Month: July 2016

Priest reaches top of Kilimanjaro

Well done to Priest Gershon Monk from Midrand Congregation on reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the world’s most iconic peaks. Here he is pictured at Uhuru Peak.

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Filled by Christ

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But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. — 1 Peter 3: 15

Message

Our Bible text first of all assigns us the task of sanctifying Christ in our hearts. What does this mean? Christ lives in our hearts—through faith (Ephesians 3: 17). Apostle Paul brings this conviction of faith—which all reborn souls share—to expression in striking fashion: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2: 20).

Sanctifying Christ in our hearts

Sanctifying Christ in our hearts is a process. At first it takes place in the innermost part of a person: human beings who have been sanctified through the sacraments are called upon to hear the word of God, to occupy themselves with it intensively, and to move it in their hearts just as Mary did (Luke 2: 19). By internalizing the word of Christ, which we hear in the sermon, our knowledge grows and our faith is deepened. Superficiality disappears and we begin to believe with the heart (Romans 10: 8–10, 17). Believing with our hearts leads us to be filled with the life of Christ.

Sanctifying Christ with our mouths

Those who believe with their hearts will also want to profess their faith with their lips. This brings us to a further task incumbent upon us from our Bible text, namely that we should give a defence of our faith to everyone who asks for it. Faith and profession are inseparably linked. Those who feel secure in the doctrine will find it easy to justify their faith to others. Here it is important to avoid fanaticism and the compulsion to always be right about everything. Let us treat our neighbour “with meekness and fear [of God]” (1 Peter 3: 15).

Sanctifying Christ in deed

As Christians, let us live credibly by exhibiting love for both God and our neighbour. Love for God shows itself in our endeavour to live in accordance with His will, as well as in our collective worship in the divine services. Our love for our neighbour is revealed when we treat our neighbour in the same way as we would want to be treated by him (Matthew 7: 12).

And yet our love for our neighbour does not end with daily matters. Belief in the gospel motivates us to share salvation in Christ with all people.

If we are permeated by the love of Jesus and convinced of the universality of the divine will to save (1 Timothy 2: 4), we will recognize our tasks, namely

  • To spread the hope of eternal salvation founded upon Christ to others.
  • To draw attention to the special grace afforded the bridal congregation, who will be the first to enjoy salvation.

Sanctifying Christ in the congregation

The sermon, which produces faith, is accessible to us in the divine services. For this reason, we invite others to our congregations in order to celebrate the divine services with us.

From the holiness of the services and the conduct of the congregation it should be possible for others to recognize that the word of Christ dwells there richly (Colossians 3: 16). If our congregational life were to be characterized by disagreements and annoyance, this would make access to the word of God more difficult.

So if our hearts, conduct, and congregation are filled with Christ, we will profess with our mouths (Matthew 12: 34). However, if our mouths remain mute, the question arises: where are we lacking in this fullness of Christ—in our hearts, in our conduct, or in our congregation?

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

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

Divine service for the departed: Overcoming evil

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Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? — 1 John 5: 5

Message

Belief in Jesus Christ overcomes evil.

In our Bible text, the term “world” does not refer to people, but rather to the reign of evil. Since the fall into sin, evil has exercised its rule over both the creation and all human beings. This reign of evil produces lies and envy, avarice and hatred, violence and death.

Jesus has overcome evil

In order to redeem human beings from evil, God sent His Son into the world. At that time, evil manifested itself in the same way it does today. The following examples bear mentioning in this connection:

  • The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 16).
  • Lies and corruption (Matthew 26: 59; 28: 12).
  • The wars fought by the Romans at the time, as well as the persecutions of the Christians.

Jesus not only lived in a world dominated by evil, but also experienced evil personally: He was betrayed, and unjustly condemned, tortured, and executed. Nevertheless, He gained the victory over evil. None of the sufferings He had to endure were able to shake His relationship with His Father. He remained obedient to the end.

Through His sacrifice on the cross, He made it possible for human beings to be saved “from this present evil age” (Galatians 1: 4). After His death, He preached the gospel to the dead who had succumbed to evil by rejecting the offer of deliverance announced by Noah in his time (1 Peter 3: 19–20).

Belief in Jesus Christ overcomes evil

In order to attain salvation, we must believe in Jesus Christ and in the preaching of the gospel. This belief must produce works: believers must bring their lives into line with the gospel and receive the sacraments. The salvation that God grants to those who believe does not result in their removal from the domain of the evil one (John 17: 15), but equips them with the means to resist the evil one.

Overcoming evil on earth

Here on earth we will continue to be exposed to the evil one, but our faith enables us to resist his influence.

  • The trials we face do nothing to impair our trust in God or our love for Him.
  • The injustices we have suffered do not call into question either our gratitude or our commitment to the Lord.

Let us examine ourselves! Is our faith strong enough? If necessary, let us humbly ask the Lord to come to our aid in fighting against unbelief (Mark9: 24). Through His word, He grants us His help. Let us take it to heart!

Overcoming evil in the beyond

Evil also reigns in the realms of the beyond. Death itself is an expression of evil. The salvation that God offers the departed does not consist of compensating them for the evil they suffered during their lifetime. Through word and sacrament, which He dispenses for the beyond through the Apostle ministry, He gives believers in the beyond the opportunity to forgive those who have done them harm, and thereby acquire the peace of Christ.

Full redemption from evil

At His return, Jesus will lead His bride into His kingdom. Both the dead and the living who belong to the bride will then be completely liberated from the influence of the evil one once and for all.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service for the departed held on 03 July 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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

Devotions: July

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On 3 July we will once again celebrate a divine service for the departed. Such divine services have their foundation in the knowledge that God’s offer of salvation is intended for all human beings, both here and in the beyond. An essential element of such divine services is the collective prayer of intercession spoken in all congregations around the world. These prayers can include content such as:

Gratitude

  • That even the unredeemed in the beyond can receive grace and salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus.
  • That by partaking in the sacraments the souls in the beyond can enter into fellowship with Jesus Christ and His church, and be strengthened in this fellowship.
  • That access to the kingdom of God and eternal life is also open to them.

Intercessions for unredeemed souls

  • Such that they may receive the strength to turn to the Lord in trust and humbleness, and not allow anything to deter them from this.
  • Such that they may feel a longing for the mercy of God and the sacraments.
  • That God may grant them all His love and care.

(Special Edition 2 “Liturgy of the divine services in the New Apostolic Church”)

“Interacting in the spirit of Christ” is the main theme this month, and various aspects of it will be explored in the ensuing Sunday divine services.

The second Sunday of July will examine this theme from the perspective of the many ways in which we can collectively profess and sanctify Christ when we give Him sufficient room in our hearts.

The sermon on the third Sunday of July will focus on fellowship. The value of fellowship and thoughts about how we might better cultivate and enjoy this fellowship will be developed on the basis of a passage from Ecclesiastes 4: 12.

On the Sunday following, the sermon will deal with the conflicts to which we are continually exposed in daily life. How can we try to avoid them? What beneficial conclusions can we draw from conflicts we have endured in the past?

The power of the word is the focal point on the last Sunday of the month. Unrestrained and thoughtless words can hurt others and cause damage. In our conversations we are always to take direction from Jesus Christ, the Word of God who has come into the world.

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

July 2016: Sticking to it is everything

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In the letters of the New Testament we find many references as to how we can gain victory with Christ. For one thing, we read how Apostle Paul takes stock of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (cf. 2 Timothy 4: 7-8). Therefore, when it comes to faith, gaining the victory does not mean being better than everyone else, but rather enduring to the end and reaching the goal.

The letters to the Corinthians (9: 25-26), to the Hebrews (12:1), and to the Philippians (3: 13-14) likewise refer to the image of an athlete or a race. These passages provide insight to us in our endurance training. Accordingly, those who wish to endure until they reach the goal must

  • know the goal: our desire is to enter into eternal glory. To this end we must come to resemble Christ more and more all the time. Do we occupy ourselves enough with this?
  • keep their eyes focused on the goal: let us not allow ourselves to be deterred from pursuing our course by the cheers or boos on the side-lines.
  • divide the distance into manageable segments: we do not need to be discouraged when we find we are still such a long way from acquiring the nature of Jesus. We can always resolve to focus on a single characteristic and live in accordance with it very conscientiously for a while.
  • allocate their strength properly: those who find their life of faith too taxing might try treading more lightly when it comes to natural things and concentrating on the spiritual instead.
  • get rid of ballast: guilt and irreconcilability make it difficult for us to make progress. Let us always seek forgiveness and in turn also grant forgiveness!
  • keep to their diet: what sort of nourishment helps us in our course of faith? Let us only supply our souls with that which strengthens us enduringly. Above all, this includes the word of God and Holy Communion.

“Being there is everything”—so runs a familiar Olympic slogan. When it comes to our life of faith, however, “sticking to it is everything” is the thought that counts. Let us be inspired by the call to action recorded in 1 Timothy 6: 12: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called.”

* Jean-Luc Schneider

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

Fellowship of the living and the dead in Christ

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I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. — Psalm 116: 9

Message

The bride of Christ is united in the same faith—both here and in the beyond.

We prepare ourselves for the next divine service for the departed, in which the sacraments can also be dispensed upon souls from the realms of the beyond. By receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, they also receive the opportunity to belong to the bride of Christ, because they are called to become first fruits.

Fellowship of the dead and the living

Let us be aware that the beyond is present in every divine service that we celebrate here on earth! Through the sermon, the Holy Spirit addresses both the living and the dead. This not only applies to the dead in Christ, but also to those souls who are to receive the sacraments in the service for the departed. Thus the dead do indeed “walk before the Lord in the land of the living”.

God’s offers of salvation

All human beings are in the hand of God, and His offer of grace applies to all of them. This is something Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 44–45). Following His death on the cross, Jesus’ sermon to the contemporaries of Noah who were in prison (1 Peter 3: 19–20) also attests to this, and the first epistle of Peter also mentions that the “gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (1 Peter 4: 6).

Just as is the case for the living, the prerequisites for souls in the beyond to receive the sacraments include recognition and a believing longing— in addition to the election of God. It is to this end that they prepare themselves in the regular services in which they—along with us—are granted access to word and grace.

We can be a help to them through our intercession, but also in our endeavours to conduct ourselves in accordance with the example of Jesus Christ.

If the desire arises in such souls to follow Jesus Christ and prepare themselves for His return, they can experience God’s will to save and profit from His offer of salvation: some will receive baptism with water, while others will experience Holy Sealing.

In accordance with the invitation of Jesus Christ, they then partake of the body and blood of Christ at the Lord’s table, and thus share in His life and nature.

The dead in Christ

The dead in Christ, as well as those souls who received the sacraments only after their death, prepare themselves for the return of Christ just as we do. Together the living and the dead will be caught up to meet the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4: 17)

Attaining salvation requires faith

Those who long for salvation in the beyond must, together with us and the dead in Christ,

  • Believe in the truth of the gospel; namely in the victory of Christ, His return, and the resurrection of the dead.
  • Give the Holy Spirit room within themselves.
  • Fulfil the same tasks, namely to love others and proclaim salvation in Christ to them.
  • Carry the same longing in their hearts, namely: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service in preparation for the upcoming departed service held on 26 June 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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

Lydia, the first Christian in Europe

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Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. — Acts 16: 14–15

Message

Let us allow our faith to be strengthened by word and grace and talk about the gospel with our fellow human beings.

Summary

The account of Lydia, the first Christian in Europe, makes the following clear.

  • She accepted the messengers of God and the word of God preached by them.
  • Thereupon God granted her the gift of faith and allowed her to find Him through His word.
  • The word of God strengthens faith and awakens a longing for fellowship with the messengers of God and our fellow brothers and sisters.

Let us

  • Allow our faith to be strengthened by the word of God.
  • Approach our fellow human beings and talk to them about the gospel, so that God can open their hearts too.

Click here for the PowerPoint presentation used during the Bible study divine service on Wednesday, 22 June 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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