Month: September 2016

Being a blessing for the neighbour

Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. — Romans 12: 13

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Message

We are to be a source of blessing for our neighbour.

Apostle Paul describes a task that applies to every child of God.

The saints are believers who have been sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus as well as through the efficacy of the Holy Spirit in word and sacrament. In order to recognize the needs of our brother and sister, we need only think of our own (Matthew 7: 12).

Taking an interest in the needs of the saints

Just like us, our brothers and sisters need

  • Love and care. Let us prove our love to them by sharing both their joys and sorrows. Our neighbour needs just as much care for his soul as we do. Let us not take up all of the ministers’ time by insisting that our cross is heavier than that of our neighbour.
  • We expect our brother and sister to forgive us and not keep bringing up our failures. Let us do the same for them.
  • Inner peace and composure. Tensions and conflicts within the congregation prevent us from enjoying the divine service and finding deep peace. The same also holds true for others. Let us therefore make the effort to resolve conflicts as quickly as possible. Let us be aware of our responsibility toward God and our neighbour. Telling the whole world about our conflicts—or publishing them on the Internet, for example—will only serve to deepen them.

Being hospitable

Hospitality consists of sharing what we have with strangers. A stranger is someone who comes from another place and who may be different from us in various ways.

  • Let us not forget that we are all strangers. None of us can claim to exhibit the holiness and perfection required in order to enter into the kingdom of God of the present. The only reason we were able to enter there was because God granted us grace.
  • Paul called upon the Jewish Christians to accept the fact that the Gentiles had the same access to salvation as they did, even though they never had to live under the yoke of the Mosaic Law. Let us not expect the younger generation to have to tolerate the same constraints we did, nor expect our neighbour to have to endure exactly the same trials we may have had to experience. Let us simply accept that the souls who are only being sealed today will not have to wait as long as we before they can enter their heavenly home. Let us simply trust in the righteousness of God!
  • Acceptance of the stranger makes it possible for us to concentrate on that which is essential: faith, love, and hope. Our habits and preferences, or the manner in which we practice charity, are not decisive for salvation. Let us not take offence if our brother does not share them.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on Sunday, 11 September 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.

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Passing the gospel on

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. — Deuteronomy 6: 6–7

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Message

Let us act in accordance with the will of God and pass the gospel on to the next generation.

The book of Exodus describes how God gave the law to His people on Mount Sinai. The book of Deuteronomy repeats this account. This repetition illustrates how important the instruction of God—in this case, the Mosaic Law—really is.

Our Bible text makes it clear that it is not enough to have heard about the will of God or to have theoretical knowledge of it. What is really important is that one internalizes the divine will and makes it the standard for one’s thoughts and actions. That is why our Bible text states: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6: 6). In the imagery of the Old Testament, the heart is the seat of human will: whatever a person desires and does emanates from the heart.

Aligning oneself with God’s will and sharing it

Our Bible text assigns special importance to the idea that even the children—that is to say, the next generation—are to know the divine will: “You shall teach them [the words of the divine will] diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6: 7). Because the will of God is so important, however, it is not only reserved for children. In fact, all Israelites were to occupy themselves with it. And this was to occur in all situations of life: “[You shall] talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6: 7).

The attitude called for here came to define the lives of many devout people in Israel. The first psalm attests to this: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly … but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1: 1, 2).

Passing the gospel on

We should take these words from the Old Testament to heart: we are to pass the gospel— and thereby also the will of God that comes to expression within it—along to our children. Every Christian is therefore also a missionary. After all, religious education cannot simply be relegated to the church alone! It must be provided first and foremost in the home! In order for this to occur, we should

  • Take Jesus Christ as our example and subject our will to the will of the Father.
  • Seek opportunities to pray together in order to demonstrate that our lives are also an unceasing dialogue with God.
  • Offer and sacrifice, involve ourselves in the congregation, and help others in order to thereby also be an example worth following.
  • Speak of our hope that Jesus Christ will return, and allow ourselves to be prepared for the return of Christ by the apostolate.

If we act in this manner, and also speak of these things, we will be true witnesses of the gospel. Then our faith will no longer be a private matter, but will work its way into our families and from there to other people around us.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on Sunday, 04 September 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: September

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“Being a Christian in everyday life” is the overall theme of the Sunday services this month. We will illustrate how necessary it is for the Christian faith to define the life of the individual in all its forms of expression. Every day of the week is equally suited for putting Christian principles into practice.

On the first Sunday in September we will address the necessity of spreading the Christian faith to others. Those who are convinced of the gospel will also speak of it—first of all within their own families, but then also in the circle of their friends and acquaintances. Our faith is not a private matter. It is supposed to work its way into our families and surroundings!

The divine service on Sunday, 11 September calls upon us to take an interest in the concerns and needs of our neighbour. The fellowship of divine service is imbedded in a community in which we pursue our path of faith—and to a certain extent also our path of life—together. At the same time, we are called upon to be hospitable, and to be tolerant of lifestyles and views that are not our own.

The sermon on the third Sunday of September focuses on the notion of serving. This sermon illustrates the service of Jesus, the service of the Apostles and the Chief Apostle, as well as the service that each of us is to perform. In the process it becomes clear that serving is extremely important within a Christian congregation. All services that are performed in the church have their source in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. God thereby personally revealed Himself as a servant to mankind in need of redemption!

On the last Sunday in September we will expand upon the theme of serving and demonstrate how closely related it is to sacrifice. In the process it becomes clear that all of us—whether we are ministers or not—are called to the priesthood. This priesthood brings sacrifices to God, which means that we are to praise God, give thanks to Him, and intercede with Him on behalf of our neighbour. Our faith is not to revolve around us—or our own salvation—alone, but rather always also take the salvation of others into consideration.

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

September 2016: Use the weapons of God

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The story of Gideon is likely familiar to all of us: Gideon went into battle against the Midianites, the enemies of Israel, with a great army. His army was originally comprised of 32,000 soldiers. But God spoke to him and said, “The people who are with you are too many.” And He instructed Gideon to reduce the size of his army—until at the end there were only 300 men left. And beyond that, the men of this little force were to do without conventional weapons and merely equip themselves with some trumpets and torches.

This went against all rational thinking. How was anyone supposed to fight against a gigantic army of enemies with nothing but torches and trumpets? But Gideon feared God and thought, “If God calls upon us to fight with these weapons, we will also gain the victory with them.” From a human perspective this would have sounded like complete nonsense, but because Gideon was God-fearing, and because he trusted God, he went into battle with nothing more than these pathetic weapons—and conquered the enemy: God granted Gideon the victory!

God wants us to fight our battles with His weapons, not with earthly weapons. Human beings always want to fight with power and violence—and those who are strong always plan on emerging from the battle as victors. But God tells us, “Put those weapons aside. Make use of the weapon of prayer, the weapon of obedience to the commandments, the weapon of willingness to forgive, the weapon of patience, and the weapon of the love of God.

Let us employ the weapons of God when we are attacked. This may seem senseless at first, but it works: let us try it sometime!

* 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.