From the Pastor’s Desk Archives

It’s a Dead Horse

 

A Word for 2017

By Val Waldeck
Pastoral Assistant

Near the end of the Civil War, as General Sherman marched to the sea, his army destroyed anything in its path that could be used by the South.

Outside of Atlanta stood an elegant old southern mansion. Its owner was an old Grandmother of the South. She had supported the South with her wealth and in those last days, all she had was her home and an old horse. As Sherman’s armies marched by, the horse was shot and died in the field near the entrance to her home. She was very upset. She went to her neighbours… she went to the mayor… she went to the Church… she told everyone how the Yankees had shot her poor old horse. The war soon ended, but not her anger. If she was around, sooner or later you would hear the story of how the North had done her wrong and killed her gallant steed.

One day she heard that General Robert E. Lee, the great leader of the Southern army, was passing her farm. She ran to the gate and waited for him. As he passed by, she rushed out into the road and stopped him. She began to tell her story of how the Northern army had destroyed the most valuable possession she had.

“Do you see that?” she cried out as she pointed to the decaying hulk of the dead horse.

“Yes, Madam, I do,” said the General. “It’s a dead horse. My advice to you is to bury it and get on with your life.”

Do you and I have any dead horses in our lives? The best thing we can do in this New Year is deal with them and move on. Life is far too short to go around dragging dead horses.

We may not forget, but we can choose not to remember. That’s what the Lord did for us. He said: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;  And I will not remember your sins.” — Isaiah 43:25.

Human beings have a strange habit of overlooking faults in their own children or family, while vociferously condemning those same faults in others. We tend to protect those we love, trying our best to justify their behaviour and make allowances for them. That is a “family” thing generally.

The Family of God should get the same protection. If we destroy each other with our words and judgmental attitude, we do great disservice to the Body of Christ and end up destroying our testimony and ourselves. “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” – Galatians 5:15.

God calls for us to be humble in our dealings with others, gentle and patient, making allow-ances for one another in love. “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:20.

Anger never displays the character and nature of Christ.  May Ephesians 4:2 be the hallmark of our lives this year, both inside the Church, and outside: “…with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.”

Let’s bury our dead horses once and for all.

Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to minister to you while Mark was recuperating. It’s such a joy to have him back in the saddle again. Continue to give him your full support this year as he works to grow the Church in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The Lord bless you in 2017… BIG-TIME!

Val

 


Attitudes

I am sure that many of you have heard the story of the Japanese believer who was highly irritated by the arrogance and disregard that his neighbour had for him and his work. The story is said to be true which makes it all the more encouraging.

There were two Japanese rice farmers who shared adjacent fields that were separated by a clay wall. The one farmer was a Christian and very hard working whilst the other farmer was not and was extremely lazy.

The Christian farmer worked hard to prepare his fields so that he could plant his rice seed and enjoy the harvest that would come from his work. The other farmer, however, was lazy and reluctant to do anything with very much effort and, once the seed was sown, he decided that his work for the year was complete.

The problem, however, was that the fields had to be watered every day and this took a great deal of time and work.

The Christian dutifully tended to his field but found that when he woke up the next morning, his land was dry. Perplexed he looked as to why this could be and found that his neighbour had broken down part of the clay wall and had allowed his neighbour’s water to run into his own field without any effort. The Christian was indignant (naturally) and wanted to go over to his neighbour and exact some deserved justice.

He however paused and thought that before he acted in such a rash manner that he should just repair the wall and carry on with life. This he did and watered his field again.

When the sun rose he found his field dry with the clay wall once again breached. It was too much now and on his way to confront his neighbour he happened to cross paths with his pastor. His pastor asked him why he looked so angry and where he was going.

The man explained the situation and thought the pastor would encourage him to go and sort the matter out … and perhaps even accompany him for support.

The pastor however said that instead of meeting the arrogance with aggression and irritation, he should rather show mercy and kindness, as Christ would, and that he should water his neighbour’s fields first and then only his own and, by doing so, his neighbour would no longer break his wall down during the night.

The Christian was flabbergasted, as you can imagine. He, however, knew that there was some wisdom in what he was saying although a wisdom that was not of this world. He watered his neighbour’s field and then his own. He did this for many weeks without as much as a thank you or a kind word from his neighbour. He felt used, foolish and weak because he was aware of what the village was saying about him.

When the time for the harvest came, both farmers harvested their rice and sold it at a great profit. Surely now his neighbour would thank him … but nothing came.

The next season for sowing came and he thought that he would have to repeat the process of the previous season.

His neighbour, however, came to him one night and asked him why he did what he did. After all showing mercy was the last thing that he had expected. Why did his neighbour suffer the long days of hard work for him without any thanks or any indication that he was going to see a change?

It was then that the Christian realized that during that time of struggle he was actually being a visual representation of Christ to his neighbour. He shared the love of Jesus with this cruel man and the man accepted Jesus as his own Lord and Saviour.

I don’t know about you friends but whenever I think of this story I think that it is perhaps a bridge too far for me and that I would really struggle to “turn the other cheek” for so long and especially after I saw no change. I would have very probably wanted to see the change immediately, to give the man not “70 times 7” chances at redemption but probably, if I was in a good place, around 2 opportunities to mend his ways and to accept Jesus as his Saviour.

I would have written this man off long before I should have … I would have probably not even have given the first chance because he would not be somebody I would regard as deserving to hear of the love and salvation to be found in Jesus.

Naturally, I say this with no pride but rather with a heart that so wishes to be in place with our Lord that would have made this story of redemption applicable to my life.

Friends, what about you? How does this story affect you when you read it and what would your response have been? Would you have “walked the extra mile” and “turned the other cheek” … would you have even taken that first step of redemption for him?

I think the answer to this is quite simple. When last have you been Jesus to someone else or when last have you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with anybody … an enemy or a friend? Our actions convict or absolve us which is at times very difficult for me to accept. We need to be as gentle as doves and not just as wise as serpents, although the former is more practiced than the latter.

Lotsaluv

Mark


Changes!

At our recent General Assembly there were a number of very contentious and potentially extremely divisive issues discussed that, if viewed outside of an eschatological context, would be very discouraging. The one issue had to do with the alleged heresy of one of our Ministers and the other had to do with our Ministers being allowed to conduct Civil Unions at best and at worst would allow for every Minister to follow his/her own conscience in the conducting of these new forms of civil partnerships.

I am happy to tell you that with regards to both issues our denomination made what I believe to be the correct decisions … the retiring Minister who is accused of heresy is having his “Emeritus” status withheld until the Court of the General Assembly has ruled on the matter and the matter of Civil Unions was rejected in all its forms and the directive includes the rejection of “blessing” these unions as well (in other, if a same sex couple were to go somewhere else and have their relationship recognized by State that relationship and “union” is still not allowed to be blessed by any of our Ministers). None of our property can be used for either a Civil Union or a blessing of the same.

We can ask, how on earth is this even considered in a Christian denomination that has for the last 500 years (i.e. since its inception) rejected any form of marriage other than between one man and one woman? How is it, that a denomination that understands itself as part of the one Holy, Catholic (global/ universal) and Apostolic Church (to use the words of the Apostolic Creed) that has existed for 2 000 years and that has rejected any form of marriage other than between one man and woman … how is it possible? Well, I believe that this is another “sign of the time”.

It is an eschatological warning to us as the Church that the great falling away has started (without some of us even noticing this fact). I believe that the rejection of Christ’s Authority as revealed to us in Holy Scripture and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is another symptom of a widening gulf between God’s Law and Man’s Law … with man’s law prevailing in our courts of law and trying to insinuate itself into the Holy Church of which Christ is the Head and Bridegroom.

We need to recognize the times in which we live and re-iterate the fact that the Church has never been confused about what we believe with regards to marriage or any of the other doctrines handed down to us over 2 000 years by those faithful believers who not only struggled to do this at times but even gave up their lives through the shedding of their blood to maintain the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we never be found in a place in which we are on the wrong side of our Lord Jesus Christ and insult the blood of the martyrs.

Having said all of this, I have to say that we did not acquit ourselves as a Church when these decisions were made. The sad picture of a Council of the Church, laughing and applauding, humiliating those that disagreed with the established orthodox position on marriage stands as an indictment against us. I cannot imagine that Jesus would have been found laughing at and humiliating a man, who although wrong and misled, is nevertheless a human being deserving respect and dignity. I cannot imagine that this spectacle is what the world needs to see of the Church. I cannot imagine that this is the way in which we win over our opponents and help them to see and embrace the truth as we find in Jesus and His Holy Scripture. We may have won a debate but lost a great many souls because of it. We need to search our hearts and purge it of vindictiveness and any hate that may have found roots within us.

We need to search our hearts and ensure that when we say, “hate the sin but love the sinner” we really mean it. May we search our hearts in all honesty and try and imagine Jesus standing with us in a mocking crowd. May we always be found to be with Him and not that which is against Him. A wise man once said to me, “We may at times become angry and that is our right at unrighteousness but we never have the right to be cruel.”

May this event help us all to reflect on how we will conduct ourselves when we find ourselves in these kinds of debates for the very heart of the Church itself. Amen.

Lotsaluv

Mark


In Mark 7v24 -30 we have the story of the Syro-phoenician woman and her encounter with Jesus. What struck me above all things  was the fact that as people who live on the southern tip of Africa, but have a predominantly west-ernized society, we have a lot more to appreciate than we sometimes think.

The statistic that we so often quote … that 60% of our Christian brothers and sisters live in countries that remain hostile towards the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, is something that I think does not really hit home unless we have lived in an environment that is as hostile to the evangelical Christian faith as the governments of Afghanistan, China, Saudi Arabia and other anti-Christ (or anti Jesus) governments are.

I think we see this in so many ways but what stood out most to me is the fact that we seem to remain rather casual towards Christianity in a great many ways. We need to ask ourselves how we would react and how we would live our lives if we faced long term imprisonment or even death for confessing the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At best, in our context, we would be marginalized, ignored or laughed at … at worst we may face a mild form of censure for standing up for and affirming our belief in the One True and Living God.

The Syrophoenician woman did not take offence or become hostile towards Jesus when He effectively called her a dog. Instead, with great humility, knowing that she does not deserve anything from Jesus and that she had no right to demand His Favour, she says to Him that even as a dog, she would take whatever it was that He would give to her … even if it were the crumbs that fell from the bread that He came to give to the children of Israel.

She placed her trust and all of her faith in His Goodness, His Love and His Mercy and knelt before Him as His Servant. Her faith, her humility and her refusal to take offence allowed the Favour of Christ to rest upon her and she received her reward.

We, dear friends, are in a much better position than this poor woman because we know that we live under the Lordship of Jesus and that we have been forgiven of our sin and have been added to the household of faith. We are, in essence, Children of God and He is our Father.

This brings us to the very core of what I think, at times, causes our casual approach to our faith and to our Saviour.

Just as we tend to neglect those closest to us and neglect those who love us the most because we take their love for granted (because we know that regardless of what we do or say they will still be there when we need them), I think that we take our faith in Christ for granted because we know that God our Father will never abandon us.

The remoteness of the suffering Christian communities add to this unreality because very few of us have actually witnessed openly, hostile or destructive persecution of believers. I am firmly convinced that many of the things that we think are normal, many of the things that we believe are our right, many of the things that we felt entitled to and so neglect because of its familiarity, would be treasured by those who live in these anti-Christian parts of the world. Things like having a Bible that we hardly read would be unfathomable to those who have never laid eyes on a Bible or at best have seen a few pages of one.

Neglecting our responsibility to be an active part of a Church and skipping worship services for shopping sprees or a day at the beach would be mystifying to that 60% of persecuted believers who run the very real risk of being arrested, imprisoned and tortured for attending a Bible Study or Home Group. Taking a few weeks “off” from the life that we find in the Church would be heart breaking to somebody who is sentenced to death for being caught worshipping Jesus with other believers in a cave or forest.

I am convinced that we do not know how very blessed we are and so take the freedom of confessing Christ and joining with other believers to worship Him, for granted.

May we all take some time to reflect on these words and to answer for ourselves whether or not we would change our approach to our faith if everything we take for granted like a Bible, a Church building and regular worship services, were stripped from us tomorrow and we were told that these things were now illegal. Would we be satisfied that we appreciated and were good stewards of all that God had given us or would we look back in regret and long for the things that we refused to appreciate when we had them.

Mark


Holy Week 2016

During my preparations for Holy Week and the various services and devotions that we have planned as a congregation, I was struck again and again by how many groups of people were involved in the last week of Christ’s Life.

After His Triumphant Entry on Palm Sunday, Jesus started to lose friends and support quite quickly. We know that because His Time was almost at an end, He spoke quite directly to those who were listening and is not seen to once say those words that marked His early ministry, “Go, and make sure that you tell nobody what you have seen.”

His ministry in Jerusalem was marked by confrontation after confrontation with those who were looking for a reason to accuse Him and kill Him. It was almost as if the battle between the Light of the World and all of the darkness on earth became so acute that it could only end in one way … victory or defeat for one side. The darkness that covered Jerusalem on the day of His Crucifixion is quite telling when we consider how much darkness was in the hearts of the men and woman during His Time among us and in the times before and after His Death.

As I considered the passages relevant to the Crucifixion, I understood the meaning of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Power, and all that comes with it, seemed to occupy the minds of all those associated with Jesus in one way or another. Those who held on to power or indeed wanted power, would do literally anything to grab hold of it. No longer was it a matter of God making men and woman who they are, or kingdoms and nations what they are … it was a time of ruthless ambition and a thirst for power that would not be satisfied.
This caused most souls to reveal themselves in a most dramatic way just as the ring of power had consumed and destroyed Gollum in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. Power was “Precious” and had to be had at all costs, even if it meant the death of an innocent man. The plotting and scheming involved even one of Christ’s very own disciples, somebody we would have thought would have been immune to the evil that reached out all over Jerusalem and sought to consume the hearts of all men and woman. Lies, deceit, manipulation, hatred and even murder were entertained and given a home to flourish during that final week of our Lord’s Life.

Today we feel so far removed from the story and feel almost sanitized by this distance and remoteness contained in the Gospel accounts and yet I am convinced that this thing which is “Precious” remains with us all. We may feel that our desires and our covetousness and corruption are but small things when compared to that of our Government who seem to trample on the very people that they profess to represent but dear friends, it is the same fruit from the same tree. If we can manage a bit of corruption here and a bit of looking the other way there … we are well on our way to receiving the same judgement as those who broke into the Helen Suzman Foundation to steal and try and destroy that which would condemn them.

We will all stand before our Lord Jesus Christ one day and give an account for what we have done with our salvation that was purchased with such a great price on Calvary’s tree. I know it lurks within me and I know that sometimes I entertain it in my thoughts but I pray, that through the Grace given me by our Lord Jesus, that it will never have a chance to actually sprout and grow up until the point where it delivers its poisonous fruit of indifference, deceit and death.

I trust that as you read this friend and as you travel with me until the end of this Holy Week, that you too will allow God to look deep into your heart and to show you what is there.

May we all live secure in the knowledge of His Love and Grace but also in the knowledge of His Justice and Judgements. Amen.

MARK


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