October 2020

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Emperor’s New Clothes is an amusing yet sobering story written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. I find it sobering because it speaks penetratingly into our current national and international state of affairs.

The Story

The story starts with the words: ‘Many years ago, there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed’.  One day two swindlers arrived in the city and spread the story around that they could weave the most splendid fabrics imaginable. “Not only are their colours and patterns exceptionally fine”, they said, “but the clothes we make from this cloth became invisible to anyone unfit for public office or unusually stupid”. The Emperor heard about this and immediately decided that he needed a new set of clothes made from such unique cloth. Besides being very vain, he was also rather stupid because he thought that by wearing these new clothes he would be able to tell who among his subjects were wise and who were foolish or unfit for public office simply by the way they reacted to the magical material. So, he hired the two con-men and ordered them to get busy right away. They set up their looms and pretended to weave. They demanded the most costly silk and purest thread, which they packed away into their travel bags as loot and continued day and night to weave thin air.

The Emperor was keen to see how the special cloth was progressing but he was nervous of going into the spinning room (and we know why) and decided instead to send in his most trusted cabinet minister. When the poor man entered the room he could immediately see, well, nothing, but he didn’t want to admit this; hey, he wasn’t stupid! “Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,” said one of the weavers. “Oh, it’s beautiful; it’s enchanting.” The old minister peered through his spectacles. “Such a pattern, what colours!” I’ll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.” So, the Emporer decided to see for himself and accompanied his trusted minister into the spinning room. Although he, of course, couldn’t see anything on the looms, his minister immediately pointed out all the wonderful colours and intricate patterns of the magical material. So he pretended to be very pleased with the cloth and even awarded the swindlers the titles of ‘Sir Weaver’. The word soon got out to all the government officials and everyone in the city (the cities were very small in those days). His cabinet ministers, wanting to show just how clever they really were, suggested that the Emperor should lead a grand procession through the streets to show off his magnificent new attire.

The day eventually came when the crooks announced that the new clothes were ready and the Emperor and all his officials went to see them. The swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, “These are the trousers, here’s the coat, and this is the mantle,” naming each garment. “All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that’s what makes them so fine.” Everyone in the room oohed and aahed and nodded approvingly. “If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off,” said the swindlers, “we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror.” So they dressed him in nothing and he strode out wearing nothing to lead the parade through the city. The crowds applauded wildly and nodded approvingly to each other because no one dared to admit that they were not able to see the new clothes. Just then a small child exclaimed, “But he hasn’t got anything on!” and soon everyone was laughing and agreeing loudly that the Emperor was in fact naked. However, the Emperor was too proud to admit that he had been duped and so he just went on marching down the street without a stitch of clothing (my apologies to the late Mr Andersen for taking liberties with his famous tale).

Why I find this story sobering

The story might have been intended as a caution against the stupidity of pride but I see in it a parody of our world, and particularly our nation.

The COVID-19 virus has come to town and stripped almost everything naked. Let me explain what I mean by this.

National unity

I have spent far too many hours following the political and social malfunctioning of the United States of America. Frankly, I am appalled and distressed at the hypocrisy, arrogance, and outright deceit on parade almost every day; far more from the Left than the Right I have to say. But I am not an American and I have no right to criticise what to me seems such dangerous dysfunctionality. However, I am a South African born and bred and what I am part of here on my home soil is even worse than what I observe overseas.

Here in South Africa, we have known for a long time that we are a divided nation. For decades there has been tension between citizens of different colour or culture but we have pretended that such tension doesn’t exist.

Now the pandemic has stripped away the invisible clothing and we can see with great clarity just how divided we are as a nation.

Racism, even if just verbally, has become a major offence libel to prosecution and punishment. At the same time, xenophobia spreads unabated among the poor and unemployed of the land. The ruling party, once united by common liberation fervour is now a glaring example of disunity at its worst.

Yet, believe it or not, the ‘emperor’ and his officials still stoutly maintain that the party is as united as always and that their team colours remain rainbow-hued – just like the Emperor’s invisible clothes.

I could write many more pages on the sad state of our national political and social condition but I would rather pose a simple question we all need to answer:

Are we going to continue to line the metaphorical streets of our nation pretending that the emperor isn’t naked or are we going to name it for what it is?

It seems that our current State President has recognised the nudity of the government over which he presides and is trying very hard to change things. We can help him do this by naming and shaming every public official that dares to parade ‘in the nude’ though our nation and we can applaud the men and women in power who have ‘cut their clothes according to their cloth’ and who are working hard to cloth, feed and secure employment for the people of our land.

We can do this by speaking out, joining relevant petitions, and using whatever voice and influence we have.

We can also play our part in bringing about national unity by supporting political parties and causes that sincerely strive towards this end. We can, also, do our best to abstain from racially biased language or group generalisations. Most of all, we can treat all people, no matter what their colour, political affiliation, religious persuasion, or sexual orientation with dignity and generosity of spirit.

Corruption and violence in the raw

We have also known for some time that corruption is rife in our society, but I doubt if many of us saw just how corrupt we as a nation have become… until COVID-19 that is.

The virus has spread through our society like a biblical plague and one of the things it has revealed is the terrible extent of massive theft and horrendous violence.

The amount of money, our money, that some greedy and conscienceless officials and business people have plundered could finance national economic prosperity for decades to come. We used to speak in millions stolen but now we speak of billions or even trillions! Once again the virus has stripped our nation bare. Now we can see the countless men, women, and children who are starving and desperate because of the unimaginable greed of a few. These conscienceless criminals have even stolen the relief fund necessary to combat the pandemic and to provide relief to the jobless.

Shame on them and shame on the governing party and shame on us as a nation!

However, corruption does not march alone through the streets of our nation but is accompanied by terrible violence. Men are slaughtering women, children, and farmers with nauseating frequency and barbarism. This has been part of our national sickness for decades but now COVID-19 has cast its morbid light on the bleeding nakedness of our national condition. It has put immense pressure on the violent and brutal among us and their terrible deeds are bare for all to see.

Here again, we have a choice to make. We can throw off the near-invisible garment of law and order and join the thieves and abusers (God help us!) or we can all work to support the efforts of those who are bringing about change. And here again, it appears that our President and many in his government are trying hard to catch the crooks, expel the corrupt, lock-up the perpetrators of violence, and restore the dignity and prosperity of the people of our land.

We can support such forces of good, in government, opposition politics, and business by paying taxes, obeying the laws of the land, speaking well of those who mean well, and voting into power good men and women.

We can join civil societies and local initiatives to resource and man the struggle to make it safe for women and children to live fearlessly in our country. We can raise our voices loudly when we encounter farm murders, political assassinations, and gender-brutishness in any form.

The state of the church

I could write about so many other aspects of our current national situation such as the economy, business, and so on, but in this article, I only want to develop some ideas concerning the church in South Africa. There is a saying, ‘As goes the family, so goes the nation’ but there should be another equally true adage: ‘As goes the church, so goes the nation’.

During the more than six months of lockdown of one level or another, the gathered church has suffered stress and fracture. No pandemic can threaten the nature and importance of the church, but it can and has threatened its vital corporate components. For COVID-19 has stripped away the clothing of the gathered church. Why does the church gather? Well, the virus has shown that it isn’t just to listen to a sermon because we have all seen now that we can view any sermon we chose from our armchairs at any time we choose and on any day we choose. It is not just to listen to Christian songs for we can also do this via live feeds or prerecorded videos.

Most churches have done a good job of providing some form of church experience via the internet but it has been, at its best, just a stop-gap before we can meet together again in person.

From my perspective, the three essential elements of the gathered church are:

  1. The sense of the immediate presence of God by his Spirit,
  2. Interaction with one another in ministry and fellowship, and
  3. Participation in the preached Word.

We sense the immediate presence of God most acutely when we gather with other Spirit-filled believers to worship. We interact with one another by sharing, testifying, praying together, and ministering the gifts of the Spirit to others. We participate in the preached word by interacting, responding, and discussing the biblical text with others.  These are the reasons why we gather as the Temple of the Lord and the Body of Christ. It’s not that we can’t worship alone or in families as we do this all the time irrespective of whether or not we gather as a church. We can pray for others and communicate with them via the electronics at our disposal, and we can both hear or read any number of fine sermons.

But none of these come anywhere near to experiencing the dynamics of  meeting as the gathered household of God!

However, and it’s a big ‘however’, churches will also need to carefully consider their Sunday service structure and content. Large churches will have to wrestle with the current legislated limitation of 250 people per indoor gathering. If they do not find a way of staging multiple meetings every week then their finances and infrastructure may be fatally stressed. Traditional ‘hymn and a thing’ churches will need to answer the question: ‘What are we offering in a gathering that our people are not already getting via the internet?’ Churches of all sizes and types will need to decide what to do with children and youths whilst maintaining strict health protocols. Churches will also need to work out how to balance health safety requirements against the need to gather together physically. These are indeed challenging times!

Again, the question is what we should do about this situation. Well, we can stand in unity with our church leaders as they come to the difficult decisions of when and in what manner to start meeting again as congregations. We can bear patiently with interim measures and arrangements, but sooner or later we need to be bold enough to meet again as the gathered church.

Short-term emergency measures are one thing but abandoning the meeting together, as the new normal, is another matter altogether (Hebrews 10:25). 

A new normal that has the church ungarbed in its corporate attire is as pitiful as a naked Emperor marching at the head of a snickering parade.

Perhaps this current time of abnormal new-normal will be an opportunity for us to think prayerfully through, and change where necessary, some aspects of gathered church meetings. How well do the elements of our services meet the three key dynamics:

  1. The sense of the immediate presence of God by his Spirit
  2. Interaction with one another in ministry and fellowship
  3. Participation in the preached Word.

This present time may well be offering us an invitation to conform more closely to the New Testament model of the gathered church.

My appeal to every Christian is:

  1. To commit afresh to the importance of the gathered church, and
  2. To accommodate the church leaders plans to restore us to healthy church life – try to make the new arrangements work for you.

What to do, THAT is the question before us

It is easy to describe the nakedness of our current situation but it is not as easy to prescribe what clothes we should be wearing. I, like most of you reading this, are not State Presidents or the like; we are ordinary people with limited resources and small circles of influence. So, addressing the dire situation we find ourselves in we can probably only respond in the following ways:

  • We can PRAY for our nation, our government leaders, our church, and the people we know and love. We can ask God to send a mighty Jesus-centred revival upon our churches and societies.
  • We can commit ourselves to SET AN EXAMPLE of biblical righteousness in what we do and say, how we conduct our businesses, and how we interact with others. We can do whatever we can to help the poor and hopeless in our sphere of influence.
  • We can GET INVOLVED in our neighbourhoods, political organisations, groups and initiatives working to restore our land to godly status. We can participate in petitions for noble issues. We can speak out against godlessness.
  • We can VOTE locally and nationally as the occasions present themselves and we can vote with our finances and patronage. We can ‘vote’ by booing the naked processions of foolish or wicked officials and we can applaud and support those who march in the robes of righteousness.
  • We can HOLD TO ACCOUNT all in public office, all church leaders, and all business leaders. We can hold them to account against biblical God-honoring values, principles, and priorities.
  • Most of all, we can INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO JESUS in this time of such desperation when people are searching for answers and divine intervention. We can also help them become more like him, and encourage them to do likewise for others.
  • We can also partner with the Lord Jesus in BUILDING HIS CHURCH… starting with our local church.

Jesus has the final word

As always, the risen Lord of All has the final word on the kind of things about which I have written in this article.

Revelation 3:17-18 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Read More »

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TruthTalks: Dealing With Death

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How do we react to the death of a loved one? How do we prepare for our own unavoidable demise?

In THIS post, Dr Christopher Peppler answers all of these questions and more for us. Here, he discusses it and goes into a bit more detail on this difficult subject, looking at things both from the spiritual/biblical view and from a practical perspective.

A very timeous message considering our current COVID circumstances.

Click on the play button at the end of this short post to listen to the audio of this powerful message or to download it to listen to later.

Please share, like or subscribe to help us spread this message to those who need to hear it

Until next time, Admin

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Dealing With Death

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One of the many effects that COVID-19 has had on us is that it has brought death constantly before us. Hardly a day goes by without the announcement on TV or the internet of just how many people have died so far from the sickness.

Especially in light of this, I am constantly surprised at how careless many Christians are in dealing with death.   Over decades of pastoral ministry, I have encountered many spouses whose life partners have died without making responsible provisions for them. Some are left financially at risk, but mostly their problem is that they don’t have passwords to computers, banks, and other essential bits of information. Neither do they know where necessary documents are or who they are supposed to contact. I have come across widows having to locate and then repatriate overseas funds, wind up companies that have been left without succession, and search for passwords to key online resources. Amazingly, many spouses, particularly wives, live in almost total ignorance of the family finances and their husband’s business dealings. Of course, although for my generation it is mainly the men who are responsible for the things I address in this article, nowadays it could apply to either husbands or wives.  I view this negligence as selfish and unloving, but Christians are not usually either of these. The deceased husbands I knew that had failed to deal with the consequences of their own demise were good men, involved in church and Christian ministry and they loved their wives. So why then were they, and many others, remiss in dealing with death?

Fear of Death

Only the mentally disturbed or cultishly brain-washed believe that they will continue to live on earth forever. For 99.9% of Christians, mortal death is a biblical and medically provable certainty although, hopefully, they believe with equal conviction that they will live on eternally with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realm. So, denial of the fact of death can’t be the answer to the problem. Perhaps the answer is thanatophobia. Say what?! Yup… it’s a word I have recently acquired and it means ‘fear of death’. This ‘death anxiety’ includes a fear of the death process and I can understand this, especially if the prognosis is of a painful and protracted demise. Woody Allen is quoted as saying: “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” However, I don’t think that the kind of people I have in mind suffer from this kind of thanatophobia.


  • Some Christians lack assurance of their salvation. They know that they have sinful aspects of their lives and they are not convinced that they will get an entrance ticket from Saint Peter when they arrive at the pearly gates.
  • Others simply cannot conceive of any form of life that does not consist of material substance.
  • Yet others have grown up in a culture or family that treats death as a taboo.

Whatever the cause, an unfortunate response by many is denial – a conscious or subliminal refusal to face up to the reality of death. This is deeply unfortunate because it both robs the sufferer of the joy of an assured eternal future and it impoverishes those left behind to live with the consequences.

Living For Two Things

My view is that we all, as believers, live for two things – Eternity and Legacy.

The scriptural text that sets this out most succinctly is Philippians 1:20-26, which reads as follows:

(20) ‘I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (22) If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! (23) I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (24) but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (25) Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, (26) so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me’.

Living for Eternity

Living for eternity includes living now for the glory of God. 

Eternity starts the moment we are born again of the Spirit into union with Christ Jesus.

Paul’s wish was that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether by life or by death. In other words, he wanted to glorify God both by living and by dying in Christ. We live in an eternity that starts here on Earth and continues in heaven. The Lord Jesus put it this way: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Continued existence in the presence of God should not be doubted by Christians. Right in the middle of the book of Revelation, Revelation 14:13, we find these words; ‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”Jesus, John, and Paul made it clear that continued existence in heaven is not conditional for those who have been born again of the Spirit.

What we do on Earth from spiritual re-birth onward factors into our eternal activity, utility, and reward, but does not constitute a pass or fail criterion.

Even the convicted criminal dying on the cross next to Jesus heard the assurance that he would be with the Lord in Paradise because he had acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus (Luke 23:430).

However, even though our eternal destiny is certain and secure, we are still required to live for a legacy.

Living for a Legacy

In the passage I quoted from Phillippians, Paul acknowledges that although it was in his best interests to die and be with Jesus, he realised that the disciples best interests would be served if he continued ministering to them. He needed to complete his legacy to the believers of his day and to those who would follow. Amongst other things, he needed to complete writing what would later become the bulk of the New Testament! The bible itself is a glorious legacy inspired by God but recorded by many faithful disciples – ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31).

Most Christian ministries are genuine legacies that need to be preserved and stewarded into the future, and this requires faithful succession planning. Recently a long-term friend of mine died leaving behind an important ministry that will probably die with him. We talked about this eventuality several times over the last few years yet still he did not provide satisfactory succession. He was neither stupid nor uncaring; he was, I think, just not prepared to deal with his own inevitable death.

Family is a legacy – spouses, children and grandchildren. Local churches are legacies. Wise knowledge is a legacy. Art, music, and literature can be worthwhile legacies. Whatever we have and whatever we do can be either a legacy or a liability to family, society, and the Kingdom of God. Perhaps the greatest legacy of all consists of those we have introduced to Jesus and helped to know him better and become more like him. All of us can leave this legacy and surely we would choose legacy over liability?

Both-and, not Either/or

However, living for eternity and living for a legacy should not be either/or choices. As we live for eternity we leave a legacy, and the legacy is good, beneficial and God-glorifying if we live for eternity. As Paul put it, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’.

The Benefit of Dealing with Death

Apart from the obvious benefits of us dealing with the reality of our own death for those who are left behind, there are two major immediate benefits.

Firstly, Jesus told parables about the need to be prepared at any time to meet him in eternity (Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:40 and so on). Paul also taught on this subject in places such as 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5. For the early disciples, there was little difference between the end of the world and personal death, for both meant the termination of life on earth.

So surely, it is a great relief to know that you are ready to meet Jesus face to face at any time?

The second major benefit of dealing with death is the peace of mind it brings to both you and your loved ones. It is a real act of love to set everything in order and to ensure, as best you can, that your family will be able to survive you with as little emotional pain and problem as possible.

I want to turn lastly to some practical aspects of dealing with death through responsible preparation.

Responsible Preparation

Perhaps the best way I can serve you here is to pose a series of questions.

  • Have you compiled and kept updated a list of all the passwords that those surviving you would need to access computers, cell-phones, social media, bank and other financial accounts and the like?
  • Have you drawn up a will and placed it in secure hands?
  • Have you set out directions for who and how to contact key people such as undertakers, pastors, financial consultants, banks, and the like – names and contact details?
  • Have you collected all important documents such as wills, title deeds, insurance policies, licences etc. into one secure place and made this known to your spouse, children, or trusted friend or agent?
  • Have you documented the procedure for continuing or winding up any companies or ministries you control?
  • Have you provided leadership and administrative succession for any enterprises, projects, or ministries that you believe should be preserved?
  • Have you provided capital and access to funds for the period it takes your estate to be wound up?

These are just some of the practical things we should all attend to, now while we can, for we do not know when we will die; we just know that we will. I hope that this is useful to you. I haven’t raised other important matters such as pet care, last wishes, and unfinished emotional issues… but I am sure that you will consider these. So deal with what you can, make it as easy as possible for those who succeed you, and be at peace.

Many texts have a bearing on the things discussed in this article, but here are just some that I have not mentioned so far:

Several useful websites offer practical suggestions and working documents, and here is one of them: https://docuri.com/download/death-and-dying-workbook_59bf38aaf581716e46c36654_pdf


Dealing With Death Read More »

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TruthTalks Sermons: I Will Lift Up My Eyes

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Psalm 121 Says

(1) I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? (2) My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (3) He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; (4) indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (5) The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand; (6) the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. (7) The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; (8) the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

In this TruthTalks Sermon, Dr Christopher Peppler goes into this passage and looks at its meaning and what WE can take from it and use in our lives today.

Click on the play button to listen to the audio or go HERE to view the sermon on YouTube.

As always, please subscribe, share, comment, and engage with us – we WANT to hear from you and if you post a review to iTunes or your podcatcher it will help spread the word. 

Many thanks, Admin

TruthTalks Sermons: I Will Lift Up My Eyes Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.