To Lead Is To Serve (Summerfield Park, Johannesburg 5 November 2017)

Scripture Reading Matthew 23:1-12
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

http://bible.us/111/mat.23.1-12.niv

Introduction

Jesus talks about the Pharisees and their strict observance of religion. How did they became this way. To understand them better, we need to go back in time.
The Jews were a people set apart with to their belief in one God and their observance of the law.  God gave Moses the Law, who gave it to Joshua, who gave it to the elders, the elders gave it to the prophets and it was passed down by the priests to pthe Pharisees who gave it to the people. Therefore they stood in the place of Moses as teachers of the law.  

The law was first written in the time of David and Solomon from about 1000 BC. The 10 tribes broke away from the northern kingdom of Samaria during the time of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Only tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the Southern Kingdom. The Northern kingdom was invaded by Assyria, (Sargon and Sennacherib) and the people carried off into exile in 740 BC. The Southern kingdom was invaded by the Babylonianians in 604 -586 BC.   After this, the priests studied and reinterpreted the law of Moses in the light of the disaster and wrote the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, to ensure that people kept the law of the Lord, so that this disaster may never come upon them.   There was the return from Exile in 450BC and the dedication of the Law to ensure that people understood and kept the law. 

The Pharisees took the Study of the law to a whole new level, particularly after, when Antiochus Epiphanes tried to destroy the Jewish religion in 175BC by introducing the Greek religion. He introduced the sacrifice of pigs and set up an idol of Zeus in the temple. This was what was called the abomination that causes desolation.
In response to this, the Pharisees emphasized keeping themselves separate and wrote down and obeyed the letter of the law in order to preserve it. That is how they became purists, regarding the law.  

Main Body

William Barclay writes this of the Pharisees: ‘The Pharisees then were two things. First, they were dedicated legalists; religion to them was the observance of every detail of the Law. But second–and this is never to be forgotten–they were men in desperate earnest about their religion, for no one would have accepted the impossibly demanding task of living a life like that unless he had been in the most deadly earnest. They could, therefore, develop at one and the same time all the faults of legalism and all the virtues of complete self-dedication. A Pharisee might either be a desiccated or arrogant legalist, or a man of burning devotion to God.’ http://www.studylight.com

According to William Barclay, The Talmud described seven kinds of Pharisees:

There was the Shoulder Pharisee. He was meticulous in his observance of the Law; but he wore his good deeds upon his shoulder. He was out for a reputation for purity and goodness. True, he obeyed the Law, but he did so in order to be seen of men. 

There was the Wait-a-little Pharisee. He was the Pharisee who could always produce an entirely valid excuse for putting off a good deed. He professed the creed of the strictest Pharisees but he could always find an excuse for allowing practice to lag behind. He spoke, but he did not do.  

There was the Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee. The Talmud speaks of the plague of self-afflicting Pharisees. These Pharisees received their name for this reason. Women had a very low status in Palestine. No really strict orthodox teacher would be seen talking to a woman in public, even if that woman was his own wife or sister. These Pharisees went even further; they would not even allow themselves to look at a woman on the street. In order to avoid doing so they would shut their eyes, and so bump into walls and buildings and obstructions. They thus bruised and wounded themselves, and their wounds and bruises gained them a special reputation for exceeding piety.

There was the Pharisee who was variously described as the Pestle and Mortar Pharisee, or the Hump-backed Pharisee, or the Tumbling Pharisee. Such men walked in such ostentatious humility that they were bent like a pestle in a mortar or like a hunch-back. They were so humble that they would not even lift their feet from the ground and so tripped over every obstruction they met. Their humility was a self-advertising ostentation.

There was the Ever-reckoning or Compounding Pharisee. This kind of Pharisee was for ever reckoning up his good deeds; he was for ever striking a balance sheet between himself and God, and he believed that every good deed he did put God a little further in his debt. To him religion was always to be reckoned in terms of a profit and loss account.

There was the Timid or Fearing Pharisee. He was always in dread of divine punishment. He was, therefore, always cleansing the outside of the cup and the platter, so that he might seem to be good. He saw religion in terms of judgment and life in terms of a terror-stricken evasion of this judgment.

Finally, there was the God-fearing Pharisee; he was the Pharisee who really and truly loved God and who found his delight in obedience to the Law of God, however difficult that it might be. Of the seven, six were all about the show, only one truly delighted in God’s law and in obedience.  

Leadership is a form of service. The purpose of a leader is to provide a vision, guidance, direction, to motivate and encourage people to do great things and be great.
The Pharisees were leaders in Israel. They played a every important role, to bring people closer to God, through teaching them to obey the law as an act of love for God.  They failed, because their leadership was self-serving. Matthew 15:8-9 says, ‘these people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ Jesus condemned them, because their obedience to the law was not out of love for God, for the most part.  

Jesus deplores the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word: hupocrites which means to wear a mask and play a role. It was all an act, all for show. So he says do as they say, i.e. Obey the law, but, not as they do, i.e. to make a great show of their obedience.  Jesus encourages the disciples to be humble and serve each other. He illustrates this by washing their feet. He led by example, and performed miracles and taught the word out of love for God, not to be seen by men. He continued in his service unto death, even when his disciples had abandoned him. He was genuine, not playing a role.  

There is a lot of talk about leadership these days. But there is a growing recognition of effective leadership as being a role that serves a purpose. If we bring it back to our country, we lack leadership in business and in politics and even in some churches, because the actions of the leadership are self -serving. We have leaders who:

o Want to be rich and live lavishly at all costs

o Are prepared to subvert justice and bend the law in pursuit of power and wealth to keep their ill-gotten gains,

o Persecute those who speak out against them

o Love the limelight, always posting on social media

o They spout ideology, anti-crime, anti-corruption, etc. Lots of talk, no action, so they do not practice what they preach.

King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the Sun. Even in Old Testament times, priests were expected to serve God and their to lead the people. The Lord killed both of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas because they abused their positions as priests. When Eli died, he was replaced by Samuel. Samuel was tireless in his service.
What God desires is obedience, not sacrifice (1 Samuel 15.22) and service to others out of love. Do nothing out of selfish ambition. Consider others better than yourself (Philippians 2.3)  

Conclusion

True leadership is an act of service, to God and to Men. If you are in a position of leadership, ask yourself whom are you serving?
If you want people to follow you, you must serve them, Jesus does so much for people. As a result huge crowds followed him.  How does your leadership serve the purpose of God. How does it serve those whom you lead? I encourage all of us to model our leadership according to the pattern of Jesus Christ and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us . Let us pray for all our leaders to be authentic and humble, to have a sevant’s heart and a teachable spirit, subject to the authority of God. Only then can we live in peace and prosperity in harmony with God and with each other.  

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Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

From the equatorial forest.

In my imagination,

We make a beautiful duet.

His dark chocolate

with my caramel entwined.

Heady and sensual,

Utterly irresistible.

Electrifying,

Like shot of espresso 

The colour of his eyes. 

One look, is all it took. 

The cup of my heart is brimming.

My head is swimming,

Like after an Irish coffee.

A shot of whiskey,

A dash of cream,

Stirred with a chocolate spoon.

The worst addiction

Demands gratification.

The food of the gods and

The Devil’s own elixir.

Secretly brewed in the dead of night

Now incarnate.

The ultimate black magic,

No cure from a medic.

Desperately sinking,

A maelstrom of emotions.

The worst part of it,

We’ve never even spoken.

Black Magic Woman

img_1172

Black Magic Woman.
Watch her move.
See her slay.
Spinning her sorcery,
Swaying her hips.

A glance of her eyes
Draws you in.
You’re powerless,
Spellbound.
Sparks fly
From the halo of fire,
That dances around her.

You’re tangled now,
In the web she weaves
With your desire.
She tempts you,
Tests you,
Brings you to your knees.
Black Magic Woman.
Your longing won’t let her pass.

No Rules: The Back Story

What inspired you to write this story?

I am an idealist and an incurable romantic. I believe in love and in the happily ever after. My parents have been married for over 40 years and been together for almost 50 years. My husband and I recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. I have witnessed the struggles of my single friends, both male and female when it comes to dating and picking the right person. I want to portray a positive view of marriage and relationships with a minimum of drama and pain. I also have friends and acquaintances who are in cross-cultural marriages and relationships and I have written about some of the issues that they face.

Why did you choose the title of No Rules?

Mwoyo muti unomera paunoda is a Shona saying which means the heart (love) is a tree which grows where it wants to. There are no rules to love. People have tried reducing the phenomenon of love to a formula, but there really isn’t one and have come up with all sorts of written and unwritten rules. The relationship in this story breaks all of them. The laws of physical attraction may be fixed but love is really a supernatural phenomenon. Magazines and self-help books are full of advice on how to get and keep a man, how to affair-proof your marriage and relationship etc. but the reality is love is about how two people feel about each other. There are different kinds of love and we feel them at different times for different reasons which makes it hard to predict and manipulate.

What are ‘the rules’

A tricky issue where people attempt to define rules is how long do you wait before you have sex. Many men driven by pure lust would want to have sex on the first date or soon after. Lust is a biological phenomenon intended by God for humans to multiply. A man in this case is driven by the instinct to spread his seed. The majority of men lose interest immediately afterwards. So women have a dilemma.  Do you insist that he marry you, then watch him move on? Or do you compromise and have sex because you love him and let’s face it, women have needs too, then risk him waking up the following day and deciding you’re not the one?

There is a double standard that applauds men while denigrating women for having sex outside of marriage. Steve Harvey wrote Think Like A Man for his daughters because he understands how men think. He suggests waiting for 90 days, in order to be sure of the man’s intentions. However, there are people who had sex from the day they met and are still together, while others waited years, got married and still got divorced. So the only rule is not absolute.

In the novel, the couple wait for a while. They try to fight it. They don’t do a very good job. That is the reality. We have so many roadblocks, obstacles and protocol around marriage which make it an onerous process. In Genesis, God created Eve and simply put her in the garden. Adam decided she would be his partner saying she is the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.  I don’t believe God ever intended for marriage to be so complicated, these are human rules for whatever reason. It would help if people were honest with themselves and with each other about expectations regarding sex and a relationship.

The other rule extends to marriage. How long should you wait. Again, there are people who get married within 6 months of meeting and stay together, while others wait years and still get divorced. Jide and Pelonomi meet, endure challenges and survive them to get their happily ever after. In some relationships a couple can go through in six months, what others take 10 years to experience. There is no absolute rule. The question is is how well do you know your partner and do you love him or her enough to live with their imperfections? Some people close their eyes to the truth, only to realise they can’t handle those imperfections and then they get divorced 2 years or 20 years later.

The story is set in South Africa in 2017? Why is that?

I have lived in South Africa for over 10 years. It is a beautiful country, vibrant, cosmopolitan and has such a rich history and diverse cultures. It is also a place that attracts people from different nationalities. I want to showcase what makes our country special. South Africans know to have fun, we can really party. We are among the earliest risers in the world and we strive to do better for ourselves and our families.  If you live in South Africa, you can relate to the setting. I will be publishing photographs and other media to make it real for readers overseas because I want them to see what I see.

Why choose Millennials for the main characters?

I wanted to represent young urban African professionals who are educated, accomplished and cosmopolitan. I have not come across too many stories about this cosmopolitan generation. The Millennials have been the subject of research and debate. They are different from previous generations. They are more socially and environmentally conscious, they think differently. They also value family and tradition even though they practice these in their own way. They are technologically advanced and connected via social media. They want to change the world. They are the leaders of the future and that future is not far off. I wrote the story in the first person, which is incredibly challenging, because I want the reader to stand in the people’s shoes and experience the emotions. My children are from that generation. When they come of age, I want them to choose their partners wisely so In a sense, I am writing this for them.

Why does Pelonomi have to be studious, in other words, a nerd?

Nerds fall in love too. Pelo is a highly intelligent, educated and cultured young woman. Many men would be attracted to her face and body and not pay attention to her amazing mind or her crazy ideas. But crazy ideas are the ones that change the world. When we appreciate everything about our partners, we can support them and they can achieve extraordinary things. Jide is a nerd too, he just doesn’t look like one, because he plays basketball and is in great physical shape. So the story is about two nerds falling in love. In a sense it is a way of letting intelligent girls know that they can be themselves and find love and not have to hide their brilliance because it makes men insecure.

There are some highly charged and explicit love scenes. What is your reason for including these? 

This is a work of adult fiction. Sex is an integral part of life. We are all here as a result of sex. Studies show the number of times men and women think about sex. It is a primary biological need, whose purpose is to keep the human race from extinction, not that we are in any danger of that now. In the novel, I wanted to portray sex in a loving committed relationship because many people believe sex is boring when you get married or commit to one partner. It really isn’t unless you make it so. If you do, you will forever be lusting after other people. Too many people destroy their marriages because they are fantasizing about what is out there. In my opinion, casual sex is the equivalent of eating junk food when you can have a gourmet meal at home, because you lack that intimacy and emotional connection that makes it special.

You don’t pull your punches when you talk about xenophobia. Why is that? 

I was born in Zimbabwe. My paternal grandfather was Zulu. His family were immigrants in what was then called Rhodesia. I am classified as an immigrant because I was not born in South Africa. I have personally experienced xenophobia because I use my husband’s surname and my passport does not bear witness to my genealogy.

The reality is that there is no pure race or tribe. We’re all from somewhere else. The borders that we live within are artificial ones created by the colonial powers in an effort to keep peace among themselves. These borders split up families, clans and nations from a common linguistic and cultural point of view. In South Africa the only truly indigenous people are the Khoi San, everyone else is an immigrant.

My two main characters are from different countries and they each face hurdles in believing that the love is real and getting this relationship accepted because of the stereotypes and barriers that we have developed as African people.


You talk extensively about religion and spirituality. Why is that?  

The lovers are both Christians at different stages in their walk with God. Our spirituality is an important part of who we are. When we do not spend time in some sort of devotion, we lose touch with a vital part of ourselves and we try to fill that emptiness with drugs, alcohol, sex, food or whatever other addictions. I want to promote a positive image of God as a loving deity, not a harsh taskmaster. The God that I worship is interested in all the details of our lives, including our love lives and believe it it not, sex. There are also different ways of relating to God, known as spiritual pathways and God will meet you on the pathway you choose because the Bible says God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

Who needs to read this story?

Single people, particularly women, who struggle with issues of relationships and expressing themselves sexually. Married people too will find some wisdom to revive the passion in their relationships. Writing the novel helped me to appreciate things about my husband and our marriage that I have tended to take for granted.

What can we look forward to in the novel? 

There is romance, fun and laughter. There are interesting conversations with friends and family as they come to terms with the relationship. There are moments of crisis and conflict. There is the bridal shower where the pastor’s wife gives an iconic speech and the preparations for the four different ceremonies for the marriage to be complete.

What other plans do you have for the story? 

I would love to make a film of it. I think it is a great story. I would also like to get people to engage with the story on different platforms, because there are so many issues that are relevant to our society that we need to think about and debate and confront and change our minds if possible, in order to make better choices for ourselves and for people around us.