The Apostle John of the Bible is one of the most blessed men to ever walk the face of the earth. Jesus met him when he was a young man, and immediately took him as an object of love. He walks besides Jesus and grows in knowledge and character. He builds experience to the point that he becomes a veteran of the Gospel. In his ministry, he becomes a pastor of the Church of Ephesus, which was founded by the Apostle Paul. He also becomes a prisoner of Christ when he gets banished to the terrible and isolated isle of Patmos, which was reserved for dangerous and desperate rejects of the Roman society. John sees it all.
In the end, he gets to write one of the four cornerstones of the Gospel. Then while at the Isle of Patmos, he receives a series of the most spiritual visions ever recorded by man, and he as a faithful scribe writes the Book of Revelation, the last of the New Testament. And when John gets old, he writes the three beautiful books, I John, II John and III John. He gets to experience every facet of a Christian life first as a young disciple, then as a young Apostle, then as a pastor and as a prisoner of Christ.
So when he says that which he has seen, he’s reflecting across the entire spectrum of his Christian life. He identifies Eternal Life from the beginning and mentions it in all the three groups of his books. But he doesn’t stop there. He emphasizes that he has seen Eternal Life with his eyes, he has looked upon it, he has handled it with his hands. He calls it the Word of Life.
Read 1 John again. When he says he is a witness and that he shows us the Eternal Life, which is the Father, we better listen. Of all the people that ever walked on earth, he is the definitely the right candidate to make such a statement.
This is our second week in the weekly series on the Book of Psalms where David introduces the Lord Jesus Christ as the all powerful, wise King of kings. Last week we saw David, the king of Israel open the Praise and Worship songs with a powerful statement. As a true leader, he set down the principles for his people to be blessed and remain prosperous.
This week, he turns his attention to the entire world and admonishes them to be wise, listen and learn. Let’s dig in:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
Psalms 2:1-12 KJV
David the Wise King
It must be great to serve under a spiritual king, especially one who is well rounded like King David. David was a humble man, but he was also very shrewd. He could quickly read situations, seek solutions and bring about tremendous results. Let’s just say David was very wise since sometimes the word shrewd is seen in the negative light.
David the great composer and inspired musician
His exploits inspired others to express conquest with flourish like the time he defeated Goliath, the Philistine Commando. His act inspired women to compose a song that exposed the hate that Saul had for David. But on top of this David himself was a prolific composer. His works are still a masterpiece across the world many generations later.
David the educator
David brought life and meaning to the Law of Moses. Whatever he knew he shared. The more he shared, the more he was inspired with insights on the Word of God. He was responsible for teaching his court, his army, the temple and the citizenry. He was an amazing man.
David the deeper worshipper
He believed in the Supreme Authority of his maker, Jehovah, the God of Israel. And for that reason the spirit of prophecy would fall on him and make him prophesy about the future. Like the case with this Psalm.
Jesus, the all wise anointed King
When David declared this Psalm, most people thought he was talking about himself. After all, prophet Samuel had anointed him as the king of Israel.
It must have been a very difficult position for a humble king to declare this prophecy. It is a big statement to say that the entire world is heathen and that it will be an inheritance to Israel. I can see the envoys from neighboring kingdoms raising their eyebrows very, very high. And diplomats from big and prosperous kingdoms like Egypt must have laughed it off as a wishful statement from a new, young king.
But the spiritual knew different. In the New Testament, the apostles took the same Scripture from Psalms. They said Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophesy. You find this in a moving story in the Book of Acts chapter four. I believe it too.
So what does that mean?
Reading the chapter again, King David introduces Jesus in the most powerful way as an effective leader. He is the One that will take over all the kingdoms of the world. He is not coming back to be a partner to the Republic of Malawi, or any other country as we know them today.
He’s not coming back to understand our way of life, and strike a compromise with modernity. This is one chapter that speaks of complete takeover, and forcing every knee to bow down. Not even King David could achieve that status. No one else can.
But before we become engrossed with a picture of power and unbending rule, look at the chapter again. There’s a way out. David instructs all the wise kings and judges to follow and serve the Lord. This has nothing to do with religion, race, or politics. He invites them to submit to God. What’s more? He promises those that do so blessings from heaven.
But are the kings of the world wise? Can he instruct the judges? Are the composers, musicians, educators and worshippers listening? At least, David the humble, wise king did.
One of the toughest activities in the wild is rock climbing. At first sight, a rock may seem bare with no place for a foothold. Upon careful study a path appears and a pattern will reveal itself to take you to the top.
This is one craft I want to master. It will take years to perfect my skill but in the end it will be worth it. Which brings us to the topic of the day. In Psalms 61: 1 – 2, King David is in deep trouble. His heart is overwhelmed and he’s crying to God and he’s praying to God.
Then he asks for an impossible request. Instead of asking God to remove his problems, or to be taken to a soft bed of roses, he asks for a bigger challenge. He tells God “lead me to a Rock that is higher than I”. Neither does he ask God, fly me to the Rock, nor pull me to the Rock. Lead me he says. It means he’s ready to FOLLOW.
When he gets to the Rock, there will be the part of climbing it to get to the top. That is not a small matter. If this is a solution to solving problems when our hearts have been overwhelmed then help me Dear Lord.
So read it again. God wants to toughen us through the challenges we face. When we face problems God does not help us escape by running in the opposite direction. No, he leads us to a Rock that is higher than us. I want to learn from such a God. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
Birds are probably the most fascinating group of animals outside fish. The colours, the sounds, the feeding habits, the locomotion all hold sway in our endless fascination with them.
When we were young we did not treat all birds equally. Some were good, some bad and others ugly. It had to take books, magazines, wildlife movies and talks to persuade us to regard them differently.
Here’s the list with an example from each category, not exhaustive for the sake of brevity:
The good included the mighty fish eagle, the versatile kingfisher, the dashing falcon, the dainty sisisi, the feminine phingo, the ruthless mpheta, succulent pumbwa, the powerful tchete, the mysterious mwiyo.
If I’m not wrong, the biggest eagle in Malawi is nkhwazi the fish eagle. It adorns the official emblem for Malawi Police Service. It is majestic, has a sharp eye and its white plumage puts it in a class of its own. I first saw it at Blantyre Zoo then in the wild in Mangochi.
Urban legend raised its status even further. “It never misses a catch!” So we would often be told in our childhood circles. And when we learnt about refraction at school and realised that the eagle has to adjust the position of the prey on the account of bent light rays, it established itself as the ultimate predator of the skies.
Way before I could mention a dozen names, one bird had already stood out for being bad. Owls have very bad reputation among the locals in Malawi. They are connected to witchcraft and superstitions.
Its position of the eyes – in front instead of being on the sides – did not help its cause. And we were told it can twist the neck round and round, following your every movement. One time there was a big owl on the street light two houses away from ours. I shooed it, and it dove straight at me. I had to duck before it pulled back and flew away.
That fixed it as a bad bird. Only to be boarded by literature from the west that calls it wise. Old wise owl? I’m not so sure about that. Give me an eagle any time. Admittedly, owls have fascinating facts top of which is their ability to remain quiet while in flight. The feathers on their wings act as silencers.
I hesitated coming up with this category least I may be misunderstood. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so the saying goes. It is indeed true. However, looks or habits might contribute to the beholder thinking otherwise. For example, bats may be interesting birds however the looks department is highly compromised. Their flight pattern makes it worse, and perching on a tree trunk upside down seals it.
Then there was this bird that loves to feed on tadpoles. It likes to stand in muddy or swampy waters. It has a dull brown for a coat. Its neck assumes a terrible posture. Then it decides to have the ugliest nest ever built by a bird. That is not helping the cause Mr Natchengwa. It’s called hamerkop in English.
Here is the thing, in life we cannot all be eagles soaring in the skies above storms and worries of life. Some may very well be the other birds. Don’t feel bad, just praise God for what you are. Don’t try to stick in feathers that don’t belong to you. If you are a hamerkop, build the best ugliest nest you can manage regardless of what one child who grew up in Blantyre thinks of you.
But more importantly, if you are an eagle don’t try to blend in. Reach out for the skies. Let out your scream and hunt for fresh food. Don’t try to please brother hamerkop by scooping out a few tadpoles – they will give you serious indigestion. Don’t dye your wonderful plumage dull brown to fit in.
Let’s remember to stay humble, for the mighty eagle might fly very high but he cannot twist his neck like an owl, or fly quietly.
Life, seen in the beauty of birds, is fascinating.
The series on childhood adventures continues.Something inside each one of us wants to do more than merely just existing. This is best illustrated when we are young. And this could be because at that age there are no constraints yet on one’s thinking. Reality has not turned into an inhibitor, which is commonly the case when we grow up.
As parents were busy buying what they assumed to be quality food to keep us at bay, and jerseys for cold evenings after the maize harvest, our minds were drawn to something else. This was the season of open bon fires made from piling up dried maize stalks, twigs and dried grass.
Sometimes we could make the fire at the Luphales, where Chifundo and Henry lived, or across the street at the Mkorongos where Gloria, late Joseph, Nebiot and Yotam domiciled. But the “baddest” ones were built at my next door neighbours. The Lisimbas had natural leaders in Chikondi, Fred and Kondwani.
One day we made one big fire whose flames overtook the power lines. When someone suggested that this could cause a huge electric fire, we all took off to our houses leaving Kondwani and Fred to sort out the mess. Fortunately nothing happened and one by one, soot covered faces reappeared to continue with the pleasures of the evening.
Amidst the dying embers, with wild stories making rounds, the highlight of the evening unfolded. The Lisimbas threw maize grains on the ashes and eager faces gazed intently on the fire. As soon as a popping sound was heard, someone would pounce on the pop, rake it off the fire, pick it up quickly, blow off the ash and toss into his/her mouth.
Since it was still hot, the pop would be chewed with the mouth open, pumping the cheeks at the same time to fan cool air into the mouth’s chamber. All this would be done in a fraction of a second, too fast for any outsider to comprehend the sophistication involved in eating local popcorn.
Put this on endless repeat. For whatever reasons the reflex of the big boys was as fast as lightening. After a few futile attempts, as the faces of the younger ones showed despair mercy would come with a pop extended to you on dancing palms. Holding it still would burn the hand of the benefactor. As soon as the transfer was made, the dancing of palms would switch to you before popping the food gem into one’s grateful mouth. Fanning the pop while smiling at the same time cemented the deal.
One pop at a time, with story after story while warming ourselves on the open fire, soot all over our faces, we passed many a pleasant evening. We used to call the pops, and the popping process, m’bulitso in the vernacular. A transliteration would be popping. No amount of modern popcorn purchased from the grocery could replace this fun.
Oh by the way, to the m’bulitso connoisseurs, they always knew the maize grain was about to pop when it would start hissing then whistle. Seconds later, there would be the familiar popping sound not unlike the sound of the opening of a champagne bottle. And within that second, the pop would be in the mouth. Any delay in retrieving the pop from the fire would burn it, sucking up its succulence.
Now, I look back at the bon fire on many nights, having forgotten all the stories that were shared. However, I can still see the reflection of the dying embers in the eyes of my friends, and watch in my mind once again the joys of m’bulitso.
Go ahead. Try it around a campfire with family and friends. It may offer a native alternative to roasting marshmallows.
Lately, sweet memories from the past have been engulfing my mind. Vivid moments spent in the wild are making a strong recall. Whatever may be happening to me, I’m enjoying the recollections with silent pleasure.
The year is 1992 or maybe 1993. I’m inclined to think it is the former. A young supple mind is at its zenith absorbing everything wildlife. There’s so much to learn; there’s even much more to do. Whales, sharks, bears, lions, elephants, antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, cheetahs, tigers, crocodiles, birds, snakes, fish, worms, beetles, ants and much, much more.
The Wildlife Club at our school – Mulunguzi Secondary School in Zomba district – has been invited to join other clubs from across the country for a holiday trip at the world famous Lake Malawi National Park. It’s one of the few places in the world where a conservation site is established over a fresh water body.
Lake Malawi National Park is one of the five national parks in Malawi, after Nyika in the North, Kasungu in the Central Region, Liwonde and Lengwe in the South. It is home to mbuna, cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. These colorful guys are one of the most gorgeous ornamental fish from a fresh water body. They come in red, yellow, blue brown and other fantastic colours. The shapes are equally incredible.
Our young minds were swept away by carefully choreographed presentations that were fun, informative and interactive. I wanted to catch all the poachers and destroyers of nature and cast them into the Lake of Fire. Every story of extinction or critical threat on a species left me teary. Nothing has changed much since then.
In fact, I’m only able to handle the story of extinction with dignity, though very painful, simply because I believe in the afterlife. The knowledge that the world will one day be restored to its former glory is a balm to the heart. So I’m comforted that one glorious day in the future I will see the dodo, the mammoth and other ancient animals that disappeared on the face of the earth long time ago.
Then came snorkeling sessions. We spent hours in the water staring down into the magical world of the mbuna. The fish were friendly and were not scared of our presence. We were told that they are territorial and will spend their entire life around an underground rock or reef. No visiting cousins, no time to play an aquatic tourist.
We had a boat ride and went to Bird Island off the coast of Monkey Bay. This is where the waters are crystal clear, and the stars sparkle on the gentle lake. The calming effect was beyond what words could describe.
It was during this trip that I made a life long friendship with Tikhala Njolomole. She’s like a big sister to me. I can remember a few more names though I have not met any of them since that time. I doubt very much if they could even remember our meeting. Today Tikhala is a Bwana (boss) at one of the energy companies in Malawi. I last saw her last year and next time we meet I’ll ask her if she remembers of this summer trip.
Lake Malawi National Park offers aquatic beauty unparalleled anywhere else in Malawi, and it is world famous for its cichlids and crystal clear waters. Pay it a visit one day and you will fall in love with it, just like I did.
As a young mind, nature provides a pavilion from which the insatiable curiosity can be quenched by facts, bizarre, queer, funny, shocking, grizzly, lovely and beautiful, all observed from the world around us. But one that has stood the test of time in my mind is that sharks never go to sleep. Could that be true? Like never taking a wink, or say a power nap in between a snack? So do sharks dream at all? Perhaps that is all done while swimming round the globe, terrorizing pockets of seals and other shark delicacies from different areas in the vast expanse of the oceans.
Since the shark, in this case I’m thinking of the great white, is not exactly a partner with which to engage an academic discussion. I’ve seen a shark in an oceanarium once, the savage stare says it all. You cannot tame this beast, let alone have a conversation with. And since I’m also not a specialist in marine biology, I have let this problem go unresolved. It is an itch I can’t reach to scratch – oh, the torture. That is until yesterday. It occurred to me that there are other areas in life that must be repeated constantly, without taking a break, for the rest of one’s life. Just like the shark that has to be constantly on the move, without having a shut-eye.
I connected this to hiking. These last two months have seen me focus on my career and other areas that required my attention, bound to a desk. I haven’t been able to visit any hill in the months of February and March. I can feel something is wrong. Something is not in its place. I feel like a huge yawning hole has suddenly appeared in my life. It’s like shark has taken a nap, has stopped moving, starving itself of the essential oxygen and is now spiraling down to the bottom of the ocean. Yes, I’m told the shark has no waving gills, and therefore has to remain in motion to force the water past its body, in the process harvesting the molecule that keeps fish and mammals alive. I need to return to the hills otherwise, I feel like I will suffocate down in the valley.
This is a blessing. To know that it is not enough to do one good act once. We must do it again, and again. It’s true for food. We have to eat constantly. It’s true for our spiritual lives. We have to engage God daily. It’s true for our career. We have to work everyday. It’s true for adventure. We have to go back to nature and engage it constantly. We are not far removed from what is essential, what is lovely and what is good. It’s a beautiful mechanism.
And all it took for me to realize that is the tale about sharks never going to sleep. I’ll return to the mountains and breathe that fresh air once again. And I know, this is something I will do to the last day on earth. I’m looking forward to that.
By the way, I will never feel sorry for sharks anymore. If you are an apex predator, on top of your game, then constancy will be the currency. Others call it keeping the momentum.
What’s your game? What do you need to keep on doing in order to have a fulfilled life? Do it well. Do it all the time. Don’t stop. Just like Mr Shark on the move, all the time!
This natural world is amazing. When you see the photos of the natural wonders of the world, and if you are privileged to go and visit them, you get to know earth is an incredibly beautiful part of the universe. Yet despite all these splendid displays, there’s a yearning for something more. Something better.
The Bible provides for another avenue of awe – an introduction into the spiritual world. And for our story today, Jesus invites three of his trusted disciples to ascend a high mountain. What a great outing! I cannot imagine a better day to spend with our Lord than to go out in the wild and hike. I would be watching how He would be placing His feet, how He would breathe. We would discuss the flowers, trees, insects, birds and anything of interest.
He would know where the best brooks would be. And if the water was not as fresh, I would know a water transforming miracle would be within reach. And on a day like this, there would be no pesky flies getting in our way. Snakes, spiders, centipedes would keep their distance. There would be no fear of injury or death, seeing that the One with the keys to hell and death is in our midst. This would be a hike with the Holy One who said He was Resurrection Himself.
What a special hike it must have been for Peter, James and John. Peter was later to refer to it (2 Peter 1: 16 – 18). This is one hike you would not want to come to an end. But it did. They reached the top and settled in for a private praise and worship session. Our Lord, in His tradition, must have shared great insights from the Scriptures. He must have taught them about prophets, God and His death. The first two topics must have been very thrilling to the disciples, but the last one must have been a horrible subject. Peter, in particular, did not want to hear about Jesus facing death, and hanging on the Cross. Humans, up until this day, do not see victory through suffering. But then, how can you have victory without a fight? How do you become a victor without facing your challenges?
Then something better than a natural hike takes place. As Jesus begins to pray, He transforms before them into one exceedingly beautiful celestial form. They break into the Heavenly dimension and witnessed the Father grant authority to Jesus. This was the first time for mankind to witness a heavenly occasion. Jesus was being made the mouthpiece of God. Mankind would now have to listen to Jesus, and understand Him. And the disciples were privileged to see people that had crossed the river of death. There was Moses and Elijah, speaking to Jesus about His decease. And a heavenly cloud shrouded them all.
But read it again. The face of Jesus did shine as the sun, his raiment was white as the light. That is power, endless power of Life. That is divine. That’s the same description like the Burning Bush that Moses saw, only that this time the same Glory was on a human face. That’s the same Light that struck Paul down on the way to Damascus. The same Light that said was Jesus, when Paul asked for Its Name. To witness this, to behold such beauty was, is and will always be better than the plumage of the most exotic bird, or the sight of cascading water falling into a picture-perfect pool of the most crystal clear waters. This is better than any adventure ever devised by mankind.
Peter, James and John, as earthly witnesses had a single experience, and it lasted them a lifetime. Moses and Elijah, as heavenly witnesses had prior experience with the Pillar of Fire, but never anything like this.
Now, that’s what we are all yearning for. Just to behold the Lord’s beauty, in its celestial form, is better than anything life can give. I’m searching for my Mount Transfiguration hike, and I hope to witness it in its strength one of these days.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was smooth, and there was no single problem in our lives? I have often heard others say that life would be boring. I’m not sure I share similar sentiments. I do not like having problems. And I know a lot of people who do not like having any trouble.
Things get complicated however, when we put God in the midst of our problems. Most people expect that by virtue of being the Children of God, they will get exempted from earthly troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bible in the Book of Corinthians says God comforts us in all our tribulation. The Bible does not say that God will avert all troubles from us. No. It does not say that we will never know how to spell the word problems because we will be floating on the clouds of Angels, surrounded by Heavenly Anthems and Blessings.
Let me quote the entire verse. 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
What is that comfort then? Well, I would say it is the knowledge that God is not oblivious to our pain. It is the power of knowing that God is the Father of mercies, and that even in the darkest moments He is not very far from us. It is truly comforting to know that God is in control. But it does not stop there. The Bible then says that we should in turn comfort others in the same manner God comforts us.
So read it again. Find meaning in your problems by offering words of comfort to others as you get rest assured God, who is full of mercy, loves and comforts you. It will take the sting of your troubles away. And once you get to this level, you will bless God as Paul did in the passage we just shared above.
The Bible has some outstanding statements that simply will blow your mind. That is, if we only read them correctly. For instance, when the Bible mentions eternal, or eternity, we often interchange the meaning with forever, or long lasting. Forever is a long, long, long, long time (pardon the stretch on Grammar here). But it is still time-based.
However, eternal means never had a beginning, so certainly, there will never ever be an end. It is from everlasting to everlasting, and beyond. That is mind-blowing.
Paul in 1 Timothy 1: 17 says we have a King eternal, immortal, and invisible. So read it again.
There are certain attributes of God that have a beginning. For instance, Jesus cannot be an eternal son. Simply because all sons must have a beginning. They must come from a father. Jesus, was begotten of the Heavenly Father.
But God says He’s an Eternal King. Meaning, He always was a King. And He will always be King. Even when other kings come in the future to reign with Him (Revelation 5:10) He will remain KINGS OF KINGS (Revelation 19:16).
He was always The King. No wonder all kingdoms must fall. All kingdoms must have an end, so that He can establish His Kingdom, that will not have an end.