Monday, 31 March 2014

What is Success?

Many years before I crossed the line of faith I had vision of where I wanted to be when I was older.
There I was, suited up in the finest clothes - don’t ask me if it was Dolce, Louis Viton or anything, as I know NOTHING about such clothing brands. I was 100 metres in the air in a glass skyscraper, overlooking the city.

Back then success in my eyes was almost entirely about image, status and wealth (pretty much what the world is constantly telling us). I was driven by deep desire to be “successful” by this world standard, yet as I started “achieving” I began to want more and more. No matter what I achieved, be it in academics or sport, I never felt fulfilled – there was a gap in my life that I just kept trying to fill by fulfilling goals and “achievements”.

It was not before I began to walk with Christ that this deep longing for something more was finally fulfilled. Ephesians 2:1-2 says “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” You see, Satan has deceived the world into thinking that image, status and wealth are keys to a successful life but this could not be farther from the truth.

Psalm 1:1-3 says “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” God did not put us on this earth for us to make idols of money, status or achievements. Instead, He created us for His glory!

Whenever I think of what my ideal situation of the future may be, I see myself with a happy family (yes, I know that this sounds like a cliché, but it really is a deep desire of my heart), but if this is not in God’s plan for my life then I will have to acknowledge that, as He has a perfect plan for each of us!

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe there is anything wrong with becoming a successful businessman, as I know that God has used Christians in places of such authority to help those in need as well as to spread the Gospel. I do however want to warn against you placing the desires of your heart ahead of God. Do not be like me and try and fill up the hole in your life with fleeting things of this world – only God can completely satisfy our soul!

I pray that through this message you will not pursue the “successes” of this world as your own…instead, seek to glorify God in all you do.

Peace and Love

Friday, 28 March 2014

Song of the week 28 March 2014

This week's song of the week is from an incredible South African artist. Watch this space... Song of the week this week is deservedly Nhlanhla Majozi with his song "The River".

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Jared & the Mill: Western Expansion

Artist: Jared & the Mill
Record: Western Expansion
Rating: 4/5
Similar artists: The Lumineers, Rend Collective
Genre: Folk-Rock
Release Date: 17 September 2013
Length: 42:42
Label: N/A

When you discover a band by reading an article entitled "Band Plays a Hospital Room Show for SXSW Hit-and-Run Victim", you have, more than likely, struck gold!

Jared & the Mill, a six-piece indie, folk-rock band from Arizona, have made a real impact on the music scene recently. Since forming in 2011, the band has not only built strong bonds amongst themselves, but also with their ever-growing fan-base. 

The successful Kickstarter campaign is testament to the band's talent and popularity. In mid-2013, the band started a fundraising campaign through Kickstarter which successfully raised enough money for them to release their debut album!

The Western Expansion, speaks of where the band has been, where they are now, and where they are heading. According to the band, some of their oldest songs can be found on the album, alongside songs that were written just a few weeks before release.

The band's numerous influences filter through the album, providing the listener with a variety of different songs. Whether it's a slow, balled-esque song you seek, or a more "let's dance on tables" song, this album has it all. As is the case with many folk artists, the lyrics are deep, heartfelt, honest and easy to relate to. The country/folky sounds of the accordion and banjo combined with a truly captivating vocal performance from Jared Kolesar make for an album not to be missed!!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Are you a person of your word?

Simply put, God wants us to be people that stick to our promises. Any words that pass our lips are a personal vow to God. Breaking a vow with God is a sin. In 1 John 2:5, it says that “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected”. Any intentional statement to someone is a promise, any promise is a vow, and any vow is sacred.

Why do Christians often get a reputation of being “hypocrites”? Well, of course we are all human, no-one is perfect, and we don’t claim to be perfect. It may appear to be quite a harsh label, but I really believe it’s mainly because our words are often not congruent with our actions.

I believe that as Christians, we should be known and respected as people who do not stray from what we say. I believe this is an extremely important aspect of leadership. How can people respect you if your words are of no value? In order to be respected by those around us, we must ensure that our actions listen to our words every single time. 60% of the time is not good enough here. If you’re coming from a base of 20%, then sure, following through on promises 60% of the time is great progress, but we really need to be pillars of reliability with everything we say. That may be achieved by simply speaking less, or by making a concerted effort to follow through on “empty gestures”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been guilty countless times of empty gestures, or “words for words sake”, knowing fully that I didn’t intend to act upon what I had just stated I would “definitely” do. It’s a habit I’m not proud of! For example, “ah yes, we’ll definitely meet again for coffee soon” or “I will definitely do the dishes later” or “I will definitely work on my assignments this weekend”. Sometimes words just come out because they seem appropriate at the time, but to be honourable Christians (or just honourable people in general), we need to follow through on the contract we have been bound to by our words. It’s certainly on my agenda for improvement this year… you have my word! ;-)

How amazing is it to know that we can stand by every word that came from Jesus? How incredible is it that we can trust Him to fulfil all of His promises? Let’s follow His lead… By becoming people of our word, we can make significant strides in personal growth, leadership, and most significantly, leading a life that God has called us to lead.

Let’s do it together!

Peace Amigos!

Song of the Week: 21 March 2014

A sweet folky tune to welcome us into the weekend! We bring you Jared & the Mill with Breathe Me In.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Liz Vice: There's a Light

Artist: Liz Vice
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Soul, Blues, Gospel
Release Date: 14 January 2014
Length: 37:21
Label: Deeper Well Records

Liz Vice.  Now here is an artist that projects a raw and raspy kind of worship that is hard to come by.  With hearty, Gospel-themed lyrics mingling with rocky, bluesy undertones and sweet 2 and 3 part harmonies in some songs, There’s a Light is indeed a goodie!
Almost the entire album has been recorded live to analog tape. Class!  You can expect a combination of old school R&B, unbelievably catchy, bluesy guitar riffs and indeed ‘a Light’ that resonates through all 10 songs on this remarkable debut album.
“... to this day my throat feels as though it’s caving in until I pray the simple prayer: “LORD, sing over me and I will sing over the people.” - What a cool lady. I can’t wait to hear more from this honest and talented artist'!
My favourite songs on the album have to be 6. Pure Religion, 9. Enclosed by You, 4. The Source, 1. Abide, 10. There’s a Light… Never mind! The entire album is just pure class!
So refreshing! Do it!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Rend Collective: The Art of Celebration

Artist: Rend Collective
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Folk, Celebration
Release Date: 17 March 2014
Length: 61:00
Label: Integrity Music

Don’t be left out. Join the celebration!

Dove Award-nominated Irish worshippers continue to break new ground with their fourth, and highly anticipated, album aptly named The Art of Celebration which is to be released on St. Patrick’s Day (17th of March 2014).

“As a band we have found it to be the joy of the Lord that sustains us. It is His joy that strengthens us in times of difficulty and it is His joy that we want to share to others,” says Rend Collective band leader, Gareth Gilkenson.

The album is brimming with a heartening, triumphant, foot-stomping energy that boldly proclaims the wonder of the Gospel. The opening track, “Joy”, firmly thrusts the listener into a state of celebration and is strengthened by a seamless flow of songs declaring God’s love, grace, power and, of course, joy!

According to Gareth, they have kept things going as they have in the past, but this time have gone “a little bit wilder and weirder.” They convey their joyous message through a bemusing range of instruments. “Any instrument that makes us smile we used,” jokes Gareth. Everything from Irish folk instruments to synth-pop equipment was used – they even raided toy stores for instruments that “sound like fun”!

The Art of Celebration is bursting at the seams with incredible truths of His sovereignty. It encourages the listeners to rejoice in their suffering for His strength will see them through. Triumphant songs like “More than Conquerors” affirm the victory Jesus Christ achieved for Christians everywhere. It is truths like these that need to be spoken into the lives of the broken and downtrodden – The Art of Celebration is thus a welcome addition to the world of worship music. 

Although linked through the genre of "celebration", each song is different, offering new sounds, stories and truths. Whether listening to the jubilant intro to "More than Conquerors" or the more folky verses of "Finally Free" or even the synth-pop sounds of "Joy" (Remix), there is something for everyone! 

Starting off as a group of friends coming together, praying and seeking God, Rend Collective has compelled Christians everywhere to re-imagine what it means to live intentionally (both individually and as a community) and earnestly pursue His will for their lives.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

My Identity is in Christ, and Christ Alone!

In a recent men's meeting the topic of insecurities was brought up and how we often strive for man's approval. (Note that I can speak so candidly about all this now because of God's unfailing grace and healing in my life!)

Now I must confess, being the smallest out of my group of friends back in primary school was never going to be much fun. I was often the butt of the joke and, being skinny and having rather large ears, I was the obvious target for the school bullies. (I'd like to announce here that I have grown into my ears, and like to see myself as "lean"..."athletic" even) :p

It was this rough childhood that brought about a lot of insecurities later on in life, as well as a strong "people-pleaser" mentality. I often look back and cringe when I think about how far I would go in order for others to "accept" me. I would go so far as to say that being liked by others became somewhat of an obsession. I was never part of the "cool" crowd back in primary school, but when changing high school, I thought this would all change. I thought this would be my chance to finally have a clean slate and make friends with the "popular" kids. Instead, God used my awkwardness to scare away these popular kids and surround me with people just as awkward as I was...nine years later these are still the friends I sit next to in church.

You see, I learnt that looking for man's acceptance and approval gets you absolutely nowhere. I was in a church service many years ago, at the height of my insecurity, and the pastor said that you feeling bad or insecure about yourself should be seen as an insult to God. Our all-powerful and all-knowing Father, the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth made you! Not only that...He made you in HIS image! He made you the way you are ("flaws"and all) for a purpose...He doesn't make mistakes.

After reading Galatians 1:10 which says "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Am I hear on Earth to gain people's approval or do my Father's will? I quickly realised that it is not what others think of me that defines me, it's what my Father thinks! I AM A CHILD OF GOD AND I BELONG TO HIM!

I just want to encourage you. If you are a Christian struggling with insecurities, an identity crisis or finding yourself seeking man's approval over God's, remember these few amazing truths:
- You are loved by God and nothing can separate you from that
- You are chosen by God
- You are forgiven
- You are strengthened for all tasks to which God calls you
- You are never alone

I pray that you will hold onto these truths and remember that your true identity does not come from others' perceptions of you, it comes from God.

Peace and Love


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Song of the Week: 15 March 2014

In light of the release of Rend Collective's album, "The Art of Celebration", we saw it fitting to give the "Song of the Week" title to "My Lighthouse".

We absolutely cannot wait for the 17th of March!!!!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Switchfoot: Fading West

Artist: Switchfoot
Record: Fading West
Rating: 4/5
Similar artists: Thousand Foot Krutch, Anberlin, Audio Adrenaline
Genre: Alternative rock
Release Date: 14 January 2014
Length: 43:19
Label: Lowercase People / Atlantic

I was fortunate enough to go to Switchfoot’s amazing Vice Verses concert in Johannesburg around 2 years ago, thus I was very much looking forward to their latest release.  Switchfoot’s Fading West album starts off with a feel good sound with ‘Love alone is worth the fight’. This is a great song to kick off the album, because the nature of song is vibrant and upbeat – epitomising the album itself.  The album then eases into a similarly uplifting sound of ‘Who We Are’, which included the defiant lyrics of “they said the fight would break us but the struggle helped make us who we are”. ‘When we Come Alive’ has a very catchy melody, with a Hillsong United-esque intro, and further perpetuates the fun element of the album.

‘Say It Like You Mean It’ feels like a background song in a videogame, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to me, it’s one of the most skip-able songs on the album. The relative dip of that trick is made up for in a big way with ‘The World You Want’, which I feel is the best track on the album. The message behind this song is especially strong, and to me personally, this is one of Switchfoot’s all-time best songs. The song’s goal is to challenge the listener to ensure that their actions are congruent with their words; to combat hypocrisy – which is a message that I think we all need to hear on a regular basis. After doing some research into ‘The World You Want’, I was extremely interested to find reports stating that the background vocals are from the Kuyasa Kids, which is a choir composed of orphans from the Kayamandi township in Stellenbosch (South Africa) who have lost their families to HIV – this is a great touch from Switchfoot, and shows how classy they are as human beings.

‘Ba55’ is a catchy song with a strong spiritual message, containing the resonating lyric of “I believe you’re the fire that can burn me clean”. ‘Let it Out’ has the feel of a song targeted specifically at high school students adopting a YOLO mentality, and is another feel-good, fun, yet slightly unimaginative song with characterising lyrics of “but we don’t care no more ‘cause we know life is short”.

‘Back to the Beginning Again’ is a good way to end the album, and I really like the lyrics of “my heart is yours, and what a broken place it’s in, but you’re what I’m running for” which closes the album off by placing the focus back on how God should be at the forefront of our lives.

While having a couple of really high quality songs, I was simply in a state of “whelmed” after several listens to the album. My expectations may have been set extremely high simply because Switchfoot is Switchfoot – thus for any other band, this would have been a terrific offering, but the poppier style didn’t resonate with me as much as previous albums have. With that said, it’s a fun album that’s great to listen to if you’re in need of spiritual upliftment or just a general good-hearted relaxation period. The depth of the lyrics and the limited diversity of the songs don’t equate to it being Switchfoot’s best album in my eyes, but a very solid album nonetheless!

Peace Amigos!


Sunday, 9 March 2014

The funny thing about time

Colossians 4:5 ESV - Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Time. It’s too much or it’s too little. We wish we could move forward or backward or just stand still. We complain that it’s going too quickly or we’re bored and wish it would speed up. But no matter what, we never seem to have enough of it.

Speaking to a friend about our lives the other day and how busy we are, she asked a very true thing. How do we make ourselves less busy? In today’s age, we are surrounded by distractions: work, friends, sport, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Imgur, Reddit, Google +, LinkedIn...take a breath. Our phones are an extension to our bodies and there is just so much to do that time seems to pass us by without us even noticing. And I wonder why I struggle to fit in my quiet time. Am I the only one?

In the morning I’m too tired to set my alarm that 30 minutes early and in the evenings I fall asleep mid prayer. How is that okay? How is it okay that I can justify cutting time on the most important part of my life just so I can fit in 30 minutes of other worldly stuff? Because that’s really what it’s about: Sorry God, Facebook is just too interesting for me to spend some more time with You. Or I can’t switch that TV off before I’ve watched my favourite show and so now I’m too tired for what really matters. If I sound harsh it’s only because I’m trying to get harsh with myself – the time for excuses is over.

My day is noticeably better when I start it off with some time with my Maker. His word plays in my head all day and I feel focused and connected. But it isn’t just in my quiet time that I feel I need better time management. It’s everything. God has placed things in our hands for a reason; He has entrusted us with parts of His Kingdom building and too often we get too busy worrying about how we could possibly accomplish this or that or we allow ourselves to be distracted by the ‘easy’ options available to us (like browsing through a Twitter feed for that spare 20 minutes rather than use it productively). And so we sit there, complaining that we do not have enough time but not making the most of the time we do have.

I often think about what I could get done if I just removed all the distractions from my life. Wouldn’t that be grand? I took a break from Facebook for a month last year as I felt God leading me to, and it really made a difference in how I spent my time. I’m not suggesting we need to delete Facebook and throw our phones away; it will be impossible to separate ourselves from all distractions and temptations. What I am saying is we need to learn to manage our time better for the sake of Christ and what we’re called to do.

Over and above the work aspect, there’s the time we put aside for our relationships too. How often are you with a friend or loved one and are sharing their attention with their phone? I know I’m guilty of doing this even though nothing irritates me more that trying to have a conversation with someone who is so distracted by whatever Sepia picture has made its way onto Instagram. I love these apps, I use them. But we really need to stop letting them get in the way of us having meaningful conversation. We are here for such a fleeting moment; our life is literally a short breath compared to eternity. And I know time aint going to matter in heaven but shouldn’t we be making the most of our time with people here; loving them and showing them Jesus’ endless love for us? Put the TV remote and phone down, friends. Give others some of your undivided attention.

Our time is God’s time. If we think like that, how would we spend it? Make sure that God gets a good chunk of your day because in the end, that’s what will help you be successful and fulfilled. Not checking that newsfeed or updating what you had for lunch today. This is what I’m challenging myself to do – will you join me?

Psalm 39:4-5 ESV - O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

Let go and let God.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Song of the Week: 8 March 2014

Ok, so I know this won't be for everyone, but if you're like me and you love anything"old school-y" then you'll LOVE Sugar and the Hi Lows!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

You Are More

Continuing my song analysis from my last post, this week I’d like to look at Tenth Avenue North’s song “You are more”. For those of you who don’t know the song, the chorus, which is really impactful, goes like this:

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made.
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes.
You are more than the problems you create.
You’ve been remade”

This song is such a great reminder about salvation for us as Christians. Often we feel like our past is holding us back. Sometimes we dig ourselves into such a deep hole we feel there’s no way we could get out. What’s great about grace is that it gives us a ladder to step out of the darkest and deepest hole. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, or where we’ve come from. The only thing we need is belief, no one else can believe for us, it’s all on us as individuals.

The bridge of the song makes another impactful point:

“Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to.
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.”

It’s not about what we’ve done, our actions won’t help, but our belief in God’s actions will make all the difference. God takes us on a journey in order to help us become the people he wants us to be. God has a divine plan for us all. That provides some comfort, because who know where our experiences will lead us. Maybe one day you will meet someone tackling a similar problem and you can help them get through it.

The most important thing to remember is that you are worth more to God than what you think. God loves us no matter what we’ve done. God loves us despite our mistakes, despite our flaws. He is the embodiment of unconditional love. All we have to do is have faith in Him and we’ll be remade.

Don’t lose hope, God has great plans in store for you.

Remember, you are more...

Stay awesome everyone.