Friday, September 9, 2011

God's good gift of sex

In the rural areas of Zimbabwe there are many myths that surround the topic of sex. Mr and Mrs Nyams taught very well on God’s view of sex and how our culture and wrong beliefs have distorted this wonderful gift from God. One lady from the areas we taught was really thankful for the teaching and this is what she had to say:

“My husband and I are HIV positive and our sexual relationship was far from being enjoyable and our relationship was suffering because of that. Both my husband and I attended the teachings that Mr Nyams did and I would say we learnt a lot. It was helpful as well for my husband to hear from another man the expectations of woman when it comes to sex. He is now patient with me as a woman and listening to my needs and desires. Our sex life has been ignited and so has our relationship. We now know that even if we are HIV positive, we can still enjoy this wonderful gift from the Lord. Thank you so much for your teachings, something I would not have been able to talk to my husband about. You gave us room to start talking openly about our needs and desires.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Family Champions Training Feedback

A team of Joanna, Douglas and Letson from Harare and Winston, Susan (Mr and Mrs Nyams) and Khumbulani from Bulawayo spent an intensive week of training with one and a half days at each of Chiweshe, Kaitano and Dotito (Mashonaland Province, Zimbabwe). That meant travelling in the afternoon to the next place on some interesting roads. The report speaks of “the very long and dreaded journey to Kaitano!” Thank God that he watched over them and kept them safe.

The Family Champion couples attended with a few others from each congregation. At every station we taught on: Leave, Cleave and Become one; Domestic violence; Gender based violence and its effects; HIV and the family; HIV, gender and culture; HIV basic facts and Sexual Purity. The response was really encouraging; they had a lot of questions. In the evening, the men had a bonfire and had some time with Mr Nyams to talk about their questions.

Teaching some topics, such as sex and sexuality, in the rural areas can be quite challenging because of our culture, and we faced this in Kaitano as we had a lot of older people in the audience. We actually had one old man walk out of the sessions a couple of times! Mr Nyams later had a talk with him and he understood why the teachings had to be done. In Dotito, which has a fairly young population, we did not have problems in teaching our material as they easily received it.

All in all, it was an amazing and fruitful week. God was really faithful, the people loved the training and it was such a pleasure to be a part of what God is doing in families in these areas.
We will give more news of what the family Champions are doing next month but they are very much out on their own and need our support in prayer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family champions are called to repair broken families

Imagine that you have a rusty old bicycle. It is so old that it is hard work to pedal on the flat but you are happy with the way it rattles along. Then your friend who is a mechanic in town comes home. He takes a horrified look at your old bike and sets to work with spanners, screwdrivers and oil. In an hour it’s a completely different machine. You wonder how you could ever have been satisfied with the way it was.

Family can be like the old bicycle. It is in need of repair but we don’t realize because “that’s the way things are.” Family Champions are called to repair broken families just as the mechanic fixed his friend’s bicycle. However, families are harder than bicycles to fix because we live in a fallen world.

Think again about the first chapters in the Bible: God’s beautiful plan for marriage is pictured in Genesis 1 and 2. Then in Genesis 3 Satan enters the perfect world God made. Adam and Eve are tricked and disbelieve the beauty and goodness of God’s plan and their relationship is damaged. The results are with us today:

Shame of nakedness: “They realized they were naked and sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (3:7). What a contrast with 2:25 when the man and woman were naked and felt no shame. Men and women still hide who they really are from each other. There are hidden secrets in many families. We are not open with one another.
Fear of God: “They hid from the Lord God” (3:8). In Genesis 2 there was an open relationship with God. Probably Adam and Eve had often walked with God in the cool of the day. Now they hide. We still do.
Blaming each other (3:12): God asks Adam. “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree?” God is not impressed when Adam blames Eve saying, “The woman you gave me…” How far Adam and Eve have fallen! Modern families also blame and accuse one another.
Conflict in the home: The domination by the husband in 3:16 is part of God’s curse. It is a picture of domestic violence far removed from the harmony and loving headship implied in Genesis 2.
Fighting between brothers: It got so bad that Cain murdered his brother (4:8) and went out from the Lord’s presence (4:16).
: Already in Genesis 4 Lamech married two women (4:23). Marriage had become a matter of convenience rather than a partnership growing into oneness (see 2: 24)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Which comes first markets or produce? pt 2

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

The argument encountered is that if the people produce more and they cannot market the surplus, it goes to waste and the farmers lose their incentive, and the programme collapses. There is logic to this argument, but we do have a ‘catch 22’ situation, so where do we start? If there is no reliability of supply, no entrepreneur will want to invest. If aid agencies come in and subsidise the cost of transport and marketing, the dependency syndrome is exacerbated.

However this process of production and marketing development can be almost concurrent, but vigorously inspired training in production should come first.In the end it is a matter of faith, obedience andwisdom. Faith and obedience, because God’s ways are different and higher than ours, and then we also need the wisdom to start with a little, done at a very high standard, which would not cause an unmanageable surplus in the early stages. Then God will provide the increase of both profitable production and marketing that will grow in sync together.

Sadly this line of reasoning can be distinctly unacceptable to many secular relief and development agents. This highlights the urgency for Christian Farmers and the Church in general to take the lead and create the models, which will eventually convince and unite everybody tobring aboutthe necessary change in the way we steward our land!

These are a few examples of what we hope will become a longer list of Foundational Farming Practices. We have tried to demonstrate how important it is for us to go to the Lord in prayer and scripture for help and guidance,and that in the end, this will show everyone that His ways are always best.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Update on Family Champions

Nicholas and Nosimilo Ncube are our Family Champions at Crossroads Community church in Kezi. They helped us by doing a pilot project to test material we are producing to adapt the Alpha Marriage Course for Africa. We and they learnt a lot of lessons and one result of the pilot project was a lovely church wedding at Crossroads.

In May, we also held 3 Saturday training days to introduce Foundations for Family to other churches in the Bulawayo area. The training sessions were well received and 3 church groups are now considering how to carry forward the vision of Foundations for Family to their congregations.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Which comes first, markets or produce?" pt 1

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

All the secular analysts and aid workers, insist that when they try and help a community to produce more commodity, they must first develop a market and set up the appropriate infrastructure i.e.willing buyers, packaging and transport to market.

This actually hasn’t happened unless an entrepreneurial businessman or commodity broker sets up a commercial ‘Outgrower’ Scheme. These enterprising investors only come in if they have assessed the feasibility of the scheme, which would include their own market research.

However, because staple foodstuffs have a low value to weight ratio, these investors normally neglect the more distant and isolated communities, because the cost of investment and transport would be much greater.Also an investor would not consider coming into any area to set up business unless he could be assured of a reasonably consistent volume of supply of that commodity each year.

Africa’s average yield for maize has been around the one-tonne per hectare therefore mark for the last fifty years, with wide vacillations in annual yield. This means that the bottom half of producers have a much lower and more unreliable performance level, and therefore a much higher risk and much less feasibility for investment.

It is God’s way that we first begin by increasing yields, on a much more consistent basis, at the most efficient cost of production, which is what Foundations for Farming has been shown to achieve. This means that we are being faithful with the first things that God has given us, and then He adds to us. Investing in marketing infrastructure before this foundational faithfulness is like trying to build on air from the windowsills.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Assessing our ability to market our surplus produce

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

A very important factor to assess is to find out how and where you are going to sell your produce profitably. This will involve researching what price you can realistically expect and will include an assessment of distance and your ability to get your produce to market, as well as the availability of inputs and the distance they would have to be carried. Many farmers fail because they did not do this market research properly.

If your farm in a very distant and isolated community, where there are no cash markets, you may find that you can make a profit by using a barter trading system. However this also needs careful and honest research, which faces the facts as they are, and this must include the integrity of your trading partners.

Look at the situation of a small-scale producer in a very poor and isolated community, which is too far from feasible markets. It would first mean trying to feed your family, but also with a hope of producing a sensibly sized surplus, that you can trust God for, by being faithful with what you have. Firstly this surplus would help to assure that you could at least feed your family in nearly all seasons that the Lord may allow.

Secondly, if you did produce a surplus, you would be able to be a model for those around you, and to supply some food to those who have none. This unselfish generosity of spirit so pleases God (the True Fast of Isaiah 58), and somehow, in a way, which we can’t predict exactly, the Lord would measure back what you have measured out (Luke 6: 38).

You would also be able to receive all the promises that God gives in that wonderful passage in Isaiah 58, and which also includes the promise that you will be recognised as the leaders in the rebuilding of your community. It is incredibly powerful when poor people start to give from what they are given by the Lord. This ‘giving’ not only includes helping others to have some food, but by being a discipleship model and sharing the knowledge we have with them, will help to break the yoke of poverty and hunger of all the people around you.

This Christ-like humility and unselfishness is the beautiful motive of the heart that brings miracles. It is from this beginning point, amongst the poorest of the poor around us, that God’s Way of removing the yoke of oppression will spread upwards and outwards throughout Africa and the Developing world!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evaluating the resources we have pt 2

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Here is a suggested list in the possible order we could put them:

• We must start with ourselves. What gifts and talents do we have and what is the passion of our hearts? Then we should evaluate our strengths. What are we good at, and what do we like doing most? When our gifts and passion coincide, it is very powerful. We must be honest with ourselves in this.
• Next, we list and then assess our motives, goals and objectives before the Lord. Do they bless and honour the Lord and other people? For Brian, this whole adventure of Foundations for Farming started when the Lord showed him that he was dishonouring Him because He knew that by growing tobacco, he was supplying a poisonous substance for many people.
• Next assess your work force. If you are single, it might be just yourself. If you are married this will involve your family, even if it is only your wife and yourself. What output and productivity levels does your team, individually and together, have? If you employ hired workers, are you capable of paying them, as well as training and equipping them in a proper way?
• Next assess the land that you have in terms of size, soils, slopes, distance from where you live, arable area available, water sources and their proximity.
• Next assess the climate at your locality in terms of rainfall totals and distribution patterns, temperatures, humidity levels, winds, evaporation rates etc.
• Next assess what crops and commodities would be suitable to produce in those conditions, firstly in terms of yield, quality and their reliability in the expected weather patterns.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Evaluating the resources we have

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

All our planning must revolve around the resources that we actually have. It is very unwise and can be presumptuous to embark on the scale of a project that is too large to carry out and complete at a standard that will glorify the Lord. We must not overextendthe resources we have.

The Lord has shown us that if we are faithful with what we have, He will add to us. So it is important to sit down and bring all we have and offer it in service to the Lord.
The Lord has told us in Romans 13: 8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another,”

This is a contentious point, but debt can be a real snare, and it doesn’t fall into line with being faithful with what we actually have. With this in mind, it would be safe to say that it is not wise to plan and embark on a larger scale because we have been promised gifts of funding or inputs or equipment, which are to be delivered at a later date. These may not materialise, causing us to fail in our efforts and dishonour God.

Begin by giving thanks for what our all-wise Lord has given us, and pray for wisdom for the exercise, and then begin making your list of what you do have so that you can assess them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Foundations For Family Update....

Family is a high priority in our raising up leaders and we need to keep the subject high on our agendas. As families we experience joy and pain. One of our Family Champions couples Chenjerai and Irene Sixpence lost their 4 year old daughter. She drank some pesticide by mistake while she was playing with her 9 year old sister in the garden. It was really sad. One of the Pastors was available to conduct the funeral and the family had support from the Faithful Stewards Team that visited the homestead.

The Foundations for Family Champs are excited about the upcoming training in July. Some dates and venues have been established for those in Mashonaland Central Province. 40 people have been invited from each site. The Champions suggested we invite their church leaders and the community's leaders. There is a ladies retreat happening in Kaitano in Mashonaland Central Province at the end of June.

We look forward to hearing more on the Foundations for Family front.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Early to bed and early to rise

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This is not just part of a folklore proverb, but is great wisdom for any farmer. Firstly it is a symbolic gesture to help us to make the most use of all the time, the sunlight hours and all the opportunities that the Lord gives us, but also by getting up early in the morning, the rising sun gives us a real appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation.

Early morning is the time for talking to the Lord and for making final decisions for the days work and for allocating work and giving instructions to your team. This is the time to be the sharpest we can, and this means that we should get to bed early.

Getting to bed early is the key factor in rising early, and is a mini-model that helps us to teach ourselves how to plan all our operations properly. This is a critical discipline that determines the standard of farmer you will be. I have studied the ways of some of the best farmers I have met, and early rising is common to all of them.

It is an exercise in planning, because in order to consistently rise early, your whole day must revolve around the priority of going to bed early. It is also a mini exercise in macro planning and leadership because you have to get your whole family and household to understand and take on board this very high priority. It is important to share with them the Lord’s viewpoint and priority of this discipline,and how the whole family and team will benefit from going to bed early.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late. . .”(Psalm 127: 2)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meditating on God's word and His ways

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1: 8)

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28: 18-20)

‘The Message’ puts verses 19a and 20a: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life,”

Training others is a very important practice for every Christian farmer, and we believe this practice is not optional; every farmer should also be a trainer. The Lord has given us a very important foundational entrance point of how to express the Gospel as life in Christ Jesus and we want to be the best and most unselfish farmers we can possibly be, for His glory. We also want to obey and apply the lovely scripture above and train everyone we meet in this Jesus’ way of life; for us this is in the speciality that God has given us, which is Farming.

Everything in Foundations for Farming is based on God’s Word and as such has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Every plan, decision, instruction, action, operation should conform to His Word. I don’t want to be legalistic about this and God is very gracious with us as we learn, but this is where we must all set our hearts and minds.

Sharing knowledge from God, practically applied, stops others from perishing (stops the rot). Hosea 4: 6 says, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.’ The Lord has given us some of His knowledge and vision of how to remove the yoke of poverty for ourselves and we are to unselfishly share it with others for to help stop their perishing.

The Salvation Gospel has gone out vigorously into Africa for hundreds of years, yet the great majority of those converted are the poorest people on earth, getting poorer. Have we really obeyed the last words and instruction that Jesus gave us before He rose back to the Father? Head knowledge alone is of no use; we have to actually do it and apply that knowledge to life!

The Lord wants us to make disciples. This means we have to be living and obedient models to those we want to teach. This itself is enough incentive for us to farm with humble and unselfish excellence, but there is another wonderful blessing that we receive by teaching and training others: (Training is an even greater privilege than teaching, because training involves the doing too!)

By training others we also train ourselves into a greater understanding of God’s principles and by applying them as models ourselves, we become better and better farmers. It is Luke 6: 38 again, that as we measure it to others, so it shall be measured back to us, pressed down and running over, and so the application is continually multiplied and the Kingdom of God advances.

This is where Joshua 1: 8 is so precious. If we, as farmers, want to come out of poverty ourselves and teach others the same, it means we have to cease from failing and getting poorer. In Joshua 1: 8 we have the Lord’s wonderful promise of how to succeed and prosper.

If we want to apply God’s Word to life, we must know this Word in our hearts, and in the greatest fullness we can manage to receive. God says that we should meditate on it day and night. This means that we should study, meditate and ruminate on it in the early morning or in the evening, and when we wake up in the middle of the night so that we receive it into our minds, hearts and spirit. We need to really believe what we read in a way that will enable us to do it. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We should pray for wisdom to understand it and faith to do it!

Then, very excitingly, this process is fulfilled by meditating on God’s Word during the day while we are working, and by applying it to our work. This is the ‘doing’ part of God’s Word that results in prosperity and success, and as such composes one of our chief Mandates and Foundations for Farming, which is to break the yoke of the oppression of poverty, hunger, and nakedness (the True Fast).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The importance of prayer

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundations other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This is the most important Farming Practice that we will ever do. We are embarking on a task to use the Soil, the Water, the Sunshine, the Time and the Growth with the Wisdom, Faith and Strength that our Creator God has given us.

The Lord knows all things and has all power to do every good work, so it is important to ask Him for the knowledge of these things and especially how to use them in a way that brings Him all the glory.

We should pray for the Lord to help us with these things regularly, and preferably as part of our quiet time each morning before we start, and even more importantly, before we start any new part of the season e.g. land preparation or planting etc. It is good to ask the Lord to help us to glorify Him in every aspect of the operation, and for Him to give us the gifting, wisdom, faith and joy for the task.

It is a very important part of faithfulness, to remember to give thanks and praise to the Lord! 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 is a very helpful scripture to memorise.... Good News Bible:

“Be joyful always, pray at all times and be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for your life in union with Christ Jesus.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

The first foundation on which to build our farming career

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

We will see that Jesus is the Word of God and all our efforts to be excellent farmers must be built on the Foundation of Jesus and His Word. Jesus said that He only does what His Father does, and that He has sent us the Holy Spirit to help us and to teach us and to apply His Word to life.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14: 6)

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3: 11)

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy (pre-eminence). For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1: 15-20 )

"There is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3: 11)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." (John 1: 1-3)

“ I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John28: 8)

“But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 26)

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16 - 17)

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2: 6)

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8: 18-22 )

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (Isaiah 55: 10-12)

The saved and unsaved, and all things seen and unseen are in the Kingdom of God. God created everything and has given all authority in heaven and on earth to His Son the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We see that the Father has given Jesus the pre-eminence in all of creation and all things hold together in Him. Without Jesus everything would fall apart and there would be total chaos. On the earth there is turmoil, suffering and decay because of man’s rebellion and disobedience, so the Father sent Jesus to reconcile to Himself all things, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

We see that Jesus is all and in all! He is in every particle in the universe, even in the unsaved people. Jesus has given them life, and without Him they would be spiritually dead or would not exist at all. Sadly because of the Fall of man, there is corruption in the universe.

The whole of creation is groaning for the sons of God to be revealed. Through faith in the finished work of the resurrected Christ, we have been accepted and adopted as the sons of God, and as His sons, we are co-heirs with Jesus, seated with Him in the heavenly realms, ruling and reigning with Him.

So we believers are the sons and daughters of the Father, and when we are revealed, even the mountains and hills will burst into song and the trees will clap their hands. Whether this is only going to happen when Jesus comes back, I am not sure, but it does indicate how important we, as God’s sons and daughters, are in God’s plan for the rebuilding and restoration of our nations.

The point here is that we will never reach the full potential we have as farmers or teachers, unless we build our whole farming and teaching careers on the Lord Jesus Christ, who reconciles and integrates everything.

If we put Jesus first and obey Him, we will lead the way and be salt and light to the world. “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.(Deuteronomy 28:13) We pray that God’s people called by His name will turn back to Him in Unity and Wholeheartedness. May we farmers model this turning from our ways to God’s Ways, firstly to God’s people, who then take it in a focussed and united model to the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Some Foundational Farming Practices

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

One of the Foundational Scriptures that Foundations for Farming is based on is Proverbs 3: 5-6, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

To acknowledge God in all our ways definitely requires us to trust Him, because He tells us in Isaiah 55:8- 9 that, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.

God’s ways and thoughts are different to ours, and He wants us not to lean on our understanding or be wise in our own eyes or even our own logic. This means we have to consciously trust Him and ask Him to help us to think and act differently to our own ways and to the ways things are traditionally done in the world. If God’s thoughts are different to ours, it must mean that His values and priorities are also very different to ours.

The Good News Version puts Romans 12: 2, “Do not conform to the standards of this world, but allow God to transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know God’s will, and what is pleasing to Him and is perfect.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Founding Principles: Africa needs to make a profit

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

In Africa, if our poor people are getting poorer and our national economies are not performing, it must mean that we are producing very little and we are spending more than we are receiving and thus we are loosing wealth. It stands to reason that if we are not making profits it is very difficult to increase production because it takes capital (the fruit from profits) in order to expand our production enterprises. These principles apply at the smallest producer level all the way up through the large corporate levels to the national government level. Africa cannot develop until we are making a profit at all levels of production of the resources God has given us.
The alternatives
The only alternatives to making a profit are the ‘begging bowl’, or even more sadly ‘theft’, both of which cause greater poverty in the wider community. If we think that loans are the answer, these are pointless if we are not making profits with which to pay them back. Begging and theft both take the view that we must ‘get to receive’, but remember from our previous session that we must ‘give to receive’. This is God’s way. If we constantly expect to receive without being willing to give whether it means financially or simply in energy and effort, then we will not receive and the result is deeper poverty.

How do we make a profit?
The simple answer is that we need to ensure that we conduct our business in such a way that we will make a profit.

Proverbs 14:23 says, ‘All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.’
Can we be immensely brave and say that perhaps Africa is so poor because we are a people who are not willing to give by expending the necessary effort to work hard to turn a profit. We are wallowing in self-pity, which leads us to make excuses and blame everyone else for our distress. We must stand up and take responsibility, confessing our lack of faithfulness and ask God to lead us into His ways to make a profit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Founding Principles: The Parable of the Talents - Giving Unselfishly

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Give unselfishly
In the Parable of the Talents we looked at last week, how did the servants gain more talents? They did so by working. Working always requires that we give. The servants would have had to give thought to how they would make more money, give energy in making sure their plan was executed, give money into buying inputs so that they could receive output, give effort into making sure that whatever enterprise they chose was maintained and progressed and the list of giving goes on.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you.”

If you give unselfishly, you will receive. This truth is not only understood by Christians but is understood and practiced by many Muslims, Hindus, agnostics and atheists alike. Just like the principle that ‘if you are faithful with little God will add to you,’ the principle of ‘giving’ is also a universal truth because the Lord “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. (Matthew 5:45).

Successful farming requires giving
We realise that we cannot keep taking from the land without giving back to it. If we simply take from the land, never being willing to give extra effort, or put money into supplying the nutrients which we have extracted back into the soil, then we cannot expect to receive. When we give extra effort ensuring that very high standards are maintained, then we are able to reap a bountiful crop. If we are lazy and unwillingly to give this effort, standards will drop and so will yields. We must give, so that God can multiply what we have given back to us.

May this wonderful truth of giving to receive not start and end in any consumerist, ‘prosperity,’ selfish motives and attitudes. May it will be rooted and established in the love of God. Our great emphasis should be more on ‘what can I give, rather than what can I get’. This unselfish attitude comes from an understanding of Christ’s wonderful sacrificial love for us that enables us to have a pure motive of wanting to emulate His unselfishness as a gesture of our love and gratitude to Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Founding Principles: The Parable of The talents - faithfulness

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For on one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

While sitting on the Mount of Olives Jesus told his disciples the parable of the talents about a master and his servants. The master was going away for a while so entrusted his property to his servants. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent. The servants that were given five talents and two talents immediately put the money to work and by the time the master returned they had doubled their money. However, the servant who was given one talent just dug a hole in the ground and hid the money. When the master returned was very pleased with the first two servants and gave them extra responsibilities in his Kingdom. However, the master was very angry that the third servant had done nothing with what he had been given and took the his one talent and gave it to the servant who had ten, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Africa has been unfaithful
From the story we see that if we are faithful with little, God will add to us; but if we are unfaithful with little God will take away from us. From the statistics that we saw earlier in this series we cannot feed ourselves from the abundant resources that God has given us. Do you not think that perhaps this is because we are not being faithful with the first things God has given us: our soil, rainfall, sunlight, heat units, seed and manpower?

Farming: the first job we are given to do
We see in Genesis 2:15 that the first job Adam was given to do was to work the garden and take care of it. Even after the fall in Genesis 3:23 Adam is told to work the ground. We believe that farming is a crucial enterprise that must be done faithfully before a nation can be developed. In the Parable of the Talents we saw that once the servants were faithful with the talents, they were put in charge of many things, including cities. God is a supreme master-builder and he doesn’t build a house from the windowsills or lintels upwards, but builds from strong foundations. Can we be honest and say that much of the poverty in Africa is because she is not faithfully attending to this first and basic job that she has been given?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Founding Principles: Jesus is our hope

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For one one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Jesus is our hope and example of fruitfulness, unselfishness and humility

In the previous two blogs, we have looked at how we as humans are bent towards disobedience to God’s good advice on how to live and our destructive actions are reflected in the state of our continent.

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The problems in Africa are associated with the spiritual realm. So much destruction and fear is rooted in ancestral worship and witchcraft. Therefore, true transformation and the eradication of hunger, poverty and suffering will never be overcome by the wealth and the wisdom of the world, but only by Jesus.

Where Satan came to bring our destruction, Jesus came to rescue us from this and bring us life! Jesus has made a way for us to be saved, where all we need to do is simply believe that He has made this way for us. We should also believe that God is truly good. Everything that he plans and purposes for us is ultimately for our good. When we believe that God is good, it becomes much easier to trust him and obey what he says because we know that it will lead to life and goodness. This does not mean that we will not have difficulty, but it will always lead to a higher good.

Once we come to faith in Jesus and experience His grace, it becomes much easier to be obedient and faithful. Faithfulness is knowing what God says and wills for us and willingly obeying it.

John 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

If we are faithful (remain in the vine and not decide to detach ourselves and rebel) we will bear fruit. Instead of our lives being marked by death and destruction, we will be fruitful and propagate life.

Jesus freely redeems us as a result of His death on the cross and then a life begins where we learn to turn from our selfishness and pride and like Jesus take up our crosses in humility and unselfishness. Humility and unselfishness are crucial elements of Foundations for Farming. The restoration of a whole continent cannot happen if we continue in a counter vein of pride and selfishness.

Jesus came to be our example of humility and unselfishness and as we live like him, we find light and life. What would your family, community or city look like if the daily actions of the people in it were driven by humility and unselfishness?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Founding Principles: Africa: the situation

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Africa is blessed. The second largest continent on earth, Africa is said to hold 30% of the world’s natural resources! It has 60% of the world's diamonds, 40% of the world's phosphate and 30% of the worlds cobalt resource and an abundance of oil, gold, copper, wood and tropical fruit. Although much of Africa is covered by desert regions, much of Sub-Saharan Africa has medium agricultural potential through to prime agricultural land.

Yet Africa is poor and hungry. The combined Gross Domestic Product of all African countries was 2.5% of the total GDP of the world in 2008, and 2.3% of the world GDP in 2009, similar to that of Mexico! Ironically, the areas in Africa which have good agricultural land potential are the very nations which are struggling the most in the world to feed their populations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, maize yields have stagnated and continue to stay low despite yields in the United States and other continents increasing.

What is our problem? Looking at these facts and figures, it is clear that Africa is not a fruitful continent and is not fulfilling its God given potential. The result is that poverty continues to ravage the continent, despite decades and billions of US dollars in aid. If we are concerned about poverty as Jesus was, we must turn to God for solutions to this problem. We cannot stand by and allow for the decimation of such a rich continent and its beautiful people. Can we be brave enough to admit that there is a problem and seek God for the answers?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The founding principles: The cause of poverty

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For on one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus."

What would happen if a man asked God how to be a better farmer? What if that same man went on to ask why Africa is the poorest continent and why it is getting poorer?

This is precisely what Brian Oldreive did. He discovered that the answers to these questions lay in the hearts and minds of men and women. He also found out that poverty is a result of destructive relationships between humans and between humans and the environment. Being a Christian, he found that the Bible sheds light on the source of this problem.

In the creation account in Genesis, we see God as a loving creator who delights in making the whole world. Man, represented by Adam and Eve, is the pinnacle of His creation. God gives one instruction: that they should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Eve knows this but Satan, being the great deceiver, entices her not to believe God thus setting the whole human race on a course towards destruction. Ultimately, Eve believes Satan over God and rebels, leading her to disobey the command. This disobedience leads to the destruction of every relationship - between God and humans, between man and woman, and between humans and the environment.

Being parents of the human race, Adam and Eve have set us all on this same course. Every one of us is bent towards disbelief and rebellion towards God and His word. Our disobedience affects every area of our lives and we can think of times when we have been selfish and caused pain to others, even our loved ones.
We don’t have to look too hard to find pain and destruction caused by human selfishness and a broken relationship with the land. Wars rage over resources and inequality is rife.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God's Blessing On Family Life pt 3

In the psalm, we see God’s blessing spreading out to society. That is the significance of “the prosperity of Jerusalem” (vs5). No person is an island. We are all in relationship with others and our personal and family well-being is bound up with the good of God’s people and of the community.

God’s blessing is not limited to one generation. It is not only for all the days of my life. It also reaches to “children’s children (vs6) and so far into the future. Praise God for the amazing, wonderful richness of his blessing. How blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in His ways!

Yes. A family that honours God will be a blessing in its community.
Yes. Family flourishes when people honour God.

Shalom. May God’s people enjoy His peace and His wholeness.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Foundations for Farming Testimony

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

A former gold panner, Makesure Muchenge, has become one of the best conservation agriculture trainers in Africa. Many Non Governmental Organisations dream of having such stories from their development programmes. However, Makesure wasn’t the product of a programme, but his success was the result of a relationship. Specifically, Makesure was befriended by former Zimbabwean commercial farmer, Boet Pretorious. When the two first met, Makesure was living a destructive lifestyle, spending what little money he had on alcohol, rather than caring for his family or investing in his livelihood. Boet, a Christian dedicated to training the poor in Africa to feed themselves using Foundations for Farming, loved and mentored Makesure and helped him turn his life around.

Since those early days, there has been real transformation in Makesure’s life. He no longer struggles with drunkenness and is producing enough as a farmer to provide for his family's needs as well as others in his community. In fact, Makesure has gone on to win a farming award and been offered some of Zimbabwe's prime land as a prize. However, Makesure turned down this offer of land to continue helping his community. Rarely do you hear of “rags to riches” stories about rural Zimbabwe. It is rarer still to hear of a farmer rejecting a sure way to more riches to stay and help his or her community for no gain.

The key to Makesure's success has been following the Foundations for Farming methodology of minimal tillage and no burning but using mulching, crop rotation and high management instead, Makesure insists however that his successful farming enterprise is more a result of his relationship with Boet, which has changed his heart and attitude to life. Having understood and felt the love and grace of God from a white, former commercial farmer, Makesure says he decided to also become a Christian. Learning to be faithful with what he has been given and loving those around him have also inspired Makesure to be a great farmer who uses his profits to help his community.

Foundations for Farming has seen many lives, besides Makesure's, transformed through its teaching and relationships with farmers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

God's Blessing on Family Life pt 2

The Psalm is an observation on life in general rather than an absolute promise. It is like many sayings in Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 26:27 says, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it”. This means that if you set a trap for others you are likely to be caught in a trap yourself. It is not a promise that anyone who digs a hole will fall into it! What the psalmist has seen by the Spirit of God is that generally speaking people who follow and obey God enjoy strong family life. That is a wonderful blessing. It should not surprise us because God is for family and He loves to bless His children.

“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table” (vs3). In the Old Testament, wine and olive oil are two symbols of God’s blessing. “Wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine” (Psalm 106:15: see also Deuteronomy 8:8 and Hosea 2:22). A beloved wife is compared to a vine, which gives abundantly in joy and fruitfulness and yet also needs support. Children will grow to be olive trees, which speak of flourishing life and lasting fruit. It is a lovely picture but it does not just happen.

Read verse 1 again to discover what kind of person it is who enjoys such a wonderful family. It is the person who fears the Lord and walks in his ways. It is a person who loves and follows God. Good family life does not stand alone. It flows from a life of listening to God, obeying him and following his ways. This psalm is saying that family flourishes when God is honoured.

The Lord's Upside-down Kingdom

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

When Jesus came to earth he refused to be a political Messiah, because He knew that the pride and the self-sufficiency of the Kings, the governors, the rich, the powerful and the highly educated would not listen to Him or apply His Kingdom principles, which are so different to the world’s and also often contradict our logical understanding. Instead He lived a life of great humility and unselfishness, and listened to and obeyed everything that His Father told Him. What an amazingly beautiful example He set for us to follow. He began by choosing twelve very ordinary people, and taught and modelled Himself to them, and then told them to go and make disciples of all nations.

Many of the Champions of Foundations for Farming are farmers or people who also have Jesus’ humble and unselfish heart for the poor. Some of these Champions and Trainers have little formal education, and it is very significant that we have been called to some of the very weakest and poorest people on earth. We have seen that these weakest of the weak are the ones that the Lord has chosen to use for the whole miracle of the rebuilding of a very weak and poor continent, which we pray will one day be a discipleship model for the ‘stronger’ and ‘wiser’ continents of this world.

We have seen members of our Government in Zimbabwe, who for many years have been vigorously opposed to Foundations for Farming, have recently seen the amazing accumulation of consistent success that so many of our very poor disciples have achieved on their little plots. The models of these ‘foolish’ ones have confounded these national Ministers and these same Ministers have now asked us to teach Foundations for Farming to all the Government extension officers, and have asked us to help draw up a curriculum for all agricultural colleges and institutions as well as for all schools in the nation. The Lord seems poised for the miracle to begin in earnest.

We praise God for the privilege of being appointed by Him for this purpose, and may we always keep in mind this wonderful scripture from 1 Corinthians 1: 26- 31, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

The Lord will rebuild Africa from the bottom and not the top, and He will receive all the glory!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rebuilding of the Nations

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

The Hope we have for the Rebuilding of the Nations:

This miracle came from the Godly character of Nehemiah and his amazing obedience and adherence to the Isaiah 58 blueprint. This should give us great encouragement. The miracle also happened because Nehemiah managed to take God’s plan to the people and they unified and all agreed on the plan wholeheartedly. And then he managed to get them to all focus on the task for a season.

Brian exhorts us all to share this vision for the rebuilding of our nations and continent. The excellence and the time scale for the completion will directly depend on the degree of Unity of Purpose and our Wholehearted Focus that the Lord will help us to achieve. What also brings great hope is that if we do it Faithfully with what we have, and with a Joyfully Giving spirit, God will supernaturally add to us as we have seen so many times in Foundations for Farming over all these years. It is like seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…

Finally we should remind ourselves that Nehemiah began by weeping over the ruins because of the shame and dishonour that the ruination brought to God. So may we as saved children of God, emulate his heart and sorrow for our disobedience and unfaithfulness and for the poor reputation that the church has in Africa, and then we can begin to build strongly for God’s glory. This brings us back to where Foundations for Farming first started all those years ago with 1 Corinthians 10: 31, “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

God's blessing on family life: Psalm 128:1 - 6 pt 1

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.
4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
5 May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
6 and may you live to see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.

Psalm 128 is called the marriage psalm because it was often sung at weddings. God’s blessing to all who reverence Him and who honour Him in their everyday lives (vs 1 & 4) is seen working out in family life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Nehemiah Story: Chapter 6:15 - 16

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Astoundingly the Wall is Finished in only 52 Days:

This must have been a Construction Engineering Miracle for the walls to be completed in 52 days! These were high walls with parapets and roadways round the top, thick enough for people to have houses in the wall itself, and there were gates to be repaired and hung. Arrayed against them was intensely cunning and scornful opposition, where the builders were in such danger that half of them had to standby on guard and sometimes had to build with their weapons in their other hand.

Another ingredient that greatly contributed to this incredible success is revealed in Nehemiah’s statement in Chapter 8: 10, “for the Joy of the Lord is your Strength.” When we really enjoy something it lessens the workload and a supernatural strength comes to bear. It is a joy to embark on a project that brings glory to God. We can see that Nehemiah and the team really did build “On Time, At Standard, Without Wastage and With Joy.”

Strangely enough the Lord had progressively shown me many of these principles sovereignly before Brian saw them in the scripture, and he was astounded now to see these principles have been assembled so powerfully in God’s Word so long ago, as a confirming guidance and assurance for us in our endeavour.

The Nehemiah Story: Chapter 5:14 - 18

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Nehemiah Demonstrated Great Generosity, Unselfishness and Humility:

In these verses we see a few examples of Nehemiah’s unselfishness, where he says, “neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people”.

Isn’t it wonderful to see that this master builder, Nehemiah, obeyed the rebuilding blueprint that had been laid out by Isaiah almost exactly three hundred years before? This clearly confirms to us the prophetic word, with which I have exhorted the Champions all these years: “that the Kingdom of God and the rebuilding of the walls of nations must be based on the love of God expressed by His united people through the humility and unselfishness of Christ”. This also confirms the prophetic word given to us so many years ago that Faithfulness and a Giving Spirit are the keys to the eradication of poverty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Story of Nehemiah: Chapter 5:7 & 11 - 12

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Nehemiah stops the oppression of the poor:

Nehemiah received reports of the exploitation of many of the people and he immediately confronted the offenders saying, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother… Let us abandon this exacting interest…. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.”

The Story of Nehemiah: Chapter 4:2 & 10

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This is of the utmost importance because it is impossible to build strongly on top of rubble and rubbish. This is always one of the most difficult and distasteful jobs to be done, but it absolutely must be done. This is very true of the physical building process, but it is even truer for the state of our hearts, which is where the Lord looks. This is a very important principle for us to act on in view of the True Fast that we have studied in Isaiah 58. The Kingdom of God is in the hearts of God’s people, “for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you”. (Luke 17:21 – KJV).

We must remember that although we are rebuilding the nations God’s Way by beginning at the Lord’s entrance point, which is to remove the yoke of oppression of the poverty and hunger, nakedness and homelessness of the poor, the overall objective is to advance the Kingdom of God. This is why it is so important to cleanse our hearts by removing the rubble and rubbish in them. This is why repentance and sorrowing for sin and turning away from it is so important to God. Then we will build strongly and righteously with God’s light emanating from us, which will shine out for God’s glory.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wedding bells are ringing in the deep South of Zimbabwe

In the deep South of Zimbabwe, at Crossroads Community Church, Kezi, Bulawayo, Nicholas and Nosimilo Ncube led a pilot project on the Marriage Course 101 which is an adaptation of the Alpha Marriage course. It has great promise for the future.

Mbusiso Ndlovu and Pretty Moyo who were married customarily for 2 weeks, attended the Marriage Course and were blessed. Two months later they had a church wedding at Crossroads Community Church. It was a momentus occasion for Crossroads and a milestone for the people in the Mablauwuni community. Many young people enjoyed the wedding so much and are eager to follow in the footsteps of Mbusiso and Pretty.

Mbusiso and Pretty Ndlovu

In the Northern part of Zimbabwe, we thank God for 5 couples who are serving God by promoting Godly family life in their churches and communities.

The story of Nehemiah: Chapter 3

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

The Rebuilding Begins with Everyone having a Place on the Wall:

Nehemiah faces the antagonists and declares to them “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we will arise and build.” (Nehemiah 2: 20). Then everyone found a place on the wall to build, and the High Priest and the other priests took the lead and got stuck in themselves, as did the gold smiths, the perfume makers, district rulers, the women, Levites and merchants.

The opposition from the governors increases and Nehemiah encourages the people by pointing to the Lord again, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." (Nehemiah 4: 14). He then organises half of the builders to take up their weapons and watch over and protect the other half who are building, and they all have their swords strapped at their sides. He also arranged for a bugler to sound the call to rally together when needed.

The story of Nehemiah: Chapters 1 & 2

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Nehemiah inspects, plans, unifies and focuses the people for the task:

The King sends Nehemiah back to rebuild the walls, and this immediately causes the resentment and opposition of the governors of the province, which meant that he had to go and make his inspection of the ruins under the cover of darkness. Nehemiah then shares his objective and plan with the leaders and the people.

The Lord’s favour helped him do two very important things: he managed to unify all those he spoke to with a “yes” for the project, and he managed to persuade the people to set aside their other priorities and got them to focus on the rebuilding project for a season. Nehemiah shared the vision, which was going to reverse the ruination (perishing).

It will be so powerful when our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, removes His chastening hand and tells us to begin the actual rebuilding process, and the whole wider church rises up together in deep and sincere unity and begins, and perseveres through the Lord’s season, even if we face the opposition from some governors.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The story of Nehemiah - The Lord's Rebuilding Process

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

In Isaiah 58, the Lord has shown us the attitude of heart that we must have in order to be used by Him as the rebuilders of towns, cities and Nations. He has also shown us His upside down way of how this will happen, which is begin by making a plan to remove the yoke of oppression over the poor. The story of the way the Lord used Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in record time, is a wonderful model of how the Lord would have us repair and rebuild something that had been destroyed and ruined.

Nehemiah’s Heart
Nehemiah hears about the ruins of the walls of Jerusalem (v 3), and his immediate reaction is to sit down and weep and mourn and pray and fast before the Lord (v 4). Nehemiah had a good position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, so his mourning was not selfishly motivated for what He had personally lost or could gain, but he weeps because of the shame and dishonour that the ruination of Jerusalem brings to God and the people, who are called by His name.

His prayer begins by remembering God’s steadfast love. This is such a good place for us to start because Romans 8: 35 tells us that nothing can separate us from the unconditional love of God. We can be enormously encouraged by the knowledge that the Lord uses hardship and difficulties in our lives to shape and prepare us in His wonderful sanctification process.

The Lord doesn’t chasten and discipline us as condemned criminals, but as errant sons and daughters who have had all our sins paid for by the astoundingly unselfish and loving vicarious death of Jesus. Meditating on the truly amazing grace and the unconditional love of God will help us to have a similar attitude to Nehemiah.

As we have seen in Isaiah 58, the highest importance to our Lord is that the motives of our hearts must be completely unselfish. We cannot expect the Lord to lift His chastening hand and use us as the rebuilders, if our hearts are selfishly motivated by what we can gain, but rather to see what we can give in terms of delivering the poor and bringing glory to our Lord.

After praising God for His steadfast love, Nehemiah then acknowledges his own sin and that of God’s people. Then in verse 9 he also acknowledges God’s condition for deliverance, “If you return to me and keep my commandments and do them…” Brian is well aware that we cannot confess or repent of anybody else’s sin because it is all about a personal love relationship with the Lord, but we can identify the sins of others and exhort them to turn, not least of all, by our sincere confession of our own sin.

This turning back to God is very important to the Lord. Repentance is not just an Old Testament stipulation by God. We repent in the New Testament as saved saints, who are a sorrowing and mourning before God for sinning against such unconditional love, which can also deprecate His immensely costly sacrifice for us (Matthew 5: 3-6). This sorrowing for our sins and our renouncing of them seals in our hearts a precious determination not to sin again.

This is a very powerful way to show our love to God with a totally unselfish motive in our hearts. If selfishness is at the root of all sin, it would be a complete contradiction and a travesty to repent with a selfish and legalistic heart. The Nehemiah story shows Nehemiah to be a very unselfish man and leader.

Broken families and broken land - blessed families and blessed land

“See, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6)

How strange that the last word in the Old Testament is ‘curse’. This is not the curse of an enemy or a witch doctor. It is the curse of God! God says he will curse a land, a people, a society, a nation. That is terrifying. What is the reason for this awful curse of God? It is broken families. It is a society where fathers and children do not love each other. We hear the voice of God in judgment saying, “When I am not honoured, families are broken and society is smashed”. Could our community or country be experiencing the curse of God today? If so, what can we do?

Four hundred years after Malachi wrote about turning the hearts of parents and children to one another, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel to a priest called Zechariah to tell him that he would have a son, John the Baptist, who would announce the coming of the Messiah. Gabriel deliberately repeated Malachi’s prophecy. “He will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke1: 17)

Malachi prophesied the curse of God on the land. That is the negative. Luke now speaks of “a people prepared for the Lord.” That is the positive. Calling people back to God and healing families go together. So we will challenge people to turn to God in sincerity and wholeness of heart to make our society ready for the Lord’s coming. At the same time we are called in the power of God’s Spirit to teach and model the beauty of godly relationships in marriage and family. Strong family life is a blessing God gives to his obedient people. It brings love, joy, peace and contentment to individuals and wholeness to society. As we heal broken family relationships, we prepare our land for God’s blessing. Family flourishes when we honour God.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taking the Sabbath Seriously: Isaiah 58:13 & 14

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

v13 & 14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Brian often shares from Isaiah 58 and stops after verse 12, but he has come to realise that verses 13 and 14 are very important in the whole vision. You see in Mark 2: 22-27 that Jesus deals with the Pharisees’ very legalistic attitude towards the Sabbath, and perhaps most of us in the New Testament Church have taken Jesus’ statement a bit too far: Then He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

God Himself has set the whole principle of a regular rest day when He rested after He had finished Creation in six days. Jesus doesn’t want us to get religious and legalistic about anything, but this principle of rest is very important.

When we passionately embark on an exciting quest like carrying out God’s plan for the poor, we can get so focussed and absorbed that we get too busy to stop and communicate with the Lord regularly, and eventually we will not be able ‘to see the wood for the trees’, and can go off track. Without rest we can get very tired and jaded and lose the inspirational and productive edge. We can soon lose our joy and extreme fatigue can also cause irritability and the Evil One can get in and begin to divide and rule.

In Isaiah 55: 8 and 9, the Lord tells us that His ways and thoughts are different and higher than ours. Twice in Isaiah 58: 13 He tells us that we are not to do as we please and go our own way. Constantly working without resting once per week is actually contravening God’s will as we keep going the way that pleases us. Apart from the damage to our health, this disobedience can become a habit and can even develop into a stronghold.

Verse 14 states that if we have obeyed verse 13 by not doing our own thing on the Sabbath (set day of rest), we will find our joy in the Lord. This is very powerful because Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the Joy of the Lord is our strength.” And how much do we need strength for the task.

Brian believes that the next statement is also very important: “ I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land.” This means that the Lord’s favour will be with us and he will put us in a position where people will see us and recognise the truth and effectiveness of what we are doing, and we will be like a city on a hill. v14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. v15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. v16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

This falls into line with Isaiah 58: 8 and 10, where the Lord has told us that He wants our light to shine. We are reflecting the light of Christ and the darkness begins to recede, but something else important happens. This higher vantage point helps us to see the bigger picture as the Lord sees it. Vision is what the Lord sees and if we are fresh, rested and obedient, waiting on the Lord through prayer and meditation, away from the turmoil of the task, we will begin to see what He sees, as we seek Him with all of our hearts. This is how the Lord will guide us always through the difficulties and obstacles of a ‘sun-scorched’ land.

Then penultimately the Lord says He will cause us “ to feast on the inheritance of our father Jacob.” This resembles the fruition of the quest to deliver our people out of hunger, nakedness and homelessness, and the yoke of oppression will have been removed. O, that we may all take time to rest and be still and seek the Lord! This is confirmed in the parallel pattern for restoration and rebuilding of our land in Isaiah 30:15, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Finally the Lord ends this magnificent chapter with the words, “The mouth of the Lord has spoken”. It is thrilling to be reminded that the Lord through the mouth of the prophet has spoken these words to us. We want to give thanks and praise to our God for so graciously and faithfully guiding us into a wonderful future for our continent, in which we hope to be a discipleship model for our own nations and for those in other continents, and by so doing, we will be preparing ourselves for Jesus as His Bride, ready for His coming.

Restorer of streets and dwellings: Isaiah 58:12

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

This indicates that the Lord wants to not only repair the walls and infrastructure (which begins with agriculture) but will complete the restoration process by ministering to the towns and cities as well, and by not only completing the feeding and clothing of the poor, but by giving them shelter too. And our quest in obeying the True Fast will have been completed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tribute to a real champion

Peter Goosen
Died on 12th January, 2011

Peter was gifted in many ways, and did many things. His largest contribution was to the mining industry, but I want to remember today the wonderful way in which he brought God’s grace to farming in Zimbabwe and to many other nations.

Peter served on the national committee of ‘Farmers for Jesus’ for many years, and I remember his passion for evangelising the workers on the farms in our nation. This also involved sharing the Gospel with the farmers themselves, and Peter had a wonderful way of sharing his testimony with clarity and boldness.

Peter also diligently served ‘Farming God’s Way’, which has been the model that the Lord has given us primarily to feed the hungry and to set them free from captivity to poverty by teaching them to feed themselves in a sustainable and godly way. In all this Peter and Nan were totally united in their fervour for the vision and in their love for the poor.

Peter and Nan remained faithful to the quest when the Lord asked us to change the name to Foundations for Farming when God showed us that Godly Farming was to be a foundational platform for the rebuilding of our nation. Peter travelled widely in Zimbabwe and South Africa putting in many Well Watered Gardens. I remember putting in a model with Peter at Petra High School, which began the process through Jenny Coltart, to her husband David, who then a few years later, as Minister of Education, invited us to take Foundations for Farming into all the schools in Zimbabwe.

Many years ago we asked Angus Buchan to come up and speak at our annual Farmers for Jesus Convocation, and Angus watched us put in a Well Watered Garden on the Bulawayo Race Course in front of the main grandstand. This began a remarkable friendship between Angus and Peter, which resulted in Peter becoming Angus’s faithful armour bearer. Peter often went before Angus into many nations to prepare the way for Angus to follow and preach. Peter would then accompany Angus as a great support for him, and Peter would faithfully share the Farming God’s Way vision with every one he met on these trips. This has resulted in Peter and Nan’s deep friendship with Pastor Jason James, who together with Shane Ivers, have recently asked us to officially launch Foundations for Farming into Australia at the end of March this year. Peter’s friendship with Angus has also contributed towards the huge call we are now receiving to take Foundations for Farming into South Africa.

Apart from Peter’s service to agriculture, he has left a wonderful example of Christian manliness to our younger men. His deep love and commitment to Jesus shone through in his humble dignity, and he seemed to be a man who knew what God wanted him to do. Peter was a very faithful friend to so many of us.

Finally I want to make mention of how magnificently Kim represented her mum and sisters to Pete in the time he was up in Harare. Pete and Nan would have been very proud of her, as they were of the remarkable family they have left behind.

Brian Oldreive
Foundations for Farming founder

" will be called Repairer of Broken Walls." Isaiah 58:12

1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus christ."

The walls of any edifice constitute the main body of the building or structure. They enclose the occupants that live or function there and/or any goods stored there. The walls hold up the roof and generally hold the whole structure together and give it its appearance and character.

The ‘walls’ can figuratively represent the laws, morals, values, ethics and norms that hold a society together and in place. O, just imagine a nation that is built on the principles, wisdom and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ! This is not as impossible as it seems, because this happened in Britain and Europe and America in the Great Awakening in 1650 to1750. There was such an outpouring of the Spirit that pubs closed down and whole nations were affected and their laws and ethics were changed and this has influenced their development ever since. But sadly they have largely turned away and the moral decay has begun in earnest.

Many of us dream of a similar awakening happening in Africa. We have often heard that revivals begin with a small group going to earnest prayer, often motivated by observing and then sorrowing for the decadence in society that causes a urgent turning towards God, and so we see that repentance plays a vitally important part. I have just been reading in a book entitled “The World’s Greatest Revivals” by Fred and Sharon Wright. They say that these great revivals of the past were preceded by a wave of truth powerfully preached. They say that through these revivals, God is orchestrating the restoration and rediscovery of key truths so that the Bride of Christ can make herself ready for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb:
The Reformation, released through Martin Luther, restored the truth that Jesus Christ is the only means of Salvation.
The First Great Awakening, released through John Wesley, restored the truth that the Church needs to fulfil the Great Commission.
The Pentecostal Revival, released through William Seymour at Azusa Street, restored the truth about the baptism, infilling, indwelling, and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Father Heart Revival, powerfully released in Toronto, restored the truth that we need to experience the Love of God the Father and enjoy intimacy with Him

Imagine if the Lord has chosen for another revival to come out of the restoration of the truth of His love for the poor and His plan for their relief through applying the Good News to them in the way He meant it to be. I pray that this outpouring will clear away the destructive norms of behaviour and values in all our cultures in Africa, which cause so much suffering and poverty. We pray that the many churches, which will be planted and the many converts to Jesus will demonstrate and spread the Kingdom of God far and wide, even to the other continents.