Friday, May 6, 2016

Young People and Alcohol Abuse

One thing that has made my heart soar is to watch how much alcoholic beverages our young people are consuming nowadays. The newer they are to the beverages, the more they seem to consume; the intention mainly to demonstrate to their colleagues just how much more they can consume.

At one time, coming from a business conference, a young man sitting across the aisle in the plane ordered a bottle of some alcoholic beverage from the air hostess; raised the bottle in a toast to his friends nearby and gulped down the contents before the hostess could even offer him a glass!

What made me sad was that this young man was shouting out a toast to friends who looked sober and were busy preoccupied on their phones to catch up on some news or messages. They also looked better dressed than him, and even healthier. He obviously was an educated guy, in order for him to have been part of the conference; but it was obvious that alcohol was stealing away every bit of decency he used to have.

I used to have a school teacher, who we as students knew to drink one too many during
weekends. But he was one of the best teachers we had in our time. Some twenty years down the road, I was walking past a vegetable market. Somewhere near the public toilet, by a dump site, lay a man on some cardboard boxes, begging for food or coins from passers-by. I wanted to ignore him, but something tagged at my heart. I went to drop one of the bananas I had just bought. As I put it by the dirty path where he was lying, my eyes looked at him. I wasn't sure; but I went away with the distinct feeling that I had met this man before. I think that from the recess of my heart, I uttered a small prayer for this wretched man.

A couple of days later, I read in the daily newspaper about a well known professor who had just passed away. I remembered the name as that of my old favorite school teacher! But what shook me, was the circumstances under which died. It had rained hard during that week, and the temperatures had dropped severely. The vagrant by vegetable market had crawled to his usual night place, the public toilet, but found it locked up due to some repairs on the drainage system. He had to endure the pouring rain and the cold temperatures all night. That, the booze in his body, the malnutrition, the loneliness and the fever that took its toll on him, was enough to destroy his life to the point of no return. How sad!

This man at one time had a family, a home, a profession, but how all that was traded for the dump site, is a story that can only be told by those who suffered and cautioned him about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Remembering events nearer home, my cousin died in his early forties from liver cirrhosis. He was a very good man, loving and caring towards his family, with a successful career in his profession. But he drank one too many, too much and he left behind a very young wife and two small children.

Parents, we owe it to our children to live disciplined and exemplary lives. They watch us drink one too many, and when they are grown up they will drink six too many and head towards an early grave. One time I was watching some two small boys from my neighborhood playing. I caught up on their conversation, chatting amicably about their dads. One said, "But why does your father drink beer, when mine doesn't"? The other boy was quick to defend his dad, saying, "the beer my dad drinks is good, it does not make anyone drunk". Right there and then, I felt anger towards the father who was misleading his poor innocent boy, that alcohol was not intoxicating. That boy, when he grew up, would most probably drink himself into oblivion, all the time thinking he had his alcohol consumption under control!

Some Christians argue that the bible does not condemn alcoholism. But does it also condone something with such devastating consequences?

So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober. Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk. But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9

You can also read the treacherous story of the daughters of Lot, who made their father drunk so they could take advantage of him in his drunken stupor and sleep with him. (Genesis 19:30-38). They wanted him to father their children; a detestable thing he would never have agreed to, had they attempted it while he was sober!

To this day, how many so-called acts of 'bravely' have you heard or read about, which are in reality acts of cowardice, that have been committed under the influence of alcohol?

Monday, April 11, 2016

To Love and Not Be Loved

"Life is like an egg in one's hand. So delicate; so unpredictable". Author unknown.
Have you ever desired something so much; yet every time you think you are within reach, the thing kind of vapors into thin air?

You could be single, and have been waiting and waiting for that far-off marriage proposal which never comes. Or it could be an endless search for a job, which never materialises into anything. For some, it is years and years of trying for a baby, with no success at all.

There is a woman in the Bible, whose name is Leah (Genesis 29). Leah was the daughter of a wealthy man named Laban. She was the eldest of the two daughters. Her only notable feature was her weak eyes, whether in a sexy way or not, the Bible does not say. While she had just that one characteristic, it is said of her younger sister, Rachel, that she was 'beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure' (v17).

Given the choice, I would have loved to be a Rachel, who wouldn't? But unfortunately, the truth in life is that while some of us are Rachels, a lot of us are Leahs.

Cousin Jacob was so mesmerised by Rachel's beauty that he offered to work as her father's slave for seven long years, after which he would be rewarded with her hand in marriage. What a romantic story!

But what about weak eyed, older sister Leah? Were there any offers for her, at all, even for one year's service? Absolutely none at all, and how sad!

So at the end of seven years, Laban decided to trick Jacob, by giving him the older sister instead of the younger. He had to get her married off somehow, and this was the only opportunity.

But this arrangement did not go well with Jacob. He was upset; he had worked seven long years for the young beautiful Rachel, not for passed over, dull Leah. So Laban offered to give him Rachel in exchange for another seven long years of service; to which he quickly agreed without any hesitation. This conversation and transaction happened the morning after poor Leah's quiet entry into marriage.

Can you even start to imagine what she must have felt. After spending such a blissful night with her, Jacob quickly dismissed any romance between them, by agreeing to work seven more years for his beloved Rachel. It was good for Rachel to be loved that much, lucky girl! But how painful it must have been for Leah, to suffer such rejection and humiliation on the first morning of sharing the marriage bed with the man she had also come to love for seven years. She had to have known of her father's plan and agreed to it, and both were hoping it would work. They had figured that since Rachel was young and beautiful, she would have no problem getting another suitor.

But relations don't always work out the way we figure, do they? So for Leah, there began a marriage relationships that met the physical partnership, but mostly lacked the companionship of a couple in love.

She was so disappointed in her marriage, that she put her focus on her children; naming them as God opened her womb and closed Rachel’s.
  • 1.     Reuben - because she thought that now that she had a son, maybe her husband           would now love her. It didnt work.
  • 2.     Simeon - another son, maybe this will now work. It didnt.
  • 3.     Levi - three sons, surely my husband and I should be on the same page now. He           wasn't.
  • 4.     Judah - son number four. But this time she no longer yearned for the love of her             husband. She removed her focus from her husband and gave herself over to the           God who ordained marriage. She named her son Judah, (meaning ‘Praise’) and           turned and worshipped God. 

Leah did not walk out on her marriage; she perseved. But her focus changed, from the source of discontentment to the God who would fill every void in her heart.

"I will sing of the tender mercies of the Lord forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever; Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens”. Psalm 89:1-2

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When All Your Relationships Go Sour - Sarah's Story

Chuck Swindoll wrote a profound statement that says, “Life is ten percent what happens to us, and ninety percent how we respond to it”.

I enjoy reading about women from the Bible and learning about their ‘ten and ninety percent’ stories. One of my favourite characters is Sarah (Genesis 12 to 23). Here is a woman who had every negative relationship imaginable, pushed at her. And yet in 1 Peter 3:3-6, we read of Sarah’s submissiveness and humility towards her husband, Abraham, to the extent of calling him, ‘Lord’. ‘The holy women of old trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands’, the scripture reads.

Sarah’s story:
Sarah is most remembered for giving birth to her son Isaac, while she was already an old woman. She had remained childless most of her married years; and most probably had to endure the ridicule and contempt of her in-laws. In some cultures, a daughter-in-law who cannot conceive is considered as useless.

In such a scenario, who would blame her for getting excited when Abraham mentioned that they were to leave Haran and go to the promised land of Canaan? (Genesis 12:1-6). This meant a new beginning for Sarah, a new community, away from the stares and whispers of the familiar faces.

But as we read further, we realize that childlessness was just the beginning of Sarah’s relational problems. Next, was a severe famine in Canaan that led Abraham and Sarah to seek refuge in Egypt, where a new set of problems arose. Where do you run to when you feel trapped, powerless and abused?   Had Sarah realized that Abraham was going to trade her to Pharaoh’s harem, (Genesis 12:10-20), she would have preferred to stay under the scornful eye, but protective arm of the in-laws.

The pressure of trying to meet expectations can sometimes lead us to make the wrong choices. In Genesis 16, we see Sarah giving her servant Hagar to Abraham, so that through Hagar, a child could be born into the family. That should have worked; except the once humble maid, after falling pregnant, suddenly became scornful towards her mistress. What a cocktail of sour relationships this turned out to be for Sarah! Maybe, this turn of events to the undesirable, made Sarah more hopeful of having a child of her own womb. ‘What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see’, (Hebrews 12:1).

It was at this stage of faith in God, that Sarah finally had peace in her heart. At a later stage, even when Isaac was finally born to Sarah, Ishmael, Hagar’s son, being the older son of Abraham, also became scornful towards Isaac. Sarah’s relational wars did not come to a sudden end, but she knew the God she had put her trust in and believed that He would fight her battles for her.
‘I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him against that day’.                           2 Timothy 1:12b
There is a God in heaven who is able to do this for you, if you will only put your trust in Him.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Third Person in Relationships

For our relationships to work, we need a third person who will equalise the triangle.
When Mary, the mother of Jesus was told about her pregnancy, she quickly realized that she needed the support of another person, even with her husband-to-be Joseph, right next to her.

It is quite normal in the African culture to have this kind of triangle relationship. When the girl is about to get married, she goes to her aunt and introduces her boyfriend and tell the aunt of their intention. The aunt, in turn, goes to the girl’s father and relates the plans of the young couple. The father will either deny or give the consent for the family of the boyfriend to come and pay the bride price. The aunt does play a very crucial role in the brokering the agreement.

Because we are of a sinful nature, relationships were never designed to work outside Jesus Christ, as our mediator. He is the mediator between us, sinful mankind and the Holy God. Because of His sacrifice on the Cross, we are now able to pray and be heard by the Holy God.

Only Jesus is able to make our relationships work. We must learn to talk to Him in prayer about the things that bother us. We must also read the Bible and learn how the men and women of old fared in terms of their relationships.

In the next blog we will look at Abraham’s wife, Sarah and how she fared in her relationships.

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  1. Relationships Are Complex   -
  2. Why Relationships Are Complex  -

Friday, March 4, 2016

Why Relationships Are Complex

To continue from part one – why is it that our relationships are far from being perfect; yet the God we have come to know is perfect in all sense?

One of the reasons is because we are wired differently, and while we both desire happiness in our relationships, we go after it differently.

In their book on Relationships, Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, talk about three relational profiles: 

1)    The Frustrated Relationship
In this type of marriage relationship, one person moves toward isolation while the other moves toward immersion. You have two different people, all after the same thing, but going after it differently. The one who desires isolation moves away emotionally from the other, while the one desiring immersion feels rejected.

2)    The Enmeshed Relationship
In this case, both partners move toward immersion. They spend a lot of time together and become so dependent on each other. But the more time they spend together, the more frustrating the relationships becomes. Their expectations of each other become more and more demanding, leading to an exhausting and frustrating relationship.

3)    The Isolated Relationship
Both partners move toward isolation. Each becomes engrossed in their ‘small’ world, or activities. They opt for safe distance from each other, maybe to avoid conflict. This type of relationship becomes impersonal, lonely and disappointing.

These types of relational profiles are as a result of the sin nature in us. We are born with it and we also pass it on to our children. Just like in the case of the first family, Adam and Eve, who passed on their sinful nature to their sons, Cain and Abel.

Adam and Eve gave each other the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Just like a couple who are in an enmeshed relationship, who share every aspect of their lives, including the good and bad.

Cain killed his brother Abel. Here we have two different brothers, one a hunter and the other a farmer. One felt favoured and the other felt rejected; and hence resorted to murder in the first degree! Refer to Genesis 4.

We have yet two more brothers; Esau and Jacob. One was a skilful hunter, who quickly became the father’s favourite because of the provision of game meat. The other, Jacob was a ‘home boy’, who was always there to render his mother with any help she needed, and so became her favourite. (Genesis 25:27-28). 

But the differences in personalities, coupled by the parents’ favouring of one son over the other, stirred relational problems. Jacob ended up conniving with his mother in stealing the brother’s blessing. Esau was very upset about that issue, and Jacob had to flee home, in order to save his life (Genesis 27).

How then do we move forward from such sinful tendencies to the relationships God would want us to have? Read the next blog.

Previous:    Relationships Are Complex

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Relationships Are Complex

Relationships Are Complex We all expect our family relationships to be perfect and hassle free. Therefore, it comes with a lot of frustration when we encounter sourness, ugliness and betrayal in our relationships.

The ideal solution would be to live alone, as a hermit, free from any binding relationships! That way, your expectations of other people would be at zero and theirs of yours would be minus zero. Well, does that provide the tranquility we so yearn for, I really wonder? 

Some even go to the extreme of believing that as long as one has Jesus Christ in their lives, everyone else is not important! Well, one couldn't be far off from the truth! We were made for relationships; and that is a sour pill to take. But that is the cure God gave us for loneliness. 

In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him". The majority of people who read this verse, only see it in the light of marriage and end there. But with God, this is just the beginning of a long line of family relationships.

God is a relational God. He lives in community within the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Since He himself is a relational God, therefore He has created us to be relational beings, because it is in His image that we are made. So, why is it that our relationships are far from being perfect, yet the God we have come to know is perfect in all sense? 

Read the next blog post------

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Family Relationships Are Complex

We all expect our family relationships to be perfect, hassle free. Therefore, it comes with a lot of frustration when we encounter sourness, ugliness and betrayal in our relationships.