The Heart of the Gospel

The Heart of the Gospel
What is Wrong With Our World?
Almost on a daily basis each of us is confronted by the reality of a world that is in rebellion to its Creator. The desecration of the Lord’s Day, the proliferation of pornography, the escalation of crime and violence, the breakdown of moral standards, the legalisation of abortion, the break up of families and the explosion of child abuse all remind us that we live in a sinful society which has forgotten God.
What is wrong with our world? Sin. Mankind is in rebellion against God.
What is Wrong With the Church?
Almost as often we wonder what is wrong with the Church. Why has the Church become so ineffective? How can it be that so many Christians in so many churches have such a diminishing effect on the moral climate of society? Can we honestly say that we have been praying and working against evil when we see evil increasing? Matt 18:18-20; Ps 94:16. Has the salt of the earth lost its saltiness? Is the light of the world being hidden under a bowl? Matt 5:13-16)
During the last 25 years of travelling extensively and ministering in 27 countries, I have had the privilege of witnessing several churches operating as God intended them to – in Revival.
From the perspective of the persecuted churches, and in the light of the Revivals, it becomes crystal clear what is wrong with the average church in the West. Our churches are devoid of the fear of the Lord. The reverential awe and worship of God is missing. Most congregations lack true spiritual leadership and never practise Biblical standards of church discipline. Many church-goers feel like Christians, but think like humanists. They believe they have Christian hearts, but it’s quite clear that most have humanist minds, reading more of the newspapers than they ever do of the Bible, and watching TV more than they worship Christ.
Like the church of Laodicea it could be said of many church-goers: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth… you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked, so be earnest and repent.” Rev 3:15-19
The Church is like a rescue boat. The rescue boat must be in the sea rescuing the perishing, but the sea must not be in the boat. In the same way the Church must be in the world rescuing the perishing, but the world must not be in the Church.
The tragedy of the modern churches is that: by lowering its standards to allow the unconverted easy access, the Church has become flooded and swamped by the world. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to discern any substantial differences between the opinions, moral standards and even conduct of Christians and the pagans.
The published statistics of church growth and the vast numbers coming forward at mass crusades are impressive. Yet those of us who deal with the individual in the pews and on the streets are deeply disturbed. The Church generally seems to be growing only in quantity. The quality of devotional and spiritual life and moral standards seems to be deteriorating even more rapidly than the Church is expanding in numbers. It is as though the churches have become like huge combine harvesters, yet lacking cutting blades: impressive machinery, much noise and activity —but often ineffective in dealing with the harvest. If the Gospel is the cutting blade of the Church, then we need to ask: what could have blunted our Gospel preaching?
What is Wrong With the Gospel Preached?
Listening to the average Gospel message proclaimed from all too many pulpits, and on radio and TV, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that most evangelistic messages today are man-centred, emotion based, weak and shallow. The ‘just believe’ gospel is cheap. Judas sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver. We just give Him away free. The ‘just pray this prayer’ message is superficial and it produces superficial converts. The ‘easy believism’ so often proclaimed is synthetic. It’s like white bread. All the natural goodness has been refined out and artificial ingredients have been added.
The Missing Parts of the Gospel Message
Seldom does one hear the nature of God taught on, expounded and explained. To assume that our hearers truly understand and appreciate the majesty, the holiness and the glory of our all-powerful, all-knowing, infinite and eternal Creator is presumptuous.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Prov. 9:10). The Lord’s mercy extends to those who fear Him (Acts 10:35). The Lord instructs those who fear Him (Ps 25:12). The foundation for effective service is the fear of the Lord (Josh 24:14). The Lord’s great blessing is upon those who fear Him (Psalm 31:19). Yet, how often do we hear these great truths proclaimed?
“The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7) and ”…through the Law we become conscious of sin“ Rom 3:20. Yet how often do we proclaim the Law of God?
Martin Luther declared: “The first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin.”
John Bunyan said: “The man who does not know the nature of the Law cannot know the nature of sin.”
John Wesley suggested that evangelists should preach 90% Law and 10% grace.
Charles Finney wrote: “Failure to use the Law is almost certain to result in false hope, the introduction of a false standard of Christian experience, and to fill the church with false converts.”
Charles Spurgeon declared: “They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and Holy Law.”
As our Lord taught: “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law… Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Matt 5:17-19
Similarly the wrath of God, the doctrine of eternal judgment and the reality of Hell receive scant attention in most modern sermons. “For they would not follow His ways; they did not obey His Law. So He poured out on them His burning anger… ” Is 42:24,25
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you fear God. ” Luke 12:5
“Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:36
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Rom 1:18
Even the heart of the Gospel message – the Redemption achieved by the Blood of Christ’s atonement on the cross, receives surprisingly little emphasis from most modern evangelists. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Heb 9:22
“God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” Rom 3:25
The Scriptures declare that: “the blood of Jesus, His Son purifies us from all sin.” 1 Jn 1:7
Yet how often do we proclaim that message?
Also conspicuous by its absence is a Biblical emphasis and understanding of repentance. I have heard prominent evangelists say that “repentance is just saying you’re sorry”!
By way of contrast the Bible emphasises three aspects of repentance:
Conviction —a change of mind
Contrition —a change of heart
Conversion —a change of life.
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him…” Is 55:7
It is not enough to confess our sin, we also need to reject sin mentally, to loathe it and forsake it. Repentance involves a change of habits, a change of belief and a change of behaviour.
Un-Biblical Additions to the Gospel
In place of the Biblical message of the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the Law of God, the wrath of God and eternal judgment, the need for repentance from sin and faith in the atonement through Christ’s blood, many have substituted a series of unBiblical innovations:
Nowhere in the Bible will you find any example of an evangelist, apostle or disciple using any of the following popular phrases or techniques:
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Instead Scripture makes it clear that God is angry with those who refuse to obey and eternity in hell is His plan for the unrepentant.
“Accept Jesus as your personal Saviour”. “Accept” is the weakest word possible and it is never used in any evangelistic context. Why don’t we use the powerful words used in the Bible? e.g. “God … now commands all people everywhere to repent” Acts 17:30. A call to submit to Christ, or to surrender our lives to Him as Lord and Saviour, would be more Biblical than a weak appeal to “accept Jesus”.
“Only you can open the door of your heart. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart knocking. He is a gentleman and will only come in if invited. The handle is only on the inside. Only you can let Him in.” This imaginative emotional appeal ignores the Sovereignty of God. In the case of the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus it would appear that our Lord kicked the door in without any “permission” from Saul (Acts 9).
Nowhere in the Bible do we find a single incident of an evangelist or disciple using such imagery to describe conversion. Throughout the Gospel and the book of Acts we are challenged to come to Christ and seek entry into His house. Now we are expected to believe that the situation has so reversed that Christ now comes to us and asks us to allow Him entry!
Perhaps this concept is derived from Revelation 3:20. However, that verse is part of Christ’s letter to the church at Laodicea. Far from being an evangelistic message it is a severe rebuke to a lukewarm church: ”I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm —neither hot nor cold —I am about to spit you out of My mouth…. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock… ” Rev 3:15-20
It is tragic that part of this letter, written to warn the church against the danger of half-heartedness, worldliness and compromise, could have been so abused as to produce lukewarm, semi-saved converts. If only the full context of this passage was used as often as verse 20. Or have strong Biblical words like ‘rebuke’, ‘discipline’, ‘earnest’ and ‘repent’ become unacceptable to today’s congregations?
Similarly the insipid phrases ‘just believe’ and ‘just pray this prayer’ are unBiblical. We certainly must believe —but it is the entire Bible, which we must study, believe, obey, proclaim and apply. We must pray, but we need to do much more than ‘just pray’. The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to “Make disciples… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” To place a ‘just’ in front of any of the commands of Scripture is to devalue all the other important requirements.
Along with these phrases we have accepted several inadequate slogans to convey apparently Christian messages such as: “Christians aren’t perfect – just forgiven”. While it is true to say that we are forgiven, yet are imperfect, the insertion of the overused “just” turns this slogan into a dangerous half truth. Are we only forgiven? Are we not regenerated as well as redeemed? And what about sanctification? If we have not evidenced a dramatic transformation in our beliefs, moral standards, way of life, behaviour and conduct then it is doubtful if we are even forgiven. (Gal 5:19-25)
The Gospel According to Our Lord Jesus Christ
The recorded examples of how our Lord counselled individuals for salvation stand in sharp contrast to our modern message and methods.
The rich young ruler was earnest. He did not merely raise his hand while every head was bowed and every eye was closed. He did not merely walk down the aisle in response to an impassioned appeal. No, while every eye was opened and every head raised, he ran to Christ. Rather than merely bow his head and repeat a set prayer, he fell on his knees before Christ and pleaded “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark 10:17
What was our Lord’s response? Did He say ‘just believe’ or ‘just pray this prayer’? Did He tell him that God loved him and had a wonderful plan for his life? No. Jesus rebuked him: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Our Lord began with the nature of God and the nature of man. Only God is holy. All men are sinners.
You may ask why Christ rebuked him. Surely our Lord Jesus is God? Yes, but did the young man realise that? Was he merely seeking to flatter man or did he realise with Whom he was talking?
Next our Lord reminded him of the Ten Commandments: “You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother. ”
Many would ask what the Law has to do with eternal life. The Scriptures state that: “The Law was our tutor, to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Gal 3:24
Telling people that “Jesus is the answer” before they are even asking the question is not helpful. No teacher hands out answer sheets to the students before an exam. Declaring that ‘Jesus saves’ to people who are not yet conscious of a need to be saved is ineffective. Until people know the ‘bad news’ of hell they are not ready to know the ‘good news’ of heaven. Until our hearers appreciate the eternal implications of the Holiness of God and the depravity of man, the holy Law of God and eternal judgment — they are not ready to receive the glorious message of Redemption through the sacrifice of Christ.
To put it more bluntly: until we understand that we are wicked sinners, lost and justly doomed to an eternity in hell we are not ready to truly appreciate the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins,” Luke 24:47.
Incredibly the young man declared that he had obeyed all those commandments since he was young. No doubt he was an extraordinary individual —morally upright and devoutly religious —yet he lacked an awareness of his sinfulness. The greatest fault is to be aware of none.
So our Lord tells him: “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come and follow Me” Mark 10:21. Some may say that the Lord was demanding several things of him, but it actually amounted to one thing: repentance.
Our Lord had singled out the first commandment “You shall have no other gods before me”, and the last “You shall not covet.” The rich young ruler had apparently made an idol of his wealth. His riches had become more important to him than obedience to God.  God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.
The Ten Commandments deal with our relationships with God, our parents and other people. They deal with God, worship, speech, time, authority, life, love, property, truth and conscience. They forbid polytheism, idolatry, profanity, desecration of the Sabbath, dishonouring of parents, murder, adultery, theft, perjury and coveting. By studying the Law of God we come to realise how far short we fall.
The message to those who recognise their transgressions is one of repentance and faith. And as repentance without faith is not true repentance, so faith without repentance is not true faith.
When he heard what our Lord required, “the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth” Mark 10:22. Instead of chasing after him and lowering the standard, “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!’” Mark 10:23-24
How often don’t we claim that it is easy to be saved. Yet our Lord didn’t lower the standard. In fact He taught that it would be hard to enter the Kingdom of God. Not only hard for the rich but hard for anyone!
“The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible …” Mark 10:26-27
Do we realise the implications of this? All mankind is lost and no one can save himself. Neither can any pastor, evangelist or denomination save anybody. No amount of sacraments, praying, singing or preaching can save anyone. Eloquence cannot do it, neither can emotional techniques or a charged atmosphere.
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27.
A Biblical illustration of conversion is found in John 11 when our Lord stood before the tomb and called out: “Lazarus, come out!” Now Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. Is it reasonable to call upon a decaying corpse to respond? Nevertheless that is what evangelism is. Outside of Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1). Faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8) and faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). “The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” Rom 1:16.
Only the Word of God can save, so why do we subtract from this powerful life-giving Word? And why do we think we can add anything of value to it?
Jesus then emphasised the need for sacrifice and for endurance of persecutions. Finally He promised blessings, rewards and eternal life to those who obey His message (Mark 10:28-31).
This then is the bold and balanced Gospel of Christ: God is a holy God and His righteous standards are seen in His Law. Man is sinful and needs to repent from his wickedness and trust in Christ. This repentance and faith is to be evident in obedience to Christ, a willingness to sacrifice and to suffer persecution. To those who do so He promises great blessings, rewards and eternal life.
Instead of offering a weak, diluted, man-centred message of ‘believe and receive’, we need faithfully to proclaim a Christ-centred, Bible-based and Holy Spirit led message of ‘repentance and obedience.’ Rather than making converts we need to: “make disciples … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Matt 28:19-20.
It is this message which deals with the heart of the matter. Anything else would be as inadequate as placing a band-aid plaster on a cancer. However, the Gospel of Christ faithfully proclaimed would result in a purged, purified, prayerful and powerful Church prepared to honour and obey Christ in all areas of life.

Pirating: Dilemma for Christians!

Pirating: Dilemma for Christians!
In the old days pirates would physically jump ships, attack and pillage. They had the guts to take on their victims face to face. Today it is a nameless, faceless game where we rob people sometimes without even a second thought.
Piracy and breaching of copyright is one of the areas where we ride our self-made modern Black Pearl. For most of us, it’s an ambiguous, grey area where we don’t know the exact copyright laws and, truth be told, don’t really want to know.  What we fail to realise is that in the long run we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Our emerging local music and film industry is heavily affected by our actions.
What exactly is the state of piracy in this country?
According to SAFACT (South African Federation Against Copyright Theft) “The invasion of pirate DVDs, increasingly of movies not available legitimately anywhere in the world, has resulted in a market share in excess of 50% in 2005 for pirated product…This level of piracy would equate to a potential loss of approximately 3 million unit sales.” Five years ago this market share percentage was 10%. So what before was something we could afford to overlook, now has become a huge threat to our movie industry.
Frans Cronje, South African producer of the movie “Faith like Potatoes” and owner of Global Creative Studios, has felt the sting of piracy first hand. “We know of at least five different places where our DVD has been pirated and sold illegally on the streets, including Britz, Stellenbosch and Benoni.” This has a domino effect on sales, as shop owners become reluctant to order the DVDs to sell themselves, when they know that the public can buy cheaper versions from street corners and flea markets.   
It’s interesting that piracy of a movie like “Faith like Potatoes” is so rife, considering its obvious Christian content. One has to question, then, how Christians themselves view piracy. How many are buying the illegal copies of the DVD and thereby becoming complicit in the act of theft and law breaking? The reality of the situation, which often people don’t want to acknowledge, is that with each illicit DVD sold, production companies are losing much needed revenue. For a new movie company this could create a make or break situation.  Frans explains, “People need to realise that producers need to recoup the massive investments that they put into their movies and music. Producers actually bond their homes in order to get a movie off the ground and until we repay our investors, everything including homes, hang in the balance.”
Churches unwittingly also contribute towards the problem when they show screenings of movies to their congregations without first obtaining permission and paying the required screening fee. Frans further states, “People think if any media product contains some Christian reference that it should be free. The reality is also that many people are just not aware of the fact that it’s illegal to show any movie in a public place, without written consent of the copyright owner.”

The Key to Reclaiming the Culture

The Key to Reclaiming the Culture
by Ken Ham
As we look at the world today, we see an increase in homosexual behaviour, abortion, disrespect for authority, and pornography (to name but a few)
At the same time, we also see that the Church is not as effective as it once was. Have you also noticed, for example, that evangelists don’t get the same response today that they used to? Also, the public education system no longer has remnants of Christian thinking. As far as churches themselves are concerned, by and large they are either struggling to hold their numbers or are dropping – very few are increasing dramatically. Dwight Moody in his day could add thousands to his Sunday school class, but this does not happen today.
What has happened in society to bring about all these changes? Why is it that many more people today just scoff when you talk about Christ and don’t seem to be open to the Gospel message? To begin to understand this phenomenon, we must first consider the relevance of the book of Genesis. In John 5:46-47, we read Jesus Christ’s words about the first books of the Bible, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me, but since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Then in Luke 16, Jesus quoted Abraham as saying (v. 31), “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from dead.” Both references underline the paramount importance placed on the writings of Moses, beginning with Genesis. In many Bible colleges today and in non-Christian circles, which book of the Bible is the most attacked, mocked, scoffed at, allegorised, and mythologised? It’s Genesis. The book that is quoted from so much in the New Testament is the most attacked, disbelieved or ignored. Why?
Ps 11:3 states, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Likewise, if you want to undermine Christianity, destroy the foundations as they are established in the book of Genesis. (Is it any wonder that Satan is attacking Genesis more than any other book of the Bible?) The Biblical doctrine of origins is foundational to all other doctrines of Scripture. If you attempt to refute or undermine Genesis in any way, the rest of the Bible is undermined. Every single Biblical doctrine of theology – directly or indirectly – has its basis in Genesis. In fact, if you don’t fully understand Genesis, you really can’t hope to attain a full understanding of what Christianity is all about. Why?
If you want to understand the meaning of anything, you must first understand its beginnings. Genesis is the only book in the world that provides an account of the origin of the universe, life, man, government, marriage, culture, nations, death, sin, and so on. The true meaning of all these things is dependent on their origin. In the same way, the meaning and purpose of the Christian Gospel depends on the origin of the problem for which the Saviour’s death was – and is – the solution.
Genesis and the decay of the nations
It wasn’t long ago that a belief in creation was the basis for what most Western societies accepted – it was taught in the schools and universities through the 1800s and much of the 1900s. A belief in creation and a Creator meant there were absolutes – God the Creator set the rules and told us what was right and wrong. Parents sent their children to Sunday school to learn about Christian absolutes. Those who weren’t Christians by and large still respected and obeyed Bible-based laws. For example, abortion was murder. But what happened? A man named Darwin arrived on the scene in the mid-1800s. While he did much valuable work in areas like natural selection and variation, he took these observations and tied them to an idea of “molecules-to-man” evolution – a theory concerning biological origins. This jump was not true science, but people were misled into thinking it was (including many church leaders). Evolution is a belief system, as is creation. Because many people were deceived into thinking evolution was scientific, it began to permeate our society and churches. After all, men are sinful and are biased against God (they love darkness rather than light), and are thus more prone to accept that which is wrong than that which is right.
Over the last 100 years, people have increasingly accepted the evolutionary worldview, one which says there is no God (at least not the omnipotent God of the Bible). Human beings were increasingly being seen as merely the result of chance processes over time, and thus no-one (no Creator) owns us – you own yourself. This means that you are under obligation to no-one. As this humanistic view became established in society, people started to ask questions such as: “If evolution is true, and there is no God who is Creator, why are there even laws about what marriage is? Why are there laws against deviant sexual behaviour? In fact, why are there any laws at all? Why can’t we have abortion on demand – after all, killing a baby in the womb is like getting rid of any unwanted animal?”
In other words, the belief system of evolution has provided a basis for humanistic morality, which says that you can do whatever you want because nobody owns you – there is no right or wrong. The Church was largely caught unprepared in how to handle the situation. The fundamental clash we see in society today is between the religion of Christianity (with its creation basis) and therefore its absolutes, and the religion of humanism (with its evolution basis) and its relative morality – one that essentially says, “Anything goes.” Evolutionary thinking, including its long-ages timescale is helping to destroy the Church and society. Christians must be awakened to that fact.
“Creation” evangelism
 What can be done? The Lord has provided a phenomenally powerful tool for us today – something called ‘Creation Evangelism.’ As I often say in my lectures, the major reason I believe the Church is so relatively ineffective is because it is not evangelising in the best way. Yes, the Church is proclaiming the message of the Cross and Christ, but not as effectively as it once did. We need to take a lesson from Acts 14 and 17, where we read about two specific examples of the evangelistic approach used towards the Greeks of the time – it was a different method than what was used for reaching the Jews.
When the Apostle Paul went to speak, he didn’t start preaching about Jesus Christ and the Cross. He began by telling them about the true God, who is the Creator. From there he presented the rest of the Gospel about Jesus Christ. The Greeks, even back then, believed in a form of evolution; thus in their eyes, there was no God, so He could not have any authority over them. We also read in 1 Cor. 1:23 that “the preaching of the Cross is foolishness to the Gentiles (e.g., the Greeks), but a stumbling block to the Jews.” The Greeks’ belief in a form of evolution gave them the wrong basis and therefore the wrong framework for thinking about this world. Preaching only about the Cross, therefore, was utter foolishness to them. Paul realised that. So before he could preach about Jesus Christ, he had to establish the basis on which he could build the rest of the Gospel. Thus, he established creation as the foundation, and from there he preached the message of the resurrected Christ.
According to the New Testament, whenever the Jews were approached with the Gospel, it was not with the message of creation first but with the teaching of Christ and the Cross. The Jews, you see, already believed in God as Creator and therefore they had the right framework of thinking, but refused to accept who Jesus was. It is time that Church leaders opened their eyes to the fact that our society, which used to be like ‘the Jews,’ has become like ‘the Greeks.’ In the past, there was a creation/ Creator basis in society, enabling the proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ with great effectiveness; in today’s Western nations, however, that basis has been all but eroded away and replaced with a humanistic one.
Before we can proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with effectiveness, we should first establish creation as the foundation upon which the rest of the Gospel can be built. As this message is preached, people will realise that it gives us an essential key to understanding why there is increased lawlessness, homosexual behaviour, abortions and suffering in our world. Having that key provides an effective tool to approach the problem of reaching our culture with the Gospel message. Christians need to be fervent in proclaiming this message to as many non-Christians (and Christians) as we can, remembering that our primary purpose is to glorify God and to share Christ and His Gospel, as the Holy Spirit enables.
Ken Ham is the president of Answers in Genesis, one of the largest apologetics ministries in the world today. For more info see

How to manage anger

By Dr Anthony van Tonder

Tired of fighting? Want to run away because the arguments just seem to go around and around in circles, going nowhere? Are you at the end of your tether? Then this life-changing information is just for you! All you need to know is why you continue getting so angry and how to resolve your conflict. To empower yourself to cope with conflict management, you need to first ascertain the true reason or root cause which leads to that unwanted monster called anger.

Biblical Advice
The Word of God says in James 1: 19 -20 “My dear Brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry; for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” We are thus encouraged to realise that it is not a case of if we become angry, but rather, when we become angry…We will all be subject to having to face the reality of anger.

Positive or Negative Emotion?
The first consideration is this: do you think anger is a positive or negative emotion? Think it over. We generally recognise it as a negative emotion, but that is actually not the case. When we use it in its negative application, we invariably utilise it as a defence mechanism, which actually amounts to nothing else than misuse of the emotion. In its positive application it actually becomes a normal, even possibly healthy, application. If used in the way God wants us to use it, it lends itself to an opportunity for growth. Here is how to make the distinction: We need to separate the feeling of anger from the venting of anger. These are two different things altogether. Anger is not sin; it is the unwarranted, hurtful, aggressive venting of anger that is sinful. Anger is a warning light. It says I am not a happy person, for whatever the reason, and I better attend to it soon, before my behaviour turns sinful.

Anger warns us of three dangers: Fear, Frustration, and Hurt. 1) Fear – This means you feel threatened either physically or emotionally and your response manifests itself through the medium of anger. Zig Ziglar has an acronym which says fear stands for: F = False E = Evidence A = Appearing R = Real This is exactly the case with danger element number one. 2) Frustration – This means you are frustrated to the end degree and your reaction could have devastating effects. 3) Hurt – This means you are so damaged either physically or emotionally and hence you find it difficult to cope. If this is the case, then what is the resolve? What key will unlock the secret to managing your anger? It is all in the application. Remember the verse in Galatians 5: 22 which emanates from love and ends with the word ‘selfcontrol?’ Well, that is the true key which will allow us to realise that the way we use our anger, will determine if our actions are sinful or not.

Ways to use anger
There are 3 ways to use our anger: Vent, Suppress or Process.
1) Venting your anger looks very much like the proverbial ‘the papaw has hit the fan’. It looks like a volcano that has erupted and is often supported by evidence of cups flying and crashing against the walls, or doors being kicked down. Not a pretty sight, yet many Christians find themselves saddled with guilt afterwards, although they originally felt ‘justified’ in their behaviour.
2) Suppressing your anger looks very much like you are a ‘goody two shoes’ as people can’t really see what is happening on your inside. The bad news, however, is that when this person eventually brings those emotions to a boil, it really brings out the worst behaviour imaginable. A story was once told of a gentle man who would not dream of even hurting a fly. Yet, one day travelling his usual route to work, he once again was cut off by a taxi and something within snapped: he grabbed the hockey stick in his vehicle, pulled the guy over and ended up with a charge of culpable homicide after beating the taxi driver to a pulp. Suppressing anger leads to repressing which is somewhat of a ‘coil spring’ reaction. If you press down a high tension coil spring, it will catapult into the air once released.
3) Processing your anger is the Godly response. You acknowledge the feeling of anger as either one of fear, frustration or hurt. Once you have determined that, you will start processing the data at hand. You will say something like: “I am angry with you and would like to deal with why and how it is affecting me. I recognise that I feel frustrated when it seems that you are not listening to me. I feel your rugby match is more important than our happiness.” The beauty of coming to grips with the processing of anger has a very definite positive message. If we learn to use anger to protect our love by listening to its voice, we will never be sinful. When we look for the WHY behind the anger, we are using anger creatively to grow and enrich our relationships. If we believe that anger is our enemy and not our friend, we will have great difficulty in learning how to process our anger

Time-out Principle
“Get real,” you say? That is a natural response, as sometimes in the heat of the moment you are simply too angry to make any logical sense. In fact, you better send yourself to the room to go to cool down before you do or say something you will regret forever. The Time-out Principle has two keys: Time and Place. Your partner does not want you to jump in your vehicle and speed off with the wheels spinning. She will be worried sick at first, but later the accuser of men, the devil, will start whispering into her ear which is linked straight to the heart via the mind. This sets itself up for aggravation and dire results. Time says you will announce how much time you require to get your emotions under control. You will, for example, indicate two hours after which you pledge to return to the problem-solving arena. Place says you will announce exactly where you will be, so as to alleviate any suspicion of any undesired addresses to be visited. Your spouse needs the security, even though at that moment sensible communication would be out of the question. The Time-out Principle is nothing other than a reconciliation process in action.

Final thoughts
Any relationship, whether in marriage, parent to child, or colleague to colleague, deserves your best Godly intention to take responsibility of your own behaviour. A great Scripture to actively assist with the handling of one’s anger is 2 Cor10: 5b where “we take captive every thought to MAKE it obedient to Christ”’ Notice that we have our part to play – it is an action we take being accountable to God. Anger does not have to reduce us to pitiful, weak, sinful beings –we are overcomers. We are more than conquerors. We are called sons and daughters as we are led by the Spirit.
Dr Anthony van Tonder, author, specialist marriage counsellor, founder and CEO of Family Life Change Centre SA. Contact 012 345 2517 or

Bobbie Houston: My Story

Bobbie Houston: My Story
‘Shout to the Lord’ is probably one of the most famous Christian worship songs across the globe today. Sung in congregations, home groups and in the mission field, this song has literally crossed all borders and cultures with the message of God’s splendour – in fact it’s estimated that ‘Shout to the Lord’ is sung by 35 million Christians each week! The song is associated with the worship ministry from Hillsong Church in Australia. Hillsong has become synonymous with Spirit-filled worship, excellence in ministry and a pastoral couple, Brian and Bobbie Houston, who really care for their people and lead the church with integrity.
Her husband, Brian, speaks all over the world, but not enough is known about Bobbie, the vivacious woman at his side. Brian and Bobbie have three children and have been married for 30 years. They met at a Christian convention when they were in their teens…Bobbie who is 50 years old, recalls how she came to Christ:
“I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. My mother was a delicate, gentle woman of Scottish descent with pale white skin and flaming red hair as a young woman. Towards the end of her life, she became frail and incapacitated, but prior to that my only memories are of a placid and softly spoken woman, from whose mouth I cannot ever remember hearing harsh or unkind words. She taught me dress-making and only once did I ever see her disagree with my father.
My dad was a truly amazing man. He was of Tongan-Island descent and had that gentle disposition that often marks Pacific Islanders. Totally dedicated to his wife and two girls, he spoilt us rotten. I fell asleep in his lap or reclining on his strong, muscular arms every night of my life, and almost every day of our lives he gave my sister and I breakfast in bed. He died when I was fourteen years old, and my world momentarily fell apart. My memories of him are sweet – big strong hands lifting me as a child to reach the ceiling; a daddy who never denied me crawling into bed with them when I was afraid, a man who loved creation and rose at dawn to watch the birds and sunrise; a man who worked hard and diligently, and always put others before himself. (Herein lies a challenge for each and every one of us – to create sweet memories for our children.)
The reason I speak so strongly and affectionately of my father, Arthur Gordon McDonald is because he had a profound and powerful effect upon my life. I was blessed to have a truly ‘perfect’ earthly father which made it very easy for me to comprehend an ‘even more perfect’ Heavenly Father.
There are many women in this crazy, sin–affected world of ours who cannot comprehend their Heavenly Father because they judge God according to what their earthly father was like. They were neglected, abused, and unloved. That was not my experience, but the reality is that even though they may have been denied such an earthly example, it does not mean they cannot experience to the fullest and deepest, the love and care of their Heavenly Father.
The Word of God declares that “He neither slumbers nor sleeps” Ps 121:4. He doesn’t sleep which means His eyes are continually toward you and His ears are continually attentive to your cry. The Word says that “His hand is not so short that it cannot save” Is 59:1. He is a covenant-keeping God. What I am writing is truth. The only thing that prevents a beautiful human being from experiencing this amazing gift of love, is that person’s inability to choose and accept this truth.
My story is not one of abuse or tragedy (except for a father who died far too early), but I still needed this Heavenly Father. When my dad left this life, it began the process of this little lady coming to a knowledge of God. I had lived fourteen great and precious years, but I didn’t know Jesus personally; I wasn’t saved; I wasn’t walking in my created purpose and I was dissatisfied and hungry for Truth.
It was May 7th 1972 in the Auckland Town Hall where I met Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I still remember being dropped home by the friend who had taken me to church that night. I knocked on the front door and my mom opened it. I said, “Mom! I’m saved!” And she said, “Oh, that’s nice dear.” I remember it as if it were yesterday. I sat down in the lounge room. The TV was on and nothing seemingly had happened in the natural, but I felt distinctly different. I felt clean and forgiven – Someone powerful had entered my life.
I had lived a quiet and sheltered life. I was shy and insecure, and had never really been encouraged to excel or go after anything other than what was normal or expected. I tell you all this because I could have stayed that way – insecure and contained – but God had something greater in store for me. God has something greater in store for all of us. When a person experiences the ‘rebirth’ and becomes a Christian, Jesus Christ enters their life and the seeds of greatness are activated. What the born again, new believer then does with those seeds determines the rest of their life, and sets them up to win or lose in life.
God wants you to be comfortable with who you are but He also wants you to excel in life. The Words says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and (that your body) may keep well, even as (I know) your soul keeps well and prospers” 3 John 2.
Should you find yourself in a position of leadership with the responsibility of influence over others, then understand that you are commissioned and expected to excel. This is the beauty and price of leadership. Leadership is about giving people something to follow. Don’t add unnecessary pressure or demand to this statement because all you have to be is the gorgeous person that God calls you to be. If you achieve that, then you will find yourself fulfilling your part.
For me, I find myself married to a wonderful man of God; together we find ourselves leaders of thousands. I could add drama to my nervous system by putting unnecessary expectation upon myself, but what I have learnt over the course of my journey is that I only have to be me. However I do have certain responsibilities. I have to discover WHO I am, I must discover WHY I’m on the planet, and then I must be sure to OBEY all that He asks me to do. I have a responsibility to give people a story worth following.
When the lights fade and eternity dawns, and we find ourselves faced with a Day of Accountability, the very thing Christ Jesus is going to inquire about is our calling. I dread to think how many will stand and say, “But Lord I was busy doing this and that…” and Christ may say “Yes, my love, but I didn’t ask you to do this or that… I called you to do….”
In the church where I am planted, I am very aware that there are women, both young and mature, who are more gifted and talented than me. Many of them are connecting with the awesome and divine call that is upon their lives, and my responsibility (as a leader in their lives) is to help them fulfil that call. And if and when they soar higher and stronger than Bobbie Houston, fantastic!
When I was 15 years old and newly saved, I received a prophetic word from a speaker at a youth camp. (Parents, encourage your kids to go to camp. God turns up and does wonderful things in our babies). The prophetic word said I would have ‘many, many children.’ Now when you are fifteen years old, ‘many, many children’ can be frightening concept (could that mean many, many stretch marks too?!) Well, of course God wasn’t talking literally – I have three beautiful children, and a few stretch marks to prove it, but the Lord was talking about spiritual children.
I often feel like an old mother hen. I look at the hundreds of incredible, stunning, beautiful, gorgeous young people in our congregation and I feel like a spiritual parent. What is the mark of a maternal heart? It is to love and to cherish, to protect and nurture, and to raise and release her offspring to greater exploits than herself. You also have spiritual children in your life!
To give and release, we must first discover and begin to fulfil our purpose. Then inspiring others becomes the natural outcome. The challenge of handing the baton successfully to the next generation is in handing it in such a way that they connect easily, run faster, soar higher and achieve more.
We are living in truly exciting and significant time – days which God promised would be more awesome and glorious than at the beginning. Time to rise up! Time to get over the negatives. Time to get on with your purpose. Time to be that effective example to all the people God has entrusted into your care, because believe me, they are watching your behaviour, your attitudes, your responses, your relationships. They are watching your pattern of life! Paul tells us to be “an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” 1 Tim 4:12.
What pattern of living are you showing them? A good life? A happy life? A marriage that is growing stronger day by day? Great kids? Friendships that are sweet? If you are single, are you content in your singleness? Is whatever you put your hand to moving towards blessing and increase? When it comes to life, let’s not settle for anything less than God’s best. There are so many things that can keep us contained, but let’s choose to break free of the limitations and pursue all that God has for us!”
Bobbie is a dynamic speaker, teacher and an author of two books. For more information please visit: and

Hospitality – Love in Action

Hospitality – Love in Action
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice Hospitality.” Rom
The early Christians viewed themselves as part of a worldwide brotherhood and they knew they were a persecuted minority in a hostile world. “Little pockets of early Christians survived”, writes C.S. Lewis, “because they cared exclusively for the love of the brethren and stopped their ears to the opinion of the Pagan society all round them.”
Hospitality, therefore, became one of the most significant, practical
expressions of this worldwide family of brothers and sisters, and thus
became one of the birthmarks of early Christianity.
In today’s world, it still often feels like we are a small minority in a hostile world. Friendship and the sacrifice of time are therefore just as important now as it was then. In the rush of today’s modern lifestyle, hospitality is often the last thing on our list of priorities. Sharing a meal in your home means giving of your time, family, possessions, home, finances and privacy.
The rewards though are lasting and far reaching. The simple act of
hospitality can offer friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment,
comfort and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand. Unless we open our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory.
Could it be that our churches today often feel cold and uncaring because hospitality is a dying art? How long do folk attend a church before they get invited over for a meal, or even a cup of tea? Could it be that we are losing that distinctive, the one that so ably characterised the early Church? How are we as Christians different from the pagan, cold and hostile world? Two hours of fellowship on a Sunday morning is hardly enough to grow in friendship and brotherly love. We need to get into one another’s homes to build relationships and accountability. For new Christians, the home can be a launching pad for discipleship. What can create a more comfortable and secure environment after a morning of instruction at Church than the warm fellowship around a meal afterwards? What a perfect time for questions to be answered and new faith to be strengthened.
We were not created to live alone. Since the dawn of time and throughout history, the value of friendship has been constant. Friends can either provoke others to Holiness or encourage in wickedness. It is usually one or the other. How important it is then, for a new Christian to be surrounded by believers in a relaxing and accepting home environment. The more we grow as Christians, the more we desire holy companionship.
Hospitality then, is love in action. It is not to be left to chance, but should be planned and pursued. It should not be perceived as a dread or burden but as a privilege and as part of service in His kingdom. Remember that you may be entertaining angels unawares!
The benefits for our children are immense as well. If our children grow up in a home where guests are frequent, they will in turn learn to serve and give of themselves as well. Their horizons will be stretched in ways that few other things can. Especially when hospitality is offered to people from other cultures, like visiting missionaries.
In today’s world, a kind deed performed for a stranger is seen as a rarity, and even written about in the newspaper. Not too long ago these acts were considered part of civilised society. This is a symptom of cultural disintegration, and if we as Christians fail to understand and apply the commands of hospitality in the covenant community, our churches, like our culture, will eventually die. (Hebrews 13:1-2)
If you are feeling inadequate in this area, remember that giving hospitality does not need to be a threatening situation. It is not just for gourmet cooks, folk with perfect homes, and perfect children. It rather refers to our reception and treatment of others, and has little to do with our culinary skills. If our general disposition is one of self-absorption, irritability, disinterest and complaining then our inclination to invite others into our home will be nonexistent. Inviting someone for a meal after church for example can be as simple as a picnic in the back garden, a relaxing braai or enjoying a delicious stew that was prepared the day before.
The good news is that hospitality is an art that can be developed over time. Start by inviting friends or neighbours you have known for years, and then move on to inviting strangers and new Christians. (1 Peter 4:9-10)
For relationships to truly develop, we must ask the Lord for wisdom. We must ask for guidance and insight into the needs of others around us. You may be perfectly suited to minister to a unique need of a friend. The more we focus on others and the needs around us, the more we will concentrate on building lasting and meaningful relationships. If we give God our homes and our time, He will use them according to His plan. The rewards will be rich, lasting, deep, and will strengthen our church community in ways not thought possible.
May we be willing to be used in this fading art of hospitality.
Recommended further reading:
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer The Hospitality Commands, by Alexander Strauch
Face-to-Face: meditations on friendship and hospitality, by Steve Wilkins, Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho