Rich in God?

I have been doing a series of studies on Philippians, and wanted to take a quick look at money and why it is not a good idea to think that becoming a Christian makes you rich.  My observation would be that some people have a knack of accumulating wealth – others simply don’t.  Also, there are not that many Christians who are particularly wealthy.  Maybe I don’t know the right people!

If you wanted to understand the dangers behind the prosperity gospel – there are over 2000 scriptures dealing with money, but a lot of them are warnings rather than promises, then read this.  I would make the comment that few preachers would probably identify themselves WITH the prosperity gospel – I think it is more of a problem in developing countries.  I am always suspicious of preachers who talk more about money than about Jesus.

Out of interest I googled ‘get rich quick’ and was pleased to find this helpful post.

Finally (because of course you could spend all day researching a topic like this) I found a post looking at some scriptures on money, and you will find old favourites here . Who knows, perhaps you will find something new too.  Like most topics, it’s a timely reminder that the Bible is the best source of wisdom for daily life. If you wanted to catch up with my studies on Philippians, they’re on our church podcast.

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Malawi Day 12

We couldn’t believe this was our last day in Malawi! A good devotion led by a DTS student (who had a one-way ticket out to DTS from Holland and was just hearing from God on what to do in November when it finishes), on the stories in 2 Kings and the command for Jehoshaphat to dig ditches, then in 1 Kings on the widow’s oil. We were encouraged to think about obedience and not only when God tells us something easy.

This was followed by a breakout praise session led by ‘da lads’, the African boys, who really know how to move. But we also shifted into the presence, and worshipped as well, before interceding for India. Being on the African continent, it makes many countries seem more accessible, and YWAM have 600 bases around the world. I have finished reading Loren Cunningham’s ‘Is it really you, Lord?’ which is a readable ‘history’ of how Loren followed God’s leading to see thousands of young people paying their way to do mission work.

At the end of the prayer, Colin and I were prayed for as we return to Blighty, and a guy called Tristan who had just arrived from Colombia and was here for a couple of days was also prayed for. There is an efficient method of prayer they use here where everyone prays at once.

We had a quiet morning collecting coffee from Blantyre’s answer to Edgcumbes, chatting to Chris, and I obtained a laptop for our DTS session in the afternoon. I was wanting this to go well as I hadn’t done this sort of thing focusing both on teaching and on being a Christian.

Colin spoke first, and then I did. He focused on his journey into social work, and how there had been some ‘Kaboom’ moments, such as when after lots of pestering by friends at university agreed to go to a Bible study; also later on some unusual careers guidance when after working as an electrical engineer, he heard an audible voice saying ‘Go into social work’.

After giving the group a short break I spoke; I had planned a lot, but felt some of it was too specific perhaps for people who already know they want to teach. So I made the point that we will spend 90,000 hours of our life working, and will encounter some of our greatest challenges in work as Christians. Then I talked about Jesus being a great teacher, and did a bit on how when you reach children or young people, you need to do it wholeheartedly to win them, and to honour God.

After the session, Tom who is the main DTS leader with Sarah his wife, emphasized that it’s not always easy for young Africans to get work, and some come to DTS from being unemployed. Also that not all of them will have completed formal schooling themselves.

With this sort of input we just have to trust that God sowed some seeds! We finished our final day with a braai – Chris got some large beef fillets, and Colin and I got to spend more time with Chris and Hannah’s good friends Daniel and Suzy.

A quick cup of coffee and debrief with Chris, and it was off to pack for an early start. I am now signing off, sitting in Addis Ababa airport at 11:15pm local time, waiting for our final flight home.

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Malawi Day 11

Today we headed out to Majete National Reserve with the Scutt family for a day out. It was already swelteringly hot, although England we understand was even hotter. What’s that all about?!

Before our ‘day proper’ started we had an hour of intercessory worship, and then went to the school to send off a YWAMmer, Sam, who has been teaching Standard 1 (like the American grades, but 6 year olds, entry level) and also doing sport discipleship. Having completed the teacher training that Chris has been running, he is moving to another school to teach full-time, and also getting married before Christmas. We took the opportunity to prayer-walk round the school, a big crowd of DTS and staff team. Although it is still the holidays, there were actually two classes of the oldest year in, brushing up on the basics and preparing for term!

In primary, some students wear uniform and some don’t. Those who can afford to go to secondary all wear uniform (see the film ‘Harnessing the Wind’ for more on this). There has been talk of providing secondary education on the state too, but that seems little more than an electioneering promise.

As we walked up the Base to get in Chris’ car, Daniel gently informed us that a friend of his had been killed by an elephant at Majete – he had been out of his vehicle at the time.

It was a long, scenic drive to Majete, with approximately eight police checks (we are now at Chileka airport waiting for the first leg and fully expecting these in the UK now!). We drove around a mountain at one point with stunning vistas. Around Majete, which is lower and hotter than Blantyre, there was lots of flooding a few months ago, and on the rough track leading up to the Park, we could see white temporary houses, provided by a relief agency, where the flood had wiped out dwellings. Portions of road had also had to be mended.

Once inside the Park, we sat down to a pre-ordered lunch of chicken and rice, enlivened by mango char (not sure how that’s spelled). There was a very inviting pool and we had a swim too – Colin managed to push Caleb in, much to his delight, and then produced a surprising turn of speed ‘for an old man’ as Caleb chased him furiously round the pool!

We took a swing round the Park in the car, and saw impala, warthogs, kudu, crocs gliding down the river with the current and a hippo sunbathing on the rocks.

Chris had booked Colin and myself on what turned out to be a three hour game drive, with a very well-informed guide who told us about plants, birds as well as the big five. The idea was to stop for a sundowner before it went dark, but as Colin said the closest he got to refreshment was a glimpse of the Milky Way. In retrospect, it was a good drive. I should say at this point that before we came out, I mislaid my wallet with cash and bankcard in, and was dependent on Colin’s dollars all day. As we were driving round looking out, this started weighing on me!

But we saw some great birds, the oldest baobab in the Park at 1600 years, and had a narrow escape with a matriarch elephant. We had watched a lone bull elephant for some time

And then we spotted a baby and some others in the brush off the road just by the river. Then we heard a trumpeting, and the driver said: ‘I know this group’, put his foot down and shot off up the sandy path at tremendous speed – we were being chased by the matriarch for some distance. Colin lost two of his fillings. We learnt the group had been transferred from Liwonde National Park, and had experienced poachers there before they put a high fence round. So they always chased off any vehicles, especially when baby elephants were around.

Briefly, other highlights of the day included two buffaloes, in the dark, a nightjar, hippos in the river, and looking at the Scorpio and the Southern Cross in the pitch black. For Colin, what sprang to his mind, after the bumpy safari truck and the jolty drive back (Chris’ driving stamina has to be noted here) was chips and ginger beer picked up from Kips, Blantyre’s answer to a Dinky Doo Diner. I leave you with the baobab tree!

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Malawi Days 9 and 10

It is now Friday, before we leave, and I am racking my brains to remember what we did on Tuesday and Wednesday! Fortunately I have Colin to remind me sitting at the table here! I also have the luxury of Hannah’s laptop to write my post, which may be a bad thing as I write more. Let’s hope not….

I have organised this post for two days, as Thursday I will cover in a separate post, on safari – a non-mission day really! Tuesday morning I led the devotion, focusing on Luke 7 and the woman who broke the alabaster jar. I was interested to discover (perhaps I should have known this already) that this incident of a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet occurs in all four Gospels. I encouraged everyone to spend some time in silence, thanking God, confessing, praising Him and then allowing him to speak through the passage. We then had thirty minutes off on our own, during which the idea is we have our own quiet time, and return at 8:30am for worship and intercession. Several times, Colin and I during the thirty minutes have gone to the bench by the gate of the Base, and prayed together, which I have really appreciated.

During the intercession, which was for YWAM (on Mon the focus is prophetic, on Wed Malawi, on Thurs there is extended worship and on Friday the focus is international) Colin and I were rushed off with Hannah as the plan was to get us to Thyolo House, while she dropped the children off at a friend’s and took another friend to see his baby in hospital – Hannah has spent a lot of time supporting her friend with the pregnancy, and had been kept in due to high blood pressure. Judging by the look on the husband’s (and now father’s) face as we picked him up from their house, this was very much a story with a happy ending, especially as this is their first child.

So Colin and I spent a very pleasant morning at Thyolo House, chewing the fat, sampling orange cake and sipping coffee. This gave us an impression of what it might be like as a tourist in Blantyre – however, at 110 dollars a night, it is not the cheapest option. The Italian owner allowed us to have a tour of the house, which was stunningly decorated in ornate colonial style. On a clear day (and this is becoming the thing to say in the heat haze of summer) you can see the Mulanje range.

We then returned to Base ready for some mission in the afternoon – this transpired to be a trip to the local market, and we went in threes into the village and engaged people in conversation about Jesus. Just like going round the different YWAM bases, this is an excellent opportunity to see what is going on. The market itself is really vibrant mid-afternoon, with lots of people milling around, and lively music playing. Sometimes the Base brings out their red truck and do some outreach, but this afternoon this was being used elsewhere.

On Wednesday morning we had a quieter devotion time than usual (Daniel and Chris were away on a one-on-one prayer time in Zomba), and we interceded for the needy in Malawi in particular. The students on Discipleship Training School get experience in this context in leading meetings – so they were steering how we prayed. With forty people together, it’s a case of using the time well, and also helping everyone to engage. I have really enjoyed the times of prayer we have and feel perhaps that it’s time for a shake-up with our church prayer meeting back home. (Having some Chichewan praise would also be quite good!)

We got to sit in on Lindane’s teaching for the DTS this morning, which was a real treat. He spent the first session before coffee prophesying over each of the students, and it was brilliant to see someone with a real established prophetic gift, bringing careful, biblical, helpful words to the students. It’s also always a good opportunity, when ministering to people you don’t know very well, to be exercising that sort of gift. He is the Base leader for a base in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and they are currently looking to purchase a farm, as their neighbours don’t want them where they are. He travels quite a lot to different Bases, giving teaching. He was teaching on the Holy Spirit this morning, and gave many helpful and wise comments both about prayer and also the power of the Holy Spirit. One story involved a girl who always seemed to say the wrong thing, and Lindane ended up going with her on a door-to-door evangelism session. To Lin’s surprise, she gave an amazing prophetic word to one woman out in her garden, which meant she returned to church and was healed from hurt in the past, where she had been told to marry a certain person, and she had obeyed – and then he had been unfaithful and left her. This word meant that her faith was restored and she returned to church! One of the sensible things Lin said was that we should never feel coerced in our faith – we always have a choice.

I had been for a run early that morning, and this meant that I was quite tired – Colin also wasn’t feeling great, so we had a quiet afternoon, and managed for the evening to get to the Community Evening, where Lin shared on the power of the Holy Spirit and then everyone got prayed for. Good times!

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Malawi Day 8

It’s the pattern of the Blantyre base to have a two-hour time of devotion, praise and worship and intercession, with a different focus every day. We also learnt that the YWAM approach is dancing, praise in his presence through into worship and encounter with God. Malawians just go from one song to another, with a strong singer starting up the next song and some great drum rhythms.

The devotion slot this morning was led by Daniel, one of the Base leaders, on Genesis 32. Lots came out of it, including not to trust a leader who hasn’t got a limp, like Jacob. It’s incredible to think that a nation was named (Israel) out of a night wrestling with God.This afternoon Hannah and Chris chaperoned us at a market stall, where they helped to bargain us down as we both bought gifts. Looking back, I spent twenty dollars and I’m not quite sure what I got for it! We then relaxed at a cafe, and Colin unwisely opted for a healthy juice, ‘botanic boost’, which I had to help him finish. It cost 3,800 Kwacha, which translates to approximately £3.80.

Next we got to finally see the school that Chris and the Blantyre team have been so instrumental in building. The classes are out for summer, but the results came out top in their educational zone.Chris gave us a superb tour with lots of information. The school has been really well received partly because one of the team is very highly respected in the village. They have not had any security issues at the school (unlike on the former YWAM base) partly because the builders all came from the village.The school is so smart and spacious, built on a hill but they levelled off some ground for a playground space.

Although Colin and I had both seen photos while it was being built, we were impressed with the scale of it. Children start at age 6 and this caters for primary. Up to there is government-funded, so while the funding for the building of school and teacher houses was external, the teacher salaries are paid by the government. Teachers are not paid very much.We were excited to learn yesterday (Tues now!) from Chris that the Phalombe football team may actually come and sleep in the classrooms at the school, and can then get lots of input from Blantyre Base staff.

One of the ongoing projects Chris is involved in is to train teachers in both Christian education and good teaching skills. He is using a University of the Nation’s (YWAM) designed course, and has created an app to support assessment of the teachers. He is training ‘trainers’ to go out and disseminate this, which may extend beyond Malawi.There is also talk of building a secondary school in the area too, which may happen. Chris met a government official last week to see if Mary’s Meals can get started at the Thantwe School – he showed us rooms with spaces to cook large pots of porridge for the students first thing in the morning. The parents will volunteer to cook, rising at 4:30am to do so.  As we left the school, the deputy head said they don’t have any discipline problems. Why would they when they are given such a fabulous opportunity?

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Malawi Day 6 and 7

The weekend heralded an unexpected change of pace as after breakfast we were offered hot water for a wash. It was a pleasant experience having an outdoor shower (in an enclosed area but with no roof, may I add!).

The plan had originally been to go to Bangula, down south past the Elephant Marsh, but as Chris had done a lot of driving and there were various needs back in Blantyre base, we headed home through Zomba. It is exciting that a Malawian family from the Blantyre base are moving to Zomba next weekend and planting a YWAM base there – we only drove around the outskirts but it has a number of houses in stunning locations with extensive woodland gardens.

When we got back I managed to squeeze in a run along the Chigumula Market road towards Blantyre while Colin did a stint in the prayer room. I found it really helpful to order my thoughts and hear from God for the Sunday morning preach at Living Stones church. Since I started running, and when I can be motivated to run on my own, I find the Holy Spirit does speak to me and somehow niggles and concerns crystallise or disappear. It doesn’t replace for me ‘quiet times’ but it does really help. It’s a bit like a half hour before getting to sleep at night when many thoughts are racing round your head, but the rhythmic running seems to corral those thoughts into an order. God is so good!

On Sat evening after dinner Chris gave us a screening of ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’. Having been around some villages now, we found it really interesting to watch this movie. Going back to our room on the Base we felt the guard dogs (the Base has security guards too) did their job well, grabbing at my trousers and Colin’s too. We kept moving!

Sunday was great – good to be at Chris’ church, to share in an ‘open service’ and also to help Chris lead worship. I shared from Philippians 3, pressing forward: before I shared, three words came out that linked in with that. In particular one guy shared that unlike entertainment, what comes from Jesus is always complete, and like a bubbling fountain is different every moment, which linked with what I felt running yesterday about living in your current rhema word for your life.

We went to Game Haven with the Scutts for lunch, which made a change. The rest of the day was very pleasant and relaxed.

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Malawi Day 5

So what was great on Fri morning before we left for our next base, is that we had a time of prayer with the guys there. Colin had picked up that a way of really moving the football team on in their faith, and on Patience’s heart and Patrick’s too, would be to take them away for a week’s camp. The logistics were easily achieved, but the cost of the food, fuel and other things were not available at the Base. We were in a position to offer them that finance, and to our surprise they said they would be able to run the camp before their school term begins on 16th Sept.

I felt a real oneness with the guys on this base: it is a lonely and difficult work. They are coming to a YWAM regional meeting this Thurs now (I am playing catch-up and it’s Mon) so it will be good to see them again.

We had a bumpy drive to Ntaja, and arrived there in time for lunch. This base has a lot of activity going on – it is in the heart of a Yao-speaking area, who tend to be Muslims, but there are Christian centres too. Eliot and his wife Sabina run the base.

While we were there we met Justino who runs a YWAM base down in Kalimini in Mozambique, who was visiting with a primary healthcare school. YWAM run ‘schools’ with different focuses. If you were considering mission with YWAM, in order to get involved (apart from visiting, or supporting missionaries of course, which anyone can do!) you have to complete a DTS, which takes 5 and a half months. It’s a great thing for a young person to do in a year out.

It was brilliant to hear about the work the primary healthcare team had been able to do in Ntaja, as there are so many basic needs on Malawi that are not being met.

Eliot loves to take Jesus films into the villages, and we loaded up his gear, including petrol and a generator, a frame, amplifiers, projector, loudhailer.

We went that we were all squeezing n to Chris’ car, a red seven-seater Toyota Sienta including one in the back, for 26 km down what was probably the worst stretch of road on our trip (we ‘bottomed out’ three times within two seconds at one point according to Colin).

When we arrived I was amazed to see a swarm of children squealing with delight. There was a brilliant episode where a boy up a mango tree was hacking branches off with a panga (like a machete) so the view of the screen wouldn’t be blocked. Then the local pastor and chief grabbed the panga very energetically, like a whirling dervish demolishing undergrowth – in the end, the screen was erected further away so the pruning was for nothing.

The Jesus film is old now, and we waited until it was dark (playing lively music out of the speakers until then) to start showing it. An initial small crowd seated of about thirty children and along the road behind perhaps 15 adults grew to around 180 as the film went on.

We paused it with Jesus on the cross, and I gave a gospel message, which I was nervous about, but I think went okay. I led them in a prayer, which they prayed out loud, then they saw to the end of the film.

Colin came up at the end and invited those who were sick came up for prayer. I prayed with Eliot, who told me what the needs were before we prayed. It was really exciting to do this – Chris prayed for a girl whose arm felt better immediately. Eliot and I prayed for two people who had suffered severe strokes who we went over to meet, guided by the pastor.

During the film, we were all invited into a room to eat a meal of rice and vegetables (I didn’t have much as I was conscious of the gospel message I was given) – we were using our phone lights to see. They have a lovely tradition of service to pour water over your hands into a bowl, reminiscent of Jesus washing the disciples feet.

One long evening, and scary drive back in the dark, and six pairs of eyes glued to the patch of rutted road illuminated by Chris’ headlights, we arrived back at the Ntaja base to be told food was waiting for us. It was after ten at night already. I should say, due to being near the Equator, it gets dark consistently at around half five, and by 9 it feels like 11pm. I could see Colin didn’t want to eat, but we went into Sabine’s front room and were greeted by a large spread of pots, and a large thermos which told us there was hot water for drinks too.

I think in retrospect we were glad of that meal to fortify us and prepare us for the slatted beds we had to sleep on. I didn’t shift around too much in the night just in case!

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Malawi Day 3/4

So the episode I didn’t finish from We’d was an afternoon Bible study. This fits well with an opportunity from yesterday, where I shared with a youth football team, as Colin shared on Wed.We had gone a short distance into woods from the Chigumula base, and there is an isolated village of workers who come from all over Malawi to work in the woods. The government has put up houses and all are full. We sat on chairs in the dust, and it was a blowy and increasingly chilly afternoon.Colin shared, and Charles translated, on Luke 5, where Jesus preaches from the boat and then gets Peter to try again for a catch of fish. He shared how Peter realised so much more about Jesus. After some discussion, he also used Ezekiel 47 to talk about going deeper in God, and from being a new Christian to getting baptized and also getting filled with the Spirit. We prayed for them, and they brought out food as gifts for Charles and his wife, as they were grateful for the ongoing time they have spent with them, from bringing them Mark’s gospels in Chichewa, to continuing Bible studies. I saw at least three full Chichewan Bibles amongst them.Then yesterday, after some ‘African’ delay, we drove out from Blantyre to Phalombe district, which is much more rural and quiet. This base has no running water, some electricity, but is well built and smart. Most of the houses in the area are built from mud bricks. Some had to be rebuilt after the recent floods, and aid came from the Base to rebuild three or four of the houses. Patience is the man running the Base currently, with a volunteer Sankho help him. We enjoyed good hospitality in terms of food, and Chris had purchased a chicken to enhance the evening meal.We walked around the village, and Patrick who used to live here was greeting everyone. Muli bwanje is a catch-all greeting or you can put your hands together as a greeting as you pass people. We watched Patience play with a group of about 18 young people and then they sat down. Chris shared on Proverbs, and the Lord directing our steps. I talked to them then about running a marathon, and used Philippians and reaching ahead, to encourage them to focus on Jesus, and being single-minded. Chris then prayed a good prayer to help them reflect. It was exciting to be part of encouraging them… More on this tomorrow!

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Malawi Day Three

Bleary-eyed, we stumbled across from our room in the Baseto Chris and Hannah’s house for breakfast. It is nice for me to be in amongst the hubbub of children, and to let Caleb (8 years old, similar weight and size to Noah) to pull me around.We then joined the Base community in worship and moved into prayer. There are about thirty at the moment each morning. Some were sharing on the need for Malawians to appreciate hygiene at hospitals with such a high risk of infection, and corruption meaning drugs are sold to the rich and there aren’t antibiotics for the poor.A blurred photo of Nick Muriro is below who is based at Musenberg i(not spelled correctly!) in Cape Town. He is delivering this week’s teaching to the DTS, on church and world mission.This evening we heard him speak on ‘small is big’. The essence of his talk was that we make our faith grow by obedience, small steps. We don’t know what will happen when we obey. Those small steps can lead to God’s great purposes being fulfilled. Daniel, one of the Base leaders, said after that we need to be obedient in those small steps even after the feeling to take them has gone. I think that was especially important for me.This afternoon with Charles, his wife and two of the DTS team, we drove out on a bumpy road through the woods just by Chigumula Market, to a small huddle of houses. Before we heard Nick share, there was praise Chichewa style. This was to a community gathering of around 50. I thought we had stepped into a party – eight joshing and boogieing in the middle, lots of strong African rhythms on the drums, and people round the edge gradually getting pulled into the middle. We sang a song which Hannah translated to me as ‘God is good yes’, which had actions resembling La Macarena. It was a real party time and the Malawians can move!We enjoyed more time today at the Scutts house, where Colin and I navigated through the game The Three Little Pigs with Caleb, Lily and Beth, Daniel and Suzie’s daughter, and Chris cooked us tea. Hannah, as part of her role supporting women in childbirth, was visiting Dina on hospital who is 34 weeks pregnant and had high blood pressure – she is having to stay there, possibly for a month, to keep the blood pressure down artificially, and they are hoping she can avoid a caesarean – Dina is a midwife herself but this is her first child.This is a bit garbled, and I am now a full day behind, so will publish this one and try to catch up tomorrow perhaps while we are driving (to Ntaja, having spent amazing time at Phalombe today).

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Malawi Day Two

The third challenge I am delighted to report was overcome thanks to tenacity and good old fashioned patience on behalf of Colin and me, and the welcome sight of Chris Scutt at Chileka airport, to pick us up, get us a coffee and to take us on a stunningly beautiful sunset drive through Blantyre, out to Limbe and Chigumula Market where the YWAM base is located.Just a few brief comments on the flight – visa authorization, it’s a long way to Lilongwe, and down the revolution, or anything that prevents our homeward flight from happening!It is both strange, exciting and full of promise to meet new people at the YWAM base, get a sense of what God is already doing, and see familiar faces – say hi to Hannah, Chris’ wife and her children (who didn’t remember us but who talked a lot). I don’t want to close off the possibility of anything happening, but I also don’t want to force anything.John 5:23 “All should honour the Son just as they honour the Father.” I am so struck too by Jesus’s statement that “the Father judges no one but has committed all judgement to the Son.”Tired now to reflect more – we had a good meal with the Scutts and with a visiting speaker for the training school, who is usually at the Cape Town base and runs lots of School of Biblical Studies courses there. Hopefully we can both get some sleep tonight…

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