Happy birthday to all those who celebrated in August. Pictured are some of the NAC Midrand members who had celebrations.
Happy birthday to all those who celebrated in August. Pictured are some of the NAC Midrand members who had celebrations.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. — 1 Corinthians 13: 11
We strive for maturity in Christ.
While it is normal for a child to behave like a child, one can justifiably expect a different sort of behaviour from an adult. From a spiritual perspective, we were born through our baptism with water and the Holy Spirit. The Lord now expects us to continue developing in order to attain spiritual maturity.
Stages of development
A child must learn to speak. A newly born baby can only capture your attention and express its needs by crying. The parents teach it to say thank you at a very early age. As soon as it has learned the language, it must also learn to be silent and listen.
There are spiritual parallels. We have the right to bring our wishes and needs to God, but we must also learn to recognize His grace and be grateful to Him. The desire to express one’s opinion is quite normal, but it is also necessary to learn to be silent in order to recognize the will of God.
A newly born child is given special care. Everyone must accept this reality. In the congregation this is a little different. While our neighbour may certainly be expected to help look after us, we cannot expect that we should be the constant focus of all endeavours in the congregation!
Developing into maturity
What determines the conduct of a child? This conduct is determined by correction on the one hand, and reward on the other. The child grows up knowing: “If I do certain things, my parents will not be happy and they will correct me. On the other hand, if I listen to them I will be rewarded.” But that is a child. An adult, by contrast, acts on the basis of his convictions. When we put the gospel into practice, we do not do this out of fear that we will be punished if we fail to do so, nor do we do so in hopes of reward. The reason we follow the gospel is because we are convinced that this is the only way that leads to the goal of our faith.
Children are fond of playing. They often pretend to be father and mother and imitate their parents’ behaviour. Adults no longer need to play this kind of game because they are already adults! If they are aware of their responsibilities, they will assume their tasks despite difficulties that may be expected and sacrifices that may need to be made. It is of no value or benefit to merely copy the behaviour of others, as Ananias and Sapphira attempted to do. We must genuinely become like Jesus. As members of the body of Christ, we join in the responsibility for our neighbour, and indeed for the well-being of the church as a whole.
A child cannot yet assess the value of certain objects. On the basis of experiences they have made, adults know what is truly important. Our spiritual experience enables us to properly assess the genuineness of the Apostles’ doctrine. We no longer behave as children who are “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4: 14).
Growing up into adulthood in Christ
God grants us everything we need for our spiritual growth:
Are we all grown up yet?
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 28 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. — Psalm 118: 25
We must ask God for His help.
Right in the middle of a psalm of praise and thanks we find a cry for God’s help. This attests to the recognition: we are dependent on God! If our lives are to succeed, we will need God’s help and blessing!
Upon whom do we call in our prayers?
We call upon the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Israel prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had delivered them from slavery.
The early Christians learned that they could also ask for help from Jesus (Acts 7: 59–60).
Today we pray to the eternal and triune God. Before Jesus brought His sacrifice on the cross, He promised the disciples another Helper (John 14: 16, 26). This Helper, the Holy Spirit, is likewise God, and He too is worshipped! He bestows salvation and blessing. Through the activity of the Holy Spirit
It is the task of the officiant and the entire congregation to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit. This is a significant contribution to the success of the divine services.
What do we pray for?
Above all we pray for that which serves to our salvation.
Many pray to God to protect them from earthly needs. A simple look at reality shows us that believers suffer from exactly the same kinds of cares as unbelievers. As regards their earthly lives, they do not receive any preferential treatment from God—nor does God cause them to suffer any particular disadvantages either. They share the fate of the people around them. However, believers draw comfort and strength from the knowledge that God is with them and that He will never abandon them!
The Lord’s Prayer is rich in worship and praise. Only one sentence involves earthly matters, namely the one pertaining to our daily bread. The remainder of the prayer’s supplications relate to salvation, specifically the coming of the kingdom of God, the forgiveness of sins, protection in temptation, and deliverance from evil.
This is an example for our collective prayer as a congregation. The focus is on worship and the plea for our salvation—as well as the salvation of all other people.
How does the blessing of God manifest itself?
The blessing of God shows itself in that we are able to pass it along to others.
Jacob is a familiar example of a believer who wrestled for the blessing of God (Genesis 32: 25–32). This blessing did not consist of physical integrity and well-being (Jacob walked with a limp from then on) or of his family being preserved from suffering (for example, Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his brothers).
The power of the blessing he had received was manifest in the fact that Jacob was able to pass this blessing along to others. And yet, even when blessing others, he was aware that he could not do so by his own strength, and that he needed the help of God (Genesis 49: 18).
The blessing which we have received through word and sacrament enables us to spread the gospel: parents to children, Christians to the unbaptized, ministers to congregations. This is the mission that has been set for us. Let us rise to the task! God is glad to help and will grant us success!
When Christ returns, the bridalcongregation will receive the fullness of salvation. That iswhy it already cries out to Christ in worship today, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118: 26).
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 21 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” — Luke 8: 25
We remain firmly committed to our creed.
At the instruction of Jesus, the disciples crossed the sea. When a storm arose, the experienced fishermen quickly realized that they were no match for the elements. In a panic they awakened the Lord. He commanded the forces of nature to be still, and then asked the disciples, “Where is your faith?”
We have been invited by Jesus to follow the path that leads to the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes we are faced with special trials on this path and, despite our efforts, things become even worse—and there is no reaction from God. And we wonder if God has forsaken us.
Even the Church is exposed to storms. In some countries, the attendance of divine services and the number of sealings continue to decline. The members there are at their wits’ end because their prayers and efforts seem to be in vain. The future of the Church seems to be threatened, yet God does not intervene.
The biblical story shows that only God in Jesus Christ has all authority (Matthew 28: 18). Today too, He asks us, “Where is your faith?” Let us therefore take a moment to look more closely at the foundations of our faith, as they are expressed in our creed.
The last Article of Faith expresses that nothing can force us to be disobedient to the will of God, which requires that we follow the commandment to love God and our neighbour.
Our faith is a source of peace, strength, certainty, and joy!
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 14 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. — 1 Kings 10: 7
Let us be conscious of the wisdom and wealth that we have been granted.
I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. — Job 42: 2
Let us trust in God’s plan of salvation and in His help!
To many people, Job was a man who accepted all the trials permitted by God and humbly endured his sufferings. However, Job was also a doubter, and even a man who reproached God. He wrestled for an answer to his sufferings and expected a response from God: “He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me” (Job 30: 19–21). These verses reveal his despair.
God finally responded to Job. Here we see that God is not a God of silence, but one who makes Himself heard. The book of Job mentions that God speaks out of the whirlwind. The details of how this transpired are not important. The only important thing is that Job listened to the word of God and came to the following conclusion: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42: 2–3).
God’s omnipotence and dependability
Job professes to God that He is all-powerful and always realizes all things He has ever resolved to do. Contrary to human beings, there is no contradiction between God’s will and its implementation. It is for this reason that we profess God is the Almighty. The omnipotence of God is completely devoid of capriciousness because God does not act on the basis of His own interests—as is the case with human rulers—but rather only in the interests of His creation and its needs. We can see that this is the case in the plan of salvation, which He has designed and will also implement. God promised
When we look into the Old and New Testaments we cannot help recognize that God always fulfils the promises He makes. This means that we can also justifiably trust in God. And so it is that we also steadfastly await the return of Christ, which has been promised to us.
Trusting in times of trial
Perhaps we too have had our doubts as Job once did, and perhaps we too have felt abandoned by God. Let us be wise and trust in the power of God. We are confident that God is with us and
If we trust that God will complete the history of salvation and accompany us day by day, this will bring us great inner security and a special kind of peace that we can share with all those who have become unsettled in the course of time or as a result of difficult circumstances of life.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 07 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
Faith is something for older people. This sentence is old and still false. But how exactly does faith in God express itself? How can the Christian faith become concrete? Answers will be given in the divine services in August.
Mother Teresa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was joined by a reporter on one of her daily rounds in the slums of Calcutta. He saw how she picked up a sick and dirty child and kissed it. “I would not do that for a thousand dollars,” he said. Her answer: “Neither would I.” This is what Axel Kühner says in his book “A good minute” (original title: Eine gute Minute).
At the beginning there is trust. Trust in God. Without trust faith becomes difficult. Yet there are good reasons to trust God: He is almighty, absolutely reliable and faithful. There is no contradiction between the will of God and its implementation. What He says He will do. His actions are completely devoid of capriciousness; He is incorruptible. He will fulfil what He has promised, regardless of the circumstances. This is a comfort for all who believe in God, especially in difficult times. People tend to be different where this is concerned: some want to see miracles and experience signs. For others, faith is a subject of irritation, of folly.
But what about our trust in God’s guidance when things go wrong? How strong is our faith when difficulties arise and we find ourselves in distress? All of a sudden our reliability and our loyalty are put to the test.
The story of Job in the Bible is a good example for such mood swings. Job was a doubter. In fact, he even reproached God. Finally, he was ashamed and found his way back to the path of humility. God asked him: “Where is your faith?”
The Lord’s disciples had to answer the same question. At the instruction of Jesus, the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee. When a storm arose, the experienced fishermen quickly realized that they were no match for the elements. In a panic they woke the Lord. He commanded the forces of nature to be still and asked the disciples, “Where is your faith.”
So what do Christians expect from God? Only help in difficult times? And when life is good to us we put Him in a corner? No. In the biblical sense, we are talking about the blessing of God. Christians wrestle and pray for it. God’s blessing needs to be prayed for. One thing we need to be clear about: His help is not manifested in the fact that those who believe in God will be preserved from all evil. Neither are they particularly privileged or disadvantaged by fate. But what they do have is the comfort and the knowledge that God is with them.
And finally, the blessing of Christ’s return is in store. Then that which man has worked so hard to believe in will be fulfilled, something that gave us stability and confidence and helped us hold our ground especially in difficult times. This will be the proof that our faith has matured, that it has grown.
Photo: Nolte Lourens/fotolia
The theme series for the month of August, namely “Manifestation of faith” demonstrates various aspects of faith and its practice in daily life.
The first Sunday service has to do with trust in God. The omnipotence of God, along with His reliability and faithfulness, constitute the foundation of our trust in Him. There is no contradiction between the will of God and its implementation. He fulfils that which He has promised. We trust in His plan of salvation and can be assured that He will accompany us in all situations of life—and that He will never abandon us.
On the second Sunday of the month we will explore the question of our firmness of faith when confronted with afflictions and needs. We find the answer to this question in the foundations of our faith, as they come to expression in our creed. Those who remain steadfast in their faith can experience the help of God and, ultimately, deliverance for eternal salvation.
The third Sunday service focuses on a very special way in which our faith is manifested: wrestling for blessing! Here it becomes clear that we must ask for the help of God. His help does not necessarily consist of protection from every ill that could befall us. In our earthly lives, God does not give us preferential treatment over other human beings, nor does He disadvantage us in comparison to others. We draw comfort from the knowledge that God always helps and supports us. Ultimately, the bridal congregation will attain the fullness of blessing at the return of Christ.
On the fourth Sunday we will delve into the question of our maturity in terms of faith. Just as a child grows into adulthood, we too are to mature in faith. To this end, our life of faith must ripen out by way of specific stages of development. God helps us to mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.