Wrestling with Apartheid

For the past six years I've had the privilege of working with Ebe Sikakane. Ebe serves as pastor to seniors at Richview. He's a godly man and a good friend.

Ebe has just written a book called Wrestling with Apartheid. Here's a description:

Apartheid’s evil and God’s grace are woven together in the life story of Ebenezer and Emily Sikakane. Raised in rural South African poverty and oppressed by white rule, God called Ebe and Emily first to himself and then to each other. Forged in the crucible of suffering and trust, hard work and humility, God transformed this Zulu couple into true ambassadors for Christ.

Ebe was one of the early evangelists and leaders of African Enterprise. Besides directing the Zulu ministry in Soweto he represented the cause of Christ throughout Africa and North America. Forced to flee South Africa in the late 70s, Ebe and Emily and their five children came to Toronto, Canada, where Ebenezer taught missions at Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale University College) for sixteen years. God raised up a black South African to teach and mentor scores of Canadian missionaries who today are serving the Lord around the world. The Sikakane story is a slice of salvation history, filled with the good news of God’s grace and mercy. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, Ebe and Emily embody the Great Commission. From a rural South African village they have gone to the ends of the earth to make disciples.

You can buy a book by contacting Ebe at Richview, or from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. I highly recommend it.

Herein Lies Our Challenge

From the Pew Forum:

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.


Final Sabbatical Report

I just wrote my final report on my sabbatical for my church. It's probably the last time I'll be writing about sabbaticals in quite a while. Here's what I said.

Mark Buchanan, a Canadian pastor and author, took a sabbatical. Reflecting on his experience, he wrote:

As I left for sabbatical, many people in my church wished me well. They told me they'd miss me, that they'd be praying for me, that they hoped I came back refreshed. And then they usually said, "You deserve this."

No, I don't deserve it. It's pure gift, like being born in peacetime and not war, like being forgiven, or kissed, or told you have beautiful eyes. I never earned a minute of it. I don't deserve a scrap of it.

I can relate. The sabbatical we enjoyed was a gift, and are deeply grateful. Thank you for investing in us and allowing us to take time to be refreshed.

We were told by a wise man to reflect on 1 Kings 19 when we began our sabbatical in June. Elijah was weary. He rested; God provided everything else that he needed. Our job, we were told, was to rest, which is actually a different kind of hard work. Our other job was to trust that God would provide everything that we needed.

He did. One of the clearest examples of His provision was when we arrived at a pastors' retreat centre in Wisconsin. We knew that four other couples would be present, but we expected them to be strangers. God had a surprise in store for us. We spent the week with a pastor friend of mine and his wife. God had planned things much better than we could have. He provides for us very well.

So we were refreshed. Charlene and I spent lots of time talking together, which helped to deepen our relationship. We worshiped together as a family at a church and found ourselves hungry every week to join God's people and to hear from his Word. I spent lots of time in the backyard reading and reflecting. I met with key friends and mentors and benefited from their wisdom and guidance. We were strengthened more than we can say from our sabbatical, and we are grateful to God and to you.

Please pray for us! Pray that God would continue to teach us, and that the lessons and rest we received while away will pay dividends to God's glory.

Buchanan wrote that there is no way he could pay back his congregation for the gift of his sabbatical. You don't repay gifts. But he did come back restored. You have given me a great gift, and I have come back feeling as though God has restored me in some very important ways. I'm grateful to you for your gift, and grateful to God for what he's done with it.

Eighth Letter by Lloyd-Jones

You may have heard of the Eighth Letter event coming up here in Toronto:

The book of Revelation contains seven letters addressed to 1st century congregations struggling to find their identity. Nearly two thousand years later we are asking some of the world’s leading thinkers, people you've never heard of and, well...you: what is your message for the Church in North America?

You’ve got 15 minutes to communicate your most pressing message to the Church. What will you say?

I haven't had a chance to blog my eighth letter. But I hope Martyn Lloyd-Jones wouldn't mind if I submitted this on his behalf:

It is being said that the chief need of the Church today is to repent because of its "lack of unity"...we would suggest that before she repents of her disunity, she must repent of her apostasy. She must repent of her perversion of, and substitutes for, "the faith once delivered to the saints." She must repent of setting up her own methods against the divine revelation in Holy Scripture. Here lies the reason for her lack of spiritual power and inability to deliver a living message in the power of the Holy Spirit to a world ready to perish.

I realize that sounds negative, cranky even. But there's some truth there. I find myself continually tempted to be distracted from the main thing and to focus on other issues of secondary importance. But lose the main thing and you lose everything.

To put it another way, the greatest need of the church is to rediscover the gospel and to be shaped by it. Everything else comes out of that.