Celebrating 500 Years of Grace

On the 31st of October 2017, we commemorate 500 years since the start of the Great Reformation. As a school, we want to celebrate the meaning and significance of this event in history. However, for some of us, we struggle to comprehend what the ‘Reformation’ means for us today. Unfortunately, it is much easier to tell someone about Halloween (which is also celebrated on the same day), than convey the true importance of the Reformation.

Let’s first start with the fruits of the Reformation. The word ‘reformation’ suggests that something was REFORMED. In other words, something was out of form, and thus needed to be FORMED AGAIN (re-formed). In every-day life, people’s hearts were REFORMED from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Intellects were REFORMED from darkness to light. Actions were REFORMED from wickedness to righteousness. Towns and villages were REFORMED from oppression to liberty and justice. Whole nations and continents were REFORMED from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age.

Try and recognise some of these names – John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, Zwingli, etc. These men were all of the first Reformers starting with Luther. They and their followers were known as the Protestants (protesting against the increasing wickedness in the Catholic Church), and God did such a great work in their lives that Europe was transformed into a prosperous continent form 1519 onwards.

So, how did this Reformation come about?

God used Martin Luther as a catalyst to ignite the flames of the Reformation. He was not the first or only one to preach the Reformed message, but he was surely the beachhead to prepare the way for others to follow. Luther got more and more disillusioned with the state of the Roman Catholic Church, and as a catholic priest, his desire was to reform the church from the inside. However, the leadership of the Catholic Church did not respond well to Luther’s Reformed message, and started to persecute him and his followers. Ultimately, they had to break away from the Catholic Church, because of her refusal to reform.

What were the main concerns and themes of the Reformation?

  1. Eternal Salvation is a Free Gift from God through Faith

In Luther’s day, the members of the Catholic Church had to buy Indulgences from the church in order to obtain forgiveness for sins. As Martin Luther was studying the Bible, he saw that the practice of paying for your forgiveness was not consistent with the teachings of Scripture.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”   Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)

We cannot work for our salvation; no, Christ died on the cross to PAY for our sins with His own blood. All we have to do is ACCEPT what God has done for us through Christ, and allow Him to work IN us what He has already completed 2000 years ago.

 

This message of Good News (the Gospel) is summarised in the well-known verse in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

  1. The Word of God Carries the Highest Authority in the Church and Individual Christians.

The Pope and Rome held the highest authority on matters of faith and doctrine in Luther’s day. But as Martin Luther started to read Scripture, he saw that the Holy Scriptures are the highest authority by which we measure everything else. Even church leadership (the Pope included) had to submit under the authority of Scripture. In other words, where traditions of men (or the church) were in contradiction with the Bible, the former had to change.

 

“The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.”   2 Timothy 3:16 (TLB)

 

In the early 1500’s, the Bible was mainly available in Latin, and only to be read and understood by the priests. The average church member, who spoke other languages (e.g. German, English, Dutch, French, etc.), did not understand what was read or preached (as most speaking in church was done in Latin). The Reformers’ focus on the Bible’s authority and infallibility ignited a series of Bible translations into other European, and later world languages. At last the lay people could hear and read the Bible in their mother tongue. Many schools were established by churches in order to teach children how to read and write (esp. the Bible).

In summary, the Reformation roused Europe out of the Middle Ages and empowered her to become a powerful continent from where the Gospel was spread all over the world (Americas, Africa, Asia & Oceania) from 1520-1950. God used this spiritual revolution to awaken its True Church, and making her a blessing to all nations.

May we never forget the truths revealed during this great epoch in history,

and may our lives reflect its beauty to the Glory of God!!!

 

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South Africa: It’s Time

South Africa asks, “So, how was it?”

How was ‎the one-million man event?

‘It’s Time’ is time for what?

What happened there on the sacred soil?

The sceptic asks, “Why all the effort?”

Can’t you stay at home and‎ pray just the same?

Why bother with the travel, the dust, the crowds, the traffic, the cost?

Does God still speak through man as in Bible times?

From one who was present ‎on the 22nd of April

Here is my response ‎to everyone under the African sun

‘It’s Time’ was a solemn gathering orchestrated by God

It was purposed in such a way that NO man can take credit

No matter how good your charisma or advertising

No man can attract a multitude in such a short time

God sounded a TRUMPET for us to come

El Shaddai, He is the GLORIFIED ONE

‎Hearts overwhelmed by the presence of God

Tears flowing freely in awe and wonder

We were witness to a God-kairos visitation

Adonai, be the LORD of our nation

It is a kairos time for the people of God

It is time to CONFESS our sins and TURN to God

It is time to PRAY for ‎and SPEAK HOPE to Africa

Jesus, RIVER OF LIFE, flow through this land

To the doubters I say, “You try and organise a million by human ways!”

And NO, NOTHING was sold on the grounds that day

‘My House shall be called a HOUSE OF PRAYER for all nations’

Can a nation be birthed in ONE DAY?

IT’S TIME was not a call of man

But a DIVINE INVITATION from Heaven’s court

His children responded in humility and obedience

For the SALVATION of Africa and the GLORY of God

Yes, God STILL SPEAKS and WORKS today

Father, open our eyes to SEE Your hand

Moving sovereignly in our land

We proclaim: ‘JESUS, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE, THE WAY!’

Never will we look again to the world

For HOPE for PEACE or JUSTICE

Only in CHRIST they’ll be found

So Christian, IT’S TIME to blow the trumpet sound!

Reflections on the IT’S TIME prayer gathering in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on 22 April 2017, where close to a million people attended to seek God’s face for our country.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

As we approach Easter holidays, I think it to be appropriate for us to take a moment and meditate on the significance of what these holy days represent. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday and right through to Easter Sunday, Christianity would have NO credibility if it was not for the impact of these days on the history of mankind.

In short, Jesus died on the cross (Good Friday) for the sins of all humans, and after defeating Satan and death, he rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. Without his RESURRECTION, his claims of divinity and salvation would not be credible.  Paul told the church at Corinth, “…if Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14 CEV)

The cross and the resurrection give us the Greatest Story Ever Told as summarised in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (MKJV)

If we BELIEVE the claims of Jesus, and ACCEPT God’s gift to us (John 1:12, 13; Ephesians 2), the Bible promises that we will receive eternal life, and not be forever damned to Hell, separated from God. So the question that confronts us is, “HOW WILL I RESPOND TO THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD?” According to Scripture, my response will determine my eternal destiny. Therefore, this is no trivial or laughing matter.

Let us pray:

Our Heavenly Father

Thank You for sending Your Son

To live, to die and rise again

For the sake of Your glory

For the sake of us sinners

 

We do not deserve an ounce of Your mercy

Yet You poured bucket-loads on us

We stand in gratitude today

For the costly price You paid

Your BLOOD wash my sin away!!!

Vocab Rehab

Have you ever pondered about the vocabulary followers of Christ seem to use. Below is a list of vocab that you might have heard, and possible responses that might have entered your mind.

  • ‘Born-again’

“…my poor mother; I currently weigh 80kg…”

  • ‘Saved’

“…from what must I be saved? I’m not in any pool at the moment…”

  • ‘Redeemed ‘

“…I haven’t won the lottery lately…”

Okay, I know my humour is a bit dry, but you get the idea. We can also add words like ‘believer’, ‘disciple’, ‘Christian’, ‘child of God’, ‘saint’, etc. All these words have different meanings, but in the broadest sense, they point to a spiritual metamorphosis. The Christian believes this transformation is something God initiates, and we willingly participate in it.

For the outsider, these terms may seem archaic, old-fashioned or too religious. Yet just as a medical student immerses herself in the terminology of medicine, otherwise she would not be able to mature as a doctor, so also does the believer immerse himself in the vocabulary of the Bible.

In order for him to grow as a saint, he must understand the language of the Bible, which was written about 2000-3000 years ago. But this understanding is not just on the natural plain! We need super-natural help to UNDERSTAND this ancient language. It is a vocabulary to be SEEN with our hearts, and not just our heads. It is the language we will speak in Heaven. John Newton hit the nail on the head when he sang,

Amazing grace, how sweet the SOUND

that saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found.

Was BLIND but now I SEE

Who opens the eyes of our heart to SEE the reality of God? What enables us to HEAR the sweet sound of God’s grace? Who grants us the understanding to grasp divine concepts? Well, Scripture is quite clear on who gives us spiritual insight. Paul, the apostle, speaks to his protegé, Timothy, and says, “Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7 GNB) On the one side, he is asking Timothy to use his brain to think hard about the truth-claims of Jesus. And on the other hand, he tells Tim that it is only by a divine act of revelation that we can UNDERSTAND the teachings of Christ.

So the question that begs to be answered is,

“What does God use to OPEN up our spiritual understanding?”

In short, God uses the Gospel to open our blind eyes. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, ‘’Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 MKJV) We cannot SEE (understand, comprehend) the things of God without a supernatural transformation in our hearts.

If God uses the Gospel to give me spiritual understanding, what is the Gospel?

Whole libraries can be filled with literature dedicated to explaining the Gospel. And I would encourage you to make a proper study of it. But see my explanation below as a brief introduction to wet your appetitie for more.

The Five F’s of the Good News

  1. Framed

God framed the universe at Creation. What He made was good (Genesis 1&2). He made humans as His image-bearers, and walked in constant relationship with them.

      2. Fall

Man & woman fell in sin because they disobeyed clear instructions from God. Their fellowship with God was broken because of their rebellion (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; 6:23).

      3. Forgiveness

Nothing humans try can restore the broken relationship between themselves and God (Romans 3:10-12). But God knew mankind would not be able to save itself, and that is why He sent the only acceptable solution to our greatest problem. God’s solution for our sin was to offer up His Son, the perfect Lamb, in order to wash our guilt away. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness for our sins (Isaiah 53; John 1&3; 1 John 1:9).

      4. Faith

I cannot earn God’s forgiveness. No, it is purely a gift (Ephesians 2). All I have to do is to RECEIVE the gift. We receive the gift from God by TRUSTING that He is not trying to fool us, or manipulate us, but that He did what the Bible claims He did. In other words, I must put my FAITH in God in order to receive what God has done for me (John 1:12; Romans 10:8-11).

     5. Future

My future is secure in God! I will spend eternity with God in Heaven, where there will be no tears nor sorrows (Revelations 21). I don’t have to fear death, ‘cause Christ has defeated death (2 Timothy 1:10). I don’t have to fear eternal separation from God, ‘cause Christ has restored our fellowship with God. Jesus clearly said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! Without me, no one can go to the Father.”

So, my question to you is, “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED GOD’S GIFT?”

Let us pray:

Father God, I have sinned against Heaven and earth

I have broken Your holy Law

I have rebelled against Your instructions

I have tried, but I cannot save myself!

 

You know my sinful heart, and still You love me

You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ,

To die for my sins

To wash me white as snow

To restore fellowship with You

 

Please forgive me for my wickedness

Wash  me clean from all guilt

Enable me to live for You

Walk with me from now till eternity

For Your glory and name!

Amen

Please leave a comment if you have more questions about the Good News, and its implications for your life. And we will get back to you.

What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic Tradition? (Part 2)

As I mentioned in What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)), I was brought up in a Charismatic / Renewal church where my dad was a pastor. Having been exposed to both the Reformed and Charismatic flows, I strongly believe that we can learn from one another. Both of our streams have strengths which we can draw from, as well as weaknesses which God can use to show His glory.

We also have our blind spots, and the moment one stream says, “I don’t have a blind spot; I see everything clearly,” then maybe pride is my blind spot. With no further ado, here is what I believe my Reformed brothers (and sisteren) can learn from us Charismatics.

  1. We endeavour to express our love for God with our whole being

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” Luke 10:27a (NIV)

Loving God is not just a private matter, or a ‘mind’ matter. No, it is much more than that! When I am in love with the LOVE of my life, then I am not ashamed to show the world who that person is, and how I feel about her. The Bible paints many pictures for us where God wants us to be head-over-heals in love with Him (e.g. Song of Songs; Hosea; Ephesians 5:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelations 19:7-9; 21:1, 2).

The Psalms are also filled with every expression of human emotion through the whole body – laughing, crying, clapping, singing, dancing, praising, praying, shouting, kneeling, etc.  So the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why is it OK to find these expressions in the pages of Scripture, but not in the pews of a congregation?”

  1. We believe God can speak to us in any way He chooses

I know this is a scary one for many Reformed friends, due to your strong emphasis on Sola Scriptura. Firstly, I want to thank the Reformed flow for putting such a massive emphasis on the Authority of Scripture. It is primarily through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4) and the Holy Writ (2 Tim. 3:16) that God has chosen to speak to us. And today more than ever, the Church (as a whole) needs to submit afresh to the infallible, and inspired Word of God.

Secondly, although God speaks primarily through His Son and Holy Word, there are also secondary ways He communicates to us. Here are some Biblical examples:

  • Through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19, 20)
  • Through dreams & visions (Daniel 7, 8, 10; Acts 10; 16:6-10; Revelation)
  • Through prayer (Psalms; Romans 8:26, 27)
  • Through an audible voice (1 Samuel 3; Matthew 3:13-17)
  • Through an inner voice / conscience (1 Kings 19; Acts 13:1-4)
  • Through another person (Judges 6:1-10; Acts 11:27-30)
  • Through an angel (Judges 6:11-40; Acts 10)

To look at these Biblical examples, and say God only spoke like that in Bible times, is a bit presumptuous. God is still at work in His world, and one of the primary ways is by leading his children through speaking to them. And here, as Charismatics, we need to heed the warning from our Reformed brothers. We cannot continuously claim that God is speaking to us, but we are not hearing Him speak through the pages of Scripture. If we are not immersed in the Bible, how dare we make claims that God has spoken. The Bible is what God has SAID throughout history, and we need to engage it daily in order to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts. There are too many ‘I heard from God and you can’t tell me anything otherwise’ Christians running around and causing more harm than good.

On the other side is also a danger. If we say that God only speaks through the Bible, we restrict God to times when we are hearing, reading, studying, meditating on, praying and singing Scripture. So my question is, “When you are not thinking specifically about the Word of God, but you are thinking how you must fix the bathroom tap, can God speak to you in that moment? If He speaks, will He quote only from the Bible?”

I believe we can limit God by saying He must just speak in one way. Let’s say you are driving a car, how will God warn you of possible danger around the corner? Will He remind you of a Scripture verse? Will He leave an impression on your heart to slow down? How will He protect His beloved child?

My prayer is that we will continue to learn from one another. For instance, I am currently struggling through Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. In my 34 years in the Charismatic flow, I’ve never heard an in-depth discussion on the topic of predestination and election. Without even knowing it, it seems to me our default position in the Renewal movement is Arminianism.  Why are glossing over these difficult texts in Scripture, and not engaging them? We can surely learn from our Reformed brothers in this regard.

Let us pray:

Father God, I come to You in the name of Jesus

Unify Your body for Your glory

Press down on our pride, so that our knees would buckle

Under the weight of Your fear and glory

And when we rise, may it be on Spirit’s wings

As we fly formation from various streams!

 

 

What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)

To put this blog post in perspective, let me just share a bit of my background. Both my parents became children of God in the Reformed tradition. Their faith grew as they poured their lives into ministry and missions. When my Dad felt called to leave his teaching occupation, and enter the pastorate, he started studying at a Reformed Seminary. However, as he was studying Scripture, he started to become convinced of the Biblical teachings in regards to being filled with the Holy Spirit and miraculous healing. He eventually joined an independent Bible College in the Charismatic tradition.

I was born when my Dad had already made the move from the Reformed to the Renewal flow. As a result, I grew up in a Charismatic church. Only in my 20’s did I start to be exposed to the Reformed tradition through friendships, missions, sermons and books. A whole new world opened up for me, and here are some of the most important things I’ve learned from my Reformed brothers in the Lord.

  1. They tremble at the Word of God

God speaks through Isaiah, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2b  ESV) By reading works in the Reformed tradition, God started to expose my carelessness and biases when approaching the Word of God. My Reformed brothers do not come to the Holy Writ to quickly get a word for the day, or to get five verses which validates their position.

No, they come before the Holy Scripture and pray, ”God, I tremble at Your Word. Speak to me through Your Word.” And then they allow God to speak to them by doing proper exegesis. They don’t skim over an agonising piece of Scripture (e.g. Job; Matthew 23; Romans 9) which does not fit their preconditioned theology. Never, they let this uncomfortable text confront their false beliefs, their skewed picture of God and their hidden idolatries.

    2. They encourage deep thinking

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7  ERV) I can only speak for the Charismatic movement which I am part of. But many times we seem to think feeling is more spiritual than thinking. And sometimes we even feel guilty for thinking differently about a certain passage of Scripture than our specific flow’s consensus.

Thankfully, I have observed from my Reformed brothers that they model and promote deep thinking, humble questioning and articulate reasoning about the Word and the world. As we can see in the verse above, God does not do the thinking for us. No, as we start the work of thinking, God comes and gives us supernatural understanding. We need both: thinking (on our part) and revelation (on God’s part).

      3. They connect us with our roots

Jesus says, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52  NLT) The amount of written works produced by the Reformed tradition about our Christian heritage is staggering. Many a scholar or pastor or layman has delved into history in order to bring to life the writings and lives of Christian heroes of the past.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to every theologian or minister who took the time and ink to record the words and acts of past saints. Through this literary treasure we start to realise the greatness of God’s redemptive story, and the miniscule part we play in the larger scheme of Heaven’s saga. Let us learn to measure our words and actions against the Holy Bible, and the cloud of witnesses (the saints of old) surrounding us.  As we do this, we will be humbled and encouraged to depend on His grace to finish the race.

There are many more things I am learning from my Reformed brothers, but time prevents me to elaborate. Suffice to say, I believe God wants all of us (different denominations / flows / etc.) to learn from one another. As we do, Christ will command greater blessing on His Bride, the Church.

Watch out for part 2: What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic tradition?

Let us pray:

Our Father in Heaven, bind us together as brothers from different backgrounds

May we learn from each other as we journey together

Let us keep Christ at the Centre

Let us proclaim Good News unashamedly

Let us run to finish well

By Your grace alone

Amen