The Purpose & Power of Marriage

By Myles Munroe
In many people’s eyes the institution of marriage has become irrelevant. Honour, trust, faithfulness and commitment seem old-fashioned and out of touch with modern society. This confusion over marriage should not surprise us, considering the bewildering barrage of worldly attitudes that hit us at every turn. Magazines, movies and television soap operas bombard us with images of adultery and perversion. The question is: Is marriage still viable in modern society? Is marriage still a good idea?

Marriage is God’s idea
Marriage is still a good idea because it is God’s idea! He created it. He established it and defined its parameters. Contrary to contemporary thought, marriage is not a human concept. God instituted marriage at the very beginning of human history. God’s design for marriage is found in Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” ‘One flesh’ is not simply the ‘glueing’ of two people together but rather the ‘fusion’ of two distinct elements into one. They become inseparable. A man and woman who have become ‘one flesh’ under God’s design for marriage cannot be separated without suffering great damage or even destruction. It would be the spiritual equivalent of having an arm or leg torn from their bodies. Jesus said in Mark 10:5-9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” If marriage were of human origin, then human beings would have the right to set it aside whenever they chose to do so.

The foundation
God established marriage as the first and most fundamental element of human society. While the family is the basic foundation of any healthy society, marriage is the foundation of the family. Marriage is foundational because it is on this relationship that God began to build society. With so many people confused about marriage, is it any wonder that society in general is in such disarray? Satan knows that if he can destroy marriage he can destroy families; if he can destroy families he can destroy society; and if he can destroy society he can destroy humanity. 

It is not who you love, but what you love
Success in marriage does not depend on spouses committing themselves to each other as much as it does to their committing themselves to marriage, the unchanging institution into which they have mutually entered. People change constantly as they grow and mature and these changes can be unnerving and frustrating and can easily ignite conflict. Marriage is a steady, unchanging institution and respect for the honourableness and stability of marriage can give a husband and wife a solid anchor that enables them to weather the storms of change. The Bible says that marriage should be esteemed above other institutions. “Marriage should be honoured by all…” Heb 13:4. ‘Honourable’ translates the Greek word ‘timios’ which also means ‘valuable, costly, honoured, esteemed, beloved and precious’. There are times when we say something hateful or do something foolish, leaving our spouse hurt or angry. Holding our marriage in high honour and esteem will carry us over those bumpy times when one or the other is unlovable or difficult to honour. We need to know why we love the person we do. The person we marry is not the person we will live with, because that person is changing all the time. No matter how much you love, honour and esteem each other, that alone might not be enough in the long run. Respecting and esteeming the honourability of marriage as an unchanging institution, will bring stability to our ever-changing relationship. People change, but marriage is constant.

Marriage is bigger than the two people in it
The institution of marriage is more important than our personal feelings. There will be times when we will not be in agreement with our spouse, but that has nothing to do with the marriage. We must never confuse our personal feelings or conflicts with the institution of marriage. Marriage is perfect, while we are imperfect. Commitment to the marriage, rather than commitment to the person, is the key to success. Marriage is bigger than the two people in it, which is the way it should be. God instituted marriage; it belongs to Him, not us. Marriage is two imperfect people committing themselves to a perfect institution, by making perfect vows from imperfect lips before a perfect God.

DIvorce is not the answer
Once we understand that marriage is an institution to be respected and esteemed, the thought of divorce never enters our minds. We don’t abandon marriage because of conflicts or problems that arise. When problems arise in a marriage relationship, many people think that their problems will go away if they just divorce. This is simply not the case. Marital difficulties are almost never one-sided. If you bail out » of the marriage before resolving the issues, then whatever problems you brought into that relationship you will carry into the next one. They may take a different shape, but they will be the same problems. Biblical concepts of marriage and the family have come under strong attack over the past couple of generations. Where before there was social and moral stigma around divorce, now it is commonplace and acceptable. This is true for many believers as well.

Dangerous ignorance
Human civil government possesses neither the authority nor the power to disjoin a God-ordained marriage between two believers. Marriage that God has sanctioned cannot be broken by the decree of men. If believers come to the altar for God to join them together, why then do so many of them go to the court to get ‘un-joined’? Human courts have no power to separate what God has joined. God-style marriage is a fusion, not a bonding. What God has joined, He alone can put asunder. He won’t do it, however, because to do so would violate His own standards. A successful marriage depends on knowledge. A successful marriage has little to do with love. Love does not guarantee success. Love is important for happiness in a marriage, but by itself cannot make a marriage work. The only thing that can make a marriage work is knowledge. Success depends on how much we know, not on how much we feel. Even the Church, which should be the voice of authority on the subject of marriage, is suffering because many believers, including leaders, are Biblically illiterate where marriage and the family are concerned.

Knowledge of the word
When our values are being constantly challenged, both within and without the Church, many people are confused, uncertain of what to believe anymore. In Hosea 4:6 God says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” The greatest knowledge of all is to know God. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” It doesn’t matter how often we come to church or how often we worship the Lord, without knowledge we have no guarantee of success. Success in marriage depends on more than just being saved. It takes more than just being in love. Being a believer and being in love are both important in marriage, but they carry no automatic guarantee of marital success. We need knowledge of Biblical principles, the design parameters that God Himself established. Biblical principles will never change. They are universally applicable in every age and in every culture. Trouble comes when we violate or ignore these principles. Marriage is honourable. The institution of marriage is subject to the rules, regulations and conditions that God has set down and He has revealed them in His Word.

Guaranteed success
God designed marriage for success and only His counsel can make it successful. No-one is better at making something work than the person who designed it. God ordained marriages and only He can make it work. If we want our marriage to be honourable and successful, we must know, understand and follow the principles that God has set out in the Bible.

This article is based on the book: ‘The Purpose and Power of Love and Marriage’ by Dr. Myles Munroe. Published by Destiny Image.

Michael W Smith – 25 Years of Worship

Michael W Smith – 25 Years of Worship
Michael W. Smith is often credited with shaping the entire Christian Music Genre. He is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, musician, composer and actor. Throughout his 25 years of recording, he has sold over ten million records and performed thousands of concerts for millions of people. He wasn’t always a Christian though and his testimony often suprises friends and fans alike.
Born on October 7, 1957 to Paul and Barbara, Michael Whitaker Smith was raised in West Virginia. His father was an oil refinery worker and his mother a caterer.  Michael was a keen baseball player (his father played in the minor leagues), though his interest in music was just as strong. He learned to play the piano at an early age, sang in his church choir and at the age of ten, had “an intense spiritual experience” that led to his becoming a devout Christian.
Michael then became involved in a Bible study and found a group of older friends who shared his faith. When many of his Christian friends moved away to college, Michael began to struggle with feelings of loneliness and alienation. After graduating from high school, he gravitated toward alcohol and drugs and later attended university for a few semesters while developing his songwriting skills. He also played with various local bands and eventually at age 21 moved to the Country Music capital, Nashville, to pursue a career in music.
Once there, Michael took a job as a landscaper to support himself and at night played with several local bands in the club scene. Sadly, because of these influences, Michael developed a problem with substance abuse. “I really started losing touch when I moved to Nashville. I was smoking marijuana, drinking, doing some other drugs; just being crazy, you know. My mom and dad knew what I was doing. But they never hassled me – they just prayed for me. I felt convicted by God and every time I’d wake up I knew: This isn’t me. But I couldn’t change myself.”
In November 1979, Smith suffered a breakdown that led to his recommitment to Christianity. The next day he auditioned for a Christian group, Higher Ground, as a keyboardist and got the job. It was on his first tour with Higher Ground, playing mostly in churches, that Michael was finally able to put the drugs and alcohol behind him.
Several years later Michael began touring as a keyboardist for Amy Grant eventually becoming her opening act. In 1983 Michael recorded his first Grammy nominated solo album and co-wrote a few songs with his wife, Debbie (with whom he has five grown up children and two grandchildren).
By the time Smith’s second pop album was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours and over the years has recorded instrumental, pop, worship, Christmas and live albums.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Michael wrote a song entitled ‘There She Stands’. He performed this song live for the 2004 Republican National Convention and cites George W Bush as a personal fan and family friend.
Not content with just making music, Michael owns a teenage ‘Christian’ nightclub, has acted in several Christian movies and co-founded New River Fellowship Church with his wife. They pastored the church in 2006 but handed over leadership in 2008. Known for being warm and well humoured, Michael is actively involved in volunteer service and charity work.
At age 52, energetic Michael shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, though he could certainly afford to, retirement isn’t in his vocabulary. “I could never be one of those people who sits back on their laurels and says, ‘Yep, that’s me done. I’m ready to go live on a golf course in Florida and prune the roses’. Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with that, but personally I know God has more for me and I want to live my life to the full.”
True to his mission, Michael recorded his third live worship album ‘A New Hallelujah’ at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas last year along with 12 000  worshippers.  According to Michael, “The atmosphere was electric. Everybody who showed up came for the purpose of worshipping God wholeheartedly. It was a life-changing experience for many people and one of my most anointed recordings.”
With this album, Michael says he desired to encapsulate a ‘global’ feel to the worship – reflecting his experiences of worship all over the world. “For ‘A New Hallelujah’, I included the African children’s choir, which gave it the universal feel I was hoping for. This album was heavily influenced by my travels overseas – Paris, Denmark, Holland, SA, Brazil, South Korea, Kenya –  where I worshipped with locals and sensed an urgency of intense worship in these countries. It was very inspiring for me, and for this reason I wanted every nation to listen to this music and relate to it.
“I am passionate about praising God and strongly believe that worship is a lifestyle; in fact, music is just a small part of worship. Just look at warriors in the Old Testament – they didn’t go out with the army first, they sent the musicians out. And many, many wars were won because the music confused the enemy, although they were outnumbered.
“In today’s time, I think that as individuals and as churches – and I’ll go off the deep end here – we’ve got to reach out to our communities. We’ve got to get involved in taking care of the poor. I think if the Church did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t have anyone sleeping on the streets. Yes, it’s hard work and hard to figure all of it out. But I think that’s an act of worship that touches God’s heart. We’ve got to get involved and reach out to the communities, be more evangelical and bring people into the Kingdom. That’s what it’s all about.”
The industry talk, and of course CD sales, bear witness to the success of this album in capturing God’s heart for worship and in February, the much anticipated concert DVD will be available in stores.
With a home full of awards and accolades, Michael says his most cherished treasures are not in the form of gold statues or framed platinum albums. His treasures are his family. “I’ve been married for 27 years and I’ve never been more in love. My kids are doing great. Not that we don’t have struggles like everyone. There are trials and tribulations and things that come along and you go ‘whoa’…but it’s all part of life. But I if I look at the big picture and look at my family, I go, ‘Wow God!’
“Though I am so grateful for the success the Lord has given to me, I’ve always said it’s none of my own doing. All of us are blessed to be a blessing. I want to be remembered as a God-fearing man who loved his wife and kids well and who was fruitful in building God’s Kingdom. That’s what I would hope and pray would be on my tombstone.”

Take Heed No One Deceives You

Take Heed No One Deceives You
Matthew 24:3, 4: “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.’”
In response to His disciples question regarding ‘the sign of the times’ Jesus answers with this warning: “Take heed that no one deceives you”. The word ‘deceive’ in the Greek is ‘planao’ which literally means ‘to cause to roam from safety, truth or virtue, or go astray’.
What Jesus emphasises before He begins His explanation, is that deception will mark the end times and will increase in the earth to the extent that even God’s elect will be led astray. As this age draws to a close, satan and the hordes of hell are unleashing an unprecedented tidal wave of deception in the earth in a final push to capture the hearts and minds of men and women. As I conduct research on global issues at the Family Policy Institute, I am amazed at the rising level of deception around the world that has penetrated even the Church of Christ. The recent US presidential elections were regarded by many Biblical Christian leaders in America as the most deceptive in their history. The liberal media-machine in the US virtually ran the election and violated every ethical journalistic standard to actively campaign for Barack Hussein Obama.
For those of you not familiar with the journalistic code of conduct, the media’s task is to objectively report the news – fairly and honestly without taking sides. During the past US election the liberal media didn’t even attempt to hide their bias, blatantly manipulating information to control their preferred outcome. The liberal media did such a good job promoting their candidate, they succeeded in deceiving millions of American Christians into supporting a man they didn’t really know. I personally saw reports of Christians claiming that Obama was their ‘Jesus’ in other words ‘their saviour’ and witnessed a CNN report of art works of Obama portrayed as a Christ-like figure
The media’s success in portraying Obama as a messianic figure with Christ-like qualities, inspired comedy routines in the US suggesting he was born in a manger and which included a skit of Obama turning water into wine. Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, who called Judaism ‘a gutter religion’, said at a rally, “You are the instruments that God is going to use to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the youth. And he has involved young people in a political process they didn’t care anything about. That’s a sign. When the Messiah speaks, the youth will hear, and the Messiah is absolutely speaking.”
A victory sign was placed in the window of Obama’s campaign headquarters in Lake City, Florida, that read, “To God be the glory. Great things he has done. Obama, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Why was the liberal media so successful at selling Obama as the saviour of America? The answer is quite simple. Because they spent the last eight years portraying George Bush as the devil incarnate and the reason for all of America’s problems. Inspired by Obama’s success, our own presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, has made several comparisons between himself and Jesus hoping to draw parallels between his perceived sufferings and that of the Son of God. In Matthew 24:5 Jesus warns “For many will come in My Name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” I personally have nothing against Barack Obama or Jacob Zuma. I just don’t believe they are capable of bringing about the change people are seeking if Jesus Christ is not the central focus of their lives. In fact, Obama’s central focus appears to be on himself and his ability to change America and the world through public policy and government programmes.
Obama said in an interview with CNBC that Jesus was not the only path to God – there are many paths – and that hell wasn’t a real place. In Senator Obama’s book he mentions that his mother made him read from the Bible, the Koran, and other writings from the world’s major religions. This is why he proclaims that there are many paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way into Heaven. Incidentally, this is also the view of Barack and Michelle Obama’s closest friend and mentor, Oprah Winfrey. Obama said he supports special rights for homosexuals because he is informed by the Sermon on the Mount rather than some obscure passage in Romans. I quote, “I don’t think same-sex unions should be called marriage, but I think it is a legal right that they should have. If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.” The obscure passage he is referring to in Romans is the most eloquent and powerful argument in the Bible condemning the sin of homosexuality.
Romans 1:24-27: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleaness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the Truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the women, burned in their lusts for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”   
Obama’s distortions of Biblical Christianity prompted Dr James Dobson to publically criticise him in what he referred to as Obama’s ‘fruitcake Christianity’. Barack Obama is also the most pro-abortion president-elect in America’s history. He voted four times in the US Senate to defeat a measure that protects the life of a baby that survives a botched abortion.  Michael Gerson of the Washington Post writes, “Obama’s record on abortion is extreme. He opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion – a practice a fellow Democrat, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once called “too close to infanticide”.
 Obama strongly criticised the Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth ban. In the Illinois state Senate, he opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion. And now Obama has oddly claimed that he would not want his daughters to be “punished with a baby” because of a crisis pregnancy – hardly a welcoming attitude toward new life.
Then there are numerous reports of Obama’s relationships with shady and questionable characters whom the media refused to investigate. Some facts about Obama, deliberately ignored by the liberal media, are that he began his campaign for the presidency just 143 days after becoming a US Senator which means he has virtually no experience; he has no foreign policy experience, no military experience, no economic experience, no executive experience and has never authored a Bill. When Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, was chosen as John McCain’s running mate the media launched an unprecedented attack on her and her family after learning she was a pro-life evangelical Christian mother of five. They mocked her ‘lack of experience’ even though she was the most popular governor in the US – all the while ignoring the fact that she had more executive experience than Obama himself. The Democratic Party went as far as comparing Obama to Jesus and Sarah Palin to Pontius Pilate in a campaign commercial. 
Despite this, millions of American Christians, including millions around the world, believed the lie of the liberal media and, by so doing, rejected the warnings of Scripture. The US media was filled with reports of Pastors and whole churches setting aside a day of celebration and thanksgiving for Obama’s victory. Among those praising the heavens for Obama’s victory was Pastor Larry Younginer of suburban Atlanta, whom the Chicago Tribune reports kneeling at his church and praying the day after Obama’s victory, “Lord, we have again come to You, and You have heard our cries from Heaven, and You have sent us again from the state called Illinois a man called Barack to heal our land.”
As a consequence of this media-driven deception, a Pew Poll in the US recently revealed that 79% of Catholics and 57% of Evangelicals believe there are multiple paths to salvation. Compare this with Acts 4:12 which emphatically declares: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved”.  The nature and essence of deception has not changed since the day satan deceived Eve into disobeying God’s instructions. In Genesis 3 the serpent does not influence the women to reject God’s instructions outright. Instead he cunningly manipulates and twists the Truth of God’s Word to achieve his evil agenda. The essence of deception, therefore, is contained in these four words: ‘Hath God indeed said?’
All of deception has its origin in twisting, manipulating and challenging God’s Word. With deception so pervasive in society today, how can we, as Christians, ensure we are not deceived by the ideology of the world system? Colossians 2:8 issues this timeless warning: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” The key to staying true to God’s Word is our focus. The US Elections were deceptive because the media successfully diverted America’s attention away from Obama’s lack of experience and lack of political achievements and focused their campaign on a deceptive portrayal of Obama as the saviour of America and the world. Apart from Obama’s ability to deliver a great speech, the media has not yet provided a single reason why he is qualified to be the President of the United States. 
Barack Obama’s deception lies in the fact that he believed his own PR and focused on his own exaggerated abilities to bring about change. Jacob Zuma supporters believe he is the saviour of South Africa’s poor and destitute and they must, therefore, get him elected as president at all costs. These people are all labouring under a deception because the focus of their redemption is directed in the wrong place. Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Consequently, the only way to insulate yourself from the deception of the world system is to steadfastly keep your focus on Jesus. As in the Garden, the devil’s strategy is not to persuade you to take your eyes off Jesus altogether but rather to shift your focus ever so slightly. If Jesus Christ is not the central focus of your life or the life-decisions you make, you can easily be led astray. All the enemy has to do is to get you to move Jesus slightly off-centre or slightly out of focus to lead you down the path of destruction. If you are not already convinced, allow me inform you about a few strategies that are actively working to take the focus off Jesus. In the US, and increasingly in South Africa, there is a sustained campaign to not only remove Jesus as the central focus of Christmas but to remove Christmas from Christmas. The media reported on the annual switch on of the ‘festive lights’ not the ‘Christmas lights’ as it was previously known. Many companies are now wishing their clients ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s greetings’.
The Daily Telegraph in Britain reports that a school in England cancelled its usual Christmas play in favour of a three day Eid al Adha celebration. In the US nativity scenes or crosses are banned from public places and this is enforced by law. Christmas trees are now called ‘Holiday Trees’. Commenting upon the imminent passage by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution called ‘Combating Defamation of Religion’, Chuck Colson warns that Islamic nations, led by Saudi Arabia, are cleverly acquiring the power to criminalise any speech or behaviour they deem insulting to Islam, the only religion explicitly mentioned in the resolution. Their real aim is to criminalise Christian missionary work and the spreading of the Gospel of Christ in Islamic nations. At the same time Saudi Arabia is pouring billions of dollars into Islamic schools around the world to convert westerners to Islam and advance their ideology.
The prominence of Interfaith Movements is another strategy to dethrone Christ. Jesus is relegated to just one of many ‘great’ religious figures and His message is diluted to accommodate alternative views. All of these initiatives have one thing in common and that is to take our focus off Jesus. That’s the primary purpose of false religions. The reason you and I need Jesus as our central focus in everything we do, is that we cannot trust ourselves to make decisions without Him. Jeremiah 17:9 declares: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
God’s Word warns us about the condition of our own hearts and the hearts of men in general. How then can we trust ourselves or others without the steady and guiding Hand of God in our lives? Our focus will determine our path. Where our eyes and hearts are focused will ultimately determine our direction and destination. South Africa is already in election mode. That means deception will increase exponentially as we move closer to Election Day. Every politician will suddenly become the staunchest Christian fighting for Christian values and defending the Name of Jesus. They will show up in churches lamenting the moral collapse of our nation and promising to restore Biblical morality to save our nation from impending doom and chaos. Tragically, the very politicians who will use the things of God to woo the Christian vote, are the ones responsible for the state of our nation. Over the past five years in Parliament most of these leaders advanced a philosophy that is blatantly anti-family, anti-Christian and anti-God.
Not surprising then that a recent Human Sciences Research Council survey revealed South Africa’s political leadership was grossly out of touch with the values of the majority of its citizens. When election time comes around, they simply transform themselves into paragons of virtue and strut around deceiving whomever they will.
 2 Timothy 3:12, 13: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Deceivers open themselves to deception literally becoming ambassadors of the father of lies – the devil. Keeping our focus on Jesus amidst the prevailing toxic environment of lies and deception is like the captain of a ship at sea sailing in total darkness. He knows he has to keep his gaze locked on the lighthouse to prevent his vessel from running aground. When you feel like a ship lost at sea in total darkness, Jesus Christ the Son of the living God is your most faithful source of light. Psalm 119:105 says: “His Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.” As the world grows darker, His light gets infinitely brighter. If you steadfastly keep your eyes on Jesus – the Light of the world – there is no fear of losing your way despite the darkness and the storms of life. Jesus Christ is the only real true guarantee against the lies and deception of the world system. Make sure you never take your eyes off Him, whatever the circumstances.

The blood covenant

By Paul Daniel

The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the term ‘covenant’ and to reveal the significance of “the new covenant in My blood” which Jesus proclaimed after His death and resurrection (Matt 26:28; 1Cor 11:25).

The word ‘testament’ has two meanings: a) Will – as in ‘the last will and testament of…’ b) Covenant – the old covenant and the new covenant. God’s Word is His ‘Will’ for you. Jesus died on the cross and left a will for you (Heb 9:15-18). The problem is that most Christians do not bother to study the will to find out what they have inherited through the death of Jesus Christ. What is in God’s Will for your life? What is your inheritance in Christ? What we need to do is study our Bible to find out what these blessings are which we are heirs to in Jesus Christ (Matt 6:10; Eph 1:3). Not only did Jesus die, but He rose again to ensure that His Will would be executed according to His Word. We must learn to receive the benefits of God’s Will by faith! To enjoy the benefits of a will you must:
1.1 Know the will
1.2 Claim the will.

Throughout the Bible we see references to covenants. They have a very special meaning in God’s plan of redemption. Covenant speaks of two or more people coming together and committing to one another to do something special. The Hebrew word ‘Berith’ from which the Old Testament word Covenant is translated means ‘to cut where blood flows’. The Greek word ‘Diatheke’ speaks of a mutual pact between two people, which binds them together. Blood covenants were first instituted by God in the Old Testament and they are the foundation of the New Testament and the Gospel. A covenant was scared and not entered lightly. It was the closest, most solemn, most enduring and most sacred of all contracts. It was to be ‘until death does us part’. It followed specific steps, which can be seen in the covenant between God and Abraham (Gen 12-17), David and Jonathan (1 Sam 18:3-4), Jesus’ death on the cross and the marriage partnership.

THE Rituals of cuttin g a covenant
The establishing of a blood covenant generally followed the following process:
a) The covenant partners would first face each other to proclaim the blessing and curses over each other.
b) The next step was to sacrifice an animal and cut it in two. The two halves would be placed on the ground and the partners would walk around them in a figure of eight while continuing the blessings.
c) They then planted a tree and the blood of the sacrifice was smeared onto the tree as an everlasting testimony to the covenant. As the tree grew, it would serve as a reminder to the generations that their fathers were in covenant.
d) They would then slit their hands/palms and strike hands in a pledge, allowing their blood to mingle as they declared themselves blood brothers. Ash or sand was then rubbed into the wound and the resulting scar remained as a testimony and reminder to the covenant.
e) Robes were exchanged, saying in effect: ‘I am giving you my person and I receive you as a person.’
f ) Belts and weapons (swords) were then exchanged, symbolising their decision to protect one another.
g) They then exchanged part of their names. This meant that they were one. h) Finally, they commemorated the occasion by having a meal, called the ‘covenant meal’. This they shared with their families and friends who were witness to the covenant.

God’s Covenant with Abraham
God chose to enter into an everlasting covenant relationship with a man through Abraham (initially called Abram). This covenant was ratified and sealed when Jesus died on the cross, two thousand years later. God blessed Abraham, telling him that he would become the father of nations. He commanded Abram to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant he had with God. God changed his name from Abram to Abraham and his wife, from Sara to Sarah. The ‘h’ was part of God’s name ‘Jehovah’.

Christ’s Covenant
Observing the work on the cross, we see how Jesus established a ‘new covenant in His blood’ with us who believe.
a) The Word and promises of God are the proclamation of the blessings of His covenant.
b) The Word also proclaims the curse of death (separation from God) for those who reject the covenant.
c) Jesus was the sacrifice, the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8).
d) Jesus shed His blood on the cross (the tree) which stands forever as a testimony to His new covenant.
e) Jesus bears the scars of the cross as a testimony to His covenant (John 20:27).
f ) Jesus exchanged robes with us. He took our robe of sin and gave us His “robes of righteousness” (Isa 61:10; 2Cor 5:21).
g) Jesus gave us His strength, the “armour of God” (Eph 6:11-17) and “weapons which are mighty in God…” (2 Cor 10:4-6) in exchange for our weakness. h) Jesus has given us the right/authority to use His Name (John 16:24) and we are called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26) because we are in Christ (Rom 8:2). i) Jesus instituted the covenant meal in the form of Communion (1 Cor 11:23-26). Revelation tells us that we will celebrate our union with Jesus at the Marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:5-9). It is important to understand that the Old Covenant ends at the birth of Christ and the New Covenant (Testament) begins at the Cross.

Marriage as a blood Covenant
Significantly, the sacred covenant between Christ and the Church is described as a marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:25-32. Marriage is clearly a blood covenant, sacred and Holy before God. It has the same characteristics and implications as any other covenant.
• The marriage is public declaration of intent with Biblical preparation and courtship.
• In the marriage vows you proclaim blessings over one another, promising to love, honour and serve your partner for the rest of your life (‘until death do us apart’).
• You exchange rings as an outward sign of your covenant.
• You promise to give everything that you have (as though you were exchanging your robes and weapons) to serve and protect each other.
• You exchange names. The bride receives her husband’s surname.
• The wedding reception is the covenant meal at which you celebrate the start of your new relationship as a witness to all.
• Cutting the cake symbolises the sacrifice and the cutting of covenant.
• The union between husband and wife is then consummated in the act of marriage. God designed the woman so that the hymen would be broken as the marriage is consummated. The marriage is sealed as a ‘blood covenant’. The intention of a person entering into a covenant should be to serve their partner and to give them everything that they have. This reflects the servant heart that marriage requires.

David and Jonathan’s Covenant
After Jonathan and Saul were killed in battle, David became King. David showed kindness towards Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, because of the covenant he had with Jonathan. The principle of Blood Covenant is threaded throughout the Bible. This understanding should give us great security and personal consciousness of our heavenly Father’s love and commitment to us. As you get to know Him, you will discover that He is not like any earthly father. He loves us so much that He has given Himself for us – He has brought us into an everlasting covenant with Himself. He is perfect love.

The Almighty Amazing Coming Revival

The Almighty Amazing Coming Revival
God has reshaped my thinking over the last two years through His Word, in particular Isaiah 58, which has become one of the most significant chapters of the Bible to me.  This great chapter of the Bible speaks of an amazing revival which I believe is still to come.  South Africa, like few other countries in the world, is prepared by God for this revival.  There are some spectacular signs, miracles and answers to prayer in this forthcoming, ‘goose bumps’ revival.  We will know God’s presence in a powerful way and I pray that this generation will be the ones to experience this staggering move of God.  Look with me at what God says will occur in this remarkable and astonishing revival:
 “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’  The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isa 58 : 8,9,11  
·         There will be significant healing miracles: “… your healing will quickly appear” (v8). We all long for the day when there will be genuine healing that is real, instant and Divine, as in the days of the Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry.
·         You will live righteous lives:  “… then your righteousness will go before you.” (v8).  Sadly, many Christians today lack righteousness. In this promised revival, we will live right – not talk about living right but we will live what we believe.  We will be changed from being believers to behavers.
·         God’s glory will be all around you:  “…the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (v8).  We all long for the tangible presence of God. This will be the case in this revival; you will be a glory Christian, surrounded by the glorious splendour of our majestic God.  The presence of the Holy Spirit will be a reality, not some longed-for experience.
·         There will amazing instant answers to prayer: “ Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’”  What a promise! We need to cry out, “Oh Lord hasten this day that when we will call to You, You will answer instantly and we will hear you say – ‘Here am I my child.’”
·         There will be clear guidance from the Lord:  “The Lord will guide you always.” (v11). As a pastor I spend many hours counselling people who want to know God’s specific will for their lives.  When this revival occurs, there will be clear and specific guidance from God.  Gone will be the day of saying – ‘I wish I knew what God wants me to do.’  In this mighty revival, God’s guidance for your life will not be something over which you struggle.  God’s presence will be so powerful in your life that guidance will be direct and clear. 
·         The Lord will satisfy your every need: “He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (v11).  These will be extra-ordinary days. Days which will have a touch of Heaven on earth;  when the power of God will meet your needs; when God will strengthen you and you will be fresh like a well-watered garden. 
Isn’t this an incredible revival? This must have been what it was like in the Garden of Eden before sin entered. In the remarkable graciousness of God, He promises a restoration of conditions similar to that of the Garden of Eden, despite sin being present.  It is unbelievable, it is spectacular, it is personal, it is practical, it is ‘goose bumpy’ and it is extra-ordinary.   And I believe South Africa is one of the countries where it is most likely to occur.  Why? Because all around us are the issues that need to be dealt with before God’s Spirit will sweep through this land in this revival.
What are these conditions you say?  Tell me what to do so that I may be a part of this incredible God-filled era. Isaiah the prophet tells us so simply and clearly in the verses which precede the promise of this mighty revival.
  “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isa 58:6,7.
The five conditions are:
·                loosening the chains of injustice,
·                setting the oppressed free,
·                sharing your food with the hungry,
·                providing the poor wanderer with shelter
·                clothing the naked
When the Church of God unites in this country and rises up with a godly rage against poverty and injustice, we will see this promised revival.
In the March edition of JOY! I will focus on these five conditions. Until then – start believing the Word by behaving the lifestyle of Isaiah 58:6, 7.  Take God at His Word as you actively deal with setting people free from the slavery of sin and the oppression of poverty. Start to behave the Word and God will fulfil His promise to respond to His people’s obedience.

Should Christians Seek Professional Help?

Should Christians Seek Professional Help?
We examine the role of psychology/psychiatry
Many people reach a point in their life where they feel overwhelmed by the demands, pressures or disappointments that have come their way. Often, they feel they need professional guidance, counselling or therapy to deal with these stresses.
In the past, psychology and psychiatry had a somewhat negative connotation, but that has changed and today millions of people benefit from seeing a therapist. The question, however, is whether it is acceptable for Christians to seek professional help.
I would say yes in the context of seeing a Christian psychologist/psychiatrist – as they approach therapy from a Biblical and prayerful perspective. They seek to serve the healing ministry provided by Jesus Christ.
Jesus forgives our sins, cleanses us and renews us body, soul and spirit. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” 2 Cor 5:17. Christian psychology embraces this Truth and aims at guiding Christian clients on the road of sanctification. Although all things become new, Paul describes the inner struggle we might experience between our flesh and our spirit in no uncertain terms. “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” Rom 7:22-23.
The Christian community is not exempt from grappling with the reality of living in a fallen world with all its temptations, pain and hardships. Christians wrestle with issues such as depression, anxiety, terminal illnesses like cancer and HIV/Aids, alcoholism, violence, sexual abuse, poverty, divorce, loneliness, anger, work stress and general life stress. Facing a reality filled with various challenges, threats and needs doesn’t leave anyone untouched and people are affected on a physical (body), psychological (soul), social and spiritual (soul/spirit) level.
Soul care, from a traditional Christian perspective, focuses on spiritual answers for the problems with which humans struggle. Dealing with anger from this perspective differs greatly from a secular psychological approach. Instead of venting or suppressing the anger, a person with uncontrollable anger would be advised to acknowledge the anger and to exercise self-control by focusing one’s mind on restored peace and acts of kindness. Traditional Christian answers like these are, however, not always sufficient in helping a person find a solution or to bring comfort or change a person’s behaviour and it might become necessary to seek further help.
Is it necessary for a person to consult a psychologist/psychiatrist when having a problem?
Annelie Kanis, a counselling psychologist and part time lecturer at the Institute of Christian Psychology, is of the opinion that just as doctors studied in the field of medicine, psychologists are specialists in the field of communication and human sciences. It means that they have studied and obtained knowledge in that particular field. There is a great difference between sharing a problem with a friend and sharing it with a psychologist. Psychologists have specialised knowledge with regards to problems with communication and relationships and will be able to help you in terms of what to expect or what is normal regarding certain issues.
According to Zipporah Sigwili, a clinical psychologist, people sometimes need to seek professional help as problems stem from various aspects of human nature (body, soul and spirit as well as social issues). Psychiatry and psychology examine and treat behaviour with all of these aspects in mind.
Just as the field of psychology illustrates that behaviour does not only involve action, but includes thoughts, feelings and actions, the Bible also emphasises the importance of our thoughts in relation to our behaviour – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect Will of God” Rom 12:2. 
When is it necessary for a person to seek professional help?

Seek professional help when you experience the same problem over and over again. In some cases the problem seems to improve but then there is generally a relapse. It is important to see somebody before it becomes a crisis. People often feel pressurised to cope with their problems and may feel that their problems are trivial, but they aren’t and need attention.
It is also necessary to seek professional help when there is something wrong that influences your daily living for example:


You don’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy
It is very difficult to complete daily tasks like getting up for work
You don’t feel like spending time with friends
When there are problems with eating or sleeping

Since psychology is based on well-researched facts regarding the human mind and behaviour, professionals can use this knowledge effectively in their interventions. Christian psychologists should be able to recognise theories or methods which are not in line with God’s Word. They are only able to do this if they apply the basic Christian Biblical principle of submitting themselves, and all they do, under the guidance of God.
Prayerfully consider your decision should you decide to see a professional and know that ultimately it is the Lord who heals and restores your soul, so your focus should always be on Him and His saving power.