Month: April 2016

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Devotions: May

The two high feasts of Ascension Day and Pentecost in particular play a large role in defining the month of May and the themes treated in the divine services.

In the time prior to Pentecost, the focus is on the anticipation of the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that the divine service on the first Sunday of May emphasises that the love of God was also poured out in us when we received the gift of the Holy Spirit through Holy Sealing. This means that we have been permitted to experience the love of God in a special manner by receiving the sacrament. Nevertheless, it is not our possession to which we cling selfishly, but rather a gift. Let us pass it along and talk about it with others.

On Ascension Day we commemorate the return of the risen Son of God to the Father. The disciples of Jesus were witnesses of the ascension. It was on Ascension Day that Jesus Christ the firstfruits was visibly elevated and exalted. From that moment onward, the Lord Jesus—who is also true Man—has been seated at the right hand of God. It was at this point that the mission of the Apostles—which every Christian is to support—began. According to the testimony of the New Testament, Jesus Christ, who has ascended into heaven, will also return in order to take His own unto Himself.

The focus of the sermon on the Sunday following Ascension Day is on the help provided by the Holy Spirit. We experience this help and support of the Holy Spirit when we live in conformance with the gospel and allow ourselves to be prepared for the return of Christ in word and sacrament by the Apostles.

The celebration of Pentecost is a reference to the powerful intervention of God in history. The Holy Spirit accompanies the church of Christ through time and strengthens the believers in their endeavour to live in accordance with the favour of God and prepare themselves for the return of Christ.

The Sunday after Pentecost is devoted to the Trinity (Trinity Sunday). With Pentecost, the self-revelation of God is complete. He has now manifested Himself as the Father, the Son, and as the Holy Spirit. The three divine persons are one, and we are to take direction from this oneness.

On the fourth Sunday in May we explore our unity with the apostolate. We have all been given the commission to proclaim the gospel in word and deed.

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Fredericks 44th anniversary

Congrats to Philip and Susan Fredericks on 44 years of marriage and for the example they have set for others over the years. They celebrated on 27 April 2016. Here they are pictured with Shepherd Lance Smith.

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The praise and glory of God

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. — Matthew 6: 13

Message

The worship and praise of God are sources of strength and confidence.

At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, the praying congregation praises and glorifies God’s kingdom, power, and glory. This collective prayer strengthens us and gives us courage of faith.

The praise at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is associated with the preceding plea: “Deliver us from the evil one.” The Devil is the evil one and the tempter. While Jesus was in the desert, the Devil showed Him all the kingdoms of this world and said, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4: 5–6).

To this day, evil has continued to unfold its power. Mankind suffers from egoism, lust for profit, and hatred. The distribution of wealth is seldom just.

Yours is the kingdom…

The power of the Devil has already been broken, however (Luke 10: 18). The influence of the evil one is limited in time, and cannot stop the development of the kingdom of God. The kingdom belongs to God, and it will remain His into all eternity! God grants His kingdom to whomever He desires! He wants the salvation of all mankind. He reigns eternally, and He will have the last word!

… and the power …

God is almighty. Those who desire to experience the omnipotence of God must simply believe and subordinate themselves to the will of God.

The plan of God is geared toward salvation for all mankind. It is to this end that God engages His power: He moves obstacles out of the way—but only if they are a hurdle to our salvation.

What does the power of God consist of? It is the power of love. God always leaves mankind the freedom to decide for themselves. He only works with love.

… and the glory

The glory of God was revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in His love, His power, His patience, His victory, and

His nature—that is glory for us! For us, this glory also consists of the fact that we are called to enter into it, namely into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the triune God!

The splendour of the glory that is being prepared for us will enable us to forget all of our previous tribulations (1 Thessalonians 4: 17–18). Let us glorify God by allowing our fellow human beings to recognize the great things Hehas done for us. The purpose of the church of Christ is to bring praise and worship to God. It is in this way that attention is directed to the salvation that God prepares in His church through Jesus Christ.

When we are with Jesus in His kingdom, we will collectively praise the salvation, glory, and power of God (Revelation 19: 1).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on 24 April 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

Come attend the singles divine service and seminar

If you are 21 and older and not in a committed personal relationship, then you are invited to a divine service and seminar which will be held on Sunday 1 May 2016 at Dinwiddie congregation in Gauteng.

The divine service is free and open for all to attend but the tickets for the seminar are R200.

The content of the seminar, themed Companionship, includes:

  • Gaining personal insight
  • Personal   mastery and awareness
  • Psychological profile
  • Tips and Techniques
  • Creating social opportunities

Through a day of fun and games with ice breakers, you will:

  • Create a networking platform
  • Gain empowerment and a shared learning experience
  • Learn how to connect with others
  • Expand your companionship horizon
  • Boost your self-confidence and networking skills

Tickets are available from our Bishops. Please reserve as soon as possible as these are limited.

Finger lunch and refreshments will be served.

Singles Poster 2016

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Forgive as I forgive

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. — Matthew 6: 12

Message

The forgiveness of our sins is inextricably linked to our forgiving our neighbour.

Prayer was part of Jesus’ life. His reference to the proper way of praying—that is to say, in secret and without being wordy—was not intended to eliminate public and collective prayer. Rather He left the disciples a legacy in the form of a prayer that is simple, succinct, and comprehensive.

Today the Lord’s Prayer is a firmly established component of the liturgy in our divine services and enjoys a special status owing to its proximity to the celebration of Holy Communion as well as its petition for forgiveness.

Forgive us our debts …

Before each celebration of Holy Communion we hear the proclamation that our sins are forgiven—together with all related guilt. Let us, however, be aware that forgiveness cannot be attained on the basis of any human accomplishment or merit (Romans 3: 24), but rather only through the unique and fully valid sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 5: 18). God does not reject the sinner who turns to Him in repentance and asks for forgiveness. He grants the sinner grace and forgives his sins.

However, forgiveness of sins does not occur automatically, but is rather linked to certain conditions. These are

  • The awareness and acknowledgement of our own sinfulness (Romans 3: 23). In addition to conscious and unconscious misconduct, sin also includes unbelief and the failure to do good.
  • The recognition of the necessity of forgiveness (John 8: 24). After all, sin leads away from God and into the dependency of evil.
  • Confession of our sins, as well as belief in the forgiveness of sins, just as it is already formulated in the early church creeds and in our Third Article of Faith.
  • Sincere remorse and repentance. Not only John the Baptist, but also Jesus Himself, referred to this at the beginning of His public activity (Matthew 3: 1–13).
  • The longing for grace out of the sacrifice of Christ, and the plea for forgiveness.

 … As we forgive our debtors

The Son of God bound the forgiveness of our sins to our own willingness to forgive our debtors. The significance of the fact that we too must forgive is underscored by Jesus when He repeats and reinforces this immediately following the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 14–15). The parable of the unforgiving servant also speaks to this idea (Matthew 18: 21–35).

What is more, Jesus teaches us:

  • not to give room to Pharisaic thinking, but rather to direct our attention to our own hearts (Luke 18: 13).
  • to think about whether our brother might have something against us (Matthew 5: 23–25).
  • to even love our enemies (Matthew 5: 44).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on 17 April 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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Physical and spiritual bread

Give us this day our daily bread. — Matthew 6: 11

Message

We ask God to give us the things we need for both physical and spiritual life.

Bread for physical life

Jesus spoke of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount and taught His listeners the Lord’s Prayer. The petition: “Give us this day our daily bread,” applies first of all to our life on earth.

  • We ask God to give us what we need in order to live; thereby we express our trust that our heavenly Father knows our needs (Matthew 6: 32) and He provides for us.
  • We ask God for His help in fulfilling the task He has set for us, namely to cultivate and preserve the earth; thereby we express our awareness that everything comes from God and that we are grateful to Him for it.

Bread for spiritual life

This petition also applies to our souls, however. When we speak of our daily bread, we are also referring to the word of God as food for our immortal souls (Jeremiah 15: 16) and our spiritual life (Matthew 4: 4).

  • The prayer for our salvation is to be just as intensive as the prayer for our physical needs.
  • Preparation for the divine service is up to the congregation as a whole. All are called upon to pray for the ministers who are to preach.

Jesus’ food

Jesus’ food consisted of fulfilling the will of the Father (John 4: 34). We likewise take direction from this.

  • Only those who do the will of God will attain eternal life (Matthew 7: 21). Let us ask God to give us the strength to subordinate ourselves to His will every day.
  • Doing the will of God is also a kind of food that provides strength. Those who fulfil the will of God can be assured that they are on the right path and that God will help them.
  • For those who love Jesus Christ, it is vital to have fellowship with Him.

The bread of life

The petition: “Give us this day our daily bread,” also refers to the bread of life: Holy Communion.

Jesus once said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6: 51). God will see to it that this bread is always available to us. It imparts to us the fellowship of life with Christ and we receive strength to overcome.

Let us partake worthily of Holy Communion so that we may live in Christ and grow into His nature.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on 10 April 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

A difficult way and a narrow gate

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. — Matthew 7: 13–14

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Without effort it is impossible for human beings to make their way to God.

Summary

Human beings have the choice of a life with or without God. They must decide for the narrow gate and the difficult way, meaning

  • They must be able to humble themselves before the almighty, omniscient, and ever-present God. They must be able to subordinate their will to His.
  • They must pay heed to the teaching of Jesus, must not be thoughtless with regard to their neighbour, and must gladly fulfil the law of God.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation used during the Bible study divine service on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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Your kingdom come

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. — Matthew 6: 9, 10

Message

Let us manifest the nature of Jesus and experience fellowship with God today and into all eternity.

The Lord’s Prayer is of great significance in our divine services. Already through the address, “Our Father”, Jesus Christ shares with us the special relationship He has with the almighty God. When we invoke God collectively as a congregation, it becomes clear that the triune God is in the midst of the congregation. This heartfelt collective prayer has a unifying effect, which can lead to a good sense of togetherness within the congregation. All petitions are brought to the Lord collectively: thus we pray both for ourselves and for our brother and sister.

The Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is present in Jesus Christ. He began His public activity with the announcement of the kingdom of God (Mark 1: 15). The focus of His preaching was on the kingdom of God in its present and future form.

The kingdom of God is thus:

  • Jesus Christ Himself.
  • His church.

The image of the kingdom of God is also a clear reference to the fact that Jesus Christ rules His church (Fourth Article of Faith).

A decision for the Kingdom of God

By way of various parables, Jesus introduced the kingdom of God with different points of emphasis (Matthew 13). In each of them He describes various features that comprise the nature of the kingdom of God. For example, the parable of the treasure in the field expresses how important it is to set priorities and make clear decisions in order to attain the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is in us

Our striving should be to allow the kingdom of God to become a reality within us, in other words, to develop and reveal the nature of Jesus in us with the help of God. Ultimately, the objective is to internalise and embody the characteristics of the kingdom of God.

An example of this is our clear and continual decision for the Lord and His gospel, and the doctrine it imparts. For this we need His grace, as well as our own willingness to grow in accordance with the example of Jesus.

The Kingdom of God in the future

The kingdom of God also stands for our future expectation. After the return of Christ, the kingdom of God will be manifest in

  • The marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 6–7),
  • The kingdom of peace,
  • The eternal rule of God in the new creation, and in
  • The eternal life.

Our collective plea, “Your kingdom come” thus also incorporates our longing to become like Jesus and to live in eternal fellowship with him.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on 3 April 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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Devotions: April

The focus of the Sunday services in April is on the Lord’s Prayer. The sermons will focus on a significant statement from this prayer that Jesus Christ has taught us. Although we speak this prayer in every divine service, we probably do not always reflect on its rich content. This is why the wealth of the Lord’s Prayer is to be made clear and comprehensible to the congregation.

The sermon on the first Sunday in April will explore the opening lines of the prayer: the significance of the “kingdom of God” will be addressed. The kingdom of God has both a present and future dimension: it is present in Jesus Christ and in His church, but at the same time is also of the future, and will only come to its completion in the new creation.

On the second Sunday the basis of the sermon will be the petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Here the bread serves as a symbol for the preservation of natural life by God, but is at the same time also a reference to the fact that the will of God itself is a kind of food that provides sustenance. Finally, the bread is also an allusion to Holy Communion. Bread is an image of sustenance for spirit, soul, and body through God.

The third Sunday in April is devoted to the plea for forgiveness and the profession of our willingness to forgive. In order to have a life with Him, it is necessary to ask God for forgiveness of our sins, and to have the firm resolve to change our conduct and attitude. Willingness to forgive is a direct implication resulting from this plea for forgiveness. Only those who exhibit such a readiness to forgive can reasonably ask God for forgiveness. The important thing is for the congregation to understand that forgiveness of sins does not occur automatically, but rather that their participation— that is to say, their willingness to forgive—is also required.

The last Sunday in April is dedicated to the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, the doxology, which is the praise of divine glory. This passage once again makes reference to the kingdom of God, the presence of which we already experience today—and the future of which is the subject of our longing. Also addressed is the “power” that is God’s, which finds its direct expression in His creatorship. The “glory” referenced here signifies holiness and inviolability. We encounter this glory directly in Jesus Christ and in the sacraments which He has instituted. The word “forever”, with which the doxology closes, alludes to the fact that God is also the creator and ruler of time.

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April 2016: Do it with God!

Reconciliation—a word that slides so easily from our lips but is so difficult to practise in daily life. Most often, the path to reconciliation is a long one that requires something from all parties involved. On the part of the culprit, there must be remorse for his wrongdoing as well as the willingness to ask for forgiveness, and on the part of the victim there must be a willingness to accept the apology and forgive. Often, however, both conflicting parties bear some of the guilt, which does not make reconciliation any easier: who will take the first step? Who will be the first to overcome his pride and humble himself before the other? Who will take the risk, in some circumstances, of looking like a “weakling”?

The example of Jacob and Esau shows how reconciliation can succeed. At some point in time, Jacob decided he could no longer live in the condition of having to regard his brother as an enemy. He wanted reconciliation. How did he proceed? First he sought the help of God and turned to the Lord in prayer: “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother.” Then he sent a portion of his possessions to Esau as a gift and as a sign of his desire to make amends. Esau at first refused his brother’s conciliatory gesture, saying, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” But when he recognized how serious Jacob was about reconciliation, he accepted Jacob’s gifts, and the two of them made peace.

Let us go about this with God—then reconciliation will become possible. Then we will succeed in humbling ourselves if we are in the role of Jacob. And if we are in the role of Esau, we will be able to overcome ourselves and accept the apology.

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