Divine Perspective

South African countryside river crossing road trip off road.

Travel enough dirt roads and eventually you encounter an overflowed river. Problem was the water was so brown we couldn’t gauge how deep it was, and we don’t have a 4 x 4. I walked in front of the car checking the depth and for rocks a few times. Click image to enlarge.

The more you know of God the more capacity you have to worship Him.

A few years ago Liezl, the kids and I journeyed from Johannesburg to Cape Town via dirt roads. We didn’t spend much time planning the route, we didn’t take a GPS, we just hit the track with an old map book in one hand and an adventurous spirit in the other. Our only real aim was to stay as far away from concrete highways as possible, to go through as many small tucked away villages as we could, to lose cellphone signal as many times as possible and to see as much of the South Africa countryside in three days as we could.

We went off the map, we nearly ran out of petrol, we drove through one horse towns with no people and only stray dogs, we waded rivers, we slept in tents, we took too long, we framed memories, we cut through gorges, we crossed mountains; it was truly amazing.

Driving through the Karoo one could tangibly feel nothingness. An odd tree, a sign post every few hundred kilometres but for the most part it looks like the moon. Desolate, barren and colourless. Of course these conditions make for great night skies; no lights, no smog, no people. The crystal clear atmosphere opens up the splendour of the heavens which lie unimpeded, adorned in their majestic beauty.

South African Large Telescope Sutherland Northern Cape South Africa SALT off road road trip

It is hard to describe how beautiful this tree is. When heading towards Sutherland the ground is grey and the plants all have a grey hue to them. It kinda looks like the surface of the moon. Then this tree appeared. Absolutely startlingly beautiful. Click image to enlarge.

We detoured through Sutherland, home of the South African Large Telescope (SALT). The SALT is a 66m2 area optical telescope with a nominally 9.2 meter aperture but up to about 11.1m x ~9.8 m diameter aperture, and designed mainly for spectroscopy. I could loose you with more technical mumbo jumbo but the point is that this device opens the universe. It takes pictures of distant things and brings them into focus.

We say that God is Transcendent; that He surpasses physical existence and is also independent of it but at the same time we acknoweldge that He can be known not just be known of. The Bible is the telescope by which God brings Himself into our view. It’s the tool by which the pictue of God is brought into focus.

1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true;
they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey
and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.
13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

Want to hear the verse in context? Psalm 16 – 30
What is this about?

The more you know of God the more capacity you have to worship Him.

Built for a purpose

surfing The Pipe Port Elizabeth with a Great White Shark

Click image to link to source.

As a kid I spent a great deal of time in the ocean swimming, sailing, snorkelling and surfing. Once, surfing about 50 meters out to sea, near a spot called The Pipe in Port Elizabeth, I looked up at the shoreline and saw my dad standing on the bonnet of the car frantically waving his arms, signalling to me.

Simultaneously I became aware that I was alone; all the other surfers had paddled out of the water and were standing on the beach, waving their arms, beckoning me to swim in.

An ice cold chill shivered its way up my spine and a paralysing sense of fear welled up inside of me. As adrenalin pumped through my body one word exploded in my mind, “SHARK!”

Listen to some of the features that fuelled my panic:

  • Great whites grow to an average of 4.6 meters in length, though specimens exceeding 6 meters and weighing up to 2,3 tons have been recorded.
  • Great whites can detect one drop of blood in 100 litres of water and can sense even tiny amounts of blood in the water up to 5 kilometres away.
  • Great whites mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows.
  • Great whites have organs that can sense the tiny electromagnetic fields generated by theor prey.
  • And then perhaps most importantly to me at the time was I thought a great white was between me and the shoreline.

Well I got out of there as fast as I could. My friends later described my hasty emergence from the sea as if I had “walked on the very water itself.”

The great white shark is built for a purpose and it’s not to look pretty, whistle a tune or blend into the environment, it’s to kill. It is a ferocious killing, eating, slaughtering machine. One purpose, one function, one goal.

You and I friends are built for a purpose too, a singular function. God has put us humans together in such a way that we need to worship. Furthermore He requires us to worship, He created us to worship, He desires us to worship and ultimately those who worship Him on earth will worship Him eternally in heaven.

We’re built to worship the Lord.

In heaven this celestial tune rises up day and night,


Want to hear the verse in context? Revelation 4
What is this about?

The gaint fin gliding through the water turned out to be a Whale Shark. Maybe, for integrities sake, I should point out that I’m using the word surfing as a synonym for body boarding.

Stone cold dead

District of Columbia (DC) FIRE and Emergency Services (EMS) personnel along with US Military and Civilian volunteers work the first medical triage area set up outside following the 9/11 terrorists attack at the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. This photo is in the public domain. Click image to enlarge.

The accident scene was a mess. Bodies lay strewn across the cold tarred highway. The smell of rubber, smoke and fear filled Shaun’s nostrils. Most men would have bulked. Shaun however was a paramedic and his instinct and training kicked right in.

Quickly assessing the situation he called it in, “We’ve got two patients with minor injuries, a few cuts and bruises and a laceration to an upper thigh. They can be treated here no problem. Then there’s a patient, a minor, dazed… maybe even concussed… definitely shocked… this one needs to be taken in. Send an ambulance from the General Hospital. Lastly there’s a patient with heavy bleeding from a deep wound in the abdominal area. I need a chopper and you need to make it quick. Oh, and send the big black van as well. There’re 2 stiffs for the morgue.”

That’s triage. It is a process of prioritizing patients based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately.

In it’s simplest form victims are prioritized into 4 categories namely,

  • Those with minor injuries, who need help less urgently
  • The injured whose transport can be delayed
  • The injured who can be helped by immediate transportation
  • The deceased

The last one, deceased, means dead which translates into “Don’t bother”, “It’s the end of the road”, “Call a morgue” “The fight is over.”

Listen to what Paul says of the state of believers before coming to salvation,

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Want to hear the verse in context? Ephesians 2
What is this about?

Some spiritual triage: unbelievers are stone cold dead. Not “a bit sick”, not “banged up but they’ll be fine”, but “dead” as in “pushing up daisies”. Nothing they do in and of themselves will ever make them acceptable before God. It’s the ravages of sin, trespasses, transgression you see. By nature and by choice they’re corrupted. Totally Depraved.

Not good news if you’re still a child of wrath.

So, what about the good news? Need a bit more information, “Total Depravity – is it Biblical?”. This was loosely adopted from a sermon illustration Chris Woolley gave while preaching through Romans 1 – 3.

You should be a “Finger-lickin’ good” Christian

The kids and I at KFC on Father’s Day a few months ago. Finger lickin’ fun. Click any image to enlarge.

I really wish that Christians were a bit more like KFC. You see there’s something to be said about the branding. Go into any KFC, take Rivonia, and order a Streetwise 2; feast down; then drive to KCF Fourways and order the same meal. Both times, “Finger-lickin’ good!”

Christians, in general, just aren’t like that. Take the blogsphere for instance, there’s just no consistency. This one moans and groans like they’ve got appendicitis and that one has a bee in their bonnet because of the color of the carpet. This bunch of people dislike that group over there and that group absolutely hate the other guys. It’s a mine field!

Where’s the common Christlikeness?

John, writing Christ’s own words, records a bit on Christian “branding” (no, I’m not advocating a wishy washy seeker sensitive methodology) in his gospel account,

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What’s the motto you live by? Are you identifiable as a Christian? Has Christ branded you yet? I’m starting to feel real hungry.

Reading the Bible in black and white with a dash of color

The girl in the red coat from Schindler's List

The girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List. What a powerful metaphor. Click image to enlarge.

Have you watched Schindler’s List? Can you remember the scenes with the little girl in the red coat? Crimson blood set against black and white. It’s seared an indelible print into my memory.

I feel the same when I read the New Testament in Greek. I’m not proficient enough to do it in full color yet but I’m certainly starting to see dashes of scarlet within the black and white text. Take John 1:1 for example.

1 In the beginning was the Word…

“was” is a translation of the Greek word “ην”. It’s a teeny tiny word, almost insignificant really, but Greek is a whole lot more exact than English. They have rules upon rules and distinct word permutations for every nuance under the sun. That one little word “ην” tells an entire story.

From school I was familiar with the past, present and future tenses. Well the word “ην” is in an imperfect tense. The imperfect tense is a past tense but it’s a bit more than that. It carries with it the idea of an action, occurring in the past, having been repeated over and over. By saying, “In the beginning was the Word” John is trying to convey to His readers that the Word was consistently, perpetually, abiding. It’s stuff you just can’t glean out of an English text. The English word “was” is a black and white translation of the ruby red “ην”.

What translation do you use? How do you go about interpreting Scripture?

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Who’s explaining the menu to you?

Like every other South African my favorite starter as a kid was Spur’s famous crumbed mushrooms.

Before we had kids (was there ever a time?) Liezl was a consumable manager at Panasonic. Man, Novembers were crazy! Between her and me we’d hop from restaurant to function venue wining and dining till Christmas came with end of year parties and bashes. One event stands out head and shoulders above the rest for me.

It was a Panasonic staff year end melt down. We were sitting at a table of about 15 other sales reps and their partners. Following the usual small talk and the uncomfortably forced getting to know you stuff I got deeply engaged in conversation with the guy sitting next to me about something or other. After about 15 minutes my ears pricked to the discussion at the table.

A number of the guests had raised serious concerns over the menu. “Can you believe that the first course is something called horsed overs,” someone asked in an exasperated tone. Panic had already started to set in with a few of the more petite looking ladies saying that they refused to eat horse anything and that they were “practically vegetarian anyway”. Even a few of the guys were looking a bit queasy at the idea of stallion steak, foal fillet or pickled pony.

I took a look at the menu and broke out into a smile. Turns out that the first item had rather fancily be written in French. It was actually Hors d’œuvre. I was hoping for black mushroom with oyster sauce but would settle for a cheesy garlic roll.

I laughed but the Bible can be like that to. There are plenty of terms, phrases and concepts which will be foreign to a person and need an explanation. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 says that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, reveals it and teaches those whom He indwells:

10 For to us God revealed {them} through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the {thoughts} of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the {thoughts} of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual {thoughts} with spiritual {words.}”

You indwelt? Who’s interpreting the menu for you? Reading it again I’m wondering who that we in verse 12 and 13 are?