Monday, December 16, 2013
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
KEEPING IN TOUCH 2013/3
PLEASE READ THIS TO YOUR SESSION AND MAKE THIS AVAILABLE TO THE CONGREGATION
Friday, June 21, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
Monday, November 26, 2012
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
Thursday, June 21, 2012
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 www.upcsa.org.za 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!