Reflections/sermons

lost

 

Romans 9:1-5.31-10:4 (NLT)

1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.

2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief

3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed-cut off from Christ!-if that would save them.

4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.

5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

 

31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.

32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

1 Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.

2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal.

3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law.

4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

 

 

Introduction:

Do you have a heart for those who are lost?

 

How much time do you spend praying for those who do not know God and specifically God in and through Jesus?

Paul, a Jew, who got to know Jesus and then thinks of his nation, his friends, and that they do not really know God. He sees how serious they are about God, how hard they try and how they keep the many many laws. And it breaks his heart. Here are people that love and cherish God and take His word very seriously, but they miss the point. Their endeavours are more about what they think and what they have made out of the word of God and not what God really wants.

And that breaks Paul’s heart. He feels for these, his people, and prays for them. His calling is to another group who did not know God, the non-Jews, and He gives everything to reach them.

What we can learn from Paul is that he experienced the love and grace of God in Jesus, and he wants others to experience this love. He wants the Jews to open their hearts and be free.

 

We live in a world in which unrest and hatred are growing. In which divisions are being voted for and wars are on the increase. The pope stated last week that the world is at war.

 

In this world, we need to stay close to God and be filled with His love. We need to pray for people and reach out to them. We need to allow God to change our hearts and let us feel what He feels. We need to learn from the story of Israel in the Bible and not make the same mistakes.

 

I.          We have every chance, like the people of Israel, to live with God in a close relationship. Do we use it?

 

If your study the story of God in the Bible you will see that faith has always played an important role. With faith I mean the relationship to God. Faith is trust and trusting God. It is about entrusting our lives to God and living in an active relationship to Him, where we seek His will and allow Him to work through us.

 

If you look at Genesis it is always about faith and basically about trusting God. Abraham was righteous because of his faith. But, Israel then falls back to making other things important and not faith. Offerings and rituals become important. The laws become more important than people, or even God. They make so many laws that it is such a burden, that people cannot really live. And, at other times, the people of Israel just forget about God and do what they think is right. And they have to live a life without God. The consequences are: loss of identity and purpose, loss of the blessings and protection of God and a loss of morals and values.

 

Our world is full of examples of Israel and the mistakes Israel made. Or, to say it in another way, the mistakes we humans make, by forgetting God and living without Him.

 

In our time many are forgetting about God and living according to what they feel and want. We have a secularised world that does not ask for God’s guidance and actually thinks that faith is a problem.

 

A reaction to this world is a falling back to laws. Taking the Bible or the Koran and making a set of rules out of it. This results in religion without love. Actually a religion that fosters hate. Hate against people who have another faith. Hate against people with different beliefs etc. Eventually this leads to wars. Also amongst Christians.

 

Paul experienced the love of God and it freed him. He went to the people who before had been seen as unclean. The Gentiles were seen by the Jews as people you should not have anything to do with. Paul sees that God actually loves every person and died on the cross for every one of us. He calls us to live in faith, in a relationship where we accept His love in Jesus. This love in Jesus restores us with God and makes us children of God.

 

Paul realizes that children of God are not the nation of Israel or the descendants of Abraham. Even two of Abrahams children were not part of Israel. Children of God and the Nation of God is made up of believers who live in a relationship with God. They have accepted God’s love and want to be filled with His Spirit and His love.

 

We need to be careful as children of God that we do not make the mistakes that the people of Israel made. The mistake of forgetting God; Or, the mistake of making laws and rituals more important than the love of God – that makes us hard and judgmental. That leads to divisions and even wars.

 

II.         We need to realize what our responsibility as children of God is, and what God wants from us.

 

Our responsibility as children of God is to connect with Jesus and let Him influence us. It is about following Jesus and letting Him determine our actions.

 

Our responsibility as children of God is to allow God to love us. That we take time for Him and let Him fill us. It is about asking God to show us how He sees things. That is what prayer is about. Prayer means that we bring before Him what we think, but then allow Him to determine our thinking and letting Him challenge us to see things like He sees them.

 

Our responsibility is not to try and become good by doing things the right way. God lets us be His children by faith. We need to accept and allow Him to give us the gift of a relationship with Him. It is in faith that we are made righteous with God and not by what we do.

 

The things we do should be because God has filled us with His love and we can hand it on to others. Or, God tells us to do things in love.

 

Whenever the Israelites turned to God and allowed Him to determine their lives they experience His blessings and lived in peace. Where we live in faith we experience God’s peace. Where we live in this close and beautiful relationship to God we experience His peace.

 

What God wants for our lives is a deep inner peace. He wants us to live with Him and in His presence. That is what we need to concentrate on. That is what God still wants for the people of Israel that have not accepted Jesus. That is what Paul is so sad about. He wants them to experience the love of God and is prepared to give everything for his people.

 

III.        We are made right with God and need to now live as children of God.

 

What are consequences of living as children of God:

- firstly it is about relaxing because we are saved and right with God. We need to live out of thankfulness and let God fill our hearts and minds with His love and thinking.

- we need to take time to receive. Read His word to receive. Spend time in God’s presence. Receiving makes it possible for us to give and reach out to others. People who spend time with God have something that others do not have and they are able to hand on what they have received from God. I notice that if I do not take the time to receive things change. They look different and are different.

- let God change your heart and with that your thinking. This is actually a decision. The decision to allow God to change your thinking and to bring healing in your life. Do you want God to work in your life? Tell Him and ask Him to work in your life. Ask Him to pour out His Spirit upon you and that He fills you.

- Do what He tells you to do! That is living in a relationship. It is about listening to Him in our every day lives. It is not about following a set of rules, but rather about living with and for Him.

 

May God show you His love for you. Experience this love in Jesus and let it change you.

May God show you the love He has for others. Let this love influence your thinking and your feelings.

May God show you what He wants you to do. Do it, even if it seems insignificant for you.

May God show you that you have a family, His family. Live in the fellowship that He gives.

mercy2

Message: Trinity 3, held on the 12.6.2016: Theme: Mercy, Text:1 Timothy 1.12-17

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,

13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”-and I am the worst of them all.

16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

 

Introduction

God is a God of mercy.

 

We have many thoughts about God and often we make pictures of Him and think that we know who He is. Especially if we have grown up in a religious environment and learnt about God all of our lives. But, might it be that your image of God, your thoughts about God, are just an image or just your own thoughts. That would then be called an idol. An idol is something that takes the place of God. Something we worship and think it is God, but actually it is not.

Paul, who wrote this letter to Timothy, grew up as a devout religious person and was taught that God was very harsh, legalistic and judgmental. And so Paul was harsh, legalistic and judgmental. When he learnt about this new teaching called Christianity he believed he needed to stop it, because it was misleading people and God could not allow it.

What Paul did not realize is that God is a God of mercy, of forgiveness, of love. He did not know God. Do you know God? Can we ever really know God? We can experience God and learn about Him as we walk with Him, but it will always only be partial and we need to stay humble and prepared to learn.

 

I.        Paul experienced the mercy of God in his life. We also need to experience this mercy personally.

 

What would you do if someone works against you and is even prepared to kill you. Paul was working against Jesus and prepared to kill His followers. He was the main instigator against people of “the way” as it was called in those days. He organised to have Christians thrown in jail, looked on as Stephen was stoned and did everything he could to stop what Jesus was doing.

 

If you were God, if you were Jesus, what would you have done?

- would you have destroyed Paul? Struck him down with lightening.

- would you have worked against him and around him? Perhaps by keeping Christians safe from him and warning them before Paul could do anything against them?

 

Or, would you have seen the person Paul and how misguided and wrong he was? Would you have perhaps seen his soul and how lost he was? That he did not know better and was doing the things he was doing because he really did not know God. Is that how you would have seen him?

 

Jesus saw him in a different light to how we would have seen him. He saw him from the point of view of His mission to this world. He came to reach out to people like Paul and to be there for them. He came to show them that God is a God of mercy and love, and not one who destroys. He sees the heart of Paul and how misguided it is. And He plans to reach out to Paul and to change His heart.

 

Have you ever seen God as He really is: He reaches out to you in love and wants nothing more than for your heart to experience His love and His mercy. He plans to show you who He is, if you are open to Him and allow Him to. He reaches out to you in many different ways.

 

For Paul it was the “Road to Damascus Experience” that changed his life. Jesus comes to him, when he is on his way to Damascus to throw Christians in jail. Jesus comes to him and reaches out in love. He questions him and asks him what he is doing. Paul asks who Jesus is and is told that he is the son of God. Paul gets three days of blindness to think about things and then takes two years out to heal, grow and be prepared for his ministry. Has God taken you out of your normal life at some point to make you think about your life. Has he taken something away, like your job, or shaken you with a crisis to give you time to think. Something like the blindness of Paul. He works in strange ways and reaches out to us in our lives.

 

Paul experiences Jesus love and it changes his life. He knows that he actually does not deserve to live anymore, but that it is only through the grace of God. This grace determines his life.

 

II.       Being called by God to serve Him is a privilege.

 

Would you chose someone like Paul to bring the message of the love of God to people. He is the most unlikely candidate. The one who was feared and who Christians try to avoid. That is the person Jesus choses to show the love and grace of God and Paul will never forget it. From that moment on his life becomes one of thankfulness and no matter what he experiences, he knows that every moment of his life is a gift and that he is chosen and called through the grace of God.

 

He later makes a list of what he experiences because of Christ and still sees it as a privilege. He was imprisoned, beaten, suffered shipwreck twice and was often in danger. And yet he sees his life and mission as a privilege that he never deserved. God in His mercy reached out to Him and called him.

 

The great and mighty God comes into our lives and reaches out to us. He wants to heal us, give us time out to think and show us who He really is. He wants us to surrender to Him and see what He makes of us. What He does in our lives is often scary. He calls us to do things that we never thought we can do.

 

For Paul it was to go on mission journeys and to give his life for the Gospel. For Martin Luther it was to question the established church and to refocus on the love of God. What is His calling for you?

 

If we experience the greatness of the love and grace of God we also experience His calling as a privilege that we do not deserve. I as a white South African serving in this wonderful multi-cultural congregation here in Parkview is a privilege. It is a calling I will always be thankful for and it makes me humble.

 

What does God want to do through you? What is He calling you to do and where is He calling you to serve?

 

In our congregation there are people who have found their calling and perhaps do not even notice it: they serve in the youth team, in the children’s ministry, in leadership and give much. God has called them. With what He is doing in life, if we remain at His disposal we are prepared for the future to serve Him even more. I wonder what He will do through the people sitting here today. He has called you all.

 

III.      God calls everyone of us to serve Him. Until we serve God we will never really be fulfilled.

 

We have many dreams and aspirations in life and they give us a purpose for periods in our lives. But, the dreams and aspirations of this world are as fleeting as our lives. They come and go and have very little eternal value. They may even be dreams and aspirations that are damaging to our faith and keep us away from God. If we work only for money and for recognition for example. And God does not play a role in what we do, our dreams and aspirations may be destructive. They may even be hostile to God, like Paul was. He was a learned Jew and his education became a hindrance. Today it may be that people through their intellectual thoughts think they are too clever for God. The intellectual thoughts often hinder faith.

 

Being open to God means that we allow Him to show himself to us. Paul was, in spite of everything serious about God and wanted to serve God. That is why God reached out to him, although he was on the wrong track. When he found God his life was filled with meaning and purpose. If you find God in the way Paul did and you had a life without God before that. Then you will look back on your old life and see how lost you were before. When we experience the mercy and love of God everything changes and nothing is the same anymore. Our lives have a new purpose and meaning. They are full and exciting. I wish you that.

 

May God fill you with His grace and challenge you to a life filled with purpose and meaning. A life that has eternal significance. Ask Him to show himself to you and to call you to the life He created you for.

]Shalom 3

Message for 2nd Trinity at St. Peter’s by the Lake on the 5.6.2016: Ephesians 2.17ff  Theme: Shalom

Ephesians 2:17 (NLT)

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.

18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.

20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

 

 

Introduction: Shalom – Peace

 

In the last years I have noticed how important peace is to God and if you study the word of God you realize, God wants us to have peace in our hearts. What does peace mean to you? What does the word mean to you?

Discuss!

In America it is popular to speak about “World Peace” and it seems to be something that is important to work towards. With this is meant outward peace. But, world peace is just a dream. At no point has there been world peace – peace everywhere. What does it mean to really have peace?

In Jesus time and to this day the Jews greet each other with the word “Shalom”. Peace, or “peace be with you!” It is something that they yearn for and that the believed the Messiah, the saviour, when he comes would bring. In Ephesians we read that this has happened and on a much more comprehensive level than the Jews expected. With the Messiah came peace, not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. Jesus brings this and wants to also bring peace into your life.

 

Shalom means peace of heart mind and soul. And Jesus wants us to have this peace and live with him.

 

I.      God wants all people to have peace and live in peace with each other. What causes us not to have peace?

 

Peace is much more than our situation or the country in which we live. I do not think that anyone would state that South Africa is at peace: look at parliament, the student unrest, the many protests, violence etc. etc. The situation at the time of Jesus was much worse. The Jews were under the Romans and had to do what the Romans told them to do. In the year 70, 37 years after the death and resurrection of Christ the temple was totally destroyed by the Romans and many Jews were killed. Outwardly there was not peace and yet this text, written in this time, speaks about Jesus bringing peace. That is also the clue: Jesus brings peace and He offers it to everyone in whatever situation we find ourselves. We can have peace with a war waging around us and we can have no peace in a situation of absolute peace around us. What is peace?

 

Real peace is peace with God, and with that peace with ourselves, and also then peace with each other. Jesus brings this about in our lives. He shows us how much he loves us and brings forgiveness healing and love.

Firstly, what takes our peace is if we personally do not have peace with God and we have not allowed Him to bring healing and have not received forgiveness from Him. This is true for everyone. The text speaks about Jews who were near and Gentiles who were far from God. We probably could say that this is true for us Christians who have grown up as Christians and have been near, and for those who did not grow up as Christians – those who were far from God.

 

There is no short cut whether we are far or near, whether we grew up as Christians or not. The way to healing and forgiveness, the way to restoration and to God is through Jesus. Each one of us has to experience that for her- or himself and we have to allow Jesus to come and live in our hearts through His Spirit – the Holy Spirit.

 

When we allow Him in He starts working and brings healing. The closer we live to Him the more He can work in us to bring about peace. I have had a week that was very difficult and yet there was a deep peace and purpose in it. He brings peace in a world that has no peace.

 

II.     How do we find peace?

 

He restores us to God. When He comes into our lives He brings peace between God and us. We can bring what separates us from God to Him and be forgiven. We can then also make peace with ourselves, knowing that we belong to God, are loved and precious to Him. Peace starts with making peace with God. It starts with receiving healing and living with God. In God’s presence we find healing. In God’s presence is the place of rest and receiving the peace that goes beyond understanding.

 

When we live with God through Jesus he also brings peace with people. A different kind of peace, even when the other person does not have peace with you. The second aspect of peace is peace with others and God wants us to live in peace and bring peace to others. In the armour of God it states that we should put on shoes of peace. That means that were we go we go in peace and bring the peace of God.

 

How do we find peace with others?

- with people that have hurt us it is about handing them over to God and with the strength of God to forgive as God has forgiven them. This does not mean that we forget and let people abuse us or hurt us again. Actually it is about making peace in our hearts and asking God to protect us from the other person. As a boy I was in boarding school and at a stage a much older boy started bullying me. I prayed about it and asked God to protect me. Every time he tried to bully me, another older boy would stop him. God leads us if we allow him to. Hand over the people to God and make peace in your heart. Let nothing take your peace.

 

Another aspect in life that can take our peace is if we are not happy with our situation. As a pastor you study for many years and earn a relatively small salary. Everyone of my friends who studied in another field earns much more than I ever did. At some point I had to make peace with that and place my situation in God’s hands. I actually noticed and God showed me that there was a spiritual reason that we did not have more than we have and I started to be thankful for what I have. And also started living within my means. I did not spend more than what I have. And also give to God what is God’s. This brought a deep peace. I still see that in everything. We need peace in our hearts.

Also, to have peace we need to accept that things are as they are and some things we cannot change. In our country at the moment I would like to change so many things. Much of the poverty, the wrong distribution of wealth, the money flowing out of our country is self inflicted. Our previous and current leaders are responsible. And for me it seems many do not care and only think of themselves. I hand this over to God daily and ask God to be merciful and change things, so that people will find work, that the economy grows and that our leaders make the right decisions. But, I cannot change it and have to find peace with the current situation. I can just do what God tells me to do in my current situation. I often now pray the serenity prayer:

 

Serenity Prayer

 

- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

 

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

 

Living one day at a time;

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

forever in the next. Amen.

III.    We are the dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

 

Life with God is about allowing God to live in our hearts and being God’s dwelling. What a beautiful picture that God lives in us and we can be so close to Him. That brings peace.

 

God wants us to be His dwelling place. He decided this and wants to give us peace in our hearts. But, when He lives in us it means that He has the say. He is the one who tells us what to do and sometimes, or most times that is not easy. But, He knows better and knows what needs to be dealt with. It raises our lives to a different level. The Holy Spirit guides, is there, shows us His ways and changes us from within.

 

This is the privilege of living as a Christian. He is with us always. He is with us in spite of the things that happen around us. He is with us in everything.

 

You are the dwelling place of God. He wants to bring peace in your life and live in your heart.

agape-3-sized-350x235

Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake – 29.5.2016- Trinity Sunday

1 John 4:16-21 (NLT)

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

 

Introduction: God’s agape

 

Agape is the word used in Greek for the love that is described here. Greek has four words for love. English only has one and that is why we often feel using this word is superficial, or does not express what we mean. In Greek there is a word for the love of a mother to her child, the love of friends, the romantic love between a couple and then there is agape. It can perhaps best be described as “self giving love”, demonstrated for example by Jesus when he died for us on the cross. It is the love where it is not expected. I read of a German village that has embraced the refugees and made them their friends. When I phoned the treasurer of St. Peter’s Child Care in Germany she had an appointment at the refuge camp. Agape is a love in spite of. It is love that is just there and is given. It is the way God’s love is described. He just loves us, in spite of and without any questions.

I.      Have you experienced God in your life? Have you experienced His love?

 

The way we experience God shows us whether we have really experienced Him or whether we are just making up theories and thoughts about Him. There are many ways in which people think they experience God:

- One way is to experience this world and its harshness and see God in that way. A person related to me how working in the burns unit of Baragwaneth Hospital had showed her that there is no God, or if there is that he was harsh to allow people to suffer.

- Many see God as very strict and we have to see that His rules are kept. We have very strong examples of that in the IS movement at the moment. That has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with hatred.

We have a history of this strictness in the church. In the Middle Ages people were killed for not believing. They were killed for being suspected of witchcraft. Wars were raged for what people believed God wanted.

- Even this text, in the NLT version was changed. Where it speaks of loving your brother, the translators wrote “love your Christian brother”. They tried to limit the love of God.

 

To understand something of the love of God we need to get to know Jesus and have a close relationship to Him. When a person experiences this love it changes everything. The writer of this letter, or the one who’s name was used, always spoke about love and placed it in the centre. The disciple John experienced Jesus as love. And in everything He did and proclaimed this was central. When you get to know Jesus it is about the love of God.

 

Let us look at the agape, this love in Jesus. Jesus does not come to force anything upon us, but comes to love us. His reign is about winning our hearts and not forcing us. Whoever in the church or in the Kingdom of God tries to force something, has not understand Jesus. He decides against all the power in this world, against fame and riches and against a life that revolves around him. He brings love and wants us to experience God in this way.

He reaches out to people in love, even at the cost of being ridiculed by the Jewish leaders. He reaches out to so called sinners – tax collectors, prostitutes etc. That for a devout Jew is not acceptable. He is making himself unclean by doing such things. He shows a woman caught in adultery grace and saves her from being stoned. He reaches out to children in a society that did not see children as important. He reaches out in love and everything he does is done in love.

 

He tells stories of God that show an understanding of God that is different. He speaks of being able to call the holy God, abba, daddy. He speaks of being so close to God that you can call him by such a endearing name. He experiences His relationship to the Father in this way and wants us to experience Him in this way. He wants us to experience the love of God in all its fulness.

 

God loves each one of us more than we will ever know. If you look into God’s eyes and come before Him you will experience Him in this way. It might take some time, because often our thoughts and questions stand in the way, but when we have dealt with these thoughts and questions and are open to God, really open, He will show himself. Often that takes time and an openness to learn from God. It often also means that we have to leave behind what we have thought in the past and just allow God to teach us about himself. What will you discover when you discover God?

        You will discover love in its most pure and beautiful form.

                        Agape – pure love.

 

II.     When we experience this love of God it fills us and has consequences for our relationship with others.

 

In the text we have read the writer states that if you say you love God but hate your neighbour you have not experienced the love of God. It just cannot be, because the true love of God fill us to such an extent that it just has consequences.

 

I have often read of people experiencing the love of God and then feeling such a deep love for the people around them. I know that happened to me when I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I wanted to constantly spend time with God. Everything else did not matter to me anymore. But, I also saw everyone through new eyes. I saw God in everyone and how much people needed the love of God, even though they did not know it. When God touches our heats in love He gives so much love that it just flows into and out of our lives. He changes racists to people who love and serve the ones they previously despised. He gives people a heart to spread this love in many different ways: to the ones in prison; to the homeless; to refugees; to people who are ill etc. etc.

 

When we allow ourselves to be filled with the love of God He will also show us where to hand on this love. That is what a Christian life is about. It is about receiving the love of God and then handing it on to those around us. It is about taking time with God because He is so special to us and letting Him heal us, so that we can give from what we have received.

God’s love is not only to our Christian neighbour as the NLT has wrongly described. It is even to our enemies. God wants to show us true love, that He cares about everyone and wants to reach out to everyone.

 

When we make space for the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of love takes over. The Holy Spirit brings the love of God into our lives.

 

When I look at the change in the disciples after Pentecost it is just fantastic. They go out and speak about the love of God in Jesus and live it. They share, are there for each other and help each other. They also go out and live this love and bring it to others. They pray for people and they are healed. They pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon people and He does. Peoples lives are changed.

 

Let your life be changed. Let Him fill you to the overflowing and guide you in whatever you do. Take time to experience Him and His love and it will influence your life.

 

May God fill you with His love. 

 

 

 

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Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake – 22.5.2016- Trinity Sunday

Romans 11:33 (NLT)

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?

35 And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

 

Introduction

 

When we look at our world and all the things that are happening, it is difficult to understand why God allows things. It sometimes feels as if he is just an onlooker and lets the world go its course. And yet on the other hand, if we open our hearts to God and allow His Spirit to live in our souls, then He is there for us and His presence is too great to understand. It is this experience of the power of God and yet living in a world that seems to have forgotten God, that brings about these questions of our text. They are actually a statement of faith in this world:

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

A statement of the experience that God is all powerful and why things happen and He allows them to happen, we do not understand.

Paul in Romans focusses on God and sees that God is too great for us to understand and we need to accept Him in faith and trust Him in this world.

 

I.        What can we understand of God?

 

We can understand what He shows us of himself. We can understand what He wants us to understand. Where He speaks and where He appears he shows something of himself that we can learn and hold on to.

 

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is the day we celebrate that God showed himself to us in three ways. If we look at the three ways He showed himself to us we see something of God and learn more of Him. He showed himself to us as God the Father, the Creator of the Universe and of everything that exists:

Firstly, God shows himself to us as God the Father the creator:

- if we look at God the Father, we see a caring father who is there for us and reaches out to us. Actually we should probably call him a parent: Father and Mother. In the Old Testament He is often described as a loving mother. Even if a mother can abandon her own child, God will never leave us. He is a loving Father. Jesus speaks about the loving father in the story of the lost son. A father who yearns for his child and waits for him to return. When He returns He accepts His son without any conditions. He just loves him.

God the Creator can also be experienced in nature, in studying science, in discovering the greatness of our universe. It shows us something about how great He is and how powerful He is. It shows us, as we discover the greatness of our universe, something of His nature.

But, it is also frightening. He is such a great and holy God and how can we relate to someone who is so great and powerful. This is again where the difficulty of understanding God and His ways comes in. Questions arise, like: where is God when horrible things happen? Why does He not stop them? Why does He not intervene? And we try to understand, but can only find partial answers.

We believe in and serve a mighty God. To great and powerful to understand His ways.

 

Secondly, He shows Himself to us in Jesus. In Jesus God comes into our world and experiences what we experience. He lives a life like ours and relates to us. He wants to show us that He understands and that He has experienced this world. He is not a God who is satisfied with just living up there somewhere and leaving us to live our lives. And then intervenes sometimes. He wants to be a part of our lives and wants us to know that He understands us better then we understand ourselves.

God becomes personal in Jesus. If you open your heart to Jesus, you experience God in the way that He wants us to experience Him in our lives. You will notice that Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. If you read His word, the words of the New Testament and ask God to speak to you through them, you will see how He gives you the right words at the right time. When you get to know Jesus you will experience that He gives you what you have always been yearning for. He accepts you like you are and loves you more than you will ever know. The closer you come to Jesus, the risen Lord, the more you will experience how He is there for you in everything.

His life in this world was to show the heart of God and how much God cares.

But, God’s ways are to great for us to understand. His love, even though we can all experience it, is much greater than we can ever understand. He loves and accepts you as you are and wants to give you all He has.

Here is where it becomes difficult to understand this great love. The person next to Jesus on the cross, just reached out to Jesus and Jesus said: “Today still you will be in paradise with me.” A murderer in Johannesburg Central Prison told me about the change in his life when he accepted Jesus. He then continued to talk about what he had done. He had murdered 8 people. Those of you who know me know that my father was murdered in Kwazulu-Natal. I stood there thinking of the people that had murdered my father and then that this person standing in front of me was such a person. And God forgave him. This is to difficult for me to comprehend.

But then, on the other hand, I am also a sinner, and God has forgiven me again and again and again… His love is too great to comprehend. We really struggle with the greatness of God.

 

Thirdly, God makes His home in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Now, if you really want to be frightened by God then ask Him to fill you with the power of His Spirit. Surrender to Him with everything you have and ask Him to take over. That is when things like the burning bush experience happen. Or the transfiguration, or Pentecost. For me it was the Holy Spirit coming on me in power and I asked God to stop at some stage. His holiness and power is so beautiful, but also so great that it is frightening. What you will realize when you allow the Holy Spirit to live in your heart is that He knows much more than you do. When you start following His guidance you will experience the greatness of God in a new way just about every day. God shows himself in our everyday lives through the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He elevates our everyday lives to a new level and lets us live a different life.

 

I often ask myself why this powerful holy God who I worship cares about me and is so interested in me, that He gives himself completely and wants to live in my heart. That He wants to share in my life and guide me through His Spirit. That is very difficult to understand. The great and wonderful God in me. The holy and majestic God who created the universe is interested in my little lowly life. But it cannot be so lowly and insignificant if He is so interested in me and loves me to such an extent that I am filled with His love on a daily basis. Who can comprehend this God. He is mighty and humble. He is frighteningly powerful and as gentle as a mother. He is the eternal judge and yet in love takes all punishment on himself. Who can understand him?

 

II.       For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

 

We cannot give a single thing to God that has not been given by him. The right way to worship this great God is to realize this. He has given everything we have. Our lives, our bodies, our minds, our abilities, our money, our property etc. etc. When we realize this we realize that we can also not go about with everything as if it is ours. It belongs to God. And we are going about with what God has entrusted to us. We are the mangers of what belongs to him. That makes us accountable. It shows us who we are and who God is.

 

This verse continues to say that everything is intended for the glory of God. Your life is intended to bring glory to God. You will only really be happy, at peace and content, if your life brings glory to God. If in the small and big things of your life you bring glory to God. I notice that on a daily basis. When I serve God and do things for Him, I am at peace. If I follow the world and do things for the sake of power or worldly ambitions I become sad.

This is true in relationships: they can build us up, if we deal with them in love. They can also pull us down, if we do things according to our desires.

It is true for our possessions. Have you ever handed your things over to God and asked God to use them for His glory. I was in Paulpietersburg on Monday night and the person I stayed with treated me like a king. I had to park my car in his garage and His house became my house. He said, God has given me a guest and he treated me like a child of God. I left there with many gifts. It was amazing.

If you hand over your things to God He takes over. He might challenge you to open your house for a Fellowship Group, or that you give more for His work. I see giving a tenth as the minimum and glorify God with that. It is the first amount that comes off my salary and is an act of worship. I give it to the house of God as the word says.

 

Do you live to the glory of God? Your life is intended to bring glory to God. That is what your life is about. Where do you need to bring glory to the wonderful, majestic, incomprehensible, loving and amazing God, who shows himself to us through the trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

 

 

 

Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake – 8.5.2016

 

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Ephesians 3:14 (NLT)

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,

15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

 

Introduction

 

Paul was changed by the love of Christ and prays for us to be rooted in this love.

 

On Thursday was Ascension Day and the churches of our area celebrated together at Parktown North Methodist Church. The pastor there spoke about Jesus ascension as him going from one realm into another. Something like in science fiction movies where people are transported into another realm. I had to think of Avatar. The first 3d movie that I really enjoyed. The sceneries were so realistic and so beautiful that I found the movie fascinating. The beauty of the floating islands. The problem of different gravities playing with each other and a completely fictional world with wonderful creatures and habits.

 

The Bible says that we cannot even imagine how beautiful it is where God is. Even this beautiful imagination does not even come close. Jesus is with God in a place of beauty, peace and love. Where Jesus came and comes into a persons life something of the beauty, that peace, that love comes across. Paul experienced this and his prayer is that we have this love in our lives.

 

I.        Paul prays for empowerment with inner strength by the Holy Spirit.

 

We had our confirmation camp last week and it was absolutely beautiful. It was a time of peace and love. 29 people together for one weekend and no stress. But, when we talked to the individuals about the challenges they face in everyday life, it became clear that life in South Africa is really a challenge. When I came back from the camp it was as if this was confirmed. There was one challenge after the other that I had to face and I just wanted to get into the car and rewind back to the camp.

 

In the groups this week these challenges became evident. We are facing challenges in South Africa and it brings much stress. The people in the Ephesian congregation were similar. Especially as Christians they faced serious challenges and actually danger.

 

Paul prays for empowerment in their lives. For inner strength by the Holy Spirit. He is speaking of something of the strength, the love, the peace and the power of God to come into our lives. Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. Now, I do not know what the disciples experienced at Pentecost when it comes to what happened in their hearts. But, I know what happened to me when the Holy Spirit filled my heart. It was like 100 000 volts of love that saturated my whole being and gave incredible strength. The most amazing experience one can have in life. Paul prays for the Holy Spirit to empower us in this world and inner strength through the Holy Spirit.

 

We need that in our lives. The children need the Holy Spirit. The youths need him in the challenges they face. Our confirmands need Him in their lives. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. Have you ever asked the Father in the name of Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. This is the one prayer that Jesus says will be answered.

 

We need the Holy Spirit in our lives to give us the strength we need to face the world we face at the moment and to stand firm.

 

II.       Paul prays for Christ to make His home in our hearts.

 

If Christ has made His home in your heart, everything that you experience He experiences and what He experiences you experience. He is a part of our minds and hearts. What we think and feel we do in His presence.

 

What Jesus brings into our lives is something of the eternal world in which He now is. He brings something of God. Of the love, peace and strength of God. And that changes everything. Paul experienced this constantly and even in pain, in danger, in the face of death, found this to be more than anything else in the world. He experienced the love of God in Christ and wants us to experience it just as strongly.

 

II.       Paul prays for Christ to make His home in our hearts: that we are rooted and founded in God’s love and understand how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is.

 

The aim of our lives as Christians is to be rooted and founded in God’s love. We should concentrate on the love of God and let it fill our hearts and minds. Our roots need to grow into this love and He wants it to determine our lives.

 

The secret is here that the love comes from God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit. We will dry out if we try to force ourselves to love. We need to focus and concentrate on our relationship to Jesus and allow Him to live in our hearts. When Paul was in prison, after having been beaten, what did he do in the middle of the night? He started singing songs of praise and the power of God came over them. He focused on God.

 

I remember a person who was hijacked telling me that she started to pray in the car. She prayed in Afrikaans and also praised God. The hijackers drove to Soweto, apologized to her and let her drive home. She focused on God and He did great things.

 

Founded and rooted in the love of God does much more than anything else in life. His love is so wide, there is nothing you can experience in this world where this love can not reach. It is so long that it goes before you and prepares the way for you, already years in advance. It is so high that it is more than all that can be achieved in this world. It is so deep that it reaches the depths of the soul, even the places that we often think cannot be reached. Just ask God to reach the depths of your soul.

 

III.      Paul then glorifies God in his prayer and states that God can achieve infinitely more than we might ask or think.

 

We need to focus on God in the world that we face and let Him do the things He wants us to do. In the challenges we face in life, build in rituals, time and space to allow God into your life. Fill your hearts with His presence, prayers, His word and songs of praise. And then let Him do things.

 

Paul says about his life that God has done infinitely more than he asked for or he ever thought would be possible.

 

What does God want to do in your life and to what heights does he want to lift you?

 

When I look at these 9 young people who will be baptised here today. They will die to the old self and rise to a new life. Whatever you achieve or experience in life, the most important aspect of your life will be to focus on God and let His love fill you. Then anything else will be in order. Your heart will be in the right place and you will do things in such a way that you are always right with God and will have a deep peace in your heart. That is my wish for you.

 

Shalom

Edwin

Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake –Clothed in  love- 24.4.2016

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Colossians 3:12-17 (NLT)

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

 

 

Whatever you do or say, do it as representatives of the Lord Jesus.

 

How do you define yourself? It would be a good exercise to just formulate in one sentence what our lives are about. What they are really about and not what I think the other wants to hear.

In Kenya, when asking questions, about for example, distance to a place, the person questioned would try to figure out what answer you want to hear and answer in that way.

I once asked directions to a place and then asked: “Is it far?” I then asked: “Is it very far?” The answer was: “Not far.” I then asked: “Not far, is it far or near.”

This brought about confusion and the answer was then: “Not far, far.” The person was trying to figure out what I want to hear and then answer accordingly.

 

Please answer before God, what you would really answer: What is your life really about? In one sentence!

 

This text is calling us from where we are, to where we should be. Is our life about ourselves, our family, about money and possessions, about success, about partying, or whatever. In this word of God we have wonderful pointers to what it should be about.

 

I.      As representatives of Jesus clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

 

We should be representatives of Jesus. When people see us they should see Jesus in us. They should see something different and ask themselves what is different about this person.

 

Our lives should revolve around Jesus and if we formulate a sentence that describes our lives it should be something like: I am a disciple of Jesus. I walk with Jesus. I live for Jesus. I love the Lord. Jesus is my Lord. There are many ways of expressing that our lives revolve around Jesus.

 

But, do they? Do they really? What did you busy yourself with during the last week? How much time did you spend with Jesus and inviting Him to be a part of every aspect of your life? Do you allow Him to make decisions in your life and influence your actions and what you say? If you look at the last week of your life, how much of it was with Jesus, where you knew Jesus was your Lord and you where working for Him?

 

This strong and clear word of God calls us to clothe ourselves with… and then mentions a list. Clothing oneself with is making an effort and doing something. It would probably be a good exercise to look at this passage and spend time in prayer with Jesus about it. That might look like this:

 

Lord, today I want to live for you and I want every aspect of life to be lived in your presence. This message calls me to represent you with my life and then says I should put on tenderhearted mercy.

What does that mean? Lord, help me that my heart becomes tender. Let me have soft heart for the people I meet. Help me to act in the way you would act.

 

At home you should do this with the other words used: kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

 

Just reading them is interesting, but putting on these words, like we would put on clothes is something different. It means that when people look at us, they will see the attributes of Christ on us, like clothes we wear. Do they see them on you.

 

II.     As representatives of Jesus clothe yourselves with love which binds us together in perfect harmony.

 

The one aspect in this very full text is clothing ourselves with love. I want to look at this and see what that means. How do we clothe ourselves in love? And how do we achieve the result: perfect harmony.

 

As dean I have been to many congregations and experienced the call for unity and love amongst congregants often, but these are often spoken in situations where love and harmony are not experienced. But, the more these are lacking the stronger the call for people to love and this call is often with no results. What must we do to have the required result.

 

The problem is: if there is no love to give, there is no love. It sounds very simple and logical. But, it is not so easy to find a remedy. In the first congregation that I served in, I tried to give and give and give and give… Finally I admitted, it was not working and I was failing. In prayer I came before God and basically my prayer was like this: I have studied the Bible and spent 8 years preparing for the work in the congregation and now I give up. It feels like I am walking like a blind person. I try my best and it just has no effect. My problem was: I was looking at myself and not at the one who is the Lord of the congregation. I was trying to do things with my strength, my knowledge and even the love I had in my heart. I soon noticed that it was quickly used up. And I was soon running on empty. I have seen many people try to serve God with their own energy and actually fail. So, what is the secret. It was important for me to come to a point where I gave up. It was important to notice, that in the Kingdom of God, I cannot do it. I then asked God for help. I had to surrender. I had to hand over and let God take over. I then had a special experience with the Holy Spirit and everything changed.

 

He then, through a series of events started doing things in my heart. It included confession, handing over, learning to be obedient and learning to listen. Since then my life is about listening and spending time in the presence of the Lord to be filled by Him.

 

Clothing ourselves with His love, is about letting Him fill us with His love. Let Him fill you to the overflowing.

Pray to Him and say: “I want to feel your love. Fill me with your love.”

 

Since then I encourage people to focus on their relationship with Jesus. This includes surrendering, handing over, confession, allowing Jesus to speak to you and being filled by Him.

 

What I experience in our congregation is a deep love and respect for each other. Our congregational council meetings are filled with love and harmony and I do not experience many divisions in our congregation. I know however that this love and unity is a gift and we need to continue focussing on Jesus for it to continue.

 

In one of our ministries where we work together with other congregations I do not experience this unity and have to constantly trod carefully.

 

The secret is in focussing on Christ. It lies in the relationship to Jesus and walking with him.

 

III.    Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, fill your hearts.

 

The last aspect I want to talk about is the role of the Word of God in your life. Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, fill your hearts.

 

That is what the Word of God is about. Martin Luther says of it that it is the Cradle in which we find Christ. When you read the Bible you need to do it prayerfully. That means, we need to listen to God as we read and let Him speak to us. We need to hear the voice of Jesus and what it tells us about Jesus.

 

We are here encouraged to let the message of Christ fill our hearts. What do you fill your hearts with: TV, music, voices, meetings, the news.

Listen to the inner voices in your heart, in your inner world: what are they saying? What is your heart full with? When I asked myself the question recently I noticed that the Word of God hardly featured. How do I fill my heart with the Message of Christ, in all its richness?

 

Today the Sunday is called Kantate which means: Sing to the Lord a new song. Reading the word of God is wonderful, but how do we fill our hearts with it. Perhaps it would be good to sing parts of the Word of God, like Psalms or spiritual songs  of praise. May God show you how you can fill your heart with the fullness of the message of Christ.

 

We can also learn verses off by heart. That fills our heart and accompanies us in our lives. May God give you a desire to fill your heart with His word.

 

 

Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake – Jubilate 17.4.2016

 

1 John 5:1 (NLT)

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Introduction

A few weeks ago I challenged you to start the day by praising God for five to ten minutes and ending the day by praising God. I have continued doing this and have noticed that I have gotten into a habit of praising God in everything I am doing. It has made a difference to my life. In the centre of things lies the thankfulness for everything and the trust that in everything God is working and will be there for me.

 

The text above speaks about the reasons why we should thank God. But, it speaks to a specific person and why this specific kind of person will experience and will learn to praise God. Praising is something that we need to learn. We are going to think about learning to praise and then, if you dare to praise God, to see how this changes your life. How your life becomes different. The people this text is speaking to are those that see Jesus as the Christ. He is the Christ and that is where things change and become different. It is about people who know Jesus, have accepted Him as their Christ, their Lord and Saviour and live with Him. This leads to a life of praise.

 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ….

 

I.        Praise God for being a child of God.

 

When we accept Jesus into our lives and hand our lives over to Him, He takes over. We receive what He has, namely that we become children of God. The original text speaks about us being born of God. It speaks about our lives changing completely and we are born again. Something is new and has changed.

 

If you take time in the presence of God you will experience what this means. The closeness to God that Jesus brings about. That we can call ourselves children of God and even call God daddy (Abba), because we are loved and can experience His love through Jesus. This is truly reason to pray. When we are children of God everything changes. Lets look at what we can praise him for and be thankful for:

- a child is someone who belongs and has a home. We belong to the most beautiful family and have an eternal home. We are at home in Him already and will be with Him for all eternity.

- a child is someone who is cared for. When we become children of God we have a father who is there for us and cares for us. This is what we learn and realize as we walk in faith. I notice that when I have issues and I try to deal with them myself it is often difficult. If I hand them over to God, the burden seems to lift and He takes care of them, also sometime for me.

- God wants us to grow. He wants us to learn, to develop, to experience exciting stuff, to really have a deep and wonderful life. If you hand over to God and let Him determine, he stretches you, challenges you and makes life exciting. Sometimes even to exciting. Through the “40 days of Purpose” one new lesson I learnt is that the challenges and crisis of life are often there for us to grow and develop character. Do you see your challenges as a time when God wants to develop your character.

 

The last week has been very challenging and I have praised God and found a depth in everything. He has been there and showed me his love.

 

You are a child of God. Have you ever taken time to think about what that means? Praise God for knowing that you are His child. It is a wonderful and beautiful privilege.

 

II.       Praise God for His love and this makes is possible for us love our sisters and brothers.

 

When I first experienced the love of God in a physical way, by the Holy Spirit coming upon me and filling me with his love, I suddenly had a deep and new love for the people around me. I remember being so filled with love that I talked to people that I hardly knew and God gave me wonderful words that touched their lives. This still happens today if I allow God to fill me with His love. We often are so busy and do not take time to be filled by God and then we also cannot love. Concentrating on the Father, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit and taking time for Him lets us be filled with His love. Then we can hand it on to those around us.

Take time to be filled with His love, no matter what you are experiencing. Do not shut God out, but let Him touch your heart with His love.

Just an example: A pastor discovered after many years of marriage that his wife did not love him and wanted a divorce. He had been serving in the ministry and was so focussed on it, that he did not see that his wife was desperately unhappy and they had grown apart. He blamed himself and really struggled. But then went to God and asked God, as a little child would ask a parent: “Please give me a hug.”

What he experienced was so special that it gave him the energy to continue, to start anew and to find himself again. God really hugged him. He had a special experience of being physically filled with the love of God. He now often asks God for hugs. He also said this opened his eyes for others. Also for his family.

When we love God and experience God’s love He opens our eyes for others and lets us experience Him in a wonderful new way.

Again, and it seems that God is putting this challenge on our hearts again and again, the challenge is to take time with God. Take time to praise God, even if you do not feel like it and see what happens. Take time to ask God to touch you in love. Perhaps you can aks Him for a hug. I received many such hugs in my life and they carry me.

III.      Praise God that we can overcome the world.

Jesus came into this world to overcome the world. What is the world about? If we concentrate on the world it really gets to us:

- Just think of the last week in your life – what challenges did you face? If I look at my life, the challenges I have to face and the challenges that people around me face, it is nearly overwhelming. Life in South Africa, and life in general, is not easy.

- Just look at our country and the world: there are so many things happening that it can lead people to despair. When I stopped watching the news in Lent my life was much lighter. Perhaps I should stop reading the news, period.

That is to mention just two of the many facets of our world. There are many things that can really pull us down.

But, our faith, we can overcome this world, through Jesus.

If we face the things of this world with Jesus, they are different. They receive a different value. Just thinking of the “40 days of Purpose” and that challenges are there to grow us. These challenges become a chance to grow. They bring things into perspective and show us that the Lord has overcome the world.

What touched me was that this text speaks about “can” defeat the world. We can do things on our own and try to master them on our own. Or, we can do them in faith and allow Jesus to overcome the world.

Praising God in everything puts a different perspective on things. We had a great challenge this last week and it was amazing how God was there. On top of the great challenge there were many meetings that needed me to be focussed. I could not have done it without the help of God.

Continue praising God in everything. It puts things into perspective. Make a decision to go to bed praising God and to get up praising God. Then allow your life to become one “Song of Praise” to God. Let this praise and praising God be between you and God. Do it in your room, in your heart and wherever God calls you to praise Him. See how he changes everything and changes you.

Let us pray!

Lord we want to praise you today. We praise you that we are your children. We praise you for what you have done in our lives. We praise you for your love in our lives and declare that we love you. We praise you for how your love changes us and lets us love others. We even praise you for the challenges in our lives. Fill us with praise and love. Fill our hearts and let them belong to you. Amen.

Message: St. Peter’s by the Lake – 10.4.2016

 

1 Peter 2:2b- 25 (NLT)

21 Christ is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.

23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

 

Introduction

 

Jesus is the shepherd of my soul

 

What a beautiful word. Jesus is our shepherd, the guardian of our souls, the shepherd of our souls.

 

What is my soul? We have different explanations for what my soul is. The soul is often seen as the part of us that is eternal. It is seen as the deepest part of our being. It is seen as the place were our dreams, our pain, our faith are. In modern words I like describing it as our inner world and all that goes on in our hearts and minds. Our deep thoughts and feelings.

 

We have a guardian, a shepherd who looks after the deep things in our lives. He is the one who knows our thoughts and feelings. He knows what is going on in our lives and in spite of what the thoughts and feelings my be, he loves us dearly and means well, just like a good shepherd always means well for every sheep in her/his care.

 

You have a shepherd for your soul if you allow Jesus into your heart and into all your thoughts. He wants to take care of you were it really matters and wants to be there for you at all times.

 

  1. Christ is the shepherd of your soul, follow His example.

 

If you want to start experiencing the blessings of the most wonderful shepherd of our souls then start following Him and use His example to guide you. The actual goal of our spiritual lives is to follow Him and not only to follow His example. If you follow His example, you could understand it as looking at the stories of the Bible and then adapting them to your life and trying to do what He did. That would be following His example, but it has its limitations. He then becomes the object of our studies and we try to do what we understand of Him. We take examples out of a different time and place and try to adapt them to our situation today. There is merit in doing this and it might be a step to what really following His example is about. We learn from the reports on Jesus in the Bible and trying to understand them is very important. As followers of Jesus we should constantly read the Bible and learn about Jesus through the words in the Bible.

 

But, following His example is a little more complex and deeper. It is about knowing that the Lord is risen and that He is there for us today. It is about learning to hear the shepherds voice and following that voice in our every day lives. Just by the way: Jesus lived in a close relationship to the Father and was constantly consulting with the Father. In that way He is an example to us: we should also consult with Him in everything we do. He is the shepherd of our soul, who is an example to us and wants us to live like He did. Namely, in constant consultation. To use a modern term: we have a life coach who knows us, cares for us and loves us dearly. The aim or our lives is to live with and for Him. It will bring healing, beauty, depth and wholeness to your life.

 

  1. Christ is the shepherd of your soul: Take time to get to know Him.

 

We need to set aside time for Jesus, to get to know Him so that we can follow Him. There is no way of getting around some or other way of taking time for Jesus and spending time with Him to get to know Him. Each one of us is different and we have different ways in which we spend time with Him and in which our souls, our hearts yearn to spend time with Him. At different times in our lives these ways also vary. They always have to do with prayer and with the word. They have to do with speaking to God and listening to God. That is what prayer and the Word of God, the Bible are about. At different times in my life I have had different ways of connecting to God and probably each one of us here today has a different way of relating to God. Sometimes I have gone into nature to walk with God, to speak to God and to hear him. At other times I have concentrated on reading the Bible and often read for hours in the Bible. There were phases in my life where I spent many hours a day in prayer and others where it was only a few minutes. In recent years I have learnt that the art of a spiritual life is to strive for constant prayer. To live a prayerful life and strive to pray at all times. But, a disciplined life of quiet time and a program for reading the Bible are a great help.

 

When you take time for Christ look at what He is and make a point of learning more about Him. Recently in a marriage course I read that when people fall in love they study each other. They want to know more and more about the other. Jesus is a person that we will spend a whole life on studying Him and will always find something new, something challenging and something deep. He is worthy of our love and our attention.

 

  1. Christ is the shepherd of your soul: Take time to get to know Him. Look at His pure life.

 

When I look at the life of Jesus I see the purity, the truthfulness and the beauty of God in Him. He elevates normal every day experiences and encounters to moments in the presence of God. Just think of when people really meet Him. Peter for example, after a long night of fishing is challenged by Jesus to go out and fish again. Thinking that is a worthless exercise, but probably being afraid to go against Jesus in front of the whole crowd, goes out to fish. His nets soon nearly tear because the fish literally swim into the nets and he finds himself in a crisis. Jesus often does that when he shows himself to someone. Peter notices that Jesus is different. There is something about Him that Peter does not understand. If you meditate about stories like this they will help you get to know Jesus. Think about Peter’s thoughts, his fears, his emotions, his experience at this moment where he realizes this Jesus is different. He notices something of the holiness of Jesus. He notices how sinful he, Peter, is.

 

Think about where Jesus has been close to you and what you have experienced of His holiness, His differentness, His love and His beauty. When He told me in my soul to pray for quick and complete healing for someone whom the doctors had declared paralysed and if he ever walked again it would take months or years of therapy. The fear of saying that prayer, the joy at being obedient. The amazing healing that happened and how shamed I was at my lack of faith. Jesus is something different.

 

  1. Christ is the shepherd of your soul: Take time to get to know Him. Look at the way he deals with evil people.

 

One thing that always surprises me is the love Jesus has for people, even when they do evil things. The love to Peter, when he gets it wrong. The love for James and John when they desire power and want to sit with Zuma and Putin in seats of power. The love to the woman caught in adultery. The love for the one who’s ear is severed when he tried to arrest Jesus. The love for the soldiers under the cross. He leaves these people up to God and forgives them.

 

What do you do to people who are evil in your life. Jesus calls us to forgive like we are forgiven and leave judgement and punishment up to God. He does this to take care of our souls. There is nothing worse for the souls of people then filling their souls with resentment, hatred and thoughts of revenge. Jesus, as the shepherd of our souls tells us to hand over those people to Him. He wants us to be free of these thoughts and emotions and to be able to live in freedom. Freedom from binding emotions and in peace before the Father. He wants our hearts to be pure and blameless. That is beautiful and deep.

 

Jesus leaves things up to the father and does not try to bring about justice by force. He addressed in justices and exposes them, but does not become part of the evil and violence of this world, even when He faces violence. He lets it happen and allows God to bring about justice. He does not take up arms and avenge what He is experiencing.

 

We think in terms of revenge. Look at Brussels, or Paris, or 9.11 and you see revenge. It is a part of our culture. If we did an in depth study of how we arrived at the violence levels of our times, we would have to acknowledge that revenge brought about more violence. The constant deaths by drones, the constant attacks of even guilty people, breed more hatred, more revenge and more plans for destructions.

 

Jesus brings love. He allows the people to kill Him and forgives. He answers with love and forgiveness. Can we even follow Him? Can we love where there is hatred? Can we forgive where evil is done to us? Can we be instruments of peace where there is hatred?

 

The answer is no. It only becomes possible for us, when we allow the shepherd of our souls to take over. It only becomes possible where we let Him fill us with His forgiveness, love and peace.

 

III.        Christ is the shepherd of your soul: Take time to see what He does for you.

 

To experience this shepherd of our souls, we need to allow the shepherd to take care of our souls. We modern people have many ways of locking up. We close our souls and that is why we have more and more soul problems. We call them psychological problems. Problems that are not easy to solve. We ignore our souls, our inner being, our inner thoughts and feelings and hide them. We have many ways at our disposal to do that. Mostly, today, it is done with noise and visuals. Constantly filling our lives with videos, music, text and images. And never allowing ourselves to become quiet and I for one am very good at ignoring the voice of my soul, that quietly but persistently tells me what I actually need. I need, at the moment, more time with the shepherd of my soul. I need more refreshing by cutting away TV and voices. I need more nature and exercises, to allow the voice of my soul to speak. Try the following three things

 

Christ is the shepherd of your soul: Take time to see what He does for you.

- Take your sin to Him and see what happens.

Take your hurts to Him and see how He deals with it.

Learn to live with Him with every breath you take and see how He blesses.

 

Make the decision to allow Jesus to be the shepherd of your soul. Open up to Him and let there be no place where you do not allow Him to bring peace and healing. Let Him into your thoughts, your feelings, your hurts, your dreams and everything that makes you you.

 

You will see that He means well!!!!

Prayer:

 

Jesus, be the shepherd of my soul. Give me the courage to open up to you and let you into every corner and secret room of my soul. Give me the courage to listen to you, to allow you to guide me, even when it does not suite me or when I do not feel like doing what you tell me to do. Take care of my soul.

Amen.

Großer Lagazuoi, Morgennebel (2)_lr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message from Ps Edwin Dedekind

 

Dear Readers!


The watchword for April is: “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20


The time of Lent is a time of reflection and thinking about what Jesus and his disciples experienced on their way to Jerusalem. I would like to take you on this journey and just think of our lives as we reflect on this path of Jesus:


– You will grieve, Jesus says to his disciples. He knows what lies ahead and the disciples will go through difficult times. He prepares them and tells them that they will grieve, but their grieving will turn to joy. Jesus knows where we are in life and prepares us for whatever lies ahead. Your current experiences and what He is teaching you, is to prepare and take you where he wants you to be. We need to be open and allow Him to teach and lead us and He will prepare us for our journey with Him.


– The disciples often do not understand what Jesus is saying and why things need to happen. On our journey with Jesus we also experience things that we do not understand and we do not know why they happen. When we look at the stories of the disciples and see them from our perspective, it is difficult to understand why they struggled to get it. It is easy to see it in the right perspective from our view, where we know about Jesus death and resurrection and what these words mean. When you journey with Jesus, allow Him to speak to you even if you do not understand things in your life at the moment. Trust Him and allow Him to determine what you do, where you go and how you do it. You will see that He is trustworthy and will allow you to grow and develop in faith as you face the challenges of everyday life and as you journey with Him.


– Your grief will turn to joy. Jesus says these words to the disciples and they experienced this joy when He rose from the dead. When the living Lord reveals himself to us, He brings overwhelming joy, even in the face of the difficulties we encounter. Jesus wants us to have life and live to the full and if we trust Him and allow Him to lead us, He will fill us with His joy. Real joy fills our lives when we listen to Jesus and follow Him.


It is my prayer that you will take time for Jesus and see how He worked in the life of His disciples. But also, that you experience how He works in your life and increases your faith.


Shalom
Edwin Dedekind

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    St Peter’s by the Lake Lutheran Community Church

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    Street Address: 43 Lower Park Drive, Parkview, Johannesburg

    Corner Ennis Road and Lower Park Drive, Parkview

    Entrance on Ennis Road (2nd gate if you are coming from Lower Park Drive)