger than what you see around you. You become part of a story that doesn’t end in pain, suffering, and brokenness.

Here’s what the Bible says (since we’re going down that road): The very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation (chapter 21), paints a picture of the end of it all. It’s a picture that’s low on detail and high on symbolism, but it tells of a new world; and a new way of living. It’s a fascinating picture of a world unlike the one we live in today:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

See, when you put your trust in God, you’re not only making a decision to live life differently here and now. You’re also making a decision to tie your life to a bigger narrative – one that ends in triumph; in joy; in peace. You are choosing to become part of a new world – “a new creation” as the Bible puts it. And while we don’t know exactly what that will look like, it is coming as sure as the sun rises.

Yes, this part of the world’s story is a terrible one. But the final chapter is glorious. And you can be a part of it if you want to.

Beatenberg on ‘The Tonight Show’

Fresh from being featured on the new Mumford & Sons mini-album Johannesburg, South Africa’s very own Beatenberg made their US television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday.

The Cape Town-based band performed the song Wona, taking to the stage along with the Mumford crew and some other artists featured on the album.

Check out their performance below:

 

They also shared the experience on their Instagram account. These guys are going places!

We played @fallontonight with @mumfordandsons and @baabamaalofficial last night

A photo posted by Beatenberg (@beatenberg_band) on

Mumford & Sons: the Jozi connection

It feels like only yesterday that we watched them perform live on South African soil for the first time ever (try five months ago!), but British four-piece Mumford & Sons are back to make our day – this time with a brand new mini-album with a strong local flavour.

While the ever-popular folk band’s new five-song EP is a tonal departure from their past three offerings, the album, titled Johannesburg, features contributions by great local and African acts in the form of South African band Beatenberg, Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, and Malawian group The Very Best.

What makes the album even more interesting is the fact that it was recorded over a two-day marathon session in South Africa during the group’s visit to the country.

Check out the album here!

The Bible is dead. Oh, no, wait…

I spend a ridiculous amount of time listening to debates between Christians and non-believers (because I’m weird like that.)

Ranging from the informative to the downright bizarre, these conversations usually start out civil enough, with a veneer of forced politeness. But sooner rather than later, thinly veiled animosity almost always turns to downright contempt, and a shouting match ensues that ends in an atheist popping a vein or a believer retorting with a snarky “I’ll pray for you”.

Inevitably though, whether the topic is evolution or morality or the problem of evil or the engine capacity of the Popemobile, these conversations will, at one point or another, devolve into a heated argument about whether the Bible is still relevant or not.

It ain’t a debate until the Good Book takes a good bashing, it seems.

At this stage, the atheist is (apparently) required to launch into a diatribe against the Bible – usually claiming that the holy writ is little more than a bumper collection of ancient superstitions with about as much relevance to the modern world as a presentation on Amish values would have to delegates at a tech convention.

The argument is always more or less the same: That a book written thousands of years ago can not possibly be seen as a reliable source of truth and inspiration in an age of science and naturalism and individualism and all the other sophisticated -isms we’ve come to value in a (post) modern era. Therefore, the pundits proclaim, the Bible’s days are numbered, and you might as well make your peace with it.

On the surface, of course, these arguments seem perfectly reasonable. It’s why atheist writers shift gazillions of copies of their pop science bestsellers; and it’s why smug skeptics keep declaring that the end is nigh for your good ol’ NIV.

Yet, a quick look at history soon reveals the naivety of our smug friends’ predictions. Because if the past has taught us anything, it’s that the Bible has a remarkable ability to outlast hysterical critics, changing philosophies, and shifting worldviews.

In short: detractors have been predicting for centuries that the Bible will soon serve as nothing more than a doorstop. Many have tried actively (even violently) to eradicate it from history. In fact, attempts to do so are about as old as Christendom itself.

Take emperor Diocletian, for example, who in 303 AD issued an edict to rid Rome of Christians and their scriptures. Churches were razed, and all scriptures burned. So thorough was Diocletian that he eventually had a medal struck with the inscription: “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored.”

Yet, a mere 25 years later, Diocletian was dead and Rome had a Christian emperor. Constantine, the new man in charge, soon ordered 50 copies of the Bible – to be prepared at the expense of the government. Too bad for Diocletian.

In the sixteenth century, when the great William Tyndale was burned at the stake by the government for translating and distributing English Bibles, his dying prayer was simple: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”. A few months later, a complete English Bible, two-thirds of it translated by Tyndale, was circulating in Britain. It was licensed by none other than Henry VIII.

And this story repeats itself over the course of history, in far-flung locations and exotic locales. In the 19th century, queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar fined, jailed, and executed subjects who were caught in possession of Bibles. She was barely in her grave when her son, Ramada II, took the reins and invited back Christian missionaries, who flooded the island with Bibles once again.

And so the story goes. Over and over again. Governments — from the 16th-century English monarchy to the communist Soviet Union – have tried to ban, eliminate, and eradicate the Bible. All without success.

In the words of late writer Bernard Ramm: “A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.”

When I read stories like the above, I always think about the supposed words of Voltaire, the famous French philosopher. “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker,” he is said to have predicted in the late eighteenth century. I have yet to find a primary source for this  quote (I’ll take you to lunch if you can find me one), but uncovering its origin is not really the issue – because the simple fact remains that I have heard echoes of those words many times over the years.

I’ve heard it in the rants of two-bit YouTube Bible bashers who consider themselves masters of the universe after reading three pop science bestsellers. I’ve heard it proclaimed by starry-eyed atheist philosopher groupies who trawl chat rooms and enthuse about new atheism like its, well… new. I’ve heard it in classrooms and lecture halls and cafes. And yet, here we are.

It’s time to face the truth: The argument that the Bible is on the brink of irrelevancy has been regurgitated by smug nay sayers for centuries. Of course, they’re all rotting in their graves, while digital age yuppies have spent a cumulative total of 185 billion minutes reading the Bible on the mobile app YouVersion since it’s launch a mere eight years ago. And that’s just one Bible app amongst hundreds. And that’s without even taking into account the best-seller status of the actual printed Bible (you know – the best-selling book of all time. By far.).

There’s a reason why I don’t wring my hands and binge on rum and raisin ice cream when prophets of doom predict the pending demise of the Bible. When I hear a Bible bashers proclaim this view with the enthusiasm of a kid who has just discovered Twinkies, I (and a million others) cringe on their behalf.

You may not like it, and you may not understand it, but the Bible is going nowhere soon.

It remains the most remarkable book ever written, and will be loved by millions for years to come.

Don’t waste your time trying to deny that.

Do you want more posts like this? Do you have tough questions about the Bible or faith? Chat to us at chat@1africa.tv or comment below!

Brussels attacks: Escaping the grip of fear

It’s almost beyond comprehension: Yet another string of terror attacks have rocked a major city.

Belgian authorities have confirmed that military reinforcements will be deployed to Brussels following two bomb blasts in the departures hall of the city’s airport. As many as 13 innocent people reportedly died in these attacks. At least one of the attacks was reportedly a suicide attack – an attacker opened fire on bystanders before the blast.

A third bomb also went off at the Maelbeek metro station near the EU building in the city, claiming the lives of at least 10 more people.

VIDEO: Aftermath footage of the #Zaventem airport bombings – @AbraxasSpapic.twitter.com/Mx6FnVR8MS

Once again, fear has a death grip on the world. And all we can do is watch in horror.

But what do you do in situations like these? How do you cope when the world seems broken beyond repair? How do you escape the death grip of fear?

I believe there are two inescapable realities we all need to make peace with if we are to survive:

1. It’s a broken world: In a world of technological advancement and seemingly endless progress it’s easy to forget the most uncomfortable of truths: that this world is broken to begin with. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Bible, but it begins with a pretty simple story of a perfect creation wrecked by human sin (you can read about it in Genesis 1). It’s a picture of a perfect world ripped apart by our own wrongdoing. That’s the starting point – things are not what they’re supposed to be. We have messed it up.

Just like the first step in overcoming an addiction is admitting that you have a problem, the first step in escaping the death grip of fear is realising that sin has wrecked this world – and there’s nothing we can do about it ourselves. Yet, as bleak as this reality may seem, it is the start of a journey away from fear – because it forces you to seek for an answer beyond this world.

2. The story doesn’t end there: Thankfully, the story doesn’t end in chaos and despair. The final chapter is detailed in the Bible – the Good Book tells us that there will come a time when the effects of sin will be dealt with in a decisive way. God will restore this broken world, and death will rule no more. Our current, broken reality will make way for a “new creation” where the sorrows we know now will be forgotten. Perhaps you’ve encountered this powerful little sentence in the book of Revelation:”Behold, I will make all things new…” (Revelation 21:5).

It’s this hope that keeps you going when the world seems to have lost its way completely. Its this hope that keeps you afloat when all else seems lost.

If you share in that hope, I want to remind you of that final outcome today.

And if all this is new to you – if you’re desperately trying to escape the death grip of fear – you can take the first step in the right direction today by giving it all over to God (click on the banner below, or on the popup).

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