30 September 2018
For the past few years we have joined with numerous congregations in the UPCSA to mark the month of October as the Month of Mission. In particular, this has meant two things: Firstly, sharing the same themes and scripture texts for the 4 Sunday’s of the month and, secondly, participating and sharing in the daily email devotions on the theme of the month. This year we will not be joining in with the preaching themes because of our teaching series on Psalm 23, however you are encouraged to sign up for the daily devotions which are written by Ministers of the UPCSA (myself included).
The theme for this year’s Month of Mission is: “Wherever I am: Recognising God’s heart for the world and my part in His plan.” The Convener of our Church’s Mission and Discipleship Committee, Theo Groeneveld, comments: “When we use the word ‘mission’, many Christians think about people called to study a foreign language and culture and to travel to the other side of the world where they will be missionaries. In this framework, mission is seen as the work that Jesus placed in the church’s hands and that he is waiting for us to complete the task…
But, what if Mission looks different? What if the earliest articulation of Mission can be found in Gen 3 – ‘Adam where are you?’ What if God has always been on a mission to restore humankind and the world broken by their sin? What if, instead of ‘taking God’ to people we going to join God in what he is already doing in the community? What if mission is not about ‘delivering’ God to a community, but joining a community in discovering what God is already doing there? By this understanding, Mission isn’t about going, but about being. And so, the theme for our month’s devotions is: ‘Wherever I am: Recognising God’s heart for the world and my part in his plan.’
If you would like to receive the daily devotions, please subscribe by typing the following into your internet browser: http://eepurl.com/dB6tn5.
With all my love, Chris
23 September 2018
Last Sunday we spent a moving and uplifting time in worship as we paused to acknowledge the many blessings and graces that God has showered over our lives. We heard 4 testimonies from members who shared how their trust in God has helped them in their recent journeys of faith and life, and we were able to bring our offerings to the Lord with a very large collection of non-perishables for the Sir Alfred Health and Elderly Care Centre in Klipfontein View (you can see some pics on Facebook in this week’s edition of The Link).
Also, as part of our thanksgiving, all those attending worship were encouraged to write down one thing they are thankful for and then offer that to the Lord too. I mentioned, after the offering was brought forward, that I would like to have a look at the thank you notes and possibly share some of them with you. Well, this week I was able to read the notes and I was soooo encouraged by your thanksgiving. Everyone received a piece of paper with the words, “Lord, I am thankful for…” printed on the top and then invited to complete the sentence. Here are a few examples of what you wrote…
Lord, I am thankful for….
Health…. Vision…. Worship…. Freedom of Faith…. An Income…. Love…. Husband…. A New Day…. Your Provision…. Girlfriend…. Church Family…. Beautiful Grandchildren…. Education…. Hands…. Another Day Sober…. Sale of House…. Neighbours…. Saving Me…. Phone…. Water…. Your Holy Spirit…. Teachers…. Sending Jesus…. Mental Health…. Our Country…. Your Love and Creation…. Good Shelter…. Music…. Healing being Experienced in our Home…. Bible Study…. New Home…. Today…. Car…. Enough Petrol…. Your Guidance in my Life…. Midchurch…. Forgiveness…. Salvation….
And two of my favourites:
“Lord, I am thankful for…. a nice builder!” Can I hear an AMEN?
“Lord, I am thankful for…. beating the All Blacks at Last!
With all my love, Chris
PS – I am very thankful to Jesus for you!!
16 September 2018
On Wednesday we held the second last Bethel Bible Study Series meeting of the year. We are all but finished reading and learning about the New Testament. As always with the Bethel Series, it has been an insightful and faith growing journey for the group.
Our second last study was on the subject of Sanctification, which is the theological term used to describe the process in which our lives are changed/transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus so that we can discover the fullness of life that Jesus promises to us in John 10:10. In other words, when we turn our hearts and minds towards the Lord, daily, and allow his Spirit to lead and guide us, we discover that he changes us, for the better J. Selfishness, arrogance, pride, hatred, anger etc begin to be worked out of our lives as we become more and more like Jesus. It does not happen overnight, but is a life long journey.
A verse that describes sanctification well is found in 2 Cor 3:18 – “And we, …, are being transformed into his (Jesus) likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
The Bethel lesson went on to describe the marks or signs or characteristics of a life that is being sanctified. It listed 12 and they are all significant, but because of what we are sharing in worship today, the 16th of September – Thanksgiving Sunday - one of the characteristics stood out for me in particular, i.e. that the transformation the Spirit brings “broadens a sense of gratitude to God” in the believer.
In other words, when we seek God and the work of his Spirit in our lives we find ourselves saying, ‘Thank you’, far more often than we did before. And, I don’t just mean the polite ‘thank you’ when someone hands us our change at a shop or serves us our meal at a restaurant, but the intentional expression of gratitude to God for the many blessings and graces in our lives.
We can be quick to complain (even if it is justified), but often slow to acknowledge the gifts that God gives us every day.
How about pausing for a moment…. And saying ‘Thank You’ to God for….
With all my love, Chris
9 September 2018
I like to solve problems… I think most of us do. Whether, it is a word puzzle or a DIY challenge or a broken relationship, I want to dive in and see what can be done to help. And, most often it is the simple, back to basics, strategy that works best. However, this week I missed the obvious, simple solution, convinced that the problem was quite complicated!
The problem was, as we like to refer to these kinds of things in our home, a ‘first world’ problem (i.e. not a matter of life or death ). I got home on Tuesday afternoon to the disturbing news that the DSTV remote had stopped working. In fact, the children had to change channels manually on the DSTV machine!!! This was intolerable and required Dad’s problem solving skills. I jumped at the opportunity and assessed the problem. When a button on the remote was pressed, nothing happened, except occasionally the two LED lights on the remote flashed red. My conclusion was that somehow the remote had been reprogrammed and required some kind of reset. I quickly went online to Google the problem. I had a number of hits on my search and went through 3 DSTV remote guides to try and troubleshoot the problem. It seemed from my extensive reading that I had to reset the remote, i.e. to get the remote back to the original factory settings. I read how to do this and followed the instructions, but the remote was not responding as expected. I tried a number of times, to no avail. The panic was growing in the household as the prospect of a remoteless evening lay before the family. I would not be defeated and read some more. Finally, I came across a small print sentence at the bottom of one of the pages that suggested that the batteries may need replacing! I thought that it could not be so simple, because the problem was clearly a complex one. I scratched around and found two AA batteries, inserted them and, like a miracle, it began working like normal again!! Praise the Lord.
I don’t want to underestimate the complexity of some of the many challenges you and I face in this world, but sometimes we can over complicate matters by assuming that the solution must be a difficult one, only to have missed out the simple options. When Jesus was asked to sum up all of God’s instructions to us (instructions meant for our benefit and blessing) he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Sometimes all that is needed is a reminder of the basics in this life:
- Love God: place him at the center of your life, plans and decisions. Pray, worship and seek his guidance.
- Love others: Show respect and kindness and serve the needs of those around you.
- Love yourself: Make sure you eat a healthy diet, rest, exercise and laugh a lot.
Do you perhaps need to get back to these simple basics in your life? Give it a go, you may be surprised.
With all my love, Chris
2 September 2018
I share this with you in no way to boast, but simply to illustrate the subtlety of temptation and the power of God to overcome it.
On Monday Keryn and I did some clothes shopping and we were in Woolworths at Mall of Africa with a few items paying at the till (as I type this I realise that many of my anecdotes come from shopping! J)
We had two cashiers helping us. It seemed like the gentleman was a trainee, although he did not have a trainee badge on, because the lady assisting him kept checking what he was doing. I suspect that this interference from his assistant caused him to be a little flustered because by the time he took the last item of clothing to remove the security tag, scan it, fold it and then place it into the carrier bag, he forgot the step of scanning it. I noticed that he had not scanned it and as he placed it into the bag and told us the total cost (which excluded the last item) the thought crossed my mind that all I need to do to get a free item of clothing was…. say nothing! A nudge from the Lord and I knew that I could not remain silent and so I politely told him that he had not scanned the final item. He responded by telling him, quite confidently, that he had. In that moment the thought in my mind was, “Wow! A second chance to get away with not paying for the one item. It won’t have any real impact on Woolies. Perhaps I should just go with it?” But, again, the Spirit’s nudge, and I insisted that he had missed the item. He (and his assistant J) checked and realized that he had missed the final item. He thanked me sincerely and I paid.
I walked away pleased that I had not succumbed to the temptation and held my ground, so to speak. I have no doubt that it was the work of the Spirit in me and is to his glory. But, how easy it would have been to have said nothing walked away and in so doing having broken two of the 10 commandments – DO NOT LIE and DO NOT STEAL!
Two things struck me about this experience. Firstly, that God’s instructions and values are given to us for our benefit, i.e. when we follow them the result is a society/community/world in which life is lived fully and in respect of God and others, because that is the intention of his instructions – to bless us. Secondly, that silence is not an option when we are faced with injustice and wrongdoing. By remaining silent we perpetuate an unjust society. We must speak up, even if remaining silent seems like the easier option.
With all my love, Chris
26 August 2018
It’s CONFESSION time!
This winter has seen an unprecedented growth in my waistline. I have noticed a gradual spreading of my abdominal area! Some say it is the inevitable changes that come to middle aged bodies, however, I have not done myself any favours either with a regular supply of ‘treats’ that have inadvertently entered by body these past months. Whereas before I was quite disciplined in turning down the offer of a sweet or chocolate or pastry, recently I have not been so successful. So, besides deciding this week to regain my self-discipline, I have also decided to do some work on my core muscles. On Monday I dug deep into the top shelf of my bedroom cupboard and pulled out a box I have not opened for some 20 years. Inside was a Sit-Up Bar!
My children had never seen it before and wondered what this strange contraption could be? I explained that it is designed to slip under a door or a similar piece of furniture and clamped tightly so that one can place ones feet behind the bar to assist one with sit-ups. They thought I was daft (which is nothing new J), but I have started using my sit-up bar again. I don’t pretend that my return to exercising my abdomen will produce anything nearly like the abs of the countless gym bunnies around, but I am confident that if I persist and improve my reps, my core will grow stronger, helping any back aches I might have from time to time, and it may even have some aesthetically pleasing results like the possible flattening of my stomach area.
The point of this confession is to share with you how difficult I found the first few days! Although I used to be able to do a great deal of sit-ups and crunches, even planks, it is obvious that the years of neglect have left me with a lot of catching up to do. It is much the same with our spiritual health. If we do not exercise, we should not be surprised if we lose our connection with God and faith and spiritual well-being. Jesus even told a parable about this, warning that if we do not exercise our spiritual lives, we will lose them. In the same way the writer to the Hebrews encouraged the Christians not to give up the habit of meeting together regularly; not to give up prayer and worship and service. Spiritual health requires spiritual practices/exercises – regular prayer, scripture reading, worship, confession, service of others, generosity, fellowship with believers etc. If we don’t do these exercises, we will lose our faith in God and his Kingdom.
With all my love, Chris
19 August 2018
What I want to share with you this week is inspired, once again, by the Bethel Series in which we are currently studying the New Testament. This past Wednesday the focus was on Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the young Pastor of the Church in Ephesus. The purpose of Paul’s writing to Timothy was to encourage him in his leadership and offer him some pointers in leading a group of God’s people. One of the pieces of advice was to remind Timothy that the life of a congregation must be founded on worship and prayer. So simple, isn’t it? J WORSHIP and PRAYER!
Like Paul, I want to encourage you in your worship of Almighty God! Open your heart, raise your voice and Praise Him! Don’t allow anyone or anything to hinder you or hold you back from handing yourself over to the Spirit of God so that you, and those with you, can worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
And then….. Prayer! We forget to pray! We neglect to pray! We ignore the importance of prayer. I am not sure why we do this? Perhaps we are unsure what to say? All that God wants is for you to honest with him and share what is on your heart and mind. Prayer is something that must be practiced. By practiced, I don’t mean rehearsed, I mean something done regularly. Besides personal prayer, there are a number of opportunities to practice prayer at Midchurch. One of the ways is to join the Prayer Circle, which is a WhatsApp group on which a weekly prayer is posted highlighting a number of issues in our communities and nation which you are encouraged to pray. How about joining the Prayer Circle? Email or Phone Ministry House to be added to the group. Below is this week’s powerful prayer:
“EXAMS: Very stressful for our children. Lord, may you bring peace and confidence. Many life situations can be like exams: job interviews, doctor visits, work presentations etc. Please be with your people, Lord, in all these life changing situations, may they know your presence. Stand with those who are downcast, sad, who feel so ALONE. May they know your love and be strengthened by your spirit to overcome these hardships. Please work through our municipalities both for SERVICE DELIVERY of sanitation, clean water, safe roads, clinics etc. to help all our people be healthy and resilient, as well as to end CORRUPTION. Bring a spirit of accountable governance to those in authority and a spirit of obedience and especially payment for services rendered amongst our people. Prevent the wanton DESTRUCTION of schools, clinics, libraries and infrastructure. All these are irreplaceable. Only evil destroys, you build up, nurture and grow your people. PEDOPHILIA: May those who abuse children, especially those in powerful positions be confronted with their sin even that hidden for many years under blanket amnesties given for apartheid crimes. Protect the whistle blowers and their families. May justice prevail, may the cycle of abuse and silence (victim and perpetrator) be broken and good loving relationships be restored. You are sovereign Lord, you are almighty! Nothing is too hard for you. Bless us, your people, may we bring you joy and our prayers be a fresh aroma before you. AMEN”
With all my love,
12 August 2018
Yesterday, Women’s Day, I spent much of the day in the garden composting the soil around our plants and top dressing the grass and trimming the roses for Spring etc. At one point as I was mixing the compost into the soil around the roses with my hands (quite vigorously) I accidentally thrust my right thumb into the stem of a very thorny rose bush. It was with such force (do I sound dramatic J) that the thorns actually broke under the pressure of my thumb and one of the thorns got lodged DEEP into my thumb and the tip broke off and is currently nestled neatly under the skin of my thumb! That such a small thing can cause so much pain and discomfort!
Of course, the point (excuse the pun) is not lost on me that I quite literally have a thorn in my flesh J. Whether or not it was the Apostle Paul who coined this phrase, it certainly was made popular through his mention of it in 2 Corinthians 12:7 where he used it as an analogy to represent some or other pain in his life that did not want to leave him. We are never told what the ‘thorn’ was, but we are told how Paul reasoned what God was doing in his life through this ‘thorn’, i.e. that it kept his pride in check and built his character.
I am very thankful that my body is busy fighting against the thorn in my flesh and already a little bump is developing which will push the thorn out and bring great relief, but the truth is that most of us live everyday with ‘thorns’ that will not or are unable to go away. Perhaps it is a chronic physical condition that you live with, or the presence of a person/relationship that causes great discomfort, or a personal struggle against an addiction…. The question to be asked is, what is the Lord able to do with this ‘thorn’ in your life?
Paul comments that God’s response to his ‘thorn’ was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” May God’s grace be sufficient for you.
With all my love,
5 August 2018
Last night the lesson at The Bethel Series was simply entitled, The Church. It is one of my favourite Bethel lessons. By taking a broad look at what is revealed in the New Testament about the community that gathers around Jesus, the lesson plainly presents a number of key defining attributes of the Church and so helps us remember who we are called to be and what we are called to do.
Without summarizing the entire lesson, I want to highlight just one of the defining characteristics mentioned, i.e. that the Church is a community of reconciled people. It is true that in the world at large there are many things that separate people and leave us alienated from one another, with walls (often literally) between the rich and poor, strong and weak, men and women, young and old, and differences of culture and race, but this is not to be the case in the Church. From its very beginnings, after the Day of Pentecost, the Church was, by design, meant to be a community in which barriers come tumbling down.
To quote from the Bethel lesson, “Striving to pursue its mission of reconciliation, the community of faith proclaims the theme that whoever we are and whatever our status, we are citizens of one planet, owing our life to one Creator. The church further proclaims that it is its joyful task to encourage each person, irrespective of race, sex, status or ability to be reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.”
In Galations 3:28 we are told that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female”. This does not mean that our differences of race, age, gender, culture, social status etc. do not exist in the Church, as if we become some kind of bland homogeneous group of clones. Of course not! But, the differences or diversity (which is to be celebrated) cannot and must not be used as an excuse to treat each other differently. NO! We are a reconciled community. This is particularly significant during the month of August in RSA because we are reminded in this month that women continue to be mistreated, abused, dismissed, disempowered, objectified, harassed and looked down upon simply because they have a different physiology to men. It is ludicrous and ungodly! As followers of Jesus we must not perpetuate the lie of patriarchy that claims that women are less than men. And, to the men reading this, I don’t understand why we must feel threatened by this truth, as if our manhood depends on us oppressing and subjugating women! What nonsense!
I pray that Midchurch will truly be a reconciled community in which all people experience love and respect and acceptance, in the name of Jesus!
Lots of love,
29 July 2018
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT!
Please do not forward to anyone texts/whatsapp messages or voice notes that claim or at least pretend to be reliable information about critical matters in the life of our communities and broader society…. Unless, you have checked whether the information being touted is indeed true!
Like you, I receive (daily) messages claiming all sorts of facts about serious issues. The messages are often inflammatory and alarmist, and feed into prejudices and stereotypes. Sometimes there may well be some kernel of truth to the matter being addressed, but it has then be coloured by misinformation and rumours.
For example, yesterday I received a voice note of a woman claiming that today, Friday, all petrol stations would be closed to boycott the petrol prices and so everyone had better fill up their tanks. At first, it sounds like a helpful bit of info, but it was actually aimed at creating a sense of alarm and even fear because it fed the myth that our society is lawless and falling apart. A quick google search revealed that the voice note was fake news. A few reputable news sites were warning people not to believe the voice note.
Another one I received was a picture or table listing the top 10 most violent cities in the world, with Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg in the list. It was sent around as another example of the state of disaster that our nation is in. I don’t deny for a second that there are huge social challenges in our nation, the most obvious being the high level of poverty and economic inequality, but a search of the web revealed from a reputable site - www.worldatlas.com (and others) - a list of the top 50 most violent cities in the world and Cape Town is at 15, below St Louis in the USA, and Durban at 44, below New Orleans and Detroit.
I can go on and on. I do not live with my head in the ground, like an Ostrich, and deny the problems of our society, but I do not accept any purported facts from text messages or Facebook posts until I have checked it with reputable news agencies. If you want to be part of building our nation, do not spread false information which only causes fear and anxiety. Fact check what you are sent before forwarding it.
HERE ENDS THE PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
22 July 2018
I saw something this week that disturbed me very deeply and, without being melodramatic, speaks to the disconnectedness that plagues our broken society.
I was on my way back from Lanseria Airport and I stopped at the Total Petroport on the N14 to buy some water and a chocolate . The cashier was assisting another customer ahead of me and so I waited my turn. However, what transpired between the customer and cashier was jarring. The entire time that the cashier attended to the customer, the customer was on an animated phone call with someone else. In fact, after paying, without acknowledging the cashier once, she left the shop and walked to her car, paid the petrol attendant (also not acknowledging him) and got into her car and drove off, still in conversation on the phone.
When the customer left the cashier and I stepped forward I did not realize that I was shaking my head a bit, because when I looked up to greet the cashier, she just smiled at me and shook her head too, knowing that the customer before me had treated her like nothing more than a vending machine. It was quite bizarre to watch. During the entire transaction of placing the goods on the counter, to getting her purse out and placing her card in the card machine and punching in her code and taking the receipt and goods, she never once looked at the cashier nor acknowledged that there was another human being in her presence.
It is not OK to treat others in this way. I am sure that the conversation she was having on the phone was engaging (she certainly was engrossed in it), but it would have cost her nothing to say to the person on the phone, “Excuse me a moment, I just need to pay for something”, and then greet the other human being, who was about to serve her, and engage in a brief yet meaningful moment of human connection with the cashier.
In isiZulu you greet another person with, “Sawubona”, which literally means, “I see you.” Do we see one another? Do we see the people we interact with every day as fellow human beings loved by God and worthy of a moment of our time and attention? Or do we perpetuate the disconnectedness of our society by simply seeing through or past others?
Love, as Jesus loved.
15 July 2018
A year or so ago during worship I shared a video clip with you from the website – I Am Second – in which the Hollywood actor, Stephen Baldwin shares, in an absorbingly witty confession, how his life moved from a place centered around money, fame and selfishness to a life centered around him no longer mattering, but rather God being first in his life, i.e. where he would be second. Stephen Baldwin is a Christian and the website (www.iamsecond.com) shares similar stories of celebrities and other well-known members of society who have chosen a life of faith in the Lordship of Jesus.
One of our members sent me a newspaper article that appeared in the Pretoria News today, the 12th of July 2018, in which Stephen Baldwin’s daughter, Hailey, is mentioned. She is now engaged to superstar Justin Bieber. In recent years Bieber has been increasingly open about his faith in Jesus and his change of heart and life. His Instagram post announcing their engagement affirmed this. He wrote, “I promise to lead our family with honour and integrity letting Jesus through his Holy Spirit guide us in everything we do and every decision we make.... The thing I am most excited for is that my little brother and sister get to see another healthy marriage and look for the same! God’s timing really is perfect. We got engaged on the seventh day of the seventh month, the number seven is the number of spiritual perfection…isn’t that nuts? By the way I didn’t plan that. My goodness it does feel good to have our future secured! We’re gonna be better at 70 baby here we go! ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord!’”
Some of us may find it strange or unusual to speak openly like this on social media, but I suppose when you live in the public eye and connect with fans through social media, what better way for him than to express love, commitment and faith in Jesus on a platform that will reach millions. It is refreshing and encouraging when people with such a huge fan base (and therefore with great influence on others) express their faith in such familiar and confident terms.
I pray God’s rich blessing on Justin and Hailey and pray that their marriage will indeed be an example of faith and faithfulness to many.
I am going now to post something on Instagram and let’s see if it makes the Pretoria News .
Lots of love, Chris