DON’T SEPARATE WHAT GOD PUTS TOGETHER

In today’s society where ‘freedom of expression’, ‘being your own person’, being ‘independent’ is strongly advocated, marriage is often seen as a loss of freedom, a loss of one’s individualism and too many people enter into a marriage with the thought that nothing will change and that if the marriage does not work out there is always divorce.

This is not what marriage is about. Marriage is a partnership. A commitment. Two people entering together into the same activity – marriage. Forever and ever and ever…till death you do part.

Marriage for Christian believers is also totally different compared to marriage for non-believers. As Christian believers, your marriage is based on the Word of God. Every instruction and guidance needed to create a happy marriage, an everlasting marriage, is in the Bible.

Divorce should not be an option because God has given us the Holy Spirit.

When you have an argument with your spouse:

Acts 2:38 declares, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to find a solution to the argument.

When you feel discouraged and lose hope in your marriage:

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will find new hope for your marriage.

When you are not sure what to say or do or how to behave in your marriage:

John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit will be your advocate and guide you on how to behave.

When you fall out of love with your spouse:

Romans 5:5 reminds us, “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit will show you how to love again.

“The institution of marriage works better when there’s a spiritual connection. If you’re marrying just for the sake of the woman (or the man), then you may lose interest in each other very soon. When we marry in the interest of the Holy Spirit with the intention of serving God and humanity, then it gives a much larger perspective.” ~A.R. Rahman

The Irish have a beautiful Gaelic phrase Mo Anam Cara’– my soul friendAnam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is Gaelic for a friend.

A soul friend is someone you don’t have to pretend with. The friendship is deep and abiding and it cannot be wounded or broken by distance or words.

The Irish author and poet John O’Donahue puts it so succinctly:

“A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.  The one you love, your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul.  The honesty and clarity of true friendship also brings out the real contour of your spirit.”

Your anam cara can be a friend, a companion, or a spiritual guide.

Your spouse needs to be your anam cara.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” ~Mark 10:7-9

Just as your bodies are joined together as one flesh in marriage, your soul is joined together as well.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are what completes and binds a marriage between Christian believers.

Originally written for and published on Start Marriage Right, https://www.startmarriageright.com/2020/07/dont-separate-what-god-puts-together/

Posted in Godly marriage | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

THE BLESSINGS OF HAVING COVID-19

There are five of us in our family. We all had Covid-19 at the same time.
It’s a good thing we like each other because we were quarantined together for 14 days.
Even the dog was in quarantine.  No-body could fetch him to take him for a walk because he was covered in our Covid-19 germs!

During the past few weeks we have had so many questions asked about Covid-19 that I thought I would share our experience!

We had all thought that if we did get Covid-19 it would be because of our eldest daughter, who is a nursing sister at Victoria Hospital, Cape Town and had been assisting with a lot of Covid-19 theater cases.

We assume, however that we got it from our youngest, when she returned to school.
I fetched her from school on Monday, the 15th June, because she was vomiting and we just thought she had a gastro bug so we were careless in the house and didn’t isolate her or wear masks around her. I believe that if we had taken precautions in the house at that time there is a good chance we would not all have contracted Covid-19.

Our middle daughter started to run a high temperature on the Thursday and had an itchy throat.  We started to take precautions then, but it was too late.

On the Monday my husband came home early from work, got tested on Tuesday, and miraculously got his test results back at midnight stating that he had tested positive for Covid-19.  By Wednesday we were all showing symptoms, got tested, and on Friday heard we were all positive.

Our symptoms differed from each other as you can see below:

Youngest daughter – vomiting, diarrhea, bad cough, headaches, night sweats, chills, sore throat, extreme fatigue, loss of smell and taste
Middle daughter – high temperature, itchy throat, coughing, headaches
Husband – high temp, slight sore throat, body aches, extreme fatigue, loss of smell and taste
Me – spikes in blood pressure, headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of smell and taste
Oldest daughter – body ache, fatigue, nausea, loss of smell and taste

The first week and a half was really tough, with all five of us being sick at the same time.

However, for me, the blessings, love and care we received outweighed any illness.

At the beginning when I got ill God gave me the following verses and I meditated on them and found that it is possible to sing in the shadow of God’s wings.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night, (we all spent a lot of time in our beds!)
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings, I cling to you;
Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:6-7)

I fully believe that it is only because of the prayers of God’s people that we came through this relatively unscathed.

The prayers, love and practical support of His people sustained us and aided in our healing. Our minister and members of our church, Trinity Presby, supplied meals and constant prayer.
Friends and relatives supplied shopping, food, chocolates and prayers.

A friend of mine is a granny in her late 60’s and believes that Eucalyptus oil is vital for the healing of breathing issues and she was determined to anoint us with oil.
So one very wet, stormy and cold day she took a taxi from her home in Retreat to Wynberg.  Walked to two different pharmacies to find a bottle of Eucalyptus oil, then caught a taxi to Kenilworth and walked quite a distance to get to our house.
Because we were in isolation she anointed our gate post and then left the bottle for us on the door step, walked back to Kenilworth in the pouring rain and returned home by taxi.

James 5:14 and 15 says:  “Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”

God certainly healed us and raised us up.

Literally, not a day went by when food and treats were not delivered to the doorstep.

We were brought a humidifier and someone else included treats for our dog when they delivered a meal for us.
I slept for a whole Sunday and when I woke up in the early evening and walked into the kitchen the table was overflowing with food and cakes and we could hardly get the fridge door closed it was so packed.  Apparently, we had had numerous deliveries during the day.

Hebrews 13:16 says:
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”

God must have been overjoyed with the people around us.

One delivery!

A friend of mine asked me telephonically during this time whether I wasn’t scared of having Covid-19, scared of dying.
I could honestly say that I had no fear and I was not worried.  I have no fear of death because I know where I am going, I know I will be spending eternity with God and my loved ones.
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord”. (Romans 14:8)

We do not need to fear getting Covid-19. It is not pleasant and you can die from it, so we do need to take as many precautions as we can BUT we can rest in the knowledge that God has gone before us, He holds us in the palm of His hand and no matter what happens, if we have committed our lives to Him, He will see us through everything.

Posted in #covid 19, Life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

A CARING SEED

Almost 25 years ago I held a tiny new born in my arms.
I watched her play dress up and grow older.
I now watch as this same child, now a beautiful woman, comes home at the end of a day exhausted, tired, and often hungry because she hasn’t had time to eat, feet aching.

This child is now a nursing sister dressing up in COVID 19 protective equipment…

I came across this quote recently and it reminded me of this child of mine.

“Way back before you were born, God knew there was a need. So God picked your fertile heart and planted a caring seed. Then He waited and He watched. Knowing before too long, the desire in you to help others would continue to grow strong.” – Edwin C. Hofert

In two months’ time her Community Service year at one of our Government Hospitals will be coming to an end and as she prepares to send out her CV to various hospitals in South Africa, I can’t help but reflect on this year.

There are so many stories and experiences and tears and heartache and pain and joy and hope and desperation that she has shared with us over this year but there two memories that are embedded in my heart.

The first was something that she shared her first week of nursing and the second memory is something she shared yesterday.

She had been nursing for two days when I received a WhatsApp from her telling me about a young woman in her early twenties who had HIV and gastro, was in an isolation room and was dying.  Sarah had gone into the room in the morning and had just known that this young woman would die that day.

She prayed and asked God that she could be there when this woman died…that she wouldn’t have to die alone.

I received a WhatsApp later in the morning saying “God answered my prayer”

She was in the room holding this woman’s hand, stroking her hair and praying with her when she took her last breath.

Yesterday evening as she was leaving after her shift she came across an old man with one leg who was lying on a stretcher in the theater corridor. She stopped beside him and asked him if he was okay and whether she could bring him a blanket.  They started to talk and he told her that he was there to have the other leg amputated.  When asked if there was anyone at home to look after him he confided that there was only his wife, who was suffering from severe depression, and it was going to be very difficult.

She said she felt so helpless and hopeless, nothing more she could do for him, so without words… so she asked him whether he was religious.

He said yes, he was a Catholic and she asked whether she could pray with him and he said yes – and so she prayed.

Way back before she was born God saw this young woman with HIV and gastro, this old man without a leg, waiting to lose his other leg and countless more people and he planted a seed in her heart that He knew would grow and grow and grow.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Colossians 3:12

https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/covid-19-frontline-workers-nurses-share-stories/

https://www.africa-newsroom.com/press/coronavirus–south-africa-president-pays-tribute-to-nurses-on-international-nurses-day

Posted in God, Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

COVID 19, LOCK DOWN & THE BIBLICAL JOSEPH

The man resembling a bandit in this photo is my minister.  I whatsapped him the photo with the caption “Looks like a robbery in progress” and he responded:

“Lols, taking back enemy territory for Jesus”

I love that my minister has such a wonderful sense of humour and that His love of God is portrayed in very practical ways.  This is the time of COVID 19 and he and other Believers have been doing a major food drive. The result is that food parcels are being packed and taken to families, who are literally starving, on an ongoing basis. This photo captures the helpers taking the food parcels from the church to vehicles for delivery.

Satan, via COVID 19, has succeeded in closing church buildings down but in doing so he has opened doors for God’s love to be poured out, via His people, to each other and to a world in desperate need of that love on a scale that has never been seen before.  Added to that, Believers are spending far more time in God’s Word, encouraging others and gathering for ‘cyberspace’ services with their families on Sundays. One of Satan’s tactics to harm God’s people is breaking up the family unit.  Because of Covid, families have no choice anymore – they have to work on relationships as they spend day and night in each others company because of a worldwide lock down.

Covid 19 reminds me so much of the story of Joseph found in Genesis.

Joseph was the beloved son of his dad – we are the beloved children of God

Joseph’s brothers first planned to murder him but then sold him into slavery – Satan attempts to murder the faith of Believers and keep them in slavery to addictions…fear, worry, alcohol, drugs…the list is endless

Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of King Pharaoh’s officials, and he soon rose in authority to become head of Potiphar’s estate – many Believers find favour in their work places, and God blesses their businesses and families in abundance

Potiphar’s wife took a fancy to Joseph and tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused her advances she falsely accused him of trying to seduce her and he was thrown into jail – many Believers lose material things and positions because they take a stand for God and won’t compromise or give in to temptation

Instead of blaming God, feeling sorry for himself or becoming bitter and angry Joseph interpreted the dreams of other prisoners.  Two years later, when Pharaoh had a dream that no-one could decipher, someone mentioned Joseph.  He correctly interpreted the dream and Pharaoh appointed him second-in-command of Egypt.

During this time of Covid 19 many Believers have lost their jobs, their businesses and some of them have lost their lives.  Instead of blaming God, feeling sorry for ourselves or becoming bitter and angry we need to start cultivating a deeper faith in our God. So that, we too, can say to the evil one what Joseph said to his brothers on being reunited with them over twenty years after being sold into slavery:

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.” Genesis 50:19-21

Lord, we pray that during this time of Covid 19, we will draw closer to You despite our circumstances. We ask that you will grant us faith, courage and joy during this time when the world as we know it, is in such turmoil. Amen

Posted in God, Jesus, Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

PREPARING FOR THE GROOM by Teubes Prinsloo

The past few weeks I have received various words from God, which I am prophetically praying over, making sure I understand the context for myself.  Since lock down started I, (like many I am sure) have been asking Him how all this fits into my understanding of the “end” times?
I went with what scripture says and then encouraged my family with the one thing I felt Jesus say:

“I AM COMING BACK BUT THE TIME DOESN’T MATTER”

It was a reminder that He is the Bride Groom and He will come for His bride.

I started praying into the accounts that referred to Him coming as a Bride Groom. I read about the 5 wise and the 5 unwise virgins  – Matthew 25:1-13.
I read about a Father sending invites to all to come to a wedding reception but nobody accepted His invites. I read that he took those from the streets to join in the celebrations. I read of gnashing of teeth and cries of those outside, hard times for those who rejected the invite – Matthew 22:2-14.

In my own heart I started feeling Jesus speak to me about each story. I felt the Holy Spirit say “you see many people are like the 5 unwise virgins, they are running around, enjoying life, saying they know the Bride Groom will come.  Every time I warned them they just laughed, they never learnt to trust Me when I told them they are running on empty, they never filled their ‘lamps’ with oil.  They never looked to Jesus as their sole provider because life was good, but now that the difficult times are on them, they run to those who are like the 5 wise virgins. They are all asking “give me some of your oil , your peace , your hope , your understanding?” But those, like the 5 wise virgins, can`t share what they  have accumulated.

I believe we find ourselves in times where people are “running” after any solution, looking for answers from friends, the government, church leaders, other religions instead of running to HIM who IS the solution. And when He says “I AM THE WAY” they get offended, they scoff at the idea that He can and will supply their needs. They will rather look to man instead of just trusting His word. I believe many find themselves in a position where they thought they knew God, while living a life far from Him. Now they find that they have no solid foundation, they are not cemented on Him as the Rock and the storms are about to break their lives into pieces.

The words Jesus spoke  “For I do not know you” rings loud in many ears who thought they “knew” Him because they “did” all the “good works” which only inflated their ego.  It was never done for Him. We must not try and find solutions for every problem people bring to us, we must refer them to Jesus. They must fill their “oil”from Him personally. The “oil” you have is now not enough to sustain them also. They need to fill their oil now before the real storm hits. These times, I believe, are like a Spiritual Tsunami, the big swell is still coming. People need to learn how to “float” on Him so that when the swell overtakes those that try to run they will be “in” Jesus on top, relaxed in the knowledge that He is in control.

I write this as an encouragement to all of us to lead our friends and our family to the feet of Jesus. Be bold when they ask for help. Do what Peter did in Acts 3.

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”

“Gold & Silver I have not”…but I have Jesus..and Him I give to you.

People may look to you for help. Please share and help where God leads, but don`t forget to give them Jesus.

Posted in God, Jesus, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

GO DEEP by Bill Webster

“Put out into deep water” (Luke 5: 4)

What the church desperately needs are people engaged in Christ’s service who are prepared to go deep with God. Where are you in your life and service at the present time? Exhausted, frustrated, dispirited, angry? Maybe you look back to the start of your Christian service and remember your enthusiasm, your keen sense of calling and your vibrant optimism. People were going to hang on to your every word and lives were going to be transformed. You were going to help build up the body of Christ and mobilise believers to evangelise the world.

But the years have gone by and the stark reality of the difficulties and frustrations of service have set in and you have become disillusioned by the church hierarchy, difficult and fractious members and the constant demands of serving others.

A colleague in pastoral ministry recently said to me, “People don’t realise how demanding ministry is. Sometimes I just feel like walking away from it all.” Perhaps you feel that way, too.

Is there an answer to dashed hopes, spiritual lethargy, lost vision and fruitlessness?

Put out into deep water!

Simon Peter and his fishing partners had spent the night in fruitless fishing. They had toiled long and hard and hadn’t caught anything (Luke 5: 5). Jesus told Simon to put out into deep water and let down their nets for a catch (v 4). Maybe Simon thought, what does Jesus know about fishing? After all he is a carpenter, isn’t he? Maybe just to get Jesus off his back, he reluctantly agreed. Of course, we know the rest of the story – two boats so crammed with fish that they began to sink.

I want to encourage you to put out into deep water into:

God Himself – Romans 11:33-36.
God’s love – Ephesians 3: 17-19.
Prayer – Psalm 42: 7 (read the whole Psalm).
God’s Word – Colossians 3: 16.

Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet, pictured water coming out from under the threshold of the temple. As the water flowed, it got deeper and deeper, first a trickle, then ankle – deep, then knee – deep, then waist – deep, then deep enough to swim in. The water symbolises God’s life, and the blessings that flow from His throne. Most of Ezekiel 47 is a picture of life, fruitfulness, large numbers of fish, nourishment and healing. Isn’t that what we long for?

“O God, I’m so dry and disillusioned.  Take me deeper into you, heal me and bring new life into me and my service, through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Amen

Readings:  Luke 5:1-11 and Ezekiel 47:1-12

Posted in God, Jesus, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WE, THE CHURCH – PART 4: AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL by Mike Muller

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12–27

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it”
(1 Corinthians 12:26)

The motto of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is: “An injury to one is an injury to all”. This is likely not an original idea, for the Industrial Workers of the World, an international trade union that was formed in 1905, used and popularized it. It has also subsequently been used by a number of labour organizations. Some believe this slogan has roots as far back as the 1880’s with a very early American labour organization called the “Knights of Labor”, whose slogan was “That is the most perfect government in which an injury to one is the concern of all”. These slogans reflect the commitment of the Unions to further and protect the interests of all workers; also, their commitment to take care of each other. Is it possible that the slogans are derived from our text? It would seem so.

Paul presses the church to understand that they ought to be living the Christian life together, to the extent that the well-being of each one must be the concern of all. When some are hurting, there is cause for concern and the need to pay attention to that breach in the body. On the other hand, when there is reason to rejoice, we should celebrate with one another.

Vital, of course, is the need for care and concern without partiality; something that was a matter requiring attention in the Corinthian church. Life in the Body was marred by a socio-economic divide that existed. In part, this was why they were taking each other to the courts. This was also why they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in an atrocious manner.

Thus, Paul’s rebuke in 1 Corinthians 11 is designed to bring repentance and a realization that concern for all was required to function properly. At the same time, their problems would expose the frauds who had slipped in to drain the life from the Church – and in turn, reveal those who had a genuine faith (See 1 Cor.11:17-22 cf. 2 Cor.2:9).

It is clear that the Gospel calls God’s people to live in ways that reflect what it means to be a tight-knit family. The best way Paul could communicate this was through the metaphor of how our bodies work at a most basic level. Everyone knows that when one part of our body is in pain, the rest of our body finds it difficult to carry on running smoothly. Similarly, we simply cannot ignore “broken” or “sick” parts of the Body of Christ and proceed as though all is well. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. How to mend the unhappy part will be determined by a good, biblical diagnosis.

God’s Spirit calls the Church to seek truth and justice, and to graciously care for the poor in its midst – guided in love, compassion and mercy by scripture, as we share a common faith. We need to acknowledge the ties that bind us; recognise our interdependence, which surpasses cultural and social expectations; align ourselves with God’s mandate to care for and love one another, which may demand the shedding of ideologies and cultural thinking when it proves to hinder the call of the Gospel.

Our reading brings us to this conclusion: That there is great joy in belonging: “You are the body of Christ and members in particular” (V27). This then is our chief joy: that we belong to God and to one another. He chose and called us. We did not choose him. He opened our eyes. We did not find him through self-learning, or through self-searching; or through self-effacement. Instead, God in his mercy and goodness drew us to himself. And so, unity, not uniformity, is what God wants for his Church as we faithfully fulfill our ministry together, without fear or favour but in mutual care and respect.

Loving, heavenly Father, we know that our own sinfulness many times leads us to treat others unequally, often to the point of being hurtful. We try in vain to justify our actions, but cannot escape the glaring truth that your Body is too often in agony because of our neglect, either as individuals or when we band together against each other. Forgive us and help us to be reconciled to one another so that we will weep when our brothers and sisters weep – and rejoice when they rejoice. Help us to realize that we are one in the bonds of Christ’s love. Amen

Posted in God, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WE, THE CHURCH – PART 3: INTERDEPENDENCE by Mike Muller

Reading: 1 Cor. 12:12–27

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
(1 Corinthians 12:21)

We are one body, yet made up of different parts. We have things shared, but at the same time we are diverse in so many ways. Paul’s analogy of the human body draws his readers to a logical conclusion: No part exists without the other. This means that our diversity is not grounds for independence; rather we are to realise our deep, Spirit-created need for each other. Verses 15-25 speak to this issue in a profound way. But interdependence in the church is quite a challenge. There are at least two ways in which the Corinthian church needed to understand this aspect of Body life:

The first is in verses 15-20, characterized by the statement: “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (V 15). Self-importance, on one hand, and a lack of self-worth on the other, is two extremes which may bring about a sense of “not belonging”. This may be exacerbated by others in the church reinforcing either of those perceptions, resulting in a kind of “paralysis” of the Body. It is likely that this is more an issue among people who feel they have very little to contribute.

The second way the challenge of interdependence is addressed is characterized by the statement: The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (V21). This has to do with the notion that some feel they can do without others…that they can do without the Church. Paul’s point is that if our physical bodies behaved like this, we would be in a world of trouble! Some might say, “I love Christ more than I love the church.” But Jesus is the head of his Body, the Church. Such a “disconnect”, therefore, is deeply problematic.

Throughout the ages, one of the easiest ways for the church to create divides within the Body, has been along socio-economic lines. This was demonstrated by the disastrous way in which the Lord’s Supper was being celebrated in the Corinthian church.

James takes the Church to task (James 2:1-4) regarding discrimination arising among themselves: My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’  have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” 

Discrimination along any lines within the Church is just another way of saying: “I don’t need you!” But the Church will always be made up of people in need and those who are well-off. As such, neither “group” should wait until things improve before trying to share life together authentically.

Any way in which we say “I don’t need you,” to those who worship alongside us, flies in the face of God’s desire for us to intentionally love and care for each other in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us hear God calling us to be the Body of Christ, and members in particular, who provide love and care to each other in an environment of trust.

Loving, heavenly Father, we know that your heart breaks every time we treat each other in ways that deny your love for us. Please forgive us and help us to be known as Christ’s disciples by the love we show to one another; evidenced by how we care for and accept each other as members of the same Body – who are called by your name. Amen

Posted in God, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WE, THE CHURCH – PART 2: A CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY by Mike Muller

Reading:       1 Cor. 12:12–27

 “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:14)

Paul began by writing about things shared; what we have in common. But this could lead us to conclude that difference or diversity has no place in the Church; that commonality because of things shared makes us into one grey mass. But this is not the case, for a “body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.” (verse 14, The Message)

The Church is not a place where giftedness and God’s creative purposes are stifled under a kind of communism. Rather, there is a tension that must be recognized and held onto: On the one hand, what we have received and share in; and on the other, how different we are from one another in gifts and callings.

No matter how we collectively represent the Lord Jesus Christ as his body, his voice, hands and feet will always be many colours and languages and nations (Rev.7:9-10). Yet, the existence and importance of diversity in the Body of Christ is not simply about the various roles we play, but includes our human diversity.

With this in mind, we need to consider the following question: What parts about our diversity are to be held onto and celebrated, and what parts about our diversity are to be recognized as things that hinder life in the Body of Christ and our witness as a Christian?

The Corinthian church had failed to “discern” the body as redeemed and valuable in Christ. Their God-given diversity was ignored and instead, they alienated each other and denied what God had called into being.

Diversity will always be part of the Church; along the lines of education, colour, wealth, nationality, language and even culture, to name a few areas. But we have to take a good look at what makes us different from one another and consider whether those differences are being used to divide or to unite.

One of the most difficult areas of diversity facing the Church is along socio-economic lines. John Stott talks about the problem in this way:

“…if we are embarrassed either to visit other people in their home, or to invite them into ours, because of the disparity of our economic lifestyles, – something is wrong. The inequality is too great. It has broken the fellowship.”

In South Africa, the problem of economic disparity is compounded by our history of Apartheid. Dealing with this issue as the Body of Christ therefore, remains one of our ongoing challenges.

That said, diversity can be the source of great opportunity and joy because of who we are and because of what we do together, in and through the Church in Christ’s name. While difficult to manage, our diversity provides an opportunity to see the majesty of God in his creative wisdom. And when we understand this, we will see the powerful impact of people gathered together, serving God. It is about people who are committed to Christ and each other in diversity, serving together in Spirit-created unity. Otherwise Paul would not have made this statement in the first place.

Faithful heavenly Father, we thank you that you love your Church. It is the Body of Christ. We affirm that this is what you imagined beyond the Cross. Help us to love and appreciate each other, no matter how different we are. Help us to recognise the gifts in each other – and to encourage their development, for the sake of Christ, the Church and the world. For we are your people, called by your name, O Lord our God. Amen

Posted in God, Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WE, THE CHURCH – PART 1: THINGS SHARED by Mike Muller

Reading:       1 Cor. 12:12–27

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corithians 12: 13)

A right understanding of who Jesus is, will lead us in a right understanding of the Church and what it means to be part of it. The Church exists because of the Cross; and if Jesus thinks the Church is important – then so should we.

When we gather in the name of Jesus and in response to God’s call to us to do so, we discover that God communes with this group of imperfect, diverse people; and empowers them to be salt and light in an otherwise unsavoury, dark world.

In our reading, Paul addresses the woeful condition of the Corinthian church, by using the image of the human body to demonstrate how they should value one another. He urges them to look “no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body  (The Message 1 Cor.12:12)

With the human body as the orientating image, our attention is drawn to verse 13: “Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.” (The Message)

The Corinthian church needed to recognise the basis of their fellowship; and so do we, for we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body…we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” This means that together, we have things we share in.

First, we share in Christ’s redemptive work. This fact makes the Church unique. We stand under the same Cross. The same blood atones for our sin. We have been baptized with the same baptism.

Secondly, we have a shared faith. Peter greets the church as “…those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). To be sure, faith needs to deepen, but we all share in a faith which saves.

Thirdly, we share in God’s favour equally. When Paul says that “labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful,” it is because labels are often used to separate ourselves from one another and almost always, in a negative way.

In the Church, God sees no hierarchy of importance, only faithful fulfilling of ministry.

Our responsibility then, is to take the analogy of the Church as a body seriously as the Holy Spirit leads us in life together.

Faithful heavenly Father, we thank you that you love your Church. It is the Body of Christ. This is what you envisaged beyond the Cross. Help us to avoid the pitfalls of pride and arrogance and not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Help us to see each other as valuable in your sight and therefore valuable in ours. For we are your people, called by your name, O Lord our God. Amen

Posted in God, Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment