Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Dying in Obscurity: In Praise of the Ordinary Life

After Steve Jobs’ death, and not to trivialise the death of anyone, I was left wondering about our success obsessed culture. Or, more aptly, it augmented things that I felt I had to be dealing with and indeed am still dealing with: the fear of dying in obscurity, not having been seen as someone who really did anything for this world.

Our culture and our time seems to view obscurity as the most saddest thing ever. In fact, obscurity is so shunned upon in this celebrity, success obsessed culture that you could swear it’s a moral sin. But who is defining success anyway? And for Christians, why should we be so worried about whether or not we will be a success?

For Christians we often like to talk about how “it’s all about Jesus” and that’s great and completely right, in my opinion, but if that’s the case why is it that so many of us – and I include myself here – are so afraid of obscurity? Why is it that we are driven to doing something big, something so all-important with our lives?

The good news of Jesus Christ is that, well, Jesus gets all the glory. He is the only one glorified. Neither you nor I are the true heroes of the story – it’s Jesus who gets the attention. The good news, and our life’s goal, is to be known by God (which we are in Christ) not to be known by men. I realise for non-Christians that doesn’t sound very appealing, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less true. It may be that everything we’ve been taught in this world, everything about happiness, is actually just not true.

Our culture would view the ordinary person who lives and dies an ordinary life as so sad, such a waste of life. Well, is it a waste? Or is it because our culture hasn’t a clue what real life is supposed to look like, anyway? I suppose if you view your 60 to 90 years as all you have, the goal of life will be to try and squeeze in as much as possible. But the problem with this driven-ness and idealism is that it results in less contentment, frustration, disappointment and ultimately no happiness at all.

The drive for happiness becomes a slog and a mission, missing the very point. What if our culture actually has it wrong? It’s not an impossibility.

Having high ambitions, lofty goals and reaching them is the pinnacle of success in this world. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us to make it our ambition to “live a quiet life.” That hardly sounds like the adventure we’re all looking for. While many of us will say we’re not so keen on world-wide fame ala Tom Cruise style, we are so often looking for fame within our own circles – praise from our work colleagues, our friends, our family, and even in church circles for those of us that are involved in that kind of community.

Of course it’s good that our friends and family build us up, but when we are seeking our own glory we are missing our own freedom. After all, he who tries to save his life will lose it. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. These are hard-hitting realities about our Kingdom. (Luke 17:33, Matt 20:16)

If anyone would go after Jesus they are to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Jesus is the greatest treasure, ever. If you don’t agree that’s OK, but I haven’t found anything else to be true, to be honest, and I have tried numerous alternatives.

But to have Him we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Hardly an easy thing. Yet there it is. Life is not about us. When we finally give it up that’s when we find the contentment and joy we’re looking for. We may die in obscurity, nobody will ever know who we were, yet we will die far happier than many of this world’s greatest heroes who go down in the history books as men and women to be praised. When we finally give up the drive to be known by everyone we can actually focus on those people who count in our lives and finally, at last, joy can be found in the ordinariness and humdrum of our lives. Because I believe that true and eternal joy is actually only found in the person of Jesus Christ, and that’s why I call myself a Christian.

Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

The Secret of Contentment

The secret of contentment

Cars, money, women, men, knowledge, relationships, careers, meaningful jobs, family – all of these things, which are not inherently bad (many of them inherently good, others indifferent) we use and we want so that we can be content, living a life where we feel alive. We look around at those people who have these things in plenty and we get jealous, comparing ourselves with them. This comparing can make us envious or depressed, because we also want to be content.

It may seem random – why is it that they get it all but I don’t? I work just as hard. Why is it that God blesses them but not me? Perhaps he doesn’t care about me. Perhaps he doesn’t love each person the same. Perhaps he doesn’t exist. Perhaps he does exist but couldn’t care less about anybody. Perhaps at the end of the day it’s just luck. Perhaps the best thing to do is tramp on others to get the contentment that I want. These are some of the things we think.

The surprising reality is that people who ‘have it all’ are not usually always happy. At best they are happy at least some of the time. But then the pressures of that career, the pressures of family, the pressures of maintaining wealth, the fears of losing all this stuff that everyone wants so dearly gets to them. Many a rich person has died bitter, angry, and unfulfilled.

If we believe in God at all and think him a tyrant for blessing some but not others, we ought to just take a step back and ask: did God ever promise to fulfill the American Dream? Was that ever in His agenda? Or was that an expectation we put on Him due to our culture and the prevailing philosophy of the world?

We have to be careful we’re not expecting God to do things for us He never promised He would. And we have to step back and think: If God did not promise to fulfill the American Dream, why not? Is it because he doesn’t care for our contentment? Or is it because He knows something we don’t? What if he cares about our contentment and joy so much that He promised something better than the American Dream? What if there is something else we’re supposed to be pursuing in this life? And if so, what is that something else?

In my own struggles with disappointment with God and asking Him these sorts of questions I have stumbled, or rather been led, into what I believe is the secret of contentment: God Himself. That statement might seem absurd or narrow or just plain boring to you. But I assure you it isn’t.

Most of us know that when Jesus died on the cross He took all of His sins upon us so that we would not be judged negatively for those sins; so that if we put our trust in Him then He will take our sins away and cast them into the Sea of Forgetfulness, because justice for those sins has already been carried out on Jesus.

But what does that mean for contentment? What does that mean for my joy? Well, it means two things:

1) I live with a clean conscience. A clean conscience is actually an amazing gift. No longer do I feel guilty about anything. And, best of all, I’m being shaped and formed by His Spirit living in me to stop doing those things that are against my conscience.

2) I now have access to a better gift than cars, women, or even family and relationships – the Presence of God, the source of all joy (Psalm 16:11).

God created joy and pleasure. Where He exists is where joy and pleasure exist to their utmost. Whether I have plenty or don’t, I have joy because I can have His presence. All I’ve got to do is ask for it and wait for Him, and He will come.

This is indeed the greater gift. While many a rich person has died unhappy, many a poor man hasn’t, such as a man like Francis of Assisi or many other such people who cast away the American Dream and sought a better Dream – the ongoing presence of God in their lives, in their heart, in their relationships, and in everything they do. The secret of contentment is this: God. And that is what God came to give us.

Sure, I know there is something called the Prosperity Gospel which has convinced many a Christian that God’s central purpose in everything is to fulfill the American Dream, hand things out to us like a supreme Father Christmas who gives gifts based on our performance and doesn’t know how to make us feel as if we’re truly happy but only knows how to put a temporary smile on our face through so-called blessing after blessing, until one day we die and we can’t take any of that stuff with us.

There is a greater Treasure out there to find, a Pearl of Great Price. That treasure is the secret of contentment and that treasure is the one we are to pursue all our days. (Matt 13: 44-46)

Let’s not look to others in a shade of green. We ought not to compare ourselves with others. We can have our own special relationship with God through Jesus. And I can promise you this: Joy will always come when one seeks God. So finally, we can have joy in our circumstances, which is God’s promise, rather than joy because of our circumstances.

Blog and writing news

Received Printed Copy of ALIVE This Morning

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living

First printed copy of ALIVE

I received the first printed copy of my book ALIVE this morning, but unfortunately the print quality of the cover isn’t too good. I’m going to have to get a designer or someone to fix it with the printers as I don’t think people should buy a book with that kind of quality cover.

As to the print quality of the inside it looks fantastic. So almost there!

The eBook version is available at though — get it at this link. It’s only $4 (about R30).

Blog and writing news

The Christianity of Principles, Keys and Formulas vs the Christianity of Jesus Christ

The diagram above is not what Christianity is actually about, yet so many treat it that way.

I’ve spent years trying to unlearn much of what I learned about Christianity in my earlier years, because much of what I learned was about principles and formulas. Let me use a quote to drive home my point:

The French Author, Jacques Ellul, once said this:

“There are no such things as ‘Christian principles.’ There is the Person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. If we wish to be faithful to Him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to a certain number of principles, the consequences of which can be logically deduced. This tendency to transform the work of the Living God into a philosophical doctrine is the constant temptation of theology, and their greatest disloyalty when they transform the action of the Spirit which brings forth fruit in themselves into an ethic, a new law, into ‘principles’ which only have to be ‘applied.'”

What’s he getting to? Well, let’s maybe use some modern experiences to get to the point. When was the last time you walked into a Christian bookstore? What did you notice the bestsellers were? I’ll give you a hint on some of the kind of titles you might have seen:

How to Pray for Results
Sowing and Reaping: Understanding Prosperity
Ten Spiritual Disciplines for Success and Happiness

While titles may not be so bluntly obvious, much of the content is around the kind of ideas I’m talking about above. Heck, my book ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living is titled in a similar way, but I hope that its content is a far cry from the kind of content I’m making fun of above — where Christianity is relegated to principles, ‘keys’, and formulas. Where all of these are also directed at ‘our’ success. As Ellul is getting at, this kind of Christianity has been separated from its core — the person and Being of Jesus Christ.

God is a Living god, not a bunch of principles or keys we just need to do to see results. Even if we believe this, we often don’t treat Him that way, expecting that if we pray correctly or tithe correctly or do whatever correctly then, and only then, we will see results. But even the desire to see results can really also show that our heart is not interested in Jesus himself, but instead in results.

I mean, what do I enjoy about my wife? I enjoy her – her presence. If my relationship with her was about results then it wouldn’t be much of a relationship.

Christianity is about relationship. In fact, it’s even deeper than relationship, it’s Jesus Christ himself. (That’s why I think it’s also about enjoying God.) Jesus is a living Being, a real person, who lives in and through me. In the end, Christianity is Christ. That’s probably the best way to put it.

Blog and writing news

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living e-Book Now Available

The e-Book version of ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living is now available at

ALIVE: How to Enjoy Living eBook

The point of life is to enjoy it. But so few of us do. ALIVE is about finding where true joy really lies, where contentment can be found. It affirms the idea that the quest for joy and pleasure is the quest of life, but that these are found in the places no one taught us to look.

Get the eBook here for only $4.00 (about R30).

A Kindle-specific version and the print version will be available shortly on Amazon. So watch this space for that.

A list of all the devices the eBook will work with can be found here. Since the book is in PDF format it’ll work on the Kindle or pretty much any handheld device, but as mentioned above a Kindle-specific version is in the works so that it can be downloaded from Amazon’s store from the Kindle.

My other book Single will soon also be available in the same formats, now revised and up to date.

Blog and writing news

Alive First Draft Finished!

Hooray! The first draft for my new book Alive is finished! Now it’s going to my pastor for him to check out and advise on some of the more theological and pastoral matters 🙂

This gives me more time to focus on my fiction book and writing music — really hoping for December to be a great month for creativity! Can’t wait for things to quieten down.

Blog and writing news

Seven Chapters In

I’m seven chapters in with the first draft of my new book “Alive”, which is about enjoying life, and I’m quite excited about that. It looks like it’ll be a nice short book, like I planned, maybe about 120 book pages.

I originally planned for it to be seven chapters but that has increased to nine as I’ve added a few more in that seemed important.

So far, I’ve covered a chapter on the purpose of the book; a chapter on hedonism; a chapter on knowing God; a chapter on being in communion with God; a chapter on love; a chapter on money; and this morning I’ve just finished a chapter on taking risks.

It’s flowing very nicely and I’m really excited about this work. It has also helped to solidify stuff I believe around the topic of enjoying life. Once its done I’ll probably post a few snippets of it here on this blog, so if anyone is interested they should check back here.

Blog and writing news

Excited About My New Book “Alive”

Today I’ve embarked on a journey on writing a new book, with the working title “Alive“.

It’s going to be a relatively short book. So far I’ve planned only seven chapters, and it will be a lot less intensive than my last book “Single.”

The book is focusing on enjoying God and life, and will incorporate a lot of stuff about worship and finding God in every aspect of living.

I hope for it to be a little more ‘evangelistic’ in its scope – in other words, that non-Christians, anti-Christians, or those looking in or are interested in Christianity will find the book interesting and will see why Jesus is truly awesome.

So far, the first draft for chapter one is under the belt – so I’m really looking forward to it.

As to my fantasy-fiction work, that’s still work in progress. It looks like I may have about seven or eight chapters left before the book is done. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the bucks to get the book looked at by an agent yet but if everything goes well I’ll be able to embark on that next year Feb or March.

If all goes well, maybe I’ll have both Alive and my fantasy book finished by then 🙂 If I can get some time off for Christmas, I’ll be spending a lot of time writing.. looking forward to that!