#HatredMustFall

CAST Voices Devotion: #HatredMustFall: The Freedom of Forgiveness

By Rolan Gulston

Matthew 6: 12-14

Devotion:

In the past twenty-three years of South Africa’s democracy, many have come to relish the political, financial and physical freedoms that this change has allowed. ‘Freedom’ is thought of as the state of existing without limitations; freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of movement. Paradoxically, feeling ‘free’ gives us a sense of security in knowing that we are in control.  It can therefore be said that true freedom lies in our mind-set: our psychological freedom. In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”, Nelson Mandela wrote that, upon his release, were it not for a shift in his mental attitude, specifically his choice to “leave his bitterness and hatred behind, [he] would still be in prison.”

In this passage of scripture centred on the Beatitudes (Beautiful Attitudes) of Christianity, Jesus calls us to do exactly that. Forgiveness frees us to love, ourselves and others, just as we are by God. It is no wonder, then, that Christ instructed the Apostles to recite these words in daily prayer as a frequent reminder to be mindful of our attitudes towards others, and how harmful it can be to harbour feelings of resentment.

But forgiveness is not easy, and it is nearly impossible to forget. One way of overcoming this is to reflect on and redress harmful thoughts and attitudes through open dialogue. Understanding and empathizing with those that we oppose can help to break down the psychological walls that confine and inhibit our ability to love.

Going forward as the torch-bearers of freedom in this country, it is incumbent on us to follow Christ’s teaching in embracing a more reconciliatory attitude in order to truly free ourselves from the burdens of the past.

Questions:

  1. In your view, what #MustFall, and why?
  2. How would these sentiments help to move our communities forward?
  3. Do you feel free? How have you embraced your freedom?

CAST Voices Devotion: The Passover

CAST Voices Devotion: The Passover

By Bongani Mkhize

Exodus 12

Devotion:

God showed His seriousness when he called Moses in the burning bush and sent him to Pharaoh to release the Israelites (Exodus 3). This incident was followed by 10 plagues from God to the Egyptians, as Pharaoh’s heart was hardened to release the Israelites. The tenth plague forced Pharaoh to release the Israelites (vs.29-30). God told the Israelites to take the Lamb for each household, and it should be kept until the 14th of the month. They should slaughter, roast it on the fire and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (12:3-9). Passover serves as a painful reminder of the affliction the Jewish people suffered in Egypt, where they were foreigners and strangers. They were also homeless, and wandered for forty years in the wilderness. At CAST, we can think of those people within our land who were compelled to leave their homes by the conditions in their countries: wars; hunger; political unrest; lack of development etc. They preferred to leave their homeland and cross into our country, looking for better life. It is our mandate as community workers to stand for the truth and fight any corruption towards such people in our country. The Passover also teaches us to share what we have with our neighbours (v.4). We must not be greedy, instead we should take what is enough and share the excess. The Israelites had to eat the unleavened bread, (matzah) considered as the bread of affliction. In our communities, we have many people who are eating matzah every day, and we have to work hard to alleviate poverty within our communities. What matters most in the Passover is the blood of the Lamb because it is the sign of God’s people (v.13). It is our MANDATE to help all people we are working with to come to understand the importance of the LAMB (JESUS) in their lives. Only Jesus can save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).

Questions:

1) Think of all the plagues that came over Egypt. How are people in your community suffering because of lack of knowledge?

2) Think of what you have – isn’t God great? Why don’t you celebrate your possessions by sharing with needy people?

3) Like Abraham’s call – so Moses’ call was serious. What do you think of your calling?

The Message of Palm Sunday in a Country Gone Mad

Clipart-palm-sunday-graphic

The Message of Palm Sunday in a Country Gone Mad

By Pastor Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt

10 April 2017

From an economic perspective, the past month has been tumultuous for our country: corruption, incompetence, threat, fears, anger and protests have dominated the news and for many of us, our thoughts too. How should we as Christians and church communities respond to all this and what does yesterday’s celebration of Palm Sunday have to say to us about these issues?

In mid-March our courts ruled that the management of social grants by CPS is illegal, and there was a fluster over whether SASSA would pay the R12.6Bn in grants to some 17M recipients on 1 April. This was a big deal because about a third of South Africans depend on social grants for survival and could have faced chronic food shortages and been unable to pay rent, utilities and other basic needs. This was a crisis not only for grant recipients, but the economy as a whole—predictions were that retail sector sales would fall by almost 12% and national economic growth by 0.3%. Of course the grants were paid, but the whole debacle uncovered heaps of incompetence and corruption in SASSA and CPS.

Hard on the heels of this crisis was President Zuma’s recalling of Pravin Gordhan from his international trip to promote investment in South Africa. We all feared what would happen after that, and it did … on Friday 31st in the early hours of the morning, Gordhan and his deputy were sacked and the cabinet was reshuffled. The fact Gordhan was known as a competent and honest finance minister led many to accuse the president of trying to get his hands on the treasury, and taking out anyone who might stand in his way. At the same time the death of struggle activist, Ahmed Kathrada left the nation in a state of grief. Timeously Kathandra also called for Zuma’s resignation in an open letter read at his state funeral. All this has highlighted, again, the growing internal ructions in the ANC as leaders like Cyril Ramaphosa openly expressed their disapproval of the president’s decisions.

Of course, the Rand immediately weakened and two of the three major international ratings agencies dropped South Africa’s credit ratings to junk status. That means they have no confidence in the reliability of our country to pay back money that we borrow … they’re not sure what the future holds. I think everyone is worried about what the future holds right now, that’s why tens of thousands of South Africans took to the streets on Friday, most calling for the resignation of Jacob Zuma, though many also coming out in his defense.

Sandwiched in between all this was the high court ruling on the 31st March making cannabis (dagga) legal for home use. As we’ve seen in other countries, this opens the way for increased drug use. What makes it worse is that many communities are already reeling from the devastating social and economic effects of whoonga addiction. And so we may well ask, “Has our country gone mad?”

We are clearly a nation in crisis right now, and we have moments of déjà vu as our thoughts flash back to the years of the struggle as Christians and churches are faced with many of the same questions we had in the 70s and 80s: Are we supposed to support and pray for those God has placed in authority over us, doing our best to live peacefully and not resist authority (as the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-8 or Romans 13:1-7)? Or are we supposed to speak up and stand against evil authority as we are encouraged to do in passages like Isaiah 59:15-16 and Proverbs 31:8-19, following the examples of heroes of the faith like Gideon, Esther, Daniel, Peter and John?

Yesterday was Palm Sunday which is, ironically, the day that Jesus performed his most notable act of civil disobedience. He marched into the temple courts and started pushing over tables, scattering money, releasing birds and driving the livestock out into the streets. This wasn’t only disruptive, it was demonstrative—his message was clear: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers”. It all made such an impression that the authorities seethed with anger and plotted to kill him—a feat they managed just four days later.

What do we observe about Jesus’ attitude to civil disobedience from this unusual story?

  1. There is a time and place for civil disobedience—Jesus did it after all.
  2. Although Jesus was disruptive he did not hurt any person—this was not a violent protest.
  3. He used actions to underscore a clear message—everyone knew what he was trying to say.
  4. There was no personal gain—he took nothing for himself, and it was not for the sake of his own security, comfort, or rights. It was entirely directed towards God’s honour and kingdom.
  5. There were consequences to his actions which he was willing to bear—the loss of his life.

In the Bible, there are a handful of times that God gives specific instructions to his people to use violence. But on the whole we find His admonitions are to support authority wherever possible, using prayer as our first weapon, but not failing to speak out strongly when there is injustice, refusing to act in ways contrary to God’s laws no matter the consequences, and using our influence to resist evil systems and people in acts of civil disobedience. It is clear that there are times when God will hold us to account unless we lay our lives and freedom on the line for what is right and just.

Throughout history most of the great social justice movements have been spearheaded by Christians willing to lay their lives on the line for the sake of God’s kingdom—a few of these include: the abolition of infanticide and abortion in the ancient Roman Empire, of slavery and child labour in England, of widow burning in India, the freeing of African countries from colonialism, the civil rights movement in America, the fall of communism, and the Apartheid struggle in South Africa.

When churches have remained silent on injustice and evil, they have invariably regretted it in later years. During the apartheid struggle, many churches disagreed with the system but, for practical or theological reasons, did not use their influence to speak boldly and decisively. In an effort to minimise their exposure to risk, these groups ultimately compromised their message and integrity.

Let’s be wise in how we respond to the crises in our country: Let’s not fall into the traps of failing to speak up, or failing to support and pray for government, or failing to seek God’s will and purposes, or of only responding when our personal comfort and rights are at stake rather than the rights of others, or of thinking and acting in ways that are unChristlike and do not display the fruits of the Spirit.

May God speak clearly as you listen for His voice, and make yours heard in the tumult of corruption, anger, fear, self-centredness and protest. Let’s be agents of peace, of righteousness, and of justice, not looking to our own interests but always the interests of others and pleading with our Father: “Your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven”.

CAST Voices Devotion: Family

CAST Voices Devotion: Family

By Nomakhosi Kumalo

28 March 2017

1 Timothy 5:8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives & especially for their own household has denied the faith & is worse than an unbeliever.

God instituted the family when he created man & woman. All family members are persons equal in dignity & have different responsibilities. Growing up in an African culture we learned that the father or any male in the house was the head of the family & therefore should be treated with more respect than anyone else in the family. But the truth is that each family member is a beloved son or daughter of God & that is why the Bible says we are all made in the image of God (meaning we are all equal). We still live in the era where many males demand respect but have no actions to show they deserve that respect (they impregnate women & run away from the responsibility). Polygamy is also a huge problem in my culture & the sad thing is that they take so many wives but fail to even support one. These men walk the streets with their heads held up high as if they have achieved something when the truth is that they bring children into poverty. Without a father, those kids are more likely to turn to a life of crime, abuse or they just don’t know how to be responsible.

For women, going to family courts is daunting nowadays, but the sad thing is that even when some women get assistance from the government they tend to make the kids suffer for what the father did to them & end up using the money for their personal gain & neglect the kids. We live in a generation where family doesn’t hold much substance anymore as we have more broken families than what God proclaims as a family. How do we bypass all that as believers, as the Word says we should provide for our families?

Questions

1) How do you feel visiting a neighbour or family friend who uses gender supremecy in their household?

2) How can we change the mindset of individuals to take responsibility for their actions, especially in regards to family?

3) What are your views about polygamy?

The Jesus that Transforms Part IV

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CAST Voices Devotion: Jesus Transforms the Religious Mindset

By Charmaine Moses

16 March 2017

John 4:21-24

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Devotion:

Traditionally, Jews worshiped on Mount Zion and Samaritans on Mount Gerazim.

Religious and doctrinal issues had separated both Jews and Samaritans so much that Jews and Samaritans had different centres of worship. Jesus transforming power allows us to worship him together in one mind and one accord.  God is calling the church to a position of oneness. To worship him in spirit and in truth is far more important than worshiping Christ in a specific location. Freedom to worship Christ begins with a transparent relationship with him.

Questions:

  • In today’s church, what are religious and doctrinal issues that separate God’s people?
  • How can we as leaders pursue oneness in the church, despite denominational and doctrinal differences?

The Jesus that Transforms Part III

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Jesus Transforms Mindsets About Racism

By Charmaine Moses

14 March 2017

John 4:9-10

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

There were huge racial tensions between Jews and Samaritans. Jews regarded Samaritans as half breeds and never wanted to interact with them.  Jesus talks to this Samaritan woman, a woman of a different race and ethnicity.  Through his actions, he demonstrates the love of God for all humanity regardless of race, colour or culture.

Jesus asks this woman for water. Her reply is, “Sir you have nothing to draw water with and the well is deep.”  Jews avoided drinking from non-Jews, fearing contamination resulting in uncleanness.  Jesus breaks this attitude of prejudice by asking the woman for water. He then offers her living water.

Questions:

  1. Transformation that brings about permanent change begins with us. In your group, honestly evaluate our country’s view on racism.
  2. How can we make a difference in changing perception and building a united nation?

CAST Voices Devotion: The Jesus that Transforms Part II

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CAST Voices Devotion: The Jesus that Transforms Part II

By Charmaine Moses

9 March 2017

John 4:1-36

Jesus’ Transforming Power Restores Respect (John 4:7-11)

As Jesus comes to Samaria, it’s the sixth hour. The sun is at its highest and is blazing. Normally people prefer to draw water in the cool of the morning or evening. Mostly outcasts and people discarded or ostracized would draw water during midday because of the stigma they had to endure.  The well was a meeting and conversational place, not welcoming to those who were so-called ‘sinners’. But as Jesus comes to Samaria we are told from the text that a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  Jesus being a rabbi knew the law concerning woman and touching anything from a non- Jew would defile his priestly position.   Jesus breaks the barriers of gender inequality by restoring respect to this woman. He shows her the love of God despite being rejected by society. Jesus shows her that God values her and that he is there to transform her life.

Our aim as believers is to restore dignity to people, especially to the marginalized of society. We are mandated by God to restore the rights of women so that they are no longer abused, silenced, disrespected or ostracized by society. As we work with our community, becoming aware of the constant pain of mothers and females will help us restore respect for them, pleading their plight and raising their dignity.

Questions:

  1. What is the plight of women in our society today?
  2. What deliberate action can we take to decrease gender-based violence in our community?

CAST Voices Devotion: The Jesus that Transforms

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CAST Voices Devotion: The Jesus that Transforms

By Charmaine Moses

7 March 2017

John 4:1-36

The life of Jesus is an amazing model of God’s transformational character. Jesus’ presence affected change wherever he went. Transformation has a ripple effect. Atmosphere changes, environments change, structures change, mindsets change, people change, and thereby communities are transformed. In the story of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus, we see a life impacted and changed in order to also impact the lives of others.

1. Jesus Transforms the Region (John 4:4-6)

Verse 4 tells us that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Jews regarded the Samaritans as the worst of the human race (John 8:48) and had no dealings with them (John 4:9). In spite of the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans, Jesus broke down the barriers between them, preaching the gospel of peace to the Samaritans (John 4:6-26). Jesus’ journey to Samaria is a mission to bring restoration in places of hostility and injustice. Especially where there is segregation and separation, Jesus’ mandate is to bring reconciliation. Jesus’ radical approach was to bridge the gap of regional tension by going into a ‘no go’ area. Jesus deals with territorial structures that keep people separated and he crosses the invisible boundary of segregation between the ‘Have and have-nots’, areas of division between the rich and poor. Even the saved and unsaved. As followers of Christ, we are called to restoration and transformation by bridging the great chasms that exist in our society.

Questions:

1) How can we take back our community/territory for God?

2) What are some tangible ways to bridge the gap of racial segregation?

CAST Voices Devotion: True Fasting

CAST Voices Devotion: True Fasting

By Laura Mbugua-Mwaura

2 March 2017

Isaiah 58:2-9

For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.’Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’

Yet on the day of fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Devotion:

In the traditional liturgical calendar, today is the day after Ash Wednesday, the second day of Lent.  Depending on your church background, you may or may not practise Lent.  However, the Lenten season before Easter is intended to draw us closer to Christ through repentence and remind us of the ultimate sacrifice He made for us.

It’s easy to make Lent into a time of dieting from chocolate or coffee.  And while slowing down on your sugar intake is definitely not a bad thing, God seems to be more concerned about issues of injustice when it comes to fasting.

Isaiah lists a few very practical things we should be concerned about for others when fasting:

  • Oppression
  • Hunger
  • Homelessness
  • Lack of clothing

Isaiah says that fasting should be more focused on these issues of injustice than on self-deprivation.  When fasting becomes all about us and getting justice for ourselves, we lose the plot.  In fact, Isaiah says that fasting this way can lead to fighting and even exploiting those around us. Fasting should be a time where we deny ourselves in order to be more attuned to the needs of others.  In the end, it’s all about loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.  If we fast this way, God will give us some beautiful promises (vs 8-9).

Questions:

  1. What is your experience with fasting and Lent?
  2. In what situations besides Lent should we fast?
  3. How can we fast with the goal of being concerned about issues of injustice?

CAST Voices Devotion: Loving the Foreigner

CAST Voices Devotion: Loving the Foreigner

By Laura Mbugua-Mwaura

28 February 2017

Scripture:

Leviticus 19:33-34 When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.

Devotion:

Throughout the Old Testament, God reminds his people to care for the vulnerable living among them.  God specifically mentions a few groups of people: widows, orphans and aliens or ‘foreigners’.  I think God knew we would always be a bit selfish, and mostly focus on the interests of ourselves and our family.  However, the Bible directs us to be outward-focused people who care more about the rights of others than ourselves.  In Leviticus, we are told to specifically love the alien, or those who are from outside our nation.  Not only are we supposed to not harm them, but we are also called to treat them exactly the same as a citizen of our country.  In fact, God reminds his people that they too were foreigners in Egypt at one point.  By reminding his people of their slavery experience in Egypt, God was hoping to motivate his people to compassion.

In the world today, we are experiencing major refugee crises in Africa, Syria, Yemen and many other nations.  As Christians, we are called to love those who are outsiders in our nation and culture.  Loving the foreigner might mean mentoring a refugee family, standing up for the human rights of migrants or inviting a foreign student to your church.

The heart of what the Lord is asking us to do is treat the foreigner the way we would want to be treated.  The plight of refugees, migrants and immigrants should bother us because it matters to God.  We should also remember that everyone is a foreigner – we all come from somewhere else, even if it is a few generations removed.  Ultimately what matters is that we are all citizens of God’s Kingdom.

Questions:

  1. How would you feel if you were a refugee, forced to leave your home country because of war or persecution? How would you cope living in a foreign land?
  2. What is your opinion on being open to foreigners living in your land?
  3. What is your experience with foreigners living in your country?
  4. How can you practically fulfill God’s command to love the outsider?