Month: July 2015

Putting good over bad

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. — Romans 12: 17

Message

Let us take the example set by Jesus and, with the help of God, try and repay evil with good.

In chapter 12 of Romans Apostle Paul describes the duties of a Christian. Among these pieces of advice is our Bible text. We should not forget that Paul was educated according to the law of retaliation—an eye for an eye—which had the aim of causing one’s neighbour the same pain that he inflicted on us. Repaying evil with evil was therefore something that was even approved of by law. That is why Paul makes an effort to explain that the time of grace has started, introduced by Jesus through His sacrifice, this being the perfect example of love towards our neighbour.

Biblical examples

There are biblical accounts in which we can see that not everybody made use of the legitimacy provided by the power or the law.

  • When King David was cursed and had stones thrown after him by Shimei—one of Saul’s relatives—he spared the man’s life and even said that there must be a reason for God allowing him to do this (2 Samuel 16: 7–12). We have to accept that there are different views and opinions and have to learn to accept criticism. This can be helpful for us.
  • Joseph had to face a very difficult situation when he learned that Mary was pregnant. He had the law on his side and could have disgraced her publicly, but he was a just and Godfearing man, and thought carefully about what he should do. He decided to deal with the matter in private. God blessed that decision and let him know he had nothing to be ashamed of (Matthew 1: 19–21). Let us not be prejudiced or act too hastily, but take the time to think about the best path to take. God knows our thoughts, and when these are directed to providing good to our neighbour, He will also assist us.
  • The law did not favour the adulterous woman either, but even here Jesus showed that the love to our neighbour has to be seen from the perspective and awareness of our own imperfections. Let us not look at the speck in our brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7: 3).

These three examples show us that it is possible to leave aside legitimate reasons and give way to the feeling of understanding and put ourselves in the shoes of the person who has done us wrong.

The greatest example was given by Jesus on the cross when He asked His Father to forgive those who had condemned Him. He not only forgave them, but also became their advocate when He said, “… for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).

And finally …

When you “repay” someone you are taking revenge and returning like for like, the consequence being that evil begets more evil. It is important that we are courageous and break through this cycle of evil with God’s help and try to repay evil with good. Let us be strong and insistent when we ask the Lord in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from the evil one,” for then He will help us.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 26 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section:

  • What do you think it means to not repay evil with evil toward someone who constantly wants revenge?
  • How and when do you address an issue with someone who wants revenge?

 

A spoonful of giving mixed with a serving of faith

Brother Charles de Kock_ProfileBrother Charles De Kock of Johannesburg Central congregation is no stranger to the fact that with faith, kindness, hard work, and determination, a person can change their life for the better. This is what he hopes will inspire the hospitality students at RLabs Jozi where he volunteers every Saturday.

Having started as a cleaner in the laundry section at the then Clinic Holdings (Netcare Garden City Hospital) and having worked in every department of a kitchen, Brother De Kock has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and is currently a Project Catering Manager for Compass Group South Africa at Netcare Milpark Hospital.

He says from a very young age he was interested in cooking, peeping through the kitchen window when his mother made food. “My taste buds tickled me when I saw my mother making food and I knew at that time what my career path will be. My mother makes the best green bean curry and cabbage stew and even today I cannot master the art of making those two dishes. I guess I must have not peeped enough through the window.”

After he finished schooling at Northern Cape Technical School, he moved to Johannesburg to look for a job. He then found a job at the Garden City Hospital, and after a few months in the laundry section, he was transferred to the kitchen and worked as a cleaner. “While cleaning I used to watch what the chefs were doing and I assisted them in various tasks like peeling and cleaning vegetables. I was then promoted to a vegetable chef and received promotions such as meat chef, cold kitchen chef, menu coordinator, catering supervisor and as they say the rest is history.”

Give and it will be given to you

Given his life’s journey and his passion for his work, Brother De Kock now volunteers every Saturday at RLabs Jozi where he gives hospitality training to the community of Westbury, Newclare, Mayfair, and Coronation, and even as far as Soweto. The centre is a non-profit organisation in Hursthill which provides free training to the unemployed youth and adults. It employs a holistic approach and serves people from all walks of life, striving to address the educational, emotional and physical needs as and when required.

He says it is very important for him to give back to the community because he comes from a home where his mother always taught them to be humble and teach the next person. “I feel that I need to do my bit for the community and assist where and when I can. As they say it is better to give than to receive, and giving back is also good in enabling the community to help themselves and their families.

“I want to make a positive impact in the lives of the students,” he continues, “as I want to help strengthen communities. Often what a great effort needs is a great leader and I want to lead by example, I want to share my expertise, to improve the skills and experience of someone else so they can benefit.”

He highlighted the Bible verse from Acts 20: 35, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’’

And adds: “We find God in all things. It is being in a place where we are more aware of the small, everyday moments of joy, light and human connection that we become true witness to God. Giving is a blessing. I feel very blessed.”

Helping people grow

Having started with RLabs Jozi in 2014, Brother De Kock has trained a total of 60 students and has also managed to get employment for 10 of them. The hospitality training includes classes on being a chef, waitron and hostess, food hygiene, food costing, as well as designing menus. In addition, the training ensures that students carry out their practicals at South African hotels and restaurants.

He said by changing how people feel about themselves, through little moments of mentoring, can have great impacts on people and their communities as he has discovered with his students. “I engage students in conversation and provide constructive and supportive feedback. It is important to give honest advice as gently as possible.”

He adds: “Looking out for the students’ growth is very important as I understand their background and I can relate to it. Having someone supportive when things go wrong is the difference, in my mind, between and adequate mentor and a great one.”

A believer of always bettering oneself and growing, Brother De Kock has obtained numerous certificates, the recent being an International City and Guilds Diploma from HTA school of Culinary Arts. He has also won numerous cooking and chef of the year competitions such as Netcare Chef Competition Winner 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Pictured is Brother Charles De Kock (right) of Johannesburg Central congregation with his students Cynthia, Ernest, Josephine, and Joseph, who did their practicals at FWC, Indaba Hotel as well as Olives and Plates as part of their training.

Pictured is Brother Charles De Kock (right) of Johannesburg Central congregation with his students Cynthia, Ernest, Josephine, and Joseph, who did their practicals at FWC, Indaba Hotel as well as Olives and Plates as part of their training.

* Article by Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester

* Article originally appeared on the New Apostolic Church-South East Africa website 

An open heart

You also be open. — 2 Corinthians 6: 13

Message

In an open heart there is a lot of room for God and our neighbour.

In answer to the question of how it looks when a person models his life on the gospel, the gospel itself gives an abundance of answers, for example in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7).

Whether or not a person lives the gospel can be recognized in their deeds. These deeds are preceded by something else, however, namely by a thought, a decision, which involves both heart and reason. In order to live in accordance with the gospel, a change must first of all take place within a human being. This is described as follows in the second letter to the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5: 17).

The emergence and development of the new creation is not concluded with the rebirth out of water and the Holy Spirit, however. This is merely the start of an ongoing development (Ephesians 4: 22–24): a result of this inner renewal is that the heart becomes open for God and one’s neighbour.

A blind heart versus an open heart

We can get an idea of what this open heart looks like by comparing it to the blind heart mentioned in Ephesians 4: 18. Such a heart is characterized by:

  • Calculation. “What do I get out of it?” An open heart simply gives on the basis of pure love.“Why are things going better for them than for me? Have they done anything to deserve this?” The new creation does not engage in envy or petty calculations such as this, but is happy with others over the gifts God grants them.
  • Narrow-mindedness. With such an attitude there is little room for one’s neighbour, and only limited understanding for his idiosyncrasies. A generous heart even makes room for the stranger and treats him with understanding and love.
  • Ruthlessness. Ruthless people apply strict standards and see every splinter in the eye of their neighbour. The nature of the new creation distinguishes itself by its magnanimity and forbearance.
  • Fixation on appearance. Here one judges others by their appearance; by the way they present Someone whose heart is wide, who is magnanimous, does not reduce the neighbour to appearances.

With an open heart we can contribute in creating understanding, magnanimity, and loving relationships in our surroundings.

We read in Scripture that Isaac’s shepherds ran into confrontations with other shepherds on two occasions as they constructed their well. When Isaac then began digging a third well, over which they did not quarrel, he called it Rehoboth, which literally translates to mean “spaciousness”, and said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26: 22).

Let us likewise be such “wellbuilders”, and not rest until we have established the necessary room in our families, in our congregations, and in our workplaces. Thereby we bear witness that modelling our lives on the gospel creates a broad space in which we can live, and in which growth and development are possible.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 19 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation.

God is with us

If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8: 31

Message

God is with those who heed His will and rely upon Him.

God is for us

Through the question he asks in our Bible text, Apostle Paul makes it clear that the very foundation of salvation is the fact that God is with us. God, the Creator and Father of Jesus Christ, has given His only begotten Son for us as a sign of His love (John 3: 16; Romans 8: 32). Who could separate us from this love of God? The answer of the Apostle is clear: nothing and no one (Romans 8: 38–39).

How is God for us?

Many accounts in Scripture demonstrate that God is with those who live in accordance with His will. He helps them to overcome difficulties and ultimately blesses them.

God is with those who …

… seek peace

God is with those who seek peace and who are prepared to forego their own rights for the sake of peace, as Abraham did. He allowed Lot to settle on better land and said, “Please let there be no strife between you and me” (Genesis 13: 8).

… set priorities

Jacob assigned greater value to the blessing than to the satisfaction of physical needs. God is with those who prefer spiritual gifts to material gifts. He is with those who seek His kingdom and His righteousness above all other things (Matthew 6: 33).

… trust in Him

Joshua and Caleb trusted in the divine promise. Nothing and no one was able to prevent them from entering into Canaan (Numbers 4: 6–9).

… are humble

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus showed that God is on the side of those who are humble. The tax collector was justified in the eyes of God—not the Pharisee (Luke 18: 14).

Heeding the will of God

The examples listed demonstrate that God is with those who heed His will. We do this by modelling our lives on the gospel.

  • The Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, and that He would be with His Apostles always (Matthew 16:18; 28: 20). Let us remain in the congregation and let us follow the Apostles. Then we too will have the certainty that God is with us.
  • Let us subject ourselves to the will of God, even when we do not understand His will or when we do not understand it immediately. If we nevertheless continue to love God, we will experience that “all things serve for good” (Romans 8: 28).
  • Let us serve our neighbour without any prejudice or arrogance. Even if our abilities should be weak or limited, the Lord will support our honest efforts for the wellbeing of our neighbour.

God will be on the side of those who live the gospel in this manner, and will bless them.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 12 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation.

The power to forgive: Divine service for the departed

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” — Acts 7: 59–60

Message

Love for Jesus prompts us to forgive our neighbour.

We believe that human beings live on after physical death: soul and spirit do not die. Human personhood continues (Catechism 3.3.4). We also believe that the departed are able to take the sacraments (1 Corinthians 15: 29).

The power to forgive

Our Bible text, which is taken from the account of the martyrdom of Deacon Stephen, is to serve as an occasion for us to pray for all Christians who are persecuted in our day.

Stephen found the power to forgive his tormenters by looking up to Jesus and seeing the glory of God.

On several occasions, Jesus spoke of the necessity of forgiveness (Matthew 6:14–15). This applies both here and in the beyond.

Among other things, to forgive one’s neighbour means to

  • Abstain from avenging oneself on him, and instead trust in divine righteousness.
  • Refrain from expecting God to punish those who sin against us.
  • Refrain from making reproaches and accusations.
  • Wish that he too may attain salvation in Christ.

Jesus makes it clear that our willingness to forgive is a requirement if we ourselves desire to obtain forgiveness (Matthew 18: 35). This is not to be understood as a threat, but is intended to create awareness within us

  • that we are dependent on the grace of God and in need of forgiveness.
  • of the magnitude of the grace that is granted us. What could we do in order to erase even the most insignificant of our sins?

Forgiving out of love for Jesus

Our motivation to forgive is our love for the Lord Jesus (Luke 7: 47).

  • By forgiving our neighbour, we attest to our gratitude toward Jesus.
  • For as long as we persist in accusing our neighbour, we are at odds with Jesus, who also loves our neighbour and desires to save him.

Willingness to forgive—in the beyond as well

As is the case here, the willingness to forgive is just as much a requirement in the beyond. But how difficult must it be for souls to forgive those at whose hand they had perhaps experienced many evil deeds!

We cannot redeem anyone through our prayers—only the triune God can redeem. However, through our intercessions we can attest to our love for these souls as a counterweight to the hatred to which they may have been victim. May this also help them to arrive at the point where they too are prepared to forgive! This is a prerequisite for them to receive forgiveness at the altar of God, and to receive the sacraments to their salvation.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 05 July 2015 at Midrand Congregation for Departed Service.

 

July 2015: Unnecessary burdens

During a stay in Africa on one occasion I made a notable experience. We were driving along a street in a small truck and saw an elderly woman carrying a heavy burden on her head. “The poor woman! Just look at how she has to toil,” we thought, and so we pulled over to offer her a ride. She gratefully accepted our offer and stepped up onto the cargo area. What happened next astonished me and really gave me pause for thought. The woman took a seat on the rear bench of the cargo area, but during the entire trip, she kept her burden balanced on her head.

When we reflect upon this behaviour a little, we realise that it is really not that unusual. God always seeks to help us. He offers to relieve us of burdens and liberate us of unnecessary loads and cares. He wants us to let go and put aside those things that make our path of faith and life more difficult—and often even depress us. And what do we do? Instead of casting all our cares upon Him, we keep on carrying them around with us. – After all, it’s about time others see what a hard time we are having! Instead of trusting God fully and completely, and relying on His help, we hold fast anxiously to our reservations. – Best not to hope for too much so that you don’t have to be disappointed later on!

Instead of forgiving our neighbour, we nurse our disappointments and the memory of the injustices we have suffered. – After all, the sympathy of others does us good! Instead of burying the past, we settle into a condition of self-pity. – Oh, just look at all the things I have had to endure!

And all the while, so many things might have been so much simpler and easier!

Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

Devotions: July

The divine service for the departed comprises the first point of emphasis for the month of July. Here we occupy ourselves with the matter of true life, a subject that is of equal importance for both the living and the departed. Access to true life—that is, to fellowship with God—is only possible through Christ. No one can attain or establish fellowship with God through his own efforts. Belief in Jesus Christ and devotion to Him are also necessary for the departed if they want to enter into life. Here the sacraments are of decisive importance because they are God’s works of life.

The new theme series that begins in July is Modelling our lives on the gospel.

The second Sunday in July explores the reality that God takes the side of those who, in accordance with His will, base their lives on the gospel. For us this signifies a great effort—indeed, we may even have to endure hardships as a result. It is the Holy Spirit who prompts us to do this and helps us move past our imperfections. Despite our many failures in these endeavours, however, it is comforting to know that God in His love is still with us. We can be assured of this love even when we at times conduct ourselves in an unkind or selfish manner. His love for us remains. Let us be like Him in our words and deeds because He desires to bless us!

The third Sunday in July centres on the theme of being generous, on having an open heart. Our encounters with God are to inspire us to bring about an inner renewal and reinforce our efforts to this end. In the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul appeals to the believers to acknowledge him as an Apostle and respect the commission he has received from Jesus Christ. We are all familiar with the feeling of having reservations about someone. For example, we see a person and—despite the fact that we do not know him—we already think we know what he is like. However, it may well be that he has already renewed his thoughts and actions as a result of numerous encounters with God! Let us give our neighbour the benefit of the doubt. He likewise wants to renew himself in God! In the process, the opposite question also arises. Will our neighbour actually be able to recognise that we have made progress in our own personal renewal?

The sermon on the last Sunday of July draws attention to our behaviour with regard to our neighbour: let us endeavour to repay evil with goodness. Our example in this is Jesus Christ, who did not allow the evil that befell Him to deter Him from doing good deeds and bringing salvation to mankind. Let us also speak to others about this goodness, because only those who are acquainted with goodness will be able to strive for it themselves.

Those who have experienced the love and grace of God upon themselves will also want their neighbour to have a similar experience, even if he only had evil thoughts toward them at first. Those who are credible in their faith will thus endeavour to make others aware of the good path in Jesus Christ.