When the last light goes out in an African bush camp, the moon becomes a vandal. With a palette of dusky greys, and murky blues, it paints lunar graffiti across the face of every flat surface. Silhouettes of the surroundings are intensified in the ashen light, and translucent tent walls become make-shift projection screens like temporary canvas bush cinemas magnifying the shape of every object. Backlit shadows of acacia thorns are transformed into javelins the size of whaling harpoons and augmented reflections of grass stalks are exaggerated into giant swaying trees. Faraway in a secluded place where fog settles late at night, a baboon barks. His voice is louder than it is, bizarrely amplified by resonate ricochets bouncing off the hardwood surfaces of mopani and teak trees. Like a banshee with a bullhorn, he screams out his raucous call. I lie silent – motionless in a flimsy cloth shelter made of false security and fiber poles – cradled in a shallow bed of Kalahari sand – mesmerized by a private performance of God’s midnight matinee. C. S. Lewis once said that believers are created to amplify God. He described us as “adjectives” fashioned for the purpose of modifying the great “Noun” of the universe.1 Christians are commissioned to do this through words of testimony and lives of action. We should be like the official “praise-singers” who laud the tribal chiefs and kings in the traditional Bantu cultures of Southern Africa. Among the African tribes these individuals are called, “izimbongi” (Zulu) or “sikapeto” or “sikuyabila” (ChiTonga). They live for the sole purpose of bringing honor and acclaim to the African monarchs. It is the privilege and duty of the “izimbongi” to walk before the king, leading his royal procession from the kraal. They salute him and address him directly, referring to him through images that highlight his bravery, skills, greatness and other positive attributes. These “singers” use descriptions drawn from the local environment and from the universe to bring adoration to the sovereign.2 The “sikuyabila” is literally, “one who shouts praises.” As a young man, I once heard the harsh rattling tinny sounds of an early 70’s rock and roll band described as sounding as if the lead guitarist was using “a tin can lid for a pick.” In contrast, I envision a day in eternity when the Lord will privilege me to strum chords of praise using Polaris as a pick to pluck the strings of the Milky Way. But until that time, it is my conviction that I should bring honor to God through spoken and written communication using the best words and tools that I can discover, imagine, or employ. In Psalm 34:3 David challenges us, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” The purpose of a Christian is “to magnify” the Lord. “To magnify,” of course, does not mean “to make something bigger.” It means “to make something appear bigger.” Since God is infinite, our words cannot enhance Him in His Person. But they can enhance Him in the eyes and hearts of those who see and hear. That is our commission. That is our call. That is the supreme reason why the Christian should live.

1 Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain, (New York: Macmillan, 1944) p 75.

2 Opland, Jeff, The Imbongi Nezibongo: The Xhosa Tribal Poet and the Contemporary Poetic Tradition, (PMLA Vol. 90, No. 2, March 1975) pp. 185-208

Scars! We all have them. May 1, 2015

(The following is an excerpt from my book, ALPHA PREDATOR)

   Does your life bear any scars from attacks by Satan, the Alpha Predator, as you have engaged in spiritual battle with him?  Are you now ashamed of those scars or do you see them as monuments to God’s grace – monuments to His working and intervention in your life?  Amazingly, the Lord has a way of turning our spiritual maulings into monuments of His glory.

 The reason some people never recover from an attack by the Alpha Predator is because they are dominated with shame associated with the scars of that attack.  When you are not victorious in your battle with life’s ultimate adversary, it is extremely important that you reject the shame of the scars of your defeat and surrender those scars as platforms for monuments to the grace of God.  

 Please hear me.  Be sure you understand what I am saying.  Sin is shameful.  We should be ashamed of our sin, but not perpetually ashamed.  Once sin is genuinely confessed, forgiveness is granted, and grace is applied, the scars of our lives become platforms on which we build monuments to God’s grace. If you have dealt truthfully with your sin before God by honest and open confession, if you have received His pardon and His grace is in full operation in your life, then don’t let the evil one destroy your joy by convincing you that you should live in perpetual shame.  

 God’s Word promises us in 1 Peter 5:10, “"Now the God of all grace . . . will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.” Live in the freedom and hope of that perpetual promise! God’s grace Biblically applied even in the midst of our spiritual failure and shortcomings is sufficient reason for continual rejoicing through all eternity.