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I like Moses.

Many Christians are not particularly interested in this great Patriarch (because, let’s face it, he’s just not our guy). We like to create a hard line in the sand between the law (and Moses) on the one side, and faith (and Jesus) on the other side. But I think that’s a bum rap. Moses displayed amazing faith. In fact, I think he displays exactly the kind of faith that teachers need. The kind of brave faith that inspires.

First there was the burning bush. Now, apart from the obvious possibility that everyone who heard the story recounted (including Moses himself) would very likely have assumed it was the result of mild sunstoke combined with the inhilation of too much ‘sheep gas’ (methane being known to do all sorts of terrible things to the brain as well as the atmosphere), a bush burning in the wilderness is hardly everyone’s image of Deity. I mean, if God had appeared in a burning pillar of fire (wait… didn’t that happen later?) or even a burning baobab, that might have been a little more convincing, but a burning bush is not so amazing is it? And yet, off goes Moses, back to the country he had fled from in terror years earlier… following a burning bush.

Then there was the burning mountain. It must have been quite incredible. Certainly impressive enough to scare the idolotry out of the Israelites (no wait…?!). The people were so terrified that they begged Moses to speak to God on their behalves. At this point I would have looked up at the pyrotechnic peak and replied: “…sod off!” But Moses, man of great faith that he was, terrified as he was, climbed the Mountain and met with God. Well… strictly speaking, he met with God’s back. Apparently God’s front is a bit deadly to the uninitiated, so God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered the cleft with his Great Hand, and then passed by, removing the obstructing limb in time for Moses to glimpse him leaving. Having climbed the fiery mountain and survived the near death encounter with God’s back, I think it’s safe to say that if I was Moses, I would have more than enough stories to tell my grandchildren. But not Moses…

Because, then we have the burning heart. Amazingly, Moses not only doesn’t stop associating with Burning Manifestations, he actively seeks them out (or rather, he seeks Him out). The Glory of God comes to settle in the Israelite camp and Moses makes a habit of meeting with God (in the aptly named ‘Tent of Meeting’) for the rest of his life. He spends so much time in the presence of our fiery Diety that his face acquires a distinct glow, which Moses has to cover with a veil so as not to freak the rest of the camp out. Moses face is burning.

But what about the burning heart? Well, actually, that belonged to Joshua rather than Moses. You see, Joshua used to sit quietly in the corner whenever Moses and God had their smokey pow-wows. He never said anything. He never voiced an opinion. He just sat quietly. Burning in his heart to have what Moses had: a face to face friendship with God. And God saw Joshua sitting in the corner. He saw his burning heart. And that’s why God chose Joshua as Moses’ replacement when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. He saw what Moses’ faith had inspired in Joshua.

And that’s why I like Moses so much. He spent his whole life actively and publicly seeking after God, and in doing so, inspired Joshua to do the same. As a teacher I think we can learn a lot from Moses about faith and discipleship.

This past week I spent some time with a group of teenagers on outreach in Hawane in Swaziland.

We always used to spend a week during the December holidays at camp. We had lectures. We cried in worship. We went home. We forgot. But then last year, Sheldon (our youth pastor) asked the leaders to think about a change. Instead of camp, we’d go on outreach. I loved the idea and we went ahead last year with our first outreach. This year, we went from friendship evangelism to community service.

Hawane is a community of homes for orphans. It also functions as a base for life-skills training for graduates from Emafeni (a program for people with life-controlling problems). It’s also in a community with one of the highest HIV infection rates in a country with the highest HIV infection rate in the world. So we had no lack of service opportunities. In the mornings, we prayed with the life-skills students and visited the hospital. In the afternoons we worked in the gardens (we made a prayer garden in a quiet corner of the community for the staff, and we made a vegetable garden for a very sick single mom in the neighboring community), and we ran a soccer clinic for the older boys. In the evenings we spent time in the homes of the orphans, playing games with them and praying with their foster parents.

We debriefed and had short devotions and worship three times in total. Sheldon, Paige and I said very little to the youth the whole week other than to encourage their efforts. The teenagers had a fantastic time and although few tears were shed, no grandiose promises of lasting faithfulness were made, and nobody said ‘amen brother!’ even once, we all learned more in this week than we could have in a year of youth camps.

So cancel your youth camp and take your youth into the community to make a difference.

Less is more:
Less words. Less costs. More fruit.

On our last birthday my dear brother and I were out to dinner with our parents. Simon is a fan of controversy. He is a non-conformer. As often happens at our family gatherings we ended up discussing something deep and philosophical and just edgy enough to make my long-suffering mother roll her secretly conservative eyes. The topic of the conversation was: “If you could pick only one book for your child to read in her whole life, what would it be”. Typically, my brother announced that he wouldn’t choose the Bible. Shock! Horror! Fun stuff all ’round.

It’s an interesting question because it’s really a variation of the “which books have been the most influential on your life?” Often people subconsciously resort to name dropping when they are asked this question. We want people to be impressed by us. I think the new framing of the question might help us to avoid that.

So now I’m asking you! I’ll rephrase it to make it more interesting:

“If you had to choose the only three books that your child would read in their lifetimes, which would they be?” To avoid frustrating controversy, we will assume that your child is allowed to read the Torah or Bible or whatever in addition if she so chose.

I wish to relate to you the wonderfulness of childhood innocence. The little person that seems to illustrate this to me most often in my ministry as a teacher is Blair.

Recently I was in the school office after hours, doing some paper work when I heard the most terrible racket – the desperate screaming of two little boys outside! I peaked out the window to see if they were being mauled by Hadedas (like an African version of the Hitchcock classic, “Birds”), only to find the two nine year-olds running in a large circle in the parking lot, being chased by each other. They were completely unaware of any audience, so focussed were they on their private crisis. The intense look of terror painted on their faces was mesmerizing and I watched to see what would happen if they actually caught each other. Gradually (after about ten laps) the boys’ screams morphed into squeels… mysteriously, there were two little piggies chasing each other around the parking-lot in ever shrinking circles. When their spiral arrived at its inevitable conclusion, the squeels changed into the dying gasps that only little boys can get quite right. Finally, Blair gasped out their tragic epitaph:

“Swine fluuuuuuu!”

A few weeks ago we held our inter-house athletics meeting. What I love about the event is the little conversations between the little people competing. Somewhere between the flood of hormones and the drudgery of homework, children lose their invincible optimism and become teens. It is the greatest tragedy of the growing process. Two examples will illustrate this:

Two little grade 1 boys were lined up at the third exchange of the 4 x 60m relay for boys under 7. The one was a natural athlete, who comes from a family of natural athletes. He had come first in the 60m and 80m races earlier that day, and his team were far ahead on the points table. The other little boys was just as genetically disposed to losing as the other was to winning. He was thin, with knock-knees and a silly grin on his face. As I walked by, both boys were adamantly proclaiming, with equal noise and conviction, that they would win the race by at least a minute. The previous losses of the day meant nothing to our knock-kneed little champion – in his own mind, he was a guarenteed winner.

Another boy, on the verge of adolescence, had always been one of those fat boys who run the last twenty of the 100m backwards, waving to the crowds, doing their bit to make up for the entertainment their athletic abilities could not give to the paying public. This last year however, he had lost a lot of that puppy fat. In spite of the encroaching teenage angst, encouraging him to jokingly proclaim himself guarenteed last place, I saw in his eyes, a faint glimmer of that childhood optimism. He knew something had changed. He ran that race – the 150m for boys under 12 – in record time, with teeth gritted and every muscle straining. At the finish line he feigned shock at his win, but his little smile gave him away – he always knew he was a winner.

Sometimes I think we should all revert somehow to that simple faith in the stuff God put into us. We should go into every battle, expecting to win, and never be phased by such trivial things as previous failure. Don’t you wish you could be like that?

About Me

Ecstatically married to Leane. Studying Theology and Teaching. Working as a worship leader, teacher, coach, guitar teacher. Living in the Mighty City of Mkondo in the sunny province of Mpumalanga, in the blessed country of South Africa.

Favourite Thoughts – Outbox

Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. - Lactantius (c.304-313).
What is essential Christianity? From first to last it is scandal, the divine scandal. Every time someone risks scandal of high order there is joy in heaven. - Soren Keirkegaard.
Where there are two Christians, there are three opinions... [Actually a Jewish saying, but at least as true for Christians]

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