Monday, December 16, 2013

Keeping in Touch 4 - Christmas 2013

Dear Friends, 
Christian greetings and peace to you! As I write this piece I am reminded about the passing of Former President Nelson R. Mandela. We will all agree that he has proved to be an icon and legend in South Africa and to the rest of the world. He is known for his ability to love, forgive and reconcile all people. This is powerfully captured in his efforts to foster peace and reconciliation in South Africa which averted what could have possibly been a bloody revolution. In spite of his 27 years in prison what we have seen in his release was nothing but humility, love and a genuinely forgiving spirit. Indeed, he has both shown and taught us that it is possible to put aside one’s own interests and to work towards the interest of others. It is possible to love, forgive and be reconciled again! 

 As we celebrate this time of advent and Christmas, we are reminded that the world was waiting for a Messiah who would come and save the world from sin and condemnation. The birth of Jesus Christ tells us that Jesus took on his shoulders the salvation of the world and through his death and resurrection he reconciled us to God, the Father, and to one another. The prophet Isaiah captures this well for us in chapter 9: 6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…” 

 Christmas is a time to celebrate because God sent his only begotten son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3: 16-19). Christmas then is a time to celebrate, to give thanks and to appreciate the gift of the Christ- child given to the world. Christmas is also a time to love, forgive and to seek reconciliation. Is there anyone that you are struggling to love, forgive or to be reconciled with? Perhaps your hurt, pain or pride or stubborn spirit is preventing you from finding that sense of peace and restoration. You are probably saying: "Never will I say sorry or forgive..." Well I often think what if Jesus had said the same. What if he said: “Those people just simply don't deserve it? Why should I give up my throne and security for them?” Indeed his love for us is why he came to earth, to reconcile us to God is why he gave up his own life, and to give us the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins is why he rose again. Thank you Jesus! 

Nelson Mandela must have known the love and life of Jesus for; somehow, he exemplified this in his own life and living. He was a committed Christian belonging to the Methodist Church even though he did not necessarily openly confess his faith in public. He attempted as President of South Africa to make all people and faiths feel welcomed and embraced. His ability to forgive, love, reconcile and exercise grace is nothing short of divine intervention and empowerment. I’m sure you will agree! 

As we celebrate this Christmas let us focus on love, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. This is a message the world needs today as we think about wars, civil conflicts, nuclear threats, violence, disasters and political struggles. Unfortunately, the message of peace and reconciliation is not only for the world out there but more so for the Church as well. In our own Church, we have failed to bring about unity and reconciliation of the Church Associations and we continue to experience divides along cultural, racial and economic lines and yet we preach reconciliation and peace to the world around us and expect it to accept and believe our message. We need to stand up for Jesus and for what Jesus stood for, and be counted! Jesus gave up his life so that we may be reconciled to God. What is it that we may need to give up in order to be reconciled to one another? The UPCSA states quite clearly in its Vision Statement that it is working towards becoming a “reconciled community” given our vast diversity and differences. Each of us will need to ask what this means for us and how we can truly make this vision a reality. It is an invitation to hospitality, generosity, forgiveness and love as we consider not just ourselves but the “other’. Is this not what Christmas is all about? Jesus did not consider himself but in humility “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

This is why Christmas is so significant. The incarnation speaks of the sacrificial love of God. It is a time to love, forgive and seek reconciliation. Christmas is not just about parties, celebrations and holidays. The most appropriate way to celebrate Christmas is to come back to Christ and to value the gift of salvation given to us even though we do not deserve it. The most appropriate way to celebrate Christmas is to follow the example of Jesus. So, why not call that long lost brother, sister or relative? What about that person you intensely dislike and cannot forgive? What about that person in your place of work, congregation, neighbourhood or Presbytery? May the message of Christ and the spirit of Christmas speak to you and prompt you to do whatever is necessary in the interest of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. May we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, our perfect example! 

God has blessed us in so many different ways in this past year. It is important to take time to reflect and to give thanks. We thank God for all our ministers, their families, elders, church leaders and congregations, for all those who have kept the fire of the Gospel alive in their respective ministries and context and faithfully supported the local church, the Presbyteries and the UPCSA at large. We thank God that we were able to recover just over R1,6m from the fraud and have thus not suffered much financial loss. We thank God for all of you who have blessed the work of the UPCSA in numerous and diverse ways. God bless you! 

Please exercise caution as you celebrate during this time and especially as you go on holiday and travel on the roads. For those who have had a very busy year and neglected their families, spend good quality time with your loved ones; they are God’s precious gift to you! 

I wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year in the Lord. May your lives and homes be filled with the love, peace and joy that come from the Prince of Peace, Christ our Lord and Saviour. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Dear Friends, 


Greetings in the precious name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. I trust that you are well and firmly rooted in the grace and love of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

We are already in August and the winter seems to be passing. The changing seasons reminds us that life and experiences are not static but always changing, sometimes for the good and sometimes the not so good. We need to be assured in all these encounters that God is present. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. His presence is faithful and constant even when it doesn’t look that way. Our faith should not fluctuate according to the environment but remain focused and steadfast in God. The Psalmist tells us why we should do this: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountain surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and for evermore” (Ps.125: 1-2.) In this we have the assurance that God will see us through and so in spite of our circumstances we need to keep putting our hope and trust in God. We need to believe in our hearts and minds that God has our interest in his heart even if our prayers are not answered exactly as we expect. God is good and his love endures forever!

I am pleased to let you know that we had a very successful Executive Commission in Kimberley in July this year. We were deeply blessed by the worship, sermons, fellowship and discussions that took place as we received reports from the various Assembly Committees. We had a session in which commissioners were availed the opportunity to have conversations with some of the committee conveners or representative and to share the work, concerns, joys and frustrations of congregations. This is something new that we introduced and it would become a regular feature at the General Assembly as well. This initiative is in keeping with our strategy of supporting and developing missional congregations. We want to relevantly address the challenges and concerns of our congregations to empower, equip and mobilise them for mission. We are really keen to support ministry where it matters most, that is, in congregations and local communities. 
Papers, news and pictures are available at

We did face a few challenging matters at the Executive Commission but we thank God that we managed to find ways to handle these issues with grace and wisdom. We were deeply excited by some of the things some of the Assembly Committees have engaged and are planning to do. No doubt, their reports brought excitement and joy to discover that God is calling us as the UPCSA to get in and really get stuck in making disciples, sharing the faith, addressing societal issues, encouraging worship, reflecting theologically and biblically on various matters, and seeking unity in our witness and work together as fellow Presbyterians. We seem to be entering into a new season in which God is doing some marvelous and wonderful things amongst us, in us and through us. For more detailed information on the Executive Commission, committee reports and daily news from the week in Kimberley please feel free to Google the UPCSA website.

As we talk about seasons, I am reminded that there is a time for everything as so clearly expressed by the writer to the Ecclesiastes in chapter 3 verses 1- 8. At the Executive Commission it was the time for some ministers to apply for retirement either by the end of this year or before the next General Assembly in July 2014. We express our sincere gratitude and thanks to the following ministers who applied for retirement: the Revs Geoffrey Jamieson; Dr Roger Tucker, David Glen van Duyker, Eleanor Gaunt and the Rev General Thanduxolo Mcoteli. We thank God for their years of faithful service and ministry. Some have been long in the ministry and others only for a few years but they have each exercised their calling and service with diligence, loyalty and faithfulness to God. We thank God for these wonderful servants and pray that they will enjoy their retirement when the time comes for them to leave the respective congregations in which they currently serve. We express our thanks and appreciation to their families and loved ones who have supported them in ministry through the years in the midst of often making numerous personal sacrifices and efforts to serve both God and God’s people.

On the ecumenical front, there are many meetings taking place to work toward a united Christian witness in South Africa. There are many people who are concerned about the political, moral, social, spiritual and economic climate in which we find ourselves. This month we also commemorate the Marikana anniversary and yet a year later the unrest with labour unions in the mining industry still continues. It is good to see church leaders now coming together to actively engage and respond to these issues. In the same breath, there are many efforts to revive the work of the SACC which is currently facing serious financial challenges. We are pleased as the UPCSA to play a vital part and to offer very significant contributions to the issues we are currently contending with. Our prayer in all these is that the sovereign presence and power of God may reign amongst us so that we are not misguided or led astray by the desires of men and women but by the wisdom and will of God - God’s good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12: 2).

We continue to pray for Former President Nelson Mandela who has spent so many days in hospital, now running into months. We pray that God’s will be done in his life as we give thanks to God for sparing him to celebrate his 95th birthday. This remarkable man is a legend and icon not only to South Africa but the world at large. His ability to forgive, seek reconciliation, work for peace, stability and equality for all is an example to be desired and followed. It is a real pity that some of our politicians and even members of his own family are not walking in his footsteps and upholding the values he stood for and even sacrificed many years of his life for in prison. We pray that God may accord him the necessary grace and dignity in these, what seems to be the final, days of his life on earth. We pray for his family, friends and South Africa at this time.

On another note, we think about our Church, friends and the people of Zimbabwe who just completed their National Elections. Many people, especially outside of Zimbabwe, have been praying and hoping, perhaps, for a different outcome. However, even though there have been reported irregularities, logistical challenges and questions it seems that the results reflects the will of the majority of the people who voted, according to the ruling of the Electoral Officers and the African Union. It may be that the election results will be contested but let us continue to give thanks for a generally very peaceful elections and pray that those in political power will put first the interest of the poor, needy and suffering in that land rather than that of their own. Let us continue to pray for the people of Zimbabwe.

Well there is a season for everything. In which season do you find yourself in your life, ministry and witness to Jesus Christ? Wherever you are be encouraged, inspired and filled with hope and thanksgiving. Why? Because God is in control and he has everything in his hands. God reigns! Isn’t that all the reason we need to keep believing, trusting and hoping for a better tomorrow. Winter is here but spring is coming!

So keep on singing, praising and worshiping the King of Glory!

Stay Blessed!

Friday, June 21, 2013


Dear Friends,

Greetings in the precious name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. I trust that you are well in the grace and love of our Lord. It is hard to believe that we are already in June and in the middle of 2013. It’s amazing how time seems to fly! I feel a little bit like the Apostle Paul who was always meaning to write to the church but was overtaken by circumstances. But thank God that he did write as centuries later we are able to read and learn from his great Epistles.

In recent times my devotional readings have been reflecting on the prophecies against Israel because of her disobedience and lack of memory of God’s grace and love. For example, I was led to Ezekiel 13: 1-9 where we read about the prophecy against the false prophets who have mislead the people of Israel with “false words and lying visions”. In such a context God declares “then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” I often wondered in these devotional readings whether God is attempting to tell me something about the church today. We sometimes seem to go about what we do in our own way rather than seeking to follow God’s agenda and as the prophet Isaiah reminds us “God’s ways are very different from our ways”. We need to stop, reflect, repent and come back to the Sovereign Lord.

South Africa is going through very challenging times as we face political concerns, unrest in the mines and other labour industries, corruption, crime and violence. This is, of course, true for Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as these countries face their own challenges. We are pleased that Zimbabwe has finally agreed on the country’s Constitution and now we await the national general elections. All of these experiences remind us that the Church cannot sleep nor slumber. We need to stand up and be counted as we declare the presence of the Sovereign Lord.

I am pleased to report that there is a resurgence of a strong ecumenical voice in South Africa.
Churches are coming to realize that we need to be together, we need a joint Christian witness to be more effective and we need to exercise a joint prophetic witness as we address the issues in South Africa. The UPCSA has been part of these initiatives and is playing a significant role in gathering the Christian voice in South Africa and beyond. Likewise, our Church in Zambia and Zimbabwe are doing the same. We give thanks and praise to God for these opportunities availed to the UPCSA.

I was grateful to attend the inauguration of Pope Francis earlier this year. It was a most memorable experience seeing the church in all its splendor and glory. The new Pope’s focus on the poor, ecumenism, inter-faith dialogue and peace in the world is all commendable. The World Communion of Reformed Churches has been having dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church for a number of years now. It is our prayer that with the leadership provided by the new Pope that we will gain even deeper strides in the formation of more meaningful relationships and conversations in the area of Christian unity and witness.

The UPCSA has implemented its new committee structure with 14 Assembly Committees instead of 66 since the 2012 General Assembly. I am pleased to inform you that this new structure is largely in place and taking good shape, addressing a number of significant areas of ministry within our Church. Most of these committees will share at the July Executive Commission this year the work they have engaged, the progress they have made thus far and their vision and plan for the next few years. We will share more about this in the next Presbyterian Link which will be available in August.
The 2012 General Assembly agreed that we should appoint External Mediators to help resolve the conflicts within the Church Associations. I am pleased to report that we have agreed on who should be the External Mediators for this process and plans are in place for this to take place, hopefully at the end of September this year. Please let us continue to pray for this process and seek to work towards unity at all levels of the Church.

We are currently working on the Presbytery Empowerment Plan and in due course we will map out a strategic plan to equip, assist and mobilize Presbyteries. The strategic direction of the UPCSA
Vision and Mission Priorities is to help support the development of missional congregations. Our focused interest as a denomination is to mobilize our congregations to reach out into the communities in which they are found and to impact it with the love and presence of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the church is to proclaim Christ and God’s Sovereign presence in a hurting and suffering world. We need to look more externally rather than be lost somewhat exclusively in the internal matters of the church.

The Executive Commission will be taking place from the 9th - 12th July within the bounds of the Free State Presbytery, in Kimberley. Please pray for the Local Organising Committee, the Presbytery, the Moderator and team who will lead the EXCOM, Conveners of Assembly Committees and all commissioners. This year, we will be introducing a new session at the meeting in which the committees responsible for the Mission Priorities of the UPCSA will present their work and converse with congregations about what is happening on the ground with the objective of attempting to address the needs within the local church – this is part of our endeavour to support our congregations in what they do. So, you can see that we are serious about building bridges in our church structures to reach and support local congregations where mission really happens.
Please remember Papers for the Executive Commission are available on the website:

Finally, I wish to encourage all our ministers, elders, leaders at all levels in the UPCSA and members in the pews to continue to faithfully serve God with joy, devotion and love. There is nothing better than serving God and others in God’s name. Sometimes this may not sound true because church can be disappointing and even tiring and hurtful but consider the example of Jesus who served faithfully in obedience and humility, even until death on a cross. It was the loving presence of God that raised and exalted him. This same God desires and longs to do the same for us as the Holy Spirit works in us and through us. So, no matter where you are in your personal journey and experiences know this much to be true: God rules! Why can we say this confidently?
Simply because God declares: “… you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:9). God is Sovereign!

Stay Blessed!
Jerry Pillay

Friday, February 22, 2013


Dear Friends, Greetings and blessings to you in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The year 2013 started with a bang and, no doubt, by now some of us may be still succeeding in keeping some of those New Year’s resolutions and others of us may have already failed. The quest is to never give up but to keep trying.

Remember that saying: “If at first you do not succeed, try again.” So what do you do if you keep failing?     Hmm… sounds like a really tough one, doesn’t it?

Well, I believe that the Apostle Paul has something to tell us about this as he writes about pressing on towards the Goal in Philippians 3:12 – 14: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle, of course, speaks here in the context of Jesus having the power to control everything and to transform our ‘lowly’ bodies. It is with this understanding that he pleads for perseverance with the call to ‘stand firm.’ So no matter your successes or failures, stand firm in the Lord!

As I ponder on those words to ‘stand firm’ I am drawn to the words of the prophet Malachi to the people of Israel who wavered on their faith often forgetting the power and grace of God showered on them at different times on their journey. The prophet admonishes their priests in the name of God with the words: “you have not set your heart to honour me.” (Malachi 2:1). This admonition is further deepened with the following question: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? The prophet then goes on to say: “So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” In putting these thoughts together then, this is my prayer and hope for all our ministers, leaders and members within the UPCSA: 1) Set your heart to honour God, 2) Stand firm in the Lord and, 3) Guard your spirit and do not break faith. There is always the temptation to nurture dissatisfaction instead of nourishing and flourishing in God’s grace and love. The Israelites were always grumbling and moaning by what God was supposedly not doing so much that they failed to see what God was doing. In our Denomination (Central Office), Presbyteries, and local congregations we often get caught up with what we want to see but are not ‘seeing’ so much so that we are blinded from actually seeing the things that God is doing. So instead of harbouring on the negatives let us sift out the positives, celebrate them and give thanks, and we will be surprised by what God is doing in and through us.

Let me offer you some thoughts on what we can celebrate in the UPCSA:

1. The over 450 ministers and numerous congregations and preaching stations we have in the UPCSA.

2. The thousands of lay people who are involved in various ministries in and through their congregations and are making such a significant impact in their communities.

3. The 2 Synods and 19 Presbyteries we have in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe which oversee our work in the different regions.

4. The fact that we are a transnational, multiracial, multicultural and multi-lingual Church which embraces the diversity of God’s people.

5. Our new Vision, Mission and Mission Priorities of the UPCSA which put ‘developing and supporting missional congregations’ at the heart of what we are called to do as the UPCSA.

6. The many HIV and AIDS Projects, Educare Centres, Crèches, feeding programmes, clinics and schools we run throughout South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

7. The ecumenical contributions we are making in South Africa and worldwide. Do you know that at least 5 ecumenical organisations are led by ministers from the UPCSA?

8. We celebrate and give thanks for congregations which faithfully pay assessments so that the rest of the Church may be blessed. As I have said before, the assessment income goes toward the selection and training of ministers to serve congregations (7,8%), providing grants for congregations to be able to have a minister and church development and planting of new congregations (12,3%), holding workshops and conferences to encourage and empower ministries to benefit ministers, elders and congregations (4,5%), the running of the Central Office (including salaries, property maintenance, administrative costs, etc. (24,9%), Banking charges, computers, audit fees and pension fund (18,1%), work of Assembly Committees and the holding of General Assembly/ Executive Commission (15,9%), Education Bursaries (8,3%), Pension Administration (2%), and legal fees (6,2%). It is the kind contributions of congregations, most times under really trying circumstances, that enables us to bless other congregations who cannot afford to have ministers and maintain ministries. So when we bemoan the fact that we pay too much in Assessments to the Central Office, let us be reminded that it is not to the Central Office per se but to all of the above. As you can see more than 75% of Assessments are given back to empower and assist congregations and Presbyteries.

9. We rejoice in the fact that we are currently looking at the rate of Assessments. It is my sincere hope and prayer that we would be able to reduce it to a more manageable flat rate at least at the 2014 General Assembly. In fact, steps in this direction have already been set in motion with a decrease by 2% at the 2012 General Assembly. However, if this is to have any significant impact it is necessary that those congregations that are not making any assessment contributions do so as soon as possible.
We need to remember that we are covenanted to one another and that giving to the wider work of the Church is an essential sign of that covenant. It is no small wonder then that the prophet Malachi rebuked Israel for her failure to bring her “tithes and offerings” to bless God’s work.

10.The 2012 General Assembly decided that we should engage external mediators to address the situation of the Church Associations. Immediately after the Assembly I drafted a document outlining possibilities of organisations we could approach to help us with mediators. This document was circulated to all parties concerned for comment and discussions. I was hoping that we would be able to identify external mediators by the end of 2012. Unfortunately, some of the organisations have not responded to the document as yet. I have met/talked with those concerned and we have firmly agreed that by the second week in March we would settle on the matter of the external mediators.

So, we give thanks for this positive indication and pray that the process will start in due course.
In conclusion, let me express a sincere thanks to all the “saints” (believers) in the UPCSA for your dedication, faithfulness and commitment to both God and the UPCSA. There are countless people who sacrificially continue to keep the ‘fire burning’ in congregations and Presbyteries. We thank God for you and pray for continued wisdom, grace and strength to be given to you as you serve God and God’s people. May this year be filled with bursting vision, joyful ministry and abundant energy as you: set your heart to honour God, stand firm in the Lord and guard your spirit so that you do not break faith.

Stay blessed and keep the faith!
Jerry Pillay General Secretary

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Friends,
Christian greetings and peace be upon you and all your loved ones. We are almost getting to the end of 2012 and before we know it the busy season will be upon us driving us into many different directions.
The tragedy of this is that often times the real reason for this season, the birth of the Christ child, is crowded out, and in most situations, somewhat unconsciously or unintentionally. Deep in our hearts and minds we know that our Christmas celebrations ought to be about Christ, it’s just that other things keep getting in the way.

It is for this reason that I like Advent which is part and parcel of our Christian liturgical calendar. It is a time in which we wait and prepare for the Lord’s coming. Most of our churches light candles, read scripture passages and offer prayers related to the anticipation of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ. So before the rush begins it is important to stop, reflect and listen for the voice of God. It is this quiet reflection which (re)directs us into a place of sanity and security as we ponder on salvation, grace, forgiveness and love. We suddenly come to that profound awareness that if God did not choose to come to the world in his Son we would not be here. This holy moment leads us into a place and spirit of thankfulness and gratitude.

As this year draws to a close I stopped to ask about what I am thankful for in the UPCSA. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things on my list:
- My family for kindly and sacrificially releasing me into the service of God and the UPCSA.
- All my many colleagues and friends who have supported me with prayer and encouragement through the past year.
- The staff at the Central Office for their dedication and devotion in spite of having to contend with the fraud situation and the need to rise above that experience.
- All the processes we have put in place to ensure good management and accountability structures within the Church.
- All our ministers, elders and leaders in congregations in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- All our retired ministers who continue to serve God in various places as they are able to.
- A very successful 2012 General Assembly which addressed a number of significant issues.
- The new Vision, Mission, Values and Mission Priorities we have adopted at the 2012 General Assembly.
- The fresh energy and life we are experiencing in our new Assembly committees which has been reduced from 66 to 14 to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and cost reduction.
- The new life and functionality of Presbyteries as they implement the Presbytery Empowerment Plan. As someone as said we are “moving from maintenance to mission.

We are now an outcomes – based church seeking to make a difference in the world.”
- There are wonderful signs of spiritual growth in the midst of challenges and struggles.
- Recently I conducted workshops with a few of our Presbyteries facing huge challenges. I was deeply amazed by how God’s Spirit was at work bringing us into a new place of hope and restoration.

- There are some congregations engaging some really fascinating mission and ministry into their community and context and bringing about transformation and life - changing experiences for many.

My list can go on but let me stop to ask: “What are some of the things you are thankful for in your life? As you consider your local congregation and the UPCSA at large, what are some of the things you are able to express gratitude and thanksgiving for? How is your congregation blessing those within your church and outside? How are you blessing your minister and how is your minister blessing you? Are you taking time to count your blessings?

At the start of this “silly” season it is most appropriate to stop and reflect on your blessings and to give proper thanks to both God and the people around you. Too many people today conclude rather quickly that they don’t have anything to be thankful for, and that is mostly because they allow their minds to be dominated by that which has been a discouraging or negative experience. In any case, the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 that we must “in everything give thanks.” We need to be thankful in all things, to recognize the presence of God in sorrow as well as joy, in the good experiences and even in the not so good ones. Are you thankful? Can you look up and thank God every day and all the way, even sometimes through tears?
Christmas is a time for reconciliation, peace and hope. It is a time to know that no matter what we face and in spite of what is happening in our countries and the world, God is in control: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…”

Our thanks then must appropriately begin with what God has done, is doing and what we hope God will do. We need to acknowledge God as the source of our blessings and hope. This time of Advent reminds us that we must patiently wait on God to heal, restore and save us. We need to take time to listen to God’s voice, trust and act upon God’s Word, and receive God’s peace. When we receive God’s peace we will also realize that we are called to be agents of God’s peace and hope in the world. Are you an agent of God’s peace and hope at home, in your church and in the world?
I remain thankful for the Church with all her imperfections, failures and struggles. Do you? Advent and Christmas is a time to be hopeful and to expect the unexpected blessing from God. May you be surprised by grace and hope this Christmas.
Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I was invited to preach on the "Role of the Church Today"  at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on 4 July.
You can read about it at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Keeping in Touch June 2012

Dear Friends,

Grace, peace and blessings to you and your loved ones in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

I trust that you are well, energized and blessed by the presence of our Triune God.

Recently we celebrated Pentecost which speaks about the coming down of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian church. Acts chapter 2 verses 42-47 describes this dynamic community of believers saying that they gathered together daily, devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, broke bread together, sold their possessions and gave to anyone as needed. And the Lord added to their numbers daily. I wonder whether our churches today can be described in this way. Do we have the passion, devotion and joy to serve God as these early New Testament Christians? Sometimes we seem to have it all together yet something powerful and significant seems to be missing.

The prophet Ezekiel speaks about this in chapter 37. In verse 8 we read: “Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.” A reference is made to the house of Israel who said: “Our bones are dry, our hope lost, and we ourselves are cut off (v.11).” And then God responded by saying, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live …” (v14). Perhaps, this is what God wants to do with his church as he calls us to live in the power of his Holy Spirit. He wants us to go out into the world and be a movement as we move people on to God’s agenda.

We can only do this through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

We are steadily moving closer to our 2012 General Assembly which takes place from the 14th to 20th July at the University of Stellenbosch. Among the many things that we will be discussing at the Assembly is the relevance and impact of Reformed Churches today. We have invited Prof Russell Botman, the Rector and Vice Chancellor of the University of Stellenbosch, to address us on this subject. Prof. Botman has served at one time as President of the South African Alliance of Reformed Churches, President of the SACC and in various positions in the ecumenical movement. We are hoping that this conversation would help inspire and stimulate our church to address issues of relevance and growth.

The Assembly will implement the new Assembly committee structure which now consists of 14 committees instead of the previous 66. The Nominations Committee will propose names of conveners and members to serve in this new structure. We will, worship together daily, fellowship, share in bible studies and group work, break bread together, receive reports from committees, discuss in small groups, make decisions on a number of matters, receive fraternal greetings and celebrate what God is doing amongst us and through us as a denomination. We will look at the vision, mission, priorities and finances of the UPCSA. One of the very serious matters on the Agenda is the issue of Church Associations and the Assembly will be requested to prayerfully discern the way forward on this matter which has brought so much of disunity, pain and struggle in the UPCSA. As we tackle all of these challenges we need to be reminded of our purpose as a church and we need to rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us into the mind of Christ. On our own we will seek solutions on our own terms which often bring restlessness and trouble; we need to allow God’s Spirit to lead us into God’s agenda for us as a church.

Please remember the Assembly in your constant prayers: the safety of commissioners as they travel to and from Stellenbosch, give thanks for the work of the outgoing Moderator (The Rev Dr George Marchinkowski), the incoming Moderator (The Rev. Rod Botsis) as he prepares to moderate the Assembly, the election of the Moderator-designate, the presentation of reports and decisions that would be made. Pray that we would leave the Assembly saying that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us“as recorded in Acts 15:28. Pray for the Local Organising Committee and the Presbytery of the Western Cape as they host us and all those who will participate in various ways.

We hope to provide daily updated information on the UPCSA website during the Assembly. We would thus encourage you to login on and follow our events, discussions and decisions and, more significantly, pray with us and for us at the Assembly. We want to use this gathering as an event to draw us together, keep us connected, build the UPCSA community, get excited about the work and witness of the Church, and strengthen the bonds of unity and peace as we seek to serve God in the world together.

God is calling us to come back to our first love (to Him), not to become lukewarm or disobedient but to passionately and joyfully fulfill God’s purpose of bringing the lost into his amazing grace and love, and it is about time that we took his call seriously if we are not, lest we face the judgments made on the churches which ‘missed the mark’ as recorded in the book of Revelations.

Be Spirit-filled and joyful abounding in love, hope and faith!

May the grace and peace of God be with you both now and always!