Newsletter February 2018

Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. (Genesis 12:1-4)

     God called Abram (whose name He later changed to Abraham) to leave his family and go to a new country that He would show him.  God promised to be with Abram and to bless him.  So wherever Abram went he made sure God was at the centre of his life; he knew that it was God who kept him and sustained him, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot.

      One day Abram had to make a choice: an argument broke out between his herdsmen and Lot's.  God had increased their herds and flocks so much that there was no longer enough room for them to stay together.  Abram recognised that the time had come for them to separate.  From now on Lot would have to make his own choices.  And Abraham offered him a choice.  He said to him,

     “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.  Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8-9).

     Lot looked and saw to the west the arid hills of Judah and to the east the lush plain of Jordan.  To him there was no question which of the two he should choose.  So he made his choice and journeyed to the east.

     Abram could have made the choice himself.  After all, he was the elder.  Lot would have had to accept whatever he decided.  Yet Abraham left the decision to Lot.  For him it made no difference which way he would go; he knew that God could bless him no matter where he was.  While Lot looked with his natural eyes and made his decision based on what he saw, Abram looked with the eyes of faith to the Creator, believing that He was able to bless him anywhere and in every situation. 

     Are you like Abram?  Do you look to God as the source of your blessing?  Do you trust His promises?  Do you seek Him and depend on Him to meet every need?  Do you bring your requests before Him, believing that he will provide for you in every circumstance?  Do you believe He is able to sustain you even when things around you look bleak? 

     Or are you like Lot?  Do you live your life according to your natural perceptions and your own understanding?  Are you guided by what you see rather than by the invisible God who created you?  Do you limit the Almighty by thinking He can only bless you if the circumstances look right?   

     So often we limit God by what we see around us.  We say, things aren't looking good right now.  The economy is in decline.  People all around us are struggling.  We need to somehow get by; we can't expect too much in times like these.      

     Or we look at our own situation and compare it with that of others.  If only I could have the opportunities they have.  Surely things would be better if I were at the place where they are.  If only I could be like them.  Then God could truly bless me.

     Or we may say, if only my circumstances were different; if I lived somewhere else.  Then I could really serve God.  Then I could truly be used by Him.  Surely God could bless me if the circumstances were right. 

     Our God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  He is not limited by our circumstances.  He can bless us wherever we are.  He is not limited by the situation in which we find ourselves.  He can do far more than we can ever ask or think.  As He blessed Abram, He can bless us – that is, if we make Him the centre of our lives, as Abram did.  The only thing that will limit Him is a lack of faith.

     Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Pastor Konrad

Newsletter January 2018

Rebuilding the wall

 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)

     As Nehemiah was serving in Susa in the palace of the Persian king, some men came from Jerusalem and reported to him the state of the city and the plight of their Jewish compatriots who were living among the ruins of that once great city.  King Cyrus of Persia had issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home, but the task of rebuilding was great and made even more difficult by the opposition they faced from those who had since taken over their land.  When Nehemiah heard the bad news, he immediately turned to God in prayer.  He repents of the sin that had led to God’s judgment upon his people and asks the Persian king for permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild its defensive wall. 

     We too face an enemy, albeit an invisible one.  When we look at our lives, our church and our community, we too see distress and reproach.  As God’s people, we expect our lives to be blessed and yet we so often feel overcome by the adverse circumstances we face, not realising that our spiritual enemy, the devil, is doing everything to hold us back in our walk with God and experience the life of fullness we have inherited in Christ.  Maybe we too need to repent of sins we have committed or simply of our complacency when it comes to matters of God’s kingdom.  What are our priorities?  What are we doing to rebuild the walls that the enemy has torn down?

     Nehemiah’s initial response was to weep, to lament the situation, but his sadness moved him to action.  He prayed and soon realised that he himself would be the answer to his prayer.  God was calling him to leave the comfort of a foreign king’s palace, where he held the eminent position of cupbearer, and return to Jerusalem to rebuild its dilapidated wall.

     What is your response when you see the distress and hardship in your life and in the lives of those around you?  Do you simply lament and feel sorrow for yourself?  Or do you turn to the Almighty in prayer?  Do you recognise that He has called you to labour in prayer to rebuild what the enemy has destroyed? 

     As every New Year, our church will begin 2018 with a focus on prayer.  There will be prayer meetings locally and nationally where we can come together to pray and fast.  However, let us not be limited to those meetings; let us seek God in our own homes in our own time.  Let us experience God’s victory in Christ as we tap into His power through concerted prayer.  Before Jesus went to the cross He said to His disciples, “…the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (John 14:30).  Let us share in Jesus’ victory that He purchased for us when He disarmed principalities and powers, [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].  Let us stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11b) and, through persistent prayer, build God’s wall of protection around ourselves, our church and around all those the Lord is calling in our community.      

               Pastor Konrad

Newsletter December 2017

The King has come

 

     We have arrived at the end of another year and will be celebrating Christmas to remember the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into the world.  The prophet Isaiah foretold this event more than half a millennium before it occurred (Isaiah 9:2; 6-7):

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined….

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

     Isaiah describes the condition of man before the coming of Christ as walking in darkness.  God had revealed Himself to the nation of Israel and had given them His Law and spoken to them through various prophets.  Nonetheless, they were still living in darkness, unable to discern the things of God.  Since Adam and Eve had turned from God, the intimate relationship they had previously enjoyed with their Creator had been severed.  As a result of their disobedience they lost their place in the perfect world of God’s garden and, instead of enjoying His loving presence, they now lived in the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan, the prince of darkness.  This is the state that Isaiah was describing – until the coming of God’s Anointed. 

     The birth of Christ would usher in a completely new era, as those who would answer His call to follow Him would be born anew by the power of His Spirit and restored to the relationship God had always intended for them.  In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul expresses this transformation as follows:

     He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13-14)  He then goes on to explain to his readers that this man Jesus is in fact the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

     The miracle of Christmas is that God, who created the universe, came to us, his creation, became one of us.  He came in the flesh, fully man and fully God.  He lived among His people, but they did not recognise Him.  Yet those who received Him, those who believed in Him, received power to become children of God.  They were delivered from spiritual death and restored to true life through the miracle of the new birth.  (John 1:10-13) 

     What about you?  Do you recognise who He is?  Do you receive Him as your Saviour?  Do you believe that He came to die for you and to restore you to God?  As we celebrate Christmas, let us reflect on the miracle of Bethlehem, let us worship Jesus and thank Him for coming to give us new life.  And let us live the new life we have received in communion with our heavenly Father.           

Pastor Konrad

Newsletter November 2017

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

     From the time that the first humans turned away from God to follow their own ways, God sought to restore that special relationship which they had broken through their disobedience.  God took the initiative by calling Abraham and promising that He would bless all the families of the earth through him (Genesis 12:3).  When Abraham’s descendants Israel find themselves enslaved in Egypt, God remembers his covenant with Abraham and comes to their rescue.  He leads them out of slavery into the land He had promised Abraham.  However, before they are ready to enter that land they must know God who has chosen and delivered them.  He leads them to Mount Horeb, where He reveals to them His purpose for their lives: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19:4-6)  Israel are to enter into a special relationship with Him, the Creator and Ruler of the universe.

     Yet God’s chosen people do not keep their side of the covenant.  They disobey their Deliverer and turn to other gods.  For this reason, He allows them to be conquered and oppressed by their enemies.  At the time of Jeremiah, their capital Jerusalem is captured, the temple destroyed and the people carried away into captivity in Babylon.  Through the prophet Jeremiah, God declares His judgement on His people, but he also speaks to them of a time of restoration in the future.  They have broken the covenant relationship He made with them at Horeb, but one day He will make a new covenant.  This time He will transform them from the inside out by putting His laws in the hearts and minds. He will live in their hearts by His Spirit so they can all know Him intimately, from the least to the greatest. 

     For this to be possible, however, God had to deal with the sin that had separated his people from Himself.  He had to provide a perfect substitute who would die for their guilt so they could be declared righteous.  Therefore He sent His Son Jesus into the world.

     As we approach the Christmas season, we focus on the miracle of the Incarnation.  God Himself came to earth in the form of human flesh.  He became one of us in order to bring us back to Himself.  Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to demonstrate God’s power and love as He announced God’s kingdom and set people free from the power of Satan.  The rulers of this world rejected Him and executed Him on a cross, not realising that by His death He was fulfilling prophecy: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

     Jesus’ coming into the world was the beginning of a new era.  Through His sacrifice on Calvary we are forgiven, and by the Holy Spirit we are made new.  God writes his law in our hearts so we can live in perfect relationship with Him as Jesus did while on earth.  So that we can glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Westminster Confession).                                         

Pastor Konrad

 

Newsletter October 2017

Look up!

 

So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” 8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. 9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”  10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony” (Luke 21:7-13)

     When Jesus told His disciples of the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish worship, they were keen to know when this would occur.  Jesus gave them a list of events that would signal the end, and when we read this list, we are reminded of things we see on the news and experience ourselves.  Just as he urged his disciples in their day, we too should look up, for our redemption is drawing near.  Jesus will return one day to establish his kingdom in all its fullness.  In that day, the world will be judged but those who have become part of His kingdom through faith in Him and forgiveness of sin will be received into their eternal home. 

     Throughout the past 2,000 years, people have time and again looked at such signs and expected Jesus’ imminent return.  Some even tried to figure out specific dates for the Second Coming of Christ, yet they were disappointed.  In the light of this knowledge, we can easily become cynical and question: Is His return really as close as we might think?  Or could it be another 2,000 years?  Or even, will He ever come?  Could Jesus just have spoken symbolically?  Was this message only for His hearers in the first half of the first century?  After all, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70 so all that remains today is the “Wailing Wall”. 

     While these questions are legitimate, there are current developments in the environment, in society and in politics that point to the ultimate fulfilment of prophecy.  We do not know the date; Jesus warned us not to speculate.  However, He did admonish us to take heed of the signs and look up and, as we do so, His words appear timelier than ever.

     As in those days, people’s hearts are failing them.  Scientists are considering where we could go when the earth becomes either too overcrowded or even uninhabitable.  People are feeling hopeless or looking for hope in populist leaders and/or new religious ideas.  Paul explains this to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10): And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 

     Let us be alert.  Let us be true to God even in the face of opposition.  Let us not fear with those who have no hope because they do not believe.  And let us be ready to tell others about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) so they may share that hope in Christ with us.     

Pastor Konrad

Newsletter September 2017

Something new

According to our calendar, September is the ninth month of the year.  In many ways, however, it is a month of new beginnings.  After the holiday period, the pace of life once again picks up – be it at our workplaces or in church.  Especially for those in education, both teachers and students, September marks a new beginning.  For some among us, this September will mean moving from primary to secondary school, or from school to sixth form, or even from sixth form to university.  For some it will be the first time they leave their friends, their family, and their church.  Some will even be going to a different country for further study or work.  Leaving one’s familiar environment is exciting but also frightening.  We must therefore pray persistently for those who are embarking on a new journey into the unknown, and also for the families they leave behind.

     In the Bible, we see many examples of people stepping out into the unknown, not because of education or a career move, but in response to God’s call.  One such example is found in 1 Kings 19:19, where we see Elisha ploughing his family’s field as he would have done many times before.  Yet this time something extraordinary happens.  A man approaches the field and comes straight up to Elisha, and that encounter changes Elisha’s life forever.  The man is Elijah, the greatest prophet of that time.  He throws his cloak, a symbol of God’s anointing, around Elisha and calls him to follow.  Elisha recognises the call of God, leaves his oxen and plough, and runs after Elijah.  However, he makes a final request; he asks the man of God for permission to kiss his family good-bye.  For a moment, Elijah must have questioned whether God had sent him to the right person.  Was Elisha really ready to give up all in order to answer God’s call, for no-one who puts his hand to [God’s] plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).  Hence his reply, “Go back.  What have I done to you?” (v.20) 

     Little did Elijah know that Elisha’s reason for going back was to burn his bridges: he went to kill the oxen with which he had been ploughing, and cooked them over a fire made with his ploughing equipment.  He had heard God’s call and was willing to leave everything behind in order to answer that call.  And he was willing to follow on God’s terms.  He faithfully served under Elijah until the day when his master was taken up to heaven and the cloak of God’s anointing finally passed on to him.

     God is never anxious about His purpose.  He will always find someone who is willing to leave what they are doing to answer His call and to be faithful to His purpose – on His terms.  Education and career moves are good.  God gives us the means to achieve what we can in this life.  Nonetheless, He has a greater purpose for us.  His desire is for us to be His agents of change in a world that is heading for destruction.  He calls us to be willing instruments in His hands, through whom His word can be spread in love and in power.  All He needs is our willingness to follow.

     The scriptures do not distinguish between a secular and a Christian aspect of our lives.  In whatever we do, be it work or study, we are called to be witnesses of His eternal kingdom.  Wherever our careers or our studies may take us, we serve the Almighty.  Elisha had to leave his family and his familiar environment in order to answer his call as a prophet of God, and God may require that of us.  However, following Him will not mean that for everyone.  What God requires of us is that we burn the bridges in our hearts that tempt us to return to the familiar at the expense of stepping out in faith into His calling.  Some of those who are leaving us now may return one day, but some, will not.  Whatever the case may be, let us pray for them that they will serve God wherever they are.  And let us keep seeking God’s purpose for our lives.  It is never too late to answer God’s call and to step out into something new.  Jesus promises to be with us always as we obey His call. (Matt. 28:20)                                                Pastor Konrad

 

Newsletter August 2017

Guided by the Spirit

     Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10)

     Have you ever had a plan and somehow things just didn’t seem to work out.  If so, what did you do?  Did you try to force things?  Or did wonder if God might be shutting a door because His plan was different to yours?  Did you turn to God and ask for direction? 

     Paul and his companions had a plan.  The next station on their missionary trip was to be Asia, a region they hadn’t preach in until then.  Surely the people there needed to hear the Gospel message just as others had.  So why did the door seem shut?  Why did the Spirit of God forbid them to preach in that region?

     Sometimes things seem to make sense to us.  We have a plan and pursue it until we achieve our goal.  But what if God’s plan is different?  What if He has a different priority?  Whether in ministry work or in our personal career or family life, we often waste time trying to achieve the goals that we have set ourselves, when God’s plan for us is quite different.  Yes, Asia needed to hear the Gospel, but not now.  Just across the sea, in Macedonia, the entrance to the European continent, there were people ready to receive the message of the cross, and God wanted to use Paul to bring it to them. 

     Following Paul’s vision of a Macedonian man pleading for them to come, the group did not hesitate to obey God’s leading.  And as they arrived in the city of Philippi, they encountered Lydia, who readily received the gospel and invited them to her house.  Everything was working out just as one would expect if God is leading.

     However, then events took a different turn.  A slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination followed the missionaries, crying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”  Despite the truth of her words, Paul recognised their demonic source and cast the evil spirit out of her.  This upset her owners, as they had made money with her “gift” of fortune-telling.  Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and thrown into prison.  Was God still there?  Were they still in His will?  Why then were things suddenly going so wrong?

     Paul and Silas knew who had called them; and they knew that He had called them to Macedonia.  If God had allowed them to be arrested and ill-treated as they followed the Spirit’s leading, there had to be a purpose behind their ordeal.  And so they worshipped in the midst of their trouble.  And God intervened spectacularly: the prison was shaken and their chains and those of all the prisoners fell off.  The jailer, about to commit suicide when he realised what had happened, heard the gospel and, instead, found new life in Jesus Christ.  Their stay in Philippi finally ended with a victory for God’s kingdom and embarrassment for those who had unwittingly violated the rights of these Roam citizens by beating and imprisoning them without trial.

     God know whom to send.  He has His purpose and His timetable for every one of us.  If we follow His leading we will fulfil that purpose, even though the journey won’t always be comfortable.  We don’t see the whole picture, and we don’t know what awaits us in the future, but God does.  Let us seek Him and trust the leading of His Spirit.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)                                                                                                             Pastor Konrad

Newsletter July 2017

Are you a doer?

     In Matthew 21:28ff Jesus tells a story of a father who asked his two sons to tend his vines. When he asked the first son to go into the vineyard to work, that son refused to do go.  We do not know his reasons for refusing to carry out his father’s request; all we know is that he refused.  Maybe he was tired or busy with something else, or maybe he was simply showing disrespect to his father. 

    Later, however, this son changed his mind and went.   Again, we do not know his reasons for changing his mind.  Maybe he was troubled by his conscience, realising that the harvest would be spoilt if he did not do his part in breaking up the ground and watering the vines.  Neither do we know whether he told his father and brother that he was going – probably not.   All we know is that he went.

    The father then asked the second son to go to the vineyard.  With apparent respect for his father, the second son instantly replied, “I will, sir.”  However, as soon as the father turned his back, he changed his mind and did not go. 

     This second son must have known the consequences of his disobedience.  He would have learnt from his father all there was to know about vineyards and grapes.  He knew the importance of tending the vineyard.  Nonetheless, this seemingly obedient son did not go to work. 

     We do not know why he failed to obey his father’s request after initially agreeing to do it.  Could it have been that he was so busy focusing on his brother’s apparent disobedience that he completely forgot to go himself?  Perhaps he was so busy feeling good about himself and complaining about the faults of his brother that he did not notice when that same brother quietly left the house to do the father’s will.

     Like the religious people of Jesus’ day, we too are very good at knowing what others should be doing, but often fail to obey God when the opportunity presents itself to us.  We may see a need but do not feel that it is our responsibility to tend to it.  We may be quite willing to do what brings us acclaim and public recognition, but shy away from those essential tasks that remain unnoticed by others – except by God, who sees in secret (Matthew 6:4).  That is why Jesus told this story.  We can easily fall into the trap of feeling justified when we focus on what we think others should be doing in God’s vineyard, while we ourselves are doing little or nothing.  And consequently, we may fail to notice when the very people we regard with misgiving quietly and faithfully get on with God’s work.

    The Apostle James (1:22) exhorts us to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves for (James 2:17) faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Let us therefore show our faith by doing our part.  The harvest is ripe, but the labourers are few.  (Matthew 9:37)  Let us be labourers in God’s vineyard.  Let us answer Jesus’ call before the night comes and it is too late for anyone to work. (John 9:4)  For all who labour, sowers and reapers alike, will surely receive their wages.  (John 4:36)  And let us keep looking out for those small practical ways in which we can contribute to building God’s church and His kingdom.                                                                       

Pastor Konrad

Newsletter June 2017

A building for a name

 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4)

     This story of the Tower of Babel reveals to us humankind’s desire to be one.  The people in the story are able to communicate with each other and therefore to agree with each other and make plans as a group.  Their concern is that they might be scattered abroad and lose their sense of community.

     We were created for community.  When God made Adam, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone” and gave him woman, made of his own flesh and bone. (Gen. 2:23) Adam and Eve were one, as they enjoyed God’s presence and the blessings that issued from it.  There was no lack in the garden and life could have continued eternally in that way.  However, Adam and Eve were also united in their disobedience, as they succumbed to the temptation (Gen. 3:5) to be like God, knowing good and evil – i.e. making their own decisions independent of God.  Consequently, they lost their fellowship with God and the resulting blessings, and before long envy and selfish desire led to the fist murder in history (Genesis 4:8).  The first family community was destroyed.

     In the story of the Tower of Babel, we see humankind’s innate desire for unity and community, but we also see the original sin of Adam repeated.  Instead of turning to God, they wanted to reach heaven themselves and make a name for themselves.  They had the resources required for this task and they were of one mind and one language, so they could work together to accomplish it.  However, they left God out of the picture, and He came down to confound their plans by confusing their language.

     As a result of original sin, our society is dominated by human ambitions.  Like in this story, the quest for our own greatness manifests itself through celebrity culture and a one-sided focus on personal achievement and material success at the expense of a living relationship with God.  Even religious endeavours are far too often motivated by a desire to make a name for ourselves by being the most popular church, having the greatest ministry, rather than by a desire to glorify God.  In the value system of this world, prominence and recognition seem more important than faithful service to God and others.  Yet when things fall apart, as they did in Babel, because we have left God out of the picture, we find ourselves in the very place that we had tried to avoid – scattered and left with nothing but a pile of rubble.

     As we consider history, we find that human efforts to create unity have usually been based on oppression.  Strong leaders unite a group of people at the expense of others.  Nations conquer and rule over other nations.  Political ideologies dominate and oppress those who oppose their ideas.  After the horrors of two World Wars and the Holocaust, efforts were made to bring peace and unity instead through new institutions such as the UN and the EU.  Nonetheless, we seem more divided today than ever before – nation against nation, ideology against ideology, social group against social group and ethnic background against ethnic background.  Many are again crying out for strong leadership, and it will come as the Bible foretells – in the form of the Antichrist.  Yet, one final time, God will confound human attempts to create a unity without His presence.  While humankind endeavours to make a name for itself, JESUS will return to confound its efforts and establish His everlasting kingdom of peace.  Are you on His side?  Is He at the centre of your life?  Are you looking eagerly for His return?   He alone has the name which is above every other name.  Therefore let us not strive for our own greatness but rather, as living stones, be built up a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5), a dwelling place of God’s presence. (Eph. 2:22)                                                               Pastor Konrad

Newsletter May 2017

No turning back

         In the last chapter of John’s Gospel, we read about Jesus’ appearance to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, elsewhere called the Sea of Galilee.  This appearance is different from previous appearances.  On other occasions, Jesus had found the disciples gathered together in a room where He had suddenly stood in their midst and they had recognised Him.  On this occasion, he finds them at the very place where He had first called them to leave everything they knew in order to follow him, and He finds them doing what they had been used to doing before - fishing.

     So what was their reason for going back to what they had been called from?  Was it discouragement?  If so, why?  They had seen Him since His resurrection; He had stood among them, He had spoken to them, and they had even touched Him.  Should they not have been excited rather than discouraged?  Should they not have been telling the whole world that their Lord had risen, just as He had foretold?  Was the guilt of disloyalty and denial still weighing them down?  

     Many of us have had very real experiences of God’s presence.  We may have had a powerful touch from God.  We may have returned from a conference with a fresh commitment and a renewed determination.  We may have experienced God’s healing touch, or sensed His love and comfort in a seemingly desperate situation.  We may have received a prophetic word concerning God’s call for our lives.  Yet often these “life changing” experiences with God seem to fade away quickly into distant memories.  As we fail to answer Jesus’ call and follow Him whole-heartedly we feel that we have let the Lord down and consequently return to our old routine instead of walking in the fullness of Jesus’ resurrection life. 

     Then Jesus appears, standing on the shore.  He asks them if they have caught any fish, and they reply, “No.”  Jesus then directs them to cast out their net once again on the right side of the boat.  As they follow His instruction, their net is full of fish, just as it was when He first called them three years earlier.  Immediately John recognises the Lord.  As soon as Peter hears John’s confession, He plunges into the water and swims to the shore to be with Jesus.

     When God comes into our lives, He comes not simply to touch us but to change us.  When He calls us, He does not intend for us to return to our past lives but to follow Him wholeheartedly, leaving all things behind that would hold us back.  Just as He called those first disciples to catch people rather than fish, He calls us.  His purpose for His followers has not changed.  Our time on earth is limited, and our priority must be to declare His love and power to those around us.

    Some things may be difficult to put behind, but what God gives us in exchange will always be far greater.  He promises us true life in all its fullness if we will lay down our lives and prioritise His purpose.  As He calls you, follow Him!  Let His presence be not just a precious memory, but a daily reality as you walk with Him and serve Him.  Don’t be held back by the guilt of past failures, but let Jesus restore you and remind you of His purpose for your life.

                                                                                                            Pastor Konrad

 

April 2017

From death to Life

   The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:23-24)

      Jesus spoke these words concerning His imminent death on the cross.  He knew that He would suffer and die, and He was troubled at that thought (v. 27).  He knew that He would have to go through the false accusations, the total rejection, the excruciating pain and, ultimately, death on the cross.  It was for this purpose He had come into the world.  Yet Jesus could see beyond the here and now to the glory prepared for Him with the Father. 

     Unlike His disciples, Jesus understood that His death would lead to their life; and not theirs alone, but new life for all those who would put their trust in Him.  As a farmer sacrifices a portion of his grain by sowing it into the ground, Jesus sacrificed His life.  And as the farmer expects those grains to germinate and bring forth a multiple harvest of grain, so Jesus knew that His death would bring a multiple harvest of souls, people whose lives would be restored to fellowship with God.  With this hope in view, He was able to endure the cross, despising its shame (Heb. 12:2).  And He did not remain in the grave, but rose the third day and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   From there, He has sent us the Holy Spirit to live in us, the Spirit who raised Him from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies.    

      God lives in us by His Spirit, keeping us by His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph. 2:19-20)  We have been raised from spiritual death to new life in Christ, and one day we will be raised in body – a new, spiritual body that God will give us (1 Cor. 15:42-44) so we can see Him face to face and be with Him eternally.  Yet we can only experience that new life in Christ if we are willing to let go of the old.  Jesus says, He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)  Have you laid down the old life?  Have you fully surrendered to Jesus and His purpose?  What is the Holy Spirit bringing to your attention that needs to be laid down at the foot of the cross and left there?

     Whatever we may go through in this life, let us fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and follow Him.  Let us allow our trials to mould us into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29) as we depend on Him.  Let us grow in grace through the life-giving power that only the Creator God can give (Mark 4:26-28), for without remaining in Jesus, we can bear no fruit (John 15:4) of eternal value.  Let us allow our lives be a witness to others, so they too may come to Jesus and follow Him.                                                                                                                        Pastor Konrad 

 

Newsletter March 2017

Ambassadors of God’s kingdom

 

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:18-20

     These were the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.  He had completed His time on earth.  He had fulfilled His purpose.  Through His death on the cross, He had provided the sacrifice needed to reconcile mankind to God.  He who knew no sin had become the sin offering for the world, so that all who believe in Him could become the righteousness of God.  Now the disciples were to be His ambassadors, proclaiming the gospel and imploring men and women to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20-21)

     Jesus begins by telling them that all authority has been given to Him.  He has been seated at the right hand [of the Father] in heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:21)  From this position of authority, He commands them to proclaim the gospel.

     Jesus had called them - ordinary people, like you and me, from every walk of life – to be with Him (Mark 3:14).  For three and a half years, they had travelled with Him, observed Him, heard Him.  They had listened to His teachings, they had watched Him perform miracles, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead.  At times He had rebuked them, when their own ideas and ambitions had taken over.  They had shared in his popularity, as the crowds in Jerusalem welcomed Him with cheers of “Hosanna!”, and they had deserted Him when the shouts later changed into “Crucify Him!”  When they had lost all hope, He had appeared to them – alive, risen from the dead.  He had restored their joy by conquering the last enemy, death (1 Cor. 15:26) and putting an end to all authority and power that would oppose God.   

     Next, Jesus commissions them to go out into the world and to call others - from Jerusalem, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  As He had called them and discipled them, He now charges them to disciple others: to tell them the message of the cross, to bring them into a relationship with God, to baptise them as a sign of their commitment, and to teach them to observe all they have learnt from Him.  As He had shared His life with them, they are now to share their lives with others.

     Finally, Jesus gives them a promise: ... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  He gives them a formidable task: He challenges a handful of ordinary men to bring a lost world back to God.  They had seen the unbelief and the open hostility He had encountered.  He had warned them that they too would experience opposition.  But He also gave them the promise that He would never leave them nor forsake them.  If they now do what He has commissioned them to do they can be sure of His presence wherever they went.  Before going to the cross, He had promised to send them the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would live in them.  He would come to them so that they would never again be alone. (John 14:15-18).   Now they are to wait for the Spirit, and when He has come, they will be able to carry out their commission in His power. (Acts 1:8)

    Do we want to experience His presence?  Do we want to know His power and authority? Then let us hear His voice that calls us to Go and make disciples of all the nations ...  As we obey His command, we will also hear His promise ... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Who will you disciple?  Who will you tell about Jesus?  Who will you show what it means to live for Him?                                                                        Pastor Konrad

Newsletter February 2017

God’s kingdom

 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

     When the Son of God came to earth, He came to restore what had been severed as a result of the Fall.  By turning their backs on God, Adam and Eve had destroyed the harmonious relationship that had existed between them and their Creator.  Sin had created a barrier between humanity and God.  Then Jesus came and gave His life as a penalty for sin.  His sacrifice removed that barrier for all who believe in Him, who receive forgiveness through His blood, and surrender their lives to His rule.   

     When Jesus began His ministry on earth, He announced the coming of God’s kingdom, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)  In His parables, Jesus taught about the nature of God’s kingdom.  He compared it, for example, with a tiny seed that grows into something great. (Mark 4:26-32)  He demonstrated its power, when He healed the sick and delivered the possessed, saying, “… if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20)   When He taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to say, “… Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Luke 11:2)  To those who asked Him when this kingdom would come, He replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”  (Luke 17:20-21)  Finally, He told His disciples that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations…” (Matt. 24:14)

     Everything Jesus did and said concerned the kingdom of God.  His mission was to restore God’s rule in the lives of people, and ultimately in the whole earth.  And He passed that mission on to all who would answer His call.  Jesus has commissioned us to advance God’s kingdom: through proclamation, teaching, prayer and action.  He has called us into fellowship with Himself, so that we can bring others into fellowship with Him.  (2 Cor. 5:18-21) 

     Our purpose as God’s people is to fulfil His purpose that He purposed in Himself. (Eph. 1:9-10)  One day, all things in heaven and earth will be gathered together in one in Christ.  In that day, the perfect harmony that existed before the Fall will be restored.  The kingdom of God will be established in the whole earth, and every knee [will] bow … and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:10-11)   

     Are you part of God’s kingdom?  Does your life truly belong to Him?  Is your will surrendered to His purpose?  Do you advance His kingdom through proclamation and teaching, through prayer, and through your actions?  Will Jesus one day say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matt. 25:21)  Or will He say, “I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:27)           Pastor Konrad

Newsletter January 2017

Fulfilment

 

As we come to the end of another year and take down the Christmas decorations, we reflect on the events of 2016 and look forward to 2017, praying that it will bring us the blessings we so desire: in our families, our careers and education, our finances, and our spiritual walk.  We may make New Year’s resolutions, hoping that this time round we will actually succeed in keeping them.  We may be looking beyond our immediate circumstances, wishing that the trouble in our world might change for the better, and peace and prosperity might come.

     The Jewish people living at the time of Jesus were also hoping to see a change for the good.  They had heard prophecies regarding God’s kingdom and the freedom and peace its arrival would bring.  But how would it come?  What would be the sign of its arrival?  In this atmosphere of yearning for a new beginning, a prophet named John appears, who calls the people to turn from their sins to God and be baptised in preparation for the coming of His kingdom.  At this point, Mark begins his gospel account:

      The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets:

“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’” (Mark 1:1-2)

     Then, one day, Jesus comes to John to be baptised of him, and as He comes up out of the water the Spirit of God descends on Him and a voice comes from heaven, saying, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Expectation turns into fulfilment, hope into reality.  The King has entered the stage of human history to establish His reign.  With Jesus’ arrival, John’s ministry of preparation has come to an end; he is arrested and eventually executed.  Now Jesus begins to preach, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

     We are living in the time of fulfilment.  Heaven has come to earth.  The Almighty God, the ruler of the universe has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.  (Colossians 1:13)  All we who confess our sins, who receive His forgiveness and follow Jesus wholeheartedly receive new life and a new identity as citizens of this spiritual kingdom.  Our future is secured, our eternal inheritance guaranteed.  We are no longer of the world, just as Jesus is not of the world. (John 17:16).  Yet we remain in the world, for now, as ambassadors of the new kingdom to which we now belong.  From now on, we are commissioned to call others, so they too can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ as we have been. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

     As we leave the old year behind and enter the new, let us not focus so much on a four-digit number at the end of a date.  Let us rather embrace what Jesus Christ has already done for us and answer His call to share the hope of the gospel with others.  Resolutions are made with the best of intentions but usually broken before the year is over.  Then, disappointed with ourselves and our circumstances, we spend the remaining months of that year waiting for yet another new beginning, instead of walking daily in His power and in His service. 

     God is not limited by our time restraints: Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  Jesus, the King, has come.  All was fulfilled when He gave His life on the cross.  Therefore let us live every day of the year in His power and to His glory.  Whatever 2017 may bring, let us rejoice in our salvation and look forward to that day when He returns to receive us into our eternal inheritance.  Meanwhile, let us tell the people of the world that they too can enter God’s kingdom through the blood that Jesus shed for their forgiveness as well as ours.        

               Pastor Konrad

December 2016 Newsletter

Fulfilment

 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. (Luke 1:30-32)

     As we have again reached the last month of the year and the days are getting shorter and colder, people everywhere are looking forward to another Christmas.  For most people in our society, this celebration is the highlight of the year, even though many no longer associate this date with the birth of Jesus.  Families get together, homes are decorated, special foods are prepared, and gifts are exchanged.  The anticipation of this season has long been evident with Christmas goodies, decorations, and jumpers appearing on the shelves of our shops. 

     At the time of Jesus’ birth, there too was a sense of acute anticipation among the people of Israel.  However they were not waiting for a particular date to arrive; they were waiting for a person – the Messiah – not knowing when exactly He would come.  Life was difficult under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire and the Jewish people were hoping that the promised Saviour of Israel would come soon to deliver them from their oppressors and set up His kingdom of righteousness and peace.  But when would this time be? 

     Then suddenly something extraordinary happens: in a small town in Galilee, an angel appears to a young woman called Mary and announces to her that she will conceive a child of the Holy Spirit.  She is to call Him Jesus (Salvation/Deliverance), He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.

     Mary immediately understands what this announcement means – the promised Messiah is coming, and she is to give birth to Him!  Yet how can this be?  The angel explains, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

     As we approach Christmas, let us remember the true meaning of this festivity.  Let us celebrate the coming of the King and His rule.  He came to deliver us from the oppression of sin and death.  He came to establish His kingdom in our midst and make us, who believe in Him, its citizens.  We who were spiritually dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1&5) have been made alive through Hios sacrificial death and His resurrection.  Let us therefore live our lives in His power and to His glory.  Let us tell others about His love from them and His offer of salvation to them.

     One day this age will be over with all its festivities.  Therefore, as believers in Jesus Christ, let us not just look forward to another date in the calendar, but let us anticipate the appearance of the One who said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27)  Jesus will return, this time to judge the world in righteousness.  He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)  Are you anticipating His coming?

     Pastor Konrad

November 2016 Newsletter

God’s call

 When [Jesus] had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (Luke 5:4-6)    

     While Jesus was teaching by the lakeside, He observed some fishermen cleaning their nets.  They had worked during the night, but had returned to shore without a catch.  All they could do was to prepare for the next night, hoping for more success.  Jesus asks one of them, Simon, to allow Him to use his boat as a floating pulpit, so that everyone in the crowd would be able to hear His teaching. 

     Then Jesus turns to Simon and tells him to do something unusual.  Rather than finish cleaning the nets, Jesus tells him to go out and let them down one more time.  The experienced fisherman is somewhat puzzled – by now the sun is high and the time for fishing is over.  Yet something about this man’s words has gripped him.  So he replies, “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  And the result of his obedience is miraculous – the net is full of fish, more than he can manage to bring in on his own.

     At this point Simon could have seen the possibilities for the future.  Involving Jesus in the fishing business would bring in great profit.  If He could direct the fishermen to the fish, they could employ their skills to bring in the catch.  Working together in this way, they could become the most profitable fishing company in the whole of Galilee!  That is precisely what Christianity means to many of us – an extra boost for our plans and ambitions.  If God blesses me I can be successful in what I want to do.

     Such thoughts never cross Simon’s mind.  He sees the miracle and, in the presence of the miracle worker, he sees himself.  All he can say is, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”  Yet Jesus does not even respond to Simon’s confession of unworthiness.  Instead He says to him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”  Jesus accepts him and calls him to a new, greater assignment.  Without hesitation, Simon and his partners bring their boats to land one last time, as they forsake all and followed Jesus.

     In Luke 18:18-23 we read of another man, who was not willing to forsake all for the sake of God’s kingdom.  Challenged by Jesus to sell all that he has and distribute the money to the poor in order to follow Him, this rich man walks away sorrowful.  His desire and confidence is in what he owns, and to give it up, he finds impossible.  The disciples, who have now been with Jesus for some time, are astonished at their master’s harsh demand.  If this is what it costs to follow, how can anyone be saved?  Jesus replies, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”  God alone is able to change our hearts’ desires that we will put Him and His call before everything this world can offer. 

     Then Peter (the former fisherman Simon) points out to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You.” (Luke 18:28)  Jesus replies, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)  Our heavenly Father is able to take care of those who put their lives into His faithful hands.  Let us answer His call and depend on His provision.  His purpose for us is not merely to prosper us in our plans but to invite us to participate in His eternal purpose to restore His creation to Himself through Jesus.  Let us catch men, women and children by proclaiming Jesus to them. 

Pastor Konrad

October 2016 Newsletter

How do you see God?

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. (Matthew 25:14-19)

     In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who entrusts money to his servants so that they can do business for him while he is away.  Clearly the master knew his servants and saw in them different degrees of ability to do business.  Consequently, he chose to give them different amounts of money and, when he came back to settle accounts with them, the returns he received different accordingly.

     Now two of the three servants presented to him 100% profit on what they had been given.  So the master praises them for their efforts and rewards them.  We are not told what motivated these servants to do well on their master’s behalf.  Was it simply the selfish expectation of a reward for being faithful, or could it be that they wanted to please their master, because he had placed his trust in them? 

     What motivates us to work in God’s kingdom?  Is it just the expectation of eternal life?  Or do we serve God out of thankfulness for what He has done for us?  Are we motivated by the fact that the Almighty has chosen us and counted us worthy to serve Him?  Do we serve Him out of love, because He first loved us? 

     Servants who appreciate their master and feel honoured to serve him will always give their best, while those who serve simply for a reward will do as much as they have to and no more.  Therefore it appears that the two servants who doubled the money entrusted were motivated by their appreciation for their master.       

     So what about the third servant?  Instead of putting the one talent he received to work, he buries it in the ground, so as to return it the same as he had been given it.  And when his master asks him how much profit he has made, he replies, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’  Not only has he produced nothing for his master – he even blames the master for his lack of faithful service!  Instead of feeling honoured by the call to serve, he justifies himself by accusing the master of being harsh and unfair – reaping where [he] has not sown, and gathering where [he] has not scattered seed.

     How do you see God?  As a task master who deals unfairly and expects things of you that He is not entitled to?  Is serving Him nothing but drudgery?  Do you do little or nothing in God’s kingdom, like this third servant, because you fail to appreciate what He has done for you and to recognise what a privilege it is to serve Him?  Or are you motivated to give your all, like the first two servants, because you feel honoured to be a servant of the Most High?  Our perception of God will determine our appreciation for Him and our motivation to serve Him faithfully. 

     When life seems hard and others seem to have a better deal than we do, let us not complain – rather let us look to the cross where Jesus gave all for us.  And motivated by His sacrifice for us, let us give Him our all!                                                                                                     

Pastor Konrad

September 2016 Newsletter

How does God see me?

 

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:10-14)

     In this parable, Jesus tells of two men who have much in common: they both believe in God and they both come to the temple to worship.  In modern terms, we could say, they are both members of the same church.  Yet God views them very differently: one is justified, the other remains guilty before God.

     In the introductory verse 9, we are given the reason why Jesus told this story.   He had been observing certain people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others and He wanted to make them aware of their error.  These people are represented in the parable by the Pharisee.  Even though, in his choice of words, this man addresses God, his focus is entirely on himself and his own righteousness.  He presents a list of his apparently good deeds, comparing himself with the other man who, in his eyes, has done nothing good to speak of.  In trying to impress God with his deeds, he assumes for himself the glory that belongs to God alone.  (1 Cor.1:29)

     The other man in the story likewise has come to worship God.  Yet his attitude is quite different.  He hardly dares to approach God and remains standing afar off.  His focus is on the God whom he has come to worship and, in the light of God’s holiness, all he sees is his own guilt.  He feels entirely unworthy, but nonetheless he finds the faith to appeal to the mercy of God.  As a result, he receives forgiveness and goes away justified.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

     The reason Jesus Christ came to this world and died a cruel death is so that we can be forgiven and restored to a loving relationship with the Almighty.  When we come to the cross of Jesus, when we trust in His infinite mercy, we receive forgiveness for our sin and are reconciled to God.  We are justified and declared righteous, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us.  The cross of Jesus removes our guilt and sets us free from the bondage of sin.  As a result, we are free to serve God in the liberty of His grace. 

     Those who look to God and trust in His mercy do not compare themselves with others in order to justify themselves.  They acknowledge their need for mercy and, consequently, their lives are transformed by God’s grace.  They love God for what He has done for them; they rejoice in the freedom He has given them; and they see others through the loving eyes of God.  Such people will not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [they will] serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

     On that day, when we all have to appear before the judgment seat of God, what will be His verdict over you?  Will He welcome you into His presence because you have trusted in His mercy and His righteousness alone?  Or will He say to you, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  For Jesus did not come to call the [seemingly] righteous, but sinners, to repentance. (Luke 5:32)                                                                                                                             

June 2016 Newsletter

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:18-20

     These were the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.  He had completed His time on earth.  He had fulfilled His purpose.  Through His death on the cross, He had provided the sacrifice needed to reconcile mankind to God.  He who knew no sin had become the sin offering for the world, so that all who believe in Him could become the righteousness of God.  Now the disciples were to be His ambassadors, proclaiming the gospel and imploring men and women to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20-21)

     Jesus begins by telling them that all authority has been given to Him.  He has been seated at the right hand [of the Father] in heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:21)  From this position of authority, He commands them to proclaim the gospel.

     Jesus had called them - ordinary people, like you and me, from every walk of life – to be with Him (Mark 3:14).  For three and a half years, they had travelled with Him, observed Him, heard Him.  They had listened to His teachings, they had watched Him perform miracles, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead.  At times He had rebuked them, when their own ideas and ambitions had taken over.  They had shared in his popularity, as the crowds in Jerusalem welcomed Him with cheers of “Hosanna!”, and they had deserted Him when the shouts later changed into “Crucify Him!”  When they had lost all hope, He had appeared to them – alive, risen from the dead.  He had restored their joy by conquering the last enemy, death (1 Cor. 15:26) and putting an end to all authority and power that would oppose God.   

     Next, Jesus commissions them to go out into the world and to call others - from Jerusalem, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  As He had called them and discipled them, He now charges them to disciple others: to tell them the message of the cross, to bring them into a relationship with God, to baptise them as a sign of their commitment, and to teach them to observe all they have learnt from Him.  As He had shared His life with them, they are now to share their lives with others.

     Finally, Jesus gives them a promise: ... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  He gives them a formidable task: He challenges a handful of ordinary men to bring a lost world back to God.  They had seen the unbelief and the open hostility He had encountered.  He had warned them that they too would experience opposition.  But He also gave them the promise that He would never leave them nor forsake them.  If they now do what He has commissioned them to do they can be sure of His presence wherever they went.  Before going to the cross, He had promised to send them the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would live in them.  He would come to them so that they would never again be alone. (John 14:15-18).   Now they are to wait for the Spirit, and when He has come, they will be able to carry out their commission in His power. (Acts 1:8)

    Do we want to experience His presence?  Do we want to know His power and authority? Then let us hear His voice that calls us to Go and make disciples of all the nations ...  As we obey His command, we will also hear His promise ... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Who will you disciple?  Who will you tell about Jesus?  Who will you show what it means to live for Him?

 

July 2016 Newsletter

True worship

 

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people
I must be glorified.’”  So Aaron held his peace.
(Leviticus 10:1-3)

     When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He first led them to Mount Horeb, where He would reveal Himself to them and receive His laws.  There God instructed Moses to build a Tabernacle as a dwelling place for His presence among them.  He also appointed Aaron, Moses’ brother, and His family to serve as priests before Him.  It would be there job to offer sacrifices for sin and sacrifices of worship to Him.      

     God’s instructions for building the tabernacle were very specific (design, measurements, materials, etc.) as were His instructions for worship.  All this was to teach the people that their God, who had delivered them and called to serve and worship Him, was holy.  He could not be approached on their terms, but only on His.  Everything had to be done according to His specifications.  Every sacrifice had its particular purpose and timing, and the incense that they priests would burn continually as an act of worship had to be made to a precise recipe and it was to be used for worship alone. (Exodus 30:1-9 & 34-38)

     So Aaron and his sons did what God had appointed them to do, until one day two of them, Nadab and Abihu offered what God saw as profane.  WE are not told exactly what it was that God disapproved of, but evidently the offering that was presented to Him did not please Him, and consequently fire of judgment went out from God and they died. 

     God is still the same: He is holy and He can only be approached on His terms.  As sinful people, we cannot come into His holy presence of ourselves.  That is why He sent Jesus as our sacrifice, that through His death our guilt could be taken away and we could enter into His presence, not by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of the Son of God. (Philippians 3:9 & 2 Corinthians 5:21)  For this reason we can approach our God to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  (John 4:23-24) 

     Before this tragic event, Nadab and Abihu had entered God’s tabernacle to offer incense many times.  Until that day, it appears, God had been pleased with their offering.  So what had gone wrong this time?  Had they perhaps become too familiar with their task?  Had it become a routine rather than sincere worship to their God – the almighty Creator?   Had they taken a short cut when mixing the spices and fragrances instead of adhering to God’s instructions?  Or did they simply come with a casual, irreverent attitude?  Whatever the reason, God was displeased with their offering – so displeased that they were consumed by the fire of His glory. 

     Like the Israelites in the days of Moses, we too can grow familiar with what we do in worship.  What once came from a sincere heart of gratefulness towards God can turn into a routine – be it on a Sunday morning or in our private time of worship.  We can lose focus by succumbing to distractions or cut our worship short in order to attend to things we regard as important.  Whatever our reasons, God will not accept anything less than true worship from a grateful and reverent heart. 

     So let us worship God in spirit and in truth – whether in our private time with Him or when we gather together as a church congregation.  Let us come to service on time with our hearts prepared to meet the almighty God, our Saviour.  Let us make it our priority to draw near to our Maker and defer all those conversations that seem so urgent until after our audience with the King of the universe.  Let us make sure that Jesus’ words,These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” are not true of us. (Matthew 15:8, quoted from Isaiah 29:13) 

     We may not be consumed by fire like Nadab and Abihu, but neither will we enjoy the true life only God can give if our hearts are divided.  God expects us to approach Him single-heartedly with reverence and awe.  He is holy, so let us give Him the worship He is due – in spirit and in truth.

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