Month: May 2015

“Let us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit”

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” — Revelation 22: 17

Pentecost

“Pentecost is a feast of joy celebrating the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the church of Christ.” This was the message that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conveyed during the central Pentecost service in Lusaka in Zambia. He called on the faithful to, “Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Tens of thousands of members witnessed the divine service directly in Lusaka’s National Heroes Stadium. Millions of others worldwide watched video broadcasts via satellite or internet or listened to a radio broadcast.

The power in the sacraments

Wherever the gospel is preached in the church of Christ, the Holy Spirit is present and active, the Chief Apostle said. The Holy Spirit calls mankind to come into the fellowship of the faithful. His power becomes effective already in Holy Baptism, because those who are baptized have the power to resist sin. They are able to say, “No, I don’t have to be an instrument of the Devil.”

“The power of the Holy Spirit develops its full potential through the Apostle ministry,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. “There is no doubt about that.” Those who are called by God and sealed through the Apostles have the task to prepare the bridal congregation.

The power of the Holy Spirit is something we also experience in Holy Communion. “It is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings about the true presence of Christ in the consecrated wafer. We cannot see His presence, but we can feel it,” the Chief Apostle said.

The power of fellowship

Referring to the Bible text he said that when the individual soul and the entire congregation are filled by the Holy Spirit, they say the same thing that Christ said, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” The Chief Apostle went on to address the fact that this is not only an invitation of the Holy Spirit, but also an expression of the longing of the congregation to have fellowship with Jesus Christ.

The call of the Holy Spirit means, “Come as you are! God loves you. He has forgiven you.” The bridal congregation joins in this call and says, “Come, God has forgiven you! And so have we.” There are additional powers that the Holy Spirit inspires in us: forgiveness and the plea for forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity.

Following the call

At the beginning of the divine service, the Chief Apostle had addressed the large membership of the New Apostolic Church in Zambia and in other parts of Africa, but also mentioned the demographic developments in Europe, for example. “Some brothers and sisters are maybe sad that things are not going so well where they are.”

But throughout the development of Christianity, he went on, there has always been a focus on certain regions: starting in Jerusalem, then on to Asia Minor and into Europe. But such things as boundaries or cultural differences are completely irrelevant for God, the Chief Apostle said, “Important is that those who are called by God answer and follow the call. Believing and remaining faithful to the end is what counts.”

* Article adapted from “Let us trust in the power of the Holy Spirit”

Before the live transmission of the Pentecost service from Zambia began, members of NAC Midrand gathered for a morning fellowship.

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Time of anticipation – Remaining together

Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. — Luke 24: 49

Message

It is in our fellowship that we experience power from on high.

Time of anticipation

After the barely comprehensible death of their Lord and Master, the disciples were devastated. They seemed to have forgotten His references to that which was attested in the Scriptures about Him. Their suffering and pain was so great that there seemed to be nothing that could comfort them. They hid themselves behind closed doors to seek security in fellowship among one another.

After their return to the circle of the disciples in Jerusalem, the disciples of Emmaus joyfully related the experience of their encounter with the Risen One, which had so touched them and moved them to turn around (verses 13–35). And just then the Lord Himself appeared to all of them. Just as the stone that had been rolled in front of His tomb (Luke 24: 2) had been unable to prevent His resurrection, even closed doors were unable to prevent Him from entering into their midst (John 20: 19).

Comfort in fellowship

Jesus responded to the astonishment and fear of the disciples with His greeting of peace. His explanations concerning the recent events opened up their understanding. He then went on to assign them the commission to preach the gospel (Luke 24: 46–48). It was most likely in the awareness that their human capabilities would not be sufficient to comprehend everything at once that He promised them the power from on high. Thereby He announced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as had already been promised by the prophet Joel (Joel 2: 28–29). The Risen One called upon them to remain in the city until then (Luke 24: 49).

Power from on high for the church of Christ

The day of Pentecost thus marked the end of this period of waiting: the promised power from on high, the Holy Spirit, was poured out, and the church of Jesus Christ was born!

Through this powerful intervention of God, the church of Christ—in other words, the fellowship of all believers—was strengthened, right from the start, in its endeavour to live in accordance with the favour of God and so prepare for the return of Christ (Catechism 3.5.4.3).

Power from on high for the individual believer

For us, the power from on high is the gift of the Holy Spirit which we have received. We are to:

  • Remain in the fellowship. Just like the disciples of the time in their extreme situation, we too draw comfort and strength from our fellowship during our various experiences, cares, and needs (1 John 1: 3).
  • Work with the power from on high. The expression “power from on high” is reminiscent of the fulfilling, motivating, and strengthening activity of the Spirit, and refers to the powerful intervention of God (Catechism 3.5.4.3). Just as the disciples were strengthened in their commission through the power from on high, the gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to repeatedly perform all sorts of good works (2 Thessalonians 2: 17).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for service held on Sunday, 17 May 2015 at Midrand Congregation

Great joy: Ascension day service

Text: Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. — Luke 24: 51–52

Bible reading: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. — Luke 24: 44–53

Message

The ascension of Jesus unleashes great joy. The disciples had just experienced the ascension of Jesus and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Although Jesus had left them, they were rejoicing. What would have been the reasons for their joy?

Joy in the resurrection

Their joy was based on the fact that the Lord had risen (Luke 24: 34). This is the sign that Jesus Christ is God. We know that Jesus Christ is God and that God is Jesus Christ—this is grounds for joy! We believe in the resurrection and in the ascension of Jesus. For this reason we also believe in our own resurrection and in our own ascension on the day of the return of Christ.

Joy in the promise of Christ’s return

The disciples had further grounds for joy in the promise of Jesus: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14: 3). This promise applies to all of us: the Lord Jesus has given us the promise that He will come again and receive us to Himself so that we may be where He is, namely in His kingdom. We rejoice in this!

Joy in the sending of the Holy Spirit

Jesus had promised the disciples to send the Helper and Comforter, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit helps us, strengthens us, comforts us, and leads us into all truth (John 16: 13). We experience that the Holy Spirit is active in the word and through the ministry. The Holy Spirit leads us more and more deeply into the knowledge of God. Let us rejoice in this.

Joy in the commission to be witnesses

Jesus told His disciples, “And you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). He had granted them insight into the plan of redemption. This was a source of great joy for the disciples: salvation is not only limited to our little group! Rather, the gospel is to be spread throughout the whole world! The plan of redemption is universal. This commission—“You shall be witnesses to Me”—not only applies to the Apostles, but to each and every Christian. Jesus Christ needs us! Is this not a wonderful source of joy?

Joy in the help of God in Christ

Jesus told His disciples: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20). Those who serve as witnesses to Christ will also experience that the Lord is with them. He helps and blesses them. God has entrusted us with a task. He needs us to be witnesses to Him and fellow labourers with Him. We can only rejoice in this!

May our joy be directed to the great day when Jesus Christ returns and we will experience our own ascension!

 

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for Ascension Day service held on Thursday, 14 May 2015 at Midrand Congregation

 

Deacons: The link between members and Priests

What does a Deacon do? Is this ministry still timely? What are his concrete tasks in the congregation?

deacons

Deacons are a very active part of our congregations in Africa. District Apostle Charles Ndandula from Zambia reports, “Our Deacons are very busy. They visit sick members and families on a regular basis. They look after the members in their congregation. They look after everyone.” District Apostle Michael Deppner reports that the Deacons in his area of the Congo are very proud to represent their congregation, especially also outside of the Church, “We don’t even have to delegate work to them. They automatically look after everyone.” In the region looked after by District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi, Deacons often go to see families still on a Sunday morning to mobilize them and pick them up for church. We want everyone to feel that they are part of the congregation.

Deacon: a servant of God

“The word Deacon has its source in the Greek and signifies ‘servant’. Deacons help in various ways in the congregation. It is also their task to support the Priests in their pastoral care work,” it says in chapter 7.9.2 of the Catechism. We also read there that today no one is ordained into the Sub-deacon ministry any more, because this ministry corresponds to the Deacon ministry in nature.

The Deacon ministry is the first of three levels of ministry within our Church. The Deacon is at the beginning of the hierarchy, so to speak. But careful! This hierarchy is not to be understood as a ladder one climbs one rung after the other. The Deacon ministry is a distinct and independent ministry. It is a ministry that supports and practices Christian love, that cares and is defined by nearness. In the letter to Timothy, Apostle Paul writes that Deacons must be reverent, “not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money”, and “holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.” They should first be tested to see if they are found blameless, Paul adds.

Concrete tasks

The Deacon ministry has thus had a concrete place and function in the congregation from the start. It is not a mere transitional stage on the route to become a Priest. Although the name has its source in the Greek διάκονος (servant, helper)—and their care of and commitment to the neighbour is certainly the central element of their work—Deacons as ministers of the New Apostolic Church today provide pastoral care.

They support the Priests in the congregation. They can even conduct divine services, although without any sacramental acts. This is specified in more detail in the Liturgy of Divine Services of the New Apostolic Church, where it says, “If a priestly minister is unavailable, Deacons can conduct word services at the regular time of a divine service. This should not take place without previous agreement with the Deacon concerned and the responsible Apostle. If the priestly minister unexpectedly does not arrive for the divine service, a Deacon should conduct a word service.” Thus a Deacon can also assume liturgical duties (Divine Service Guide, Special Edition, Liturgy of the Divine Services of the New Apostolic Church, Volume 2, Special Types of Divine Services, 2013).

* Article adapted from nac.today 

NAC has a new magazine: Community

community 2015_1 EN - CopyCommunity is the name of the new member magazine of the New Apostolic Church International. It is available as of right now for download as an e-paper in three languages, namely English, French, and Spanish. In many District Churches, the magazine will also be translated into other languages locally.

With the new member magazine, the New Apostolic Church has taken another step in its efforts to expand its media offer. Already at the start of the year 2015, the news portal known as nac.today went online. This outlet provides members with information on Church events from around the world on a daily basis during the workweek.

At present, the first edition of the quarterly magazine Community will appear in two variants, one of them a 32-page leaflet, and the other a twelve-page abridged version for use in developing countries. The core content of the magazine is also to be found in the Our Family magazine and the African Joy newsletter. These two publications will continue to serve as the official organs of the Church in the German-speaking world and in Africa, respectively. In this manner, core content will be published in some three dozen languages. Some of the District Churches will either supplement this content or integrate regional information.

The two new media, Community and nac.today, complement other media offerings of the Church, which include, among others, its official website, nak.org, since April 1997, and the Church’s own social network, known as nacworld, which has been online since 2008. Beyond that there are also a number of apps in various fields of application available for smartphone users.

Community is available for download at nac.today.

* Article adapted from New Apostolic Church publishes a new member magazine

Devotions: May

The first Sunday service in May falls under the theme Divine Guidance. Divine guidance is something that is seen, among other things, in the mission of the Apostles, which is to be the focal point of the sermon. Why do we address the Apostle ministry and its tasks in the divine services every now and then? One of the reasons is that it helps to explain why we are New Apostolic. Another reason is that it is our task to familiarise other Christians with the activities of God. The Apostles, after all, are not something that concerns only the New Apostolic Church, but the entire church of Christ. The congregations should be made aware of this time and again.

“Following” is the focal point of the second Sunday service. Following Christ is part of a Christian’s life, that is, he follows the example set by Jesus Christ as it is described in the New Testament. The Christian professes Jesus Christ as His Lord in word and deed. This is how following Christ leads to eternal fellowship with God.

In the divine service on Ascension we commemorate the salvation-bringing event of the return of Jesus Christ to His Father. This is cause for great joy: Ascension is not only a past event, but is a prospect for the future, namely the rapture of the bridal congregation to the Lord. That is why Jesus Christ is not only the first fruits in the resurrection, but also in the ascension.

On the Sunday before Pentecost we will discuss the time of anticipation, namely the anticipation of the Holy Spirit. The “power from on high” is another expression for the Holy Spirit, who is not only a divine Person, but is also a gift which moves human beings and inspires and guides them to new beginnings.

The feast of Pentecost is celebrated in commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; one speaks of Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit was revealed and as the birthday of the church of Christ. Pentecost is a feast of joy and celebrates the fact that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the church. The Holy Spirit invites us to come and approach God. Those who accept the invitation of the Holy Spirit and let themselves be prepared for the return of Christ through the Apostles, long for the fellowship with Christ and share this joy with their neighbour.

On the first Sunday after Pentecost it is traditionally the case to address the subject of the trinity. Pentecost marks the end of the self-revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It becomes clear to the whole world: God is triune. The subject of the trinity of God is broached in the divine service on the basis of the benediction. This Bible text from 2 Corinthians 13: 14 is one of the strongest indications in the New Testament that points to the trinity of God.

 

May 2015: What am I supposed to do with this?

Coming up with a suitable gift for young girls and boys on their confirmation is not always easy. After all, they aren’t little children anymore, but they aren’t quite grown up yet either, and at that age in life, wishes and preferences are quick to change. What might have brought great joy to a confirmand may not be of interest to him anymore by the time he turns fifteen. After all, by then he is already much older and not “just a little kid” anymore. For this reason, people often just send money so that the young people can spend it on something they actually like, something that corresponds to their wishes. Perhaps later on, their aunt or grandfather might ask them, “So what did you buy yourself with that money anyway?” People are interested in what they have done with the gift of money they have received.

In every divine service, we receive a gift—one that is very precious and which each of us can use and apply in a very personal way: it is the power that comes from Holy Communion. No one will ask us to give an account of what we have done with it, but we should ask ourselves every now and again: “What have you actually done with this gift?” Perhaps there will already be an opportunity to make use of this power out of Holy Communion in a very specific way on Monday. For example, when we experience injustice, when we experience a time of trial, let us remember this power from the Lord’s Supper and endure in the knowledge that we can master this situation with the help of the Lord! Or even if we have failed for the umpteenth time in trying to improve ourselves and do better, let us nevertheless give it another try and start over again.

There are endless opportunities to apply the power we receive from Holy Communion. Let us do something with it!

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

The way to perfection

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” — Matthew 19: 21

Message

Following Christ leads to perfection.

The path to perfection was clearly defined by Jesus Christ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14: 6). Here we see that Jesus Christ’s activity of salvation dawned well before His incarnation. Paul asserts that Jesus Christ was already present during the desert wanderings of the people of the old covenant (1 Corinthians 10: 1–4), and thus also at the time when the law was issued.

From the law to following

In His conversation with the rich young man, the Son of God made this set of laws binding for the new covenant as well (Matthew 19: 16–22).

However, perfection is not possible by way of the law alone. It is for this reason that Jesus expanded His response to the young man’s question to include the requirement to follow Him. Following Jesus is at times associated with a conscious obligation to let go of one’s individual rights, claims, and ideas. In the case of the rich young man, this was applied very specifically to his earthly possessions, which—from the perspective of Jesus—had likely become a defining element of this young man’s life.

The call to follow Christ

Jesus not only gives the rich young man some advice, but also addresses a call to action to him. This call can be restated in the following questions. What is truly important in your life? What is the content of your life? What is the goal of your life: God’s kingdom or only earthly concerns?

Jesus Christ associates the call to make a decision for God—in other words, for future perfection in fellowship with the Eternal One—with the call to follow Him in the present.

Following in our time

Following Christ in our time still requires us to separate ourselves from the nature of the old creation, which is a reference to human beings mired in sin and thus condemned to eternal separation from God.

The hallmarks and actions of the old creation include the following:

  • Deficient trust in God.
  • A complete focus on the earthly, which Apostle Paul describes as being carnally minded (Romans 8: 6–7)
  • Irreconcilability, which prevents us from receiving grace ourselves.

By contrast, there is the offer of salvation in following Christ and fellowship with Him. Here we experience:

  • Security in the guidance we receive through the Holy Spirit (John 16: 13).
  • An orientation to spiritual goods, namely treasure in heaven (Matthew 6: 33).
  • Compassion and the will to make peace, which even extends to those who do us wrong.

Eternal fellowship with God can only be attained by the grace of God. It begins with our election, continues by way of the rebirth, and leads to completion and perfection at the return of Christ. On the way to this goal, the Lord expects the same of us that He called out to the rich young man: “Come, follow Me!”

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for service held on Sunday, 10 May 2015 at Midrand Congregation