Month: February 2015

How do you experience God?

Come, see, and Remain — John 1:39

God’s love for each of us goes beyond our human understanding and as we read in 1 Corinthians vs 13 we should have the same love for others. It should live within us and not only apply to members in the congregation but to all those with who we meet.

This is the message with which Shepherd Lance Smith, began service on 8 February 2015. Speaking about being Christ-like, he said our love for others should radiate outwardly and that it should inform how we treat others. “As human beings we do not enable each other. Always think about how you would like to be treated and treat people in the same way. This is how you will grow your inner being spiritually.”

Explaining the service’s text word, the Shepherd said the message was simple. “Come and see for yourself and once you see these things you will remain. As Jesus invited his disciples, when we come under the word of God, it is an invitation to us to see what God’s work is about. God is saying to us, come into my house and you will experience a word of comfort.”

But you need to have faith that you will experience God in every way, continued the Shepherd. He cited the faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 as an example. Healing the centurion’s servant is one of the miracles of Jesus. The centurion asked Jesus for help because his boy servant was ill. Jesus offered to go to the centurion’s house to perform the healing, but the centurion suggested that Jesus perform the healing at a distance.

When Jesus heard this, he said: “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, when there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” Following this, the boy was healed at that very hour.

The Shepherd reminded us that we need to have faith to experience God’s presence. He said we have to come to church and experience God through the word and other church activities. “We need to be fully here. Ask God to inspire you to grow, talk to God, ask God to help you with things that are holding you back from growing. We also need to be nearer to God to have a different level of experience and understanding of God.”

He asked members what they experience when they come to God during church services. “Do we see and experience the joy in Christ? Have we prepared ourselves to receive a word that will penetrate our hearts and souls – a word that speaks to the challenges we face?”

The Shepherd also said that it takes faith to experience the ministry of God and not the human servants. He said it is also his hope that we experience a loving and willing congregation because it is through one another that we experience God.

Priest Coen Smit reminded members that we will only see the miracles of God if we focus on them. “For that you need a spiritual eye. We can also say the word works the other way when you see things you will come to the house of Lord and remain.” He also said that love is not just about us, it’s about those around us and that what we do and how we behave could change someone’s perspective. He urged members to read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 which speaks about having faith, reminding us that the value of the experience is not just in coming to church, the true value is eternal life with God.

Evangelist David Cooks said the word was also a beautiful word for preparation for departed service. “It is also an invitation from the beyond to come, see and remain. There are many that go in anger and frustration, so we say to them, come, see, remain and forgive.”

Linking the word to forgiveness, he said that it is not always easy to forgive and we may think that forgiveness is a weakness, but we cannot preach forgiveness if we can’t be the example of forgiveness. “How does this word affect us when it comes to the sacrifice of Jesus? We need to have a change of mind, a different way of seeing things. As we read in Romans 12 verse two, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’. If we cannot do this, we cannot forgive. Learn to be humble, forgiving and loving.”

Priest Gershon Monk was also called up to serve the children, crafting the word in a way that speaks to them and their experiences.

* Adapted from the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 08 February 2015.

Advertisements

Is perfection truly possible?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:48

IMG_0803

The journey to the goal of our faith is not easy. The word of God is the light of our pathway and it strengthens us to continue. This is why it is important to be under the word of God and act in accordance with the light that comes with the word of God,” said Apostle Michael Dimba when he conducted a divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 01 February 2015. “As we read in Luke 11:28, he continued, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’.”

Speaking on the text word, the Apostle said that Jesus Christ was fully convinced when he spoke these words. Christ, he said, is a link between us humans who are imperfect and God who is perfect. “Christ does not point the perfection to himself but to the standard of God because Christ looks up to God as the standard of the perfection one should attain.”

“Yes, God is perfect,” said the Apostle, adding that the will and action of God has no difference and he does it in perfection. “Christ looks to God as a reference of perfection. God is the highest form of perfection; God is consistent.”

IMG_0824

Christ also teaches us about that perfection by exemplifying that perfection in his life. Firstly, he was able to discern between what is right and what is unacceptable. That is why he was able to resist the devil because he knew what was godly and what was ungodly.

The Apostle reminded us that the devil is very innovative. “His profit is to put doubt in our souls and drift from God. But God is teaching us that if we have the wisdom like Christ to discern between right and wrong, we will be able to resist the smallest things that the devil entices us with.”

Christ was a perfect servant of God, added the Apostle. “He did what was expected by God and he did not deviate – he accomplished his mission bringing redemption and salvation. This was hard and painful – he was crucified – but he did his mission perfectly so that we could receive perfect redemption. Christ is an example for us to do what God expects of us.”

But what does God expect of us?

“He wants us to love him above all. Christ taught us how to love God with our entire being. When we follow the example of loving God in a perfect way, it pleases God. Christ loved God and his neighbour – he loved everyone, not just a certain group of people. His example of love knows no boundaries. He was prepared to lay down his life because of his love for humankind.”

The Apostle said Christ was also a perfect example of unity with God. “He strived for that even when he was on the cross. Even in difficult situations, he never separated from God – he never allowed his will to be separated from the will of God. This is another perfect example for us. We need to uphold the oneness with God using the example of Christ.”

How did Christ teach us about love?

Love is the standard which we must uphold and be known for, said the Apostle. He encouraged members to read Matthew 5:43-48 where Christ speaks about loving our enemy. “Christ brought this challenge to us as loving our enemy is the perfect way of showing love. Now that does not mean we must go all our enemies and tell them we love them and hug them; what it means is that we must pray for them to receive salvation – for them to understand the word of God which is the light of the soul.

“Don’t wish them ill-wishes. Try your best to be merciful. Remember every action has a spirit behind it. We judge people on how they act and we do not see the spirit behind it and then we draw our own conclusions. Christ saw beyond the action, even when was being crucified, he said Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’.”

Growing into this love is a process, continued the Apostle. We must strive for it daily. Ask yourself, how is my growth in unity with my fellow person, cemented by love? How is my growth in serving the lord perfect? Yes, it is difficult, but it is possible. Christ is our guide. The Apostle added that we also experience God’s offer to perfect us through holy communion.

This word, he said, has a proposal and a promise – a promise of what Christ will do to help us achieve the proposal and progress towards perfection. “This word is a word of encouragement; it is SMART – it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.” He concluded by saying we might not always be 100 percent perfect but it is important to always try because what we try is always covered by the grace of God.

IMG_0845

It’s all in the mind

District Elder David Gracey said that every time we hear a word from God, it inspires newness. He asked: “Why do we battle from a spiritual perspective to attain perfection – after all it is a word from God.” Part of the challenge, he said, is that our mind-set tells us that nothing is perfect.

“So we don’t even try. We say, I’m unable to be perfect in a certain way therefore I will not even start trying. Yet, Christ gave us the instruction, therefore it must be possible. God will never give us something that is unattainable. Therefore we have to start. Even if we struggle, let us try. We have to identify our problems – areas we are not perfect in and begin the journey. Small victories make for big battles that are won overtime.

IMG_0861

District Elder Pye Oberholzer also served in Afrikaans.

* Adapted from the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 01 February 2015.

Jesus’ conduct should be our example

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. — Matthew 4: 10 – 11

“Serve God with the end goal in sight. May our goal to meet God be something that always drives us. Let us put Jesus Christ at the centre of everything and we will be able to do more and achieve more.” These were the poignant words with which Shepherd Lance Smith began the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 25 January 2015.

The Shepherd then spoke about the morning’s text word in which Christ is being tempted by Satan in the wilderness where he spent 40 days without food and water. After being baptised by John the Baptist, Christ received the holy spirit in the form of a dove. This is when he went through the re-birth or being born again process. Following this, and being led by the holy spirit, he went into the wilderness where Satan tempted him in every way a person can be tempted.

Members heard that because Christ took on a human form, he was also subjected to all the challenges that we face. “So Christ knows how we are tempted because satan tempted him in various ways, day in and day out.” He explained the three questions that Satan posed to Christ:

  • The first question: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Christ answered: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.”
  • Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple and asked his second question: “If you are the son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’.” Jesus answered him: “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’.”
  • And for the third question, the devil took Christ to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Christ said to him: “Away from me, satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Standing strong

The Shepherd then said that Christ stood strong throughout it all and the devil finally left him, following which the angels came and ministered unto him. He then explained to members why this word is important for our spiritual life.

Christ, he said, was a perfect example as he lived his life for God. The Shepherd explained that it is difficult for all of us to go through a day without sinning but we must look to Christ who was a wonderful example of how to resist temptations. Examples of our daily temptations are: “Don’t go to church today, you’re tired, you work so hard, God will understand”.

The Shepherd reminded us: “Don’t give in to these temptations because it is in church that you receive strength through the word of God. Let us refer to the text ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’. Let our conduct be Christ like in every aspect,” he said emphasising the importance of reading the Bible as we gain strength from doing this.

Members then heard of Christ’s perfect way in which he worshipped God; served God and his neighbour; and accepted those who God had sent. “Let us learn from this and bring honour to God in everything that we do. If we do the opposite, can people say that Christ lives within us?

“We must also learn that Christ did not reject the angels who ministered unto him, he accepted it and moved forward. How often has God sent angels to us in the form of humans? Let us not look at the stature and status of people but let us understand that God has sent these people to us.”

Practical ways to achieve this

In summarising the service, the Shepherd said that Christ as a human being experienced much temptations, but he did not give in, so his life should be a reference for us. We will have many more temptations, it is part of the growing process. The holy spirit leads and guides in all truth – let us draw from it to live our life. There are three things we can do to resist temptation and grow spiritually:

  1. What is our motivation, what is our purpose? Be motivated every day. We all have a task, let us be motivated in what we do. Have a goal and work towards it every day.
  2. Be vigilant every day of our life. Monitor our behaviour and ask ourselves, how are we reacting to situations, and then once we establish this, we must work at fixing it.
  3. Manage your effort. Persevere and have will power. Say I want to achieve my goal.

It takes 21 days to learn a habit, said the Shepherd, so I we learn one new habit every month, we will have 12 new habits by the end of the year.

Forgiveness

Before serving holy communion the Shepherd encouraged members to read James 4:17 which tells us that if we know what the right thing to do is, and we don’t do it, then it’s a sin.

* Adapted from the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 25 January 2015.

Jesus Christ teaches us about the kingdom of God

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with Him. — Luke 8: 1

This year the theme for the New Apostolic Church is Joy in Christ. But how do we find that joy and do we find that joy in all the things that we love? These were some of the questions posed during the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 18 January 2015 as members learnt about how Jesus Christ teaches us about the kingdom of God.

Shepherd Lance Smith to enter into the kingdom of God, we need to subscribe to the teachings of Christ. “We need to subscribe to the teachings of Christ and make it apart of us. Christ is the greatest teacher of all time.” He then advised members to read John 3: 1-21 where Christ teaches Nicodemus.

He said even though we have been born again through the holy spirit, having being baptised and sealed, it is not a guarantee that we will enter the kingdom of God. We will enter the kingdom of God when we accept and ascribe to the teachings of Christ. He added that Christ spoke and taught in parables and that with parables, the meaning is hidden from those who do not have the holy spirit to reveal the deeper message. Understanding this message allows one to make changes in their lives.

Members also heard that Christ’s actions were never contrary to the words he expressed. “So what do we need to learn from this,” asked the Shepherd. “We need to learn that our deeds and words should be aligned in everything that we do in our life. When people look at us, do they see that Christ lives within us and that we subscribe to his teachings?”

He also spoke about the importance and meaning behind saying the Our father prayer. Do we just say it or do we use it as a communication tool to speak to God? Do we acknowledge the words that we express? Are they credible?

Priest Brendt van Rooi reiterated the importance of our words and deeds being aligned. “We must be trustworthy, credible, so that other people can see Christ in us.” He also spoke about having a heart of reconciliation and dealing with our past, our burdens and our weaknesses. He then reminded us that we all have imperfections and if we ask God to forgive us, we must be able to forgive others.

Priest Coen Smit raised a valid point of members coming to church because they need something and asked how often do we focus on the feeling that “I am coming to church because I love Christ”. He then asked where is the kingdom of God, and answered that it is within us. But how can it be within us; how does it get there? “We have to make it relevant,” he said, adding that we have to apply Christ’s teachings. “It is through doing that, we will experience the kingdom of God.”

Before serving holy communion, the Shepherd shared the story of Simon and the two debtors from Luke 7: 36-50. This story is a contrast between traditional religion and a personal, intimate relationship with God through Christ. Urging members to read this parable, he said we must acknowledge our own sin and not judge one another.

* Adapted from the divine service held at Midrand Congregation on Sunday, 18 January 2015.

Welcome Tatenda

The New Apostolic Church, Midrand Congregation, welcomes its newest member, Tatenda Chimba. Congratulations to Munya and Sharon Chimba who welcomed their bundle of joy on 26 January 2015. Shepherd Lance Smith and members of the congregation visited them on 27 January 2015.

February 2015: Our responsibility to future generations

Do the churches even have a future anymore? Is the Christian faith in Europe nothing more than a discontinued model? Such questions are on the minds of many people. The answer to this is quite clear: the church of Christ will remain to the end. This conclusion results from the mission which the Lord once assigned to Peter: “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18). The Lord will see to it that His word is proclaimed and that the sacraments can be dispensed so that mankind can be prepared for His return. However, we bear responsibility for passing this faith on to those who will come after us.

“For the promise is to you and to your children…” (Acts 2: 39). These words from Holy Scripture are both a promise and a directive: dear parents, you are responsible for this and must see to it that your spiritual legacy is passed on to your children.

Today it is customary for parents to delegate many things to others: to educational institutions, to the Church, to the Sunday School teacher, and so on. However, it is first and foremost the parents who are responsible for their children. Parents must take the time to pass the promise of salvation along to their children, even if their schedules are booked solid. After all, it is quite normal for people to drive their children to music classes, take them to sports practices, pick them up from tennis lessons, and so on—and there is nothing wrong with that! But shouldn’t we take more time in order to provide for the eternal life of our children?

Passing our faith along also means helping to build the Church of tomorrow. What image of the Church do we impart to our children? How do we talk about our Church? This begins at home. How do we talk about the ministers? How do we talk about the members? What do you talk about when your conversation at home turns to the Church? This is the information that your children receive from you! This is the image that you are imparting to your children!

Thoughts from a divine service by the Chief Apostle