Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Make Your Circle Bigger

Image
As a sports fan, it is natural to think that the team you support has the best players and the best strategies. Luckily, as a Liverpool fan, I have the stats to back up this claim.

Jokes aside, it is easy to surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs. This reinforces our beliefs and closes ourselves off to new points of view.

Someone once accused me of constantly looking at the world through red-tinted glasses as a Liverpool fan. This means that no matter what new information I was presented with from supporters of other clubs, I would still hold the same beliefs as before because I interpreted the new information through my red-tinted glasses.

How often do we see the world through our Christian-tinted glasses or our Methodist/Four12/Baptist/Shofar/insert-your-denomination-here tinted glasses?

We tend to only read books and articles written by people who share our theological beliefs, we only follow people on social media who perpetuate similar beliefs and we surround ourse…

A peek behind the curtain

Image
I love magic. I love watching magicians perform. I allow my beliefs to be suspended while they perform tricks on my mind.

In high school, I was fascinated with card tricks and spent many hours learning sleight-of-hand techniques so that I could impress my friends and families with card tricks of my own. While I have forgotten many of them, I still enjoy pulling out the occasional trick when I get the chance.

The audience has a special role to play in a magic trick. I have found that there are generally two types of people when watching magic tricks...

The first person is the cynic. From the outset, you can see that they are just there to prove the magician wrong. They disregard instructions, analyse every movement and before the trick is done they are already telling the person beside them how they think the magic is achieved. They are always trying to get a peek behind the curtain.

The second person is fully immersed in the experience. They follow the magicians' instructions, th…

When we don’t feel like going to church

Image
One of the benefits of studying at a Seminary is that we get to attend chapel services six days a week. Every year we get to hear the lectionary being preached by more than 120 Seminarians and Ministers from a wide variety of contexts with varying theological beliefs.

As great a privilege as this is, there are many days where I just do not feel like going to church. There have been many reasons for this. Perhaps I have a couple of assignments due that week or I am simply not a fan of the person scheduled to preach.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this.

Sometimes after a late night on a Saturday, we would prefer to wake up late on a Sunday morning. Sometimes we would prefer to join our friends for a round of golf or brunch than attend our local church service.

I am in no way denying that certain urgent matters might cause us to miss the occasional church service. However, Sunday worship services are the lifeblood of being a part of a healthy church community a…

Journey before Destination

Image
"We are not creatures of destinations, it is the journey that shapes us" (Oathbringer)
It is amazing how often fictional stories connect with us on a deep spiritual level.

I am currently reading a series of books by Brandon Sanderson called The Stormlight Archive. In it, the heroes of the story are required to speak a series of words in order to obtain access to their powers. They then live their lives to honour their spoken words.

The first words that they speak are: "Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination."

While I believe I could write a blog post on why each of these sentences is pertinent as we seek God, it is the third line that resonates with me most: Journey before destination.

We tend to spend large portions of our time thinking ahead to the end of our lives and where we want to (or don't want to) end up. While I am in no way demeaning the importance of considering our eternal future, the problem with only thinking of t…

Sacred Responsibility

Image
I have written often about experiencing God's grace in the world around us. But one of the greatest elements of the Jesus story is that we are able to partner with God in order to share God's grace with others.

There are many ways that we are able to do this - one of the primary being through our responsibilities to others.

Responsibility is not a word that generally excites us. It does not necessarily spark feelings of joy.

Often, our responsibilities are not thrilling activities. Our lives are filled with menial work: chores, paying bills, lifting children, etc.

If we resent these activities, we can easily begin resenting the people that we are doing them for.

For example, if we resent changing diapers, we can begin resenting the child whose diaper we are changing; if we get annoyed by listening to our friend's complaining about their problems, we can begin to be annoyed by our friend; if we hate working at our jobs, we can begin taking that emotion out on those who we …

The Harpooner

Image
There is a scene in Herman Melville's famous Moby Dick where the whaling crew are pursuing the great white whale, Moby Dick, in the midst of a terrifying storm.
The deck men are running around manically performing tasks, sweat mixing with sea water. Captain Ahab is screaming orders, swearing and adding to the confusion. The helmsman is battling the rough winds in order to keep the ship going true. 
You can imagine the chaos.
But in the midst of this chaos, there is one person on board who does nothing. No shouting. No labour. No panic. This person is the harpooner.
In the middle or raging seas and terrifying winds, the harpooner remains calm amid the crashing and the cursing. He is quiet and poised, waiting.
Then the author leaves us with this sentence: "To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil."
Wow.
How often do we live our lives in a constant state of busyness, stress and…

Living Life Out of Focus

Image
I recently caught myself dozing off during a class at Seminary. It took the lecturer a couple of tries to get my attention back on the matter at hand. Once I was fully present again, I had no idea what had just been spoken about.

I am sure I am not alone in this experience.

The lectionary readings for this week tell an awesome story of the Transfiguration of Jesus...

Jesus took Peter, John and James onto the mountain to pray. As Jesus prayed, his face was transformed, his clothing lit up and two of the great Old Testament leaders, Moses and Elijah, appeared beside Jesus.

My friend and fellow Seminarian, Jaco Gerber, made an interesting observation about this text. We are told that the disciples who went on the mountain with Jesus were "weighed down with sleep" and they almost missed this awesome moment!

How crazy is that? These disciples were privileged enough to be present at one of the most amazing moments in the life of Jesus and they almost missed it.

How often do we al…

Holy Ground

Image
In the book of Exodus, we read a story of Moses tending his sheep. Moses suddenly notices a burning bush and God's voice speaks to him through the bush. God instructs Moses to take off his shoes because he is now standing on holy ground.

Holy ground is considered to be anywhere that God is. In Old Testament times, this was thought to be specific places. As Christians, our understanding of where God is has changed. God is living in our hearts. Furthermore, God is all around us.

Early Rabbis tell this story of the burning bush and pose the question: "Did the tree suddenly burst into flame when Moses walked past or was the tree burning the entire time? Perhaps this was merely the first time that Moses had become aware of it?

God's presence was always there. Moses had probably walked past that spot many times. But it was only when Moses became aware of God's presence there and was ready to respond to it that it became "holy ground."

This is profound. We are con…

A different kind of Love

Image
The ancient Greeks had a number of different words to describe love.

Eros is erotic love. It is the type of love that many people will be experiencing today on Valentines Day...

Storge is a deep sense of affection between human beings that develops naturally, like the love that a parent has for their children.

Phylia describes the powerful emotional bond found in deep friendships.

I would argue that all three of these types of love are dependant on how worthy the person is to be loved. If we love someone with the Eros, Storge and Phylia type of love, our love for them could always change when we believe that they are not worthy of that love anymore.

But there is a fourth word used to describe love in the ancient Greek language: Agape.

Agape is the love that God has for all humankind. It is the love that Jesus commands from us when he tells us to "love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbour as you love yourselves." It is the type of u…

A fresh look at Grace

Image
Today I listened to an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. The topic of discussion was how to generate new ideas for stories.

The authors encouraged listeners to start with ideas that already exist. Listen to stories. Watch TV. Read widely. Look at things that are already in existence and then use your imagination to invent new ideas or expand on previous ideas in new exciting ways.

Many new aspiring authors believe that new stories need to be fresh ideas that have never been thought of before. But some of the best stories are just imaginative takes on already-existing stories.

For example, the reason that stories like Shrek have done so well is that it has taken well-known fairytales and created exciting, new stories using the original stories as their inspiration.

I believe that we have a similar ability to see God's grace in the ordinary and comfortable.

What we seek, we shall find.

If we go about our lives not expecting to encounter God's grace in the normality of our…

The Place of Fear

Image
Human beings are fascinated with fear. This is why horror stories and shows like Fear Factor are so popular.

As Christians, we tend to think of being fearful as wrong or even sinful.

However, from personal experience, we know that fear is not necessarily a bad thing...

Fear of getting burnt prevents a child from touching the stove.
Fear of death prevents us from walking too close to a dangerous cliff face.
Fear of theft ensures that we lock our doors at night.

Fear in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

On the other hand, if we let ourselves be overwhelmed by our fear then we become too anxious to try new things; too scared to leave the house.

I recently heard an analogy that helps us understand the rightful place of fear in our lives...

If we think of our lives as a car, we need to be very aware of who we let take the wheel (Cue the lame Jesus take the wheel joke).

There is no problem with having fear in the car with us, but we should not let fear take the wheel lest our l…

When we are sick

Image
Welp, it happened...

In my last blog post, an apple a day, I mentioned that I always seem to get sick after travelling home to East London from Pietermaritzburg.

My wife, Mel, and I got to go home in December for a nice long Christmas holiday. For 2 weeks. I was as fit as a fiddle. But then it happened...

I woke up one day in immense pain with my throat on fire and my sinus's all clogged up.

In my previous post, I wrote about strengthening our spiritual immune system to prevent us from becoming spiritually sick.

But what about those times when we realize that we are already sick? It is pointless to take multivitamins to prevent ourselves from getting sick because our immune systems have already taken a hit. We now have to try to cure our sickness.

Often our first instincts are to treat the symptoms. Immediately after realizing I was sick, I decided to self-medicate, taking shots of Corenza C, Sinutab, pain-killers and the like. But all that this did was make me feel slightly bett…

Personal Updates and Future Plans

I published my first post of this blog on the 01st of February last year.

When I began this blog I was unsure of the direction it would take. I was overwhelmed with the way God was working in my life and I desired to share some of those stories.

Combine that realization with a passion for writing and I decided that a personal blog would be the best way to achieve this.

The primary purpose of my blog has always been to observe God's grace in all areas of my life and share those stories with whoever wanted to listen.

I published 44 blog posts in 2018 on Harmony of Grace and got 2 articles published in SUMag, an online magazine aimed at youth pastors, teachers and parents.

As the year progressed, I mixed up the focus of my posts regularly, sometimes writing for the more "experienced Christian" and often writing lighter posts for the newer Christians and non-believers.

I do not write primarily so that others can read it. Writing brings me great joy and is a passion that I ha…