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Living in Today

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As I was writing this article, the news came through that yet another type of COVID had emerged here in South Africa and that lockdowns loom. They should have called this virus Medusa based on the number of times COVID-19 grows a new ‘head’. So folks, more to worry about, stress over, or hide from. It’s a good time to remind ourselves that Jesus said,

do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (.Matthew 6:34).

However, I have to confess to you that living ‘in today’ is something I have never managed to do. I do not dwell on the past, but a lot of my focus is inevitably on the future. Yes, I know the song that goes “Yesterday is dead and gone and tomorrows out of sight”. I am also cynically aware of quotes such as, ‘The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.” Actually, that isn’t a bad quote, but no matter how I try, I just don’t seem to be able to apply it. Perhaps it is my genetic heritage or maybe my training, but one way or another it is my reality. Let me give you two small but telling examples.

Occasionally, my wife, Pat, and I watch a ‘who-dun-it’ movie on  TV. Within ten minutes, I am trying to work out who the villain is and how the story will end. When I think I have solved it, I lose interest in the plot and start checking my social media. Sigh! Another example is when we go shopping. Yesterday we set off to a nursery to buy some specific plants that we need. Halfway there, Pat mentioned that we should visit a thrift store on route as it was just up the road. When we got to the nursery, even before entering the seedling section, she veered off and led me towards the home crafts division. My frustration levels rose immediately. I was there to buy a seedling, a specific seedling, not craft paint, gifts for the granddaughters or second-hand whatsits! My mind was already an hour into the future, back home with seedling in hand. Pat’s mind was in the moment. So, who do you think enjoyed the journey the most? My wife of course! Notwithstanding my grumpy recalcitrance.

The Problem with Living in the Future or the Past

A benefit of having a future orientation is that there are fewer surprises and perhaps better financial results. However, there never was a time as now that I can remember when the future was so unpredictable. The weather is a good parallel to life in general right now. When I was in my thirties, I could count on summer rain in Gauteng around 5 pm every evening. Now, I look at three different weather apps, note that they all tell a different story, then glance out the window and see weather conditions that none of the forecasts indicated.

Focusing on the future, while it has some advantages, often yields anxiety, stress, and even depression. However, living in the past can generate feelings of regret, indignation, or complacency.

Both ways of living produce more problems than solutions, and more negatives than positives. So, for people like me here are two scriptures to remember:

  1. Matthew 6:11, from the prayer model that Jesus gave his disciples: “Give us today our daily bread
  2. James 4:14  “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”.

And for those who focus a lot on the past, Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Balance Needed

Despite what texts we refer to or quotes we hang onto, we all know that we need to embrace all of our life experiences, past, present, and future.

  • Without a consciousness of the past, we tend to learn little and change less.
  • Without a sense of immediacy, we miss much that is good and fail to see potential around us.
  • Without any attempt to evaluate future possibilities, we tend to live in relative insecurity and often blunder into obstacles we could have avoided.

The Lord Jesus spoke several times about the need to live in the present, but he also spoke of the wisdom of foresight. Luke 14:28-30 has, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” His immediate application was to the cost of following him, but the principle applies to other applications.

He also told the well-known story of the wise bridesmaids who planned for the possible late arrival of the groom (Luke 12:35-40), and he also counselled the wisdom of remembering (Luke 17:32  John 15). So, the crux of the matter is balance, not absence. We need to remember the past and learn from it, and we need to plan for the future, but we need to live mainly in the present.

How?

Another confession. I get irritated by preachers who tell me to be, think or do something without presenting any useful information on just ‘how’ to achieve the desired state. Sometimes specific examples depend on individual circumstances, but the principles apply to all circumstances. The least a preacher can do is to clearly present the principles involved and then give one or two applications to make things more real and specific. Last Sunday the preacher, a man I like a lot, told us that we all need to hunger and thirst for righteousness. He even quoted someone who suggested that those who did not should not consider themselves as Christians at all. But just how can I change from apathy to passionate yearning for the things of God? Give me something practical man!

Practical Ideas

So here are some practical suggestions for how we can live in today, rather than in yesterday or tomorrow. I gathered these from a number of different psychologists, life coaches, and preachers but edited out the blather about yoga positions and mindfulness meditations. Please bear two things in mind; (1) These are just suggestions to consider that may or may not help you in your particular mindset and circumstances, and (2) If we just select one or a few of them, it could make a big difference to our orientation – no need to try them all.

  1. Focus on today’s tasks, challenges, and opportunities. Schedule/diarise things to do in the next 24 hours and not just the things to do later.
  2. At the end of each day write down what happened that day, forgive those who offended you, celebrate the good and satisfying, and pray with thankfulness to the Lord. The power of a daily journal lies more in the focus it brings of the present than the record it provides for the future.
  3. Simplify your life wherever possible. Fewer possessions and commitments mean fewer worries and the need to foresee what lies ahead.
  4. Practice spontaneous acts of kindness. Doing something kind, loving, or appreciative impulsively focuses us on the present.
  5. Consciously change routines as you go through your day. Eat, sleep, or work at different times or in different places.
  6. In as much as possible, confront today what you know will probably be a future problem – move it from future to present.

A quote I found interesting and thought-provoking is attributed to the great Albert Einstein:

‘Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none’.

However, my favourite quote is from the pen of A.A.Milne:

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today”, squealed Piglet.

“My favourite day” said Pooh.

Living in Today Read More »

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Focus on Jesus

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This is a call for all of us as Christians to focus on Jesus this Easter.

Resurrection Sunday is just five days away but the focus of the world and the institutional church seems to be on everything except Jesus! Here in South Africa, the media are full of warnings of how the government’s Ministry Advisory Committee is calling for tighter lockdowns to avoid church ‘super spreader’ events. In response, an inter-church group of ministers is threatening to take the government to court if they clamp down further on church services. On the one hand, the focus is on fear of a Third Wave over Passover time, and on the other hand, the focus is on legal action and power. Where is Jesus in all this?

This year, April 2021, we need to focus more than ever on who Jesus is, what Resurrection Sunday signifies, and how the church functions as his spiritual ‘body’ in these times. Our hope is not in a new set of government lock-down regulations, and nor is it in court litigations. Our hope is as Peter expressed it when he wrote: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).

Focus Aids

In April 2019 I re-published some articles I had written in previous years, and you can find them HERE. In the same month, I preached on ‘The Easter Earthquakes, which you can find HERE. Then in April 2020, I published ‘What Happened After the Resurrection’ and you can access that HERE.

So this week, as we approach the celebration of the most momentous event in all of human history, may I suggest that you read and listen to these publications to help you refocus on the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Be blessed dear disciples.

Focus on Jesus Read More »

Good Tidings

Top ImageYesterday, I received both good tidings and bad. One was a forwarded WhatsApp voice message and the other an internet link.

Isaiah 52:7

Three weeks ago the Holy Spirit led me to re-read Isaiah 52:7: ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

What I took away from this was that

I should focus my writing, at least for now, on encouragement, hope, and love. I guess that this is a pretty good mandate for all of us.
So, bearing this in mind, I now wondered how I should respond to the very disturbing voice message passed on to me.

The Voice Message

The message was from a man who claimed to have been informed by his GP that those living in Gauteng were about to experience the full might of the pandemic that has stalked us for the last three months. He went on to say that the virus was causing bizarre conditions not previously witnessed and that we should all place ourselves back into Level 5 lockdown. He added a lot of fear-inducing detail and advice. The timing coincided with the latest pronouncement by our Minister of Health of what he called the pending COVID-19 ‘storm’, and this gave the voice message an appearance of legitimacy.

The ‘bad news’ went viral and I even had it forwarded to me by a friend now living in the United States. Fortunately, the doctor who was ‘quoted’ as the source got to know about the message and immediately disclaimed it. The guilty party then owned up and made a public apology, claiming that the message was only intended for his immediate circle to shock them into being more careful. Hmmmmm!

My Response

I am writing about this because the dissemination of this sort of ‘news’ is such a serious issue. The message must have caused fear and anxiety to rise in everyone who heard it. This wave of fear will continue to many more people as it continues to be passed on, despite the disclaimers made. It was a blatant lie in parts and, at best, misinformation from someone not qualified to advise others on such matters. Any caution it could have instilled was overwhelmed by the negative effects of fear, anxiety, and anger.

However, it has made me think about the many people who must have received the message but did not pass it on. So, to those folks (hopefully you dear reader) I say:

  • Well done for exercising common sense, for applying logic and identifying the several ‘red flags’ that indicated that the message was ‘fake’.
  • Thank you for not passing it on ‘just in case’ it was true; you prevented many people from experiencing anxiety, fear, and confusion.
  • Thank you for acting responsibly.

The Good News Internet Link

The second communication I received yesterday was from my son. He sent me THIS. I scrolled down over page upon page of good-news stories from around the world. Not anecdotes or testimonies, but mini-presentations of things happening in our world that are positive, innovative, productive, and world-bettering. Now, this is something worth forwarding to others.

The Gospel

The news items in the ‘beautifulnewsdaily’ collection are economic, medical, financial, and so on. We Christians have good news that tops them all and is always worthy of being shared.

God reigns. Peace has been restored between the Godhead and humanity through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. All who believe can be saved. God is with us now and we can be with him eternally.
So, again: ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”’

Footnote

I have previously written in more detail about the real plague of false news and I strongly recommend that you read THIS, even if for the second time 😉

Good Tidings 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.