Wednesday, October 16, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-16 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] `Weak` Paul's role as one who builds up the Body of Christ

`Weak` Paul's role as one who builds up the Body of Christ

It is interesting to read Paul's second letter to the congregation in Corinth. It is vivid that Paul had experienced some kind of tribulations, challenges and criticisms from the faithful in Corinth. In spite of all, Paul still shows his deep longing for reconciliation, peace, love and expresses his great joy even when this dissatisfactory situation was brought forth. Paul reassures them that he lives by God's power in his weaknesses.

Paul appears to be a confessional, humble, simple and unequivocal person to his brothers and sisters in Corinth. He boasts in his weakness and inabilities. In other words he places himself vulnerable before the faithful. Perhaps Paul boasting in his weaknesses was also a sign of wrestling with a thorn in his flesh to always realise the grace of God... (2Cor12:7). "We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored" (2Cor13:9). In nutshell Paul's aim is the restoration, reconciliation and completeness of the faithful in their first love with Christ Jesus. Paul would find cause for joy in all these, if only the disciples whom he loves are strong with the strength of God. In the context of Paul we learn the mission of the church through God's grace and the participation of the believers in building up the body of Christ.

What is contrary in Paul's mission in relation to our context especially that Paul's mission starts by vindicating himself before God and His people? "When I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority -- the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." (2Cor13:10). Here Paul is spiritually driven for the mission of the church and he does not divert from his purposes. We may introspect ourselves in our context as to where we are in exploring the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to edify and restore rather than inflicting pain to the body of Christ.

We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority--the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.      (2Corinthians13:9-10)

(Wonke Buqa is married to Bongeka and blessed with a son Bukho (8) and two lovely dogs Chopper and Beyoncé. He loves academic research in theology and psychology, he enjoys aerobics, weight lifting and spiritual contemplation.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-15 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Paul: A Relay Runner


Paul: A Relay Runner

The Christian life is a calling, a calling not because of what we know or what we are, but a calling by God's grace. We are all called in our weaknesses so that His strength can come out. Timothy is here encouraged to be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ.

There was a time when Peter promised rather to die for Christ than to deny him and we all know that he failed because he was strong in his own strength. Had he been strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he would have kept his promise. Ephesians 6:10 tells us 'Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might...'

We have God's grace which is a free gift from the hand of God and it helps us humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses and to impart strength to endure trials and resist temptations.

When we have God's grace, we acknowledge and appreciate that whatever we are doing is not about us but about God and His kingdom. We are not in a game of competition but in a calling where we complement and mentor one another passing on the baton of faith to other faithful men/women.

The body of Christ suffers when the members serve as loners, unwilling to mentor others or learn from others. Timothy is encouraged to entrust what he heard from Paul to faithful men who will be able to teach others too. This should be our encouragement as well. His grace will give us strength in times of trials and temptations and will also remind us that we are not alone. We are not only surrounded by brothers and sisters in the faith but there also unseen witnesses who are cheering us to move on. Everything we are or have is a gift from God and let us all play our part in spreading the good news of our Lord and Saviour.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.      (2Timothy2:1-2)

(Jane Moyo Nyirongo, is a mother and grandmother, serving God with Garden congregation. Likes reading fiction stories, walking and gardening. Maybe that's why am in Garden compound!
Shalom shalom!)

Monday, October 14, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-14 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Paul was interested in people and how they served the Lord.

[This week in the Month of Mission we answer the question: "What is the Church for?"]

Paul was interested in people and how they served the Lord.

In today's text (Col 4:10-15) Paul takes time to pass on greetings from his co-workers to the churches in Colossae and Laodicea. There are 2 important things we can note in the way Paul does this. Firstly he mentions his co-workers by name, and secondly says who they are/what they do.

Aristarchus (a fellow prisoner), Mark (cousin of Barnabas) and Jesus (called Justus), are Jews. He acknowledges that these 3 men are a comfort to him. We can only speculate as to why they are a comfort to Paul (possibly shared Jewish traditions and practices?). Paul also mentions 3 of his Gentile co-workers, Epaphras (intercessor), Luke (our dear friend, the doctor), and Demas. He also sends greetings to the brethren at Laodicea and to a woman Nympha (and the church in her house).

In these verses Paul gives us a picture of a richly diverse church. This diversity is found in the individuals with their different roles, talents and abilities, their different ethnicities, and their different genders.

May we today take the time to reflect on the importance of each and every individual member of the church. Each and everyone of us has been called by name, by God into his church. And each individual member has been equipped to serve the church in their own special way. May God help us to celebrate this diversity and not to stifle it. May God help us to embrace this diversity and not to reject it.

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.      (Colossians4:10-15)

(Shingirai Eunice Masunda is a minister of the UPCSA currently pursuing a PhD at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands.)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-13 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] A special bouquet of flowers (gifts) to build the church.

A special bouquet of flowers (gifts) to build the church.

When thinking about a meaningful gift for a special person the giver of the gift will carefully consider what kind of gift is appropriate or will be appreciated. If a bouquet of flowers is chosen as a gift, every flower included in the bouquet most probably will resemble something (favourite flower/s or memory) of the person the gift is given to. Flowers have a pleasant fragrance and add something significant to the environment where they are growing or where they are placed. Different flowers have different meanings and a bouquet of flowers has a blend of scents, like perfume or wine. The purpose of a gift could be multi-fold. The gift in itself carries a message to the person receiving the gift. It could be a message of encouragement, appreciation, motivation or celebrating a special occasion.

In Ephesians 4: 11-12 Christ Himself who is the head of the Church gave gifts to the church. He gave some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some pastors and teachers. The purpose of these gifts to the church is to grow the saints in their walk with God, to build and edify the church for the sake of the Gospel. The church celebrates their victory in Christ by operating in these gifts that Christ so eagerly and willingly gave. Just as Christ loves the Church these gifts are to be shared freely and with this same love. Each and every believer has received a gift that should be exercised to glorify Christ! Just like every flower has its own specific scent and fragrance so every believer has been created to be a gift to the church and operate in their unique gifting as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Every different scent (gift) is placed into a bouquet of flowers (the church), arranged uniquely just as God purposed and destined it to be!

The unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the foundation for Christian unity. Ephesians 4:13-16 emphasises this unity as the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. When the people of God reach out to one another for the purpose of building and growing others in their faith in Christ, the body of Christ is lifted above petty disagreements. The focus is complete devotion towards God and the things on earth become strangely dim in the face of his glory and grace.

A special bouquet of flowers with a unique fragrance and blended scent is compiled with different flowers and different colours and uniquely unites to present itself in purity and with beauty. The body of Christ presents itself similarly uniquely united with different gifts and displays the glory and beauty of Christ!

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...      (Ephesians4:11-12)

(Natalie Angela Barnard serves the congregation at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Cape Town. Mother to Christian, mom in law to Angela and grandmother to Isabella (3 years old), who all live in England, Mother to Natascha and mom in law to Alexander who live in Switzerland. Natalie has a great passion for adventures which includes hiking, anything outdoors, camping, travelling and especially road trips, added new adventure is sailing, spending time with family and friends)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-12 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Teachers: Solidifying Growth

Teachers: Solidifying Growth

Barnabas was an encourager and a pioneer. Our passage for today shows how he got the church in Antioch on its feet. And it was a vibrant church! There was evidence of God's grace, there was numerical growth and they were a community ready to "remain true to the Lord with all their hearts."

This was the crest of the wave!! We'd expect Barnabas to ride it for as long as possible, but while Barnabas was a good Apostle/Pioneer, he was enough of a Pastor to know that the church needed a good Teacher...

Good Teachers help God's people understand God's word and apply it to their lives. Good teachers inform and equip God's people to live thoughtfully and meaningfully in a way that is consistent with their faith. Teachers lay foundations that people can build lives of service on. They interpret the Bible in a way that helps others to read it for themselves. Good teachers make us eager to learn more about God and about His Word.

Barnabas realised he'd reached his "leadership lid" - he'd taken the church as far as he could. He needed help and so he recruited Saul/Paul to teach the church.

This was a risky move: Paul could have been wolf in sheep's clothing or Barnabas could be "ousted" or "outclassed" by the charismatic Paul.

But this was a risk worth taking - and it bore great fruit:

  • They became a community enthusiastically committed to learning and growing together over a long period of time.
  • They became so Christ-focussed and Christ-centered that they were called Christians ("little Christs") and, while some see the name as a form of mockery from the pagans, others suggest the name meant "you look very much like the One you talk about."
  • This congregation became the mission sending home base that provided support and backup for all of Paul's missionary journeys

Teachers can be preachers but not all preachers are good teachers... Preaching a sermon that people enjoy listening to is not the same as helping people to understand and apply the Bible to their lives.

We need Teachers in our Sunday Schools, Bible Study groups, Sunday Sermons and other places where people are looking for the answers to life's most important questions. We, like the Antioch members, should also be ready (and humble enough) to learn as much as we can... as often as we can...

...they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.      (Acts11:22-26)

Friday, October 11, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-11 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Pastor/Shepherd: How Paul did it...

Pastor/Shepherd: How Paul did it...

Today we're looking at the gift of the Pastor(Shepherd). This role is often seen in combination with the role of the Teacher (a careful reading of the original Greek text certainly implies this) but we'll look at "pastor" today and "teacher" tomorrow.

There are some who might argue that Paul was an Apostle, but sometimes a Prophet, often an Evangelist and frequently a Pastor-Teacher. This is very feasible. Let's remember that these are gifts of the Spirit and not necessarily talents that are linked to our natural abilities and sweet spots. In 1Cor12:7 we read that gifts of the Spirit are given for "for the common good" and so it is very likely that as Paul moved between various congregations and settings, the Spirit empowered him to be whatever that community required.

We should never cling to a specific Spiritual Gift, but be humble and flexible enough to allow God to use us in different ways in different contexts and during different seasons.

The gift of being a Pastor (or Shepherd) is about nurturing communities. It's about finding the lost, healing the injured, building community, identifying dangers, motivating, equipping and motivating.

A Shepherd can fulfill her/his calling as a minister, an elder, a small-group leader, a pastoral carer and even on a one-to-one basis in the community. You don't need a title to care for people.

Paul was a faithful shepherd, he nurtured communities when he was with them and wrote letters when he was away from them. He nurtured Timothy and Titus and grieved over those who fell away. He embodies the key-characteristic of the Pastor/Shepherd: care for others.

In his letter to the Corinthians he lists the difficulties and challenges of ministry. He talks about persecution, shipwrecks, travelling, whippings, imprisonments and so on. But look at what tops his list in the reading below - this is his heart language...

What about you? Has God given you a shepherd heart to care for people? Our world is lonely and hurting and it needs Christ-centered people who will express the love of Christ in their settings. Will you step up and do it?

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-10 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Evangelists: Looking at Philip

Evangelists: Looking at Philip

For the past three years, God has prompted me to pray for people, sometimes even visit people and this has been difficult for me. Even though I am naturally a "people person", every time God has prompted me to pray for the sick, call the sick and give them a passage, it has been one of my greatest challenges. I am glad, for the many times I have obeyed these instructions. At times I had to call people out of my comfort zone, at odd times, and these incidents have left me appreciating God speaking to me in this way.

The story of the Ethiopian eunuch presents us with a big challenge of how God directed Philip to one man the same way he had directed him to many people in Samaria. This prompting, to such a significant conversion, gives us a life lesson in the importance of personal evangelism. I believe every Christian has a responsibility to talk about Jesus with someone on a personal level.

The two lessons that stand out for me in this passage are Philip's obedience and the zeal the eunuch has for God.

When God commanded Philip to go to the desert road, he obeyed. It is amazing to see that through Philip's obedience, the Lord opened a door for this opportunity to evangelise. Do we often see the opportunities God opens for us? I have not always seen every situation with my prompting as opportunities to serve, however, I have now since thanked God when I received instructions and had to share only to realise that, this is exactly what people needed. In Philip we see "Spirit-led boldness," of course most of us claim we don't have it and so we can't share the Good News about Jesus, my challenge has been to see the, "spirit-led boldness" in the small voice that invites you to share Jesus with the most insignificant people and or the most special people around you.

The second lesson from the Eunuch is how ready he was for God. As we often worry about how people will receive the message of Christ, let us remember that hearts are prepared by God. Often when we share in obedience we will be surprised how people would respond.

Are you on fire for Jesus? Does it sometimes look difficult to make a difference for God? Now what is the point of this story? What stands out in this story is that a very unlikely candidate for conversion, the Eunuch, is found and converted through the supernatural leading of the Lord himself, and not through human planning (John Piper). Therefore today step up and share the good news of Jesus and follow God's prompting.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth."

34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.      (Acts8:26-40)

(Tichaona Nigel Chikanya, husband to Savior and father to Deuel Chikanya, last served at Mowbray Presbyterian Church in South Africa and is currently serving at Eastwood Parish Church in Glasgow, a congregation in the Church of Scotland.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-09 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Prophets: Prayer and Fasting

Our reading today shows how Prophets sent out the Apostles(Pioneers). But what is a prophet? Maybe the best quick description is that a prophet brings God's comment/guidance on current affairs. They need to listen to God. Let's see how this works:

Prophets: Prayer and Fasting

In Mark 9:29 from the King James Version (KJV) We are told that a certain parent brought his son to the disciples so that they could cast out a demon that was torturing his child but the disciples failed lamentably. So, the man brought the child to Jesus Christ and He cast out the demon and the child was set free. Later the disciples asked Jesus why they failed to cast the demon. Jesus answered them: "This kind of demon comes out only by prayer and fasting".

1.Prayer and Fasting played a very important role in the life of Jesus
At every pivotal moment in the life of Christ, He found time to pray. In Mark 1:35, we are told that "very early in the morning before daybreak, Jesus went into a solitary place to pray." Praying was His lifestyle. Jesus prayed and fasted just before He started His public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). He prayed before choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12). He prayed just before He was crucified (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus prayed at the cross of Calvary (Luke 23:34).

2.The Church was born out of Prayer and Fasting
Before the Church was born, the disciples gathered in the upper room to pray and then in response God poured Out His Holy Spirit upon them in (Acts 2:1-13). Hence forth the Church was born.

3.The Church was sustained by Prayer and Fasting
The early Christians were in danger from the word go, but God sustained them in and through prayer and fasting.

4.Prayer and Fasting played an important part in the Early Church
"While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them". So. after they had fasted, they placed their hands on them and sent them off'' (Acts 13:2-3).

Do you pray and fast? When is the last time you prayed and fasted? Is prayer and fasting the forgotten discipline in the UPCSA? Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer. So, Child of God, pray and fast.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.      (Acts13:1-3)

(Rev Allan Mchulu is a Minister at Kabwata Presbyterian Church based in Lusaka Zambia. He is married to Jessy Mwanda Mchulu and together have two daughters Deborah and Natasha. In his spare time he loves to read and to watch soccer.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-08 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Apostles: Barnabas

Apostles: Barnabas

For the next few devotions we're going to be looking at Paul's list of Spirit-empowered roles in the life and work of the church. He names Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers. (Eph4:11)

Today we'll be thinking about Apostles. Another description for an Apostle could be "Pioneer" or "Founder" or "Starter" or "Establisher." Some suggest that missionaries are basically Apostles, especially when they're initiating a new work.

An apostle goes where "no-one has gone before". They are entrepreneurial and can work well in new/unknown territory. They are creative and think outside the box.

In our reading there are two sets of pioneers. The first example is the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who crossed racial and cultural boundaries to reach out and establish a new group of believers. (We might also call them Evangelists.)

The other example is Barnabas who come to turn a group of converts into a church that would eventually become the sending church of the New Testament.

Look at Barnabas' attributes:
- Spiritually attuned: he could see God was at work
- Found his joy in the growth of the church
- Was an encourager who helped people to persevere
- A good man - ethical, consistent, reliable
- Full of the Holy Spirit (i.e. he was led and guided by the Spirit)
- Full of Faith: willing to trust God

An addition Barnabas was remarkable for his ability to think outside the box - when he needed help teaching the church, he found Saul/Paul (who no-one else was willing to take a risk on) and involved him in the discipleship of the church. This also showcases his humility.

In summing up: An Apostle or Pioneer joins up with what God is already doing and just helps to give it shape. We're here today because of Apostles who started churches and planted the communities that nurtured us.

Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Monday, October 7, 2019

EmmDev 2019-10-07 [He gave Gifts - Month of Mission 2019] Before we start on the gifts, remember we are just co-workers with God.

Before we start on the gifts, remember we are just co-workers with God.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in this chapter, he wanted to clarify something which was unclear to them. Knowing that they were not spiritually mature, he addressed them about the kind of audience they were and referred to them as plants. He further explained that each and every one played his own role without interfering with one another. Three characters were mentioned, Paul, Apollos and God, the main character.

For the plants to exist, there must be someone to prepare the soil. That was done by Paul who said that the Corinthians were washed, sanctified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit (1Cor6:11). They were well prepared.

After that, they were supposed to be doing things differently from the way they were. This is a common problem which we have in the church today: People still live the life of this world. Some of the things done by Corinthians were those that happened weeks ago because among people who were involved in xenophobia attacks, killing of women and children and rape, were Christians.

After Paul did the basic job of planting, he left Apollos to do the watering, which means good news had never stopped being proclaimed. He was a means carrying on the building up the souls in faith and holiness and making them fruitful in every good work.

But, above all, there is someone whom they cannot do anything without, hence a "but" has been used. The involvement of God is always necessary. Paul used a strange conjunction "but" instead of "and." To use "but" he showed that the work done was not going to be complete without God. If he used "and" it would mean God is any other ordinary person among them but the fact that this "but" is used, he's not like any ordinary person.

Though each of them had his own duties according to the passage, we must remember that we are just co-workers with God. Co-workers means working closely with God. But God gives the increase. There is nothing we can do on our own. Whatever we do, we partner with God as Christians. He is the one who completes us. In this case, Paul and Apollos were not able to make the plants to spring up or increase the perfection. Our duty is to plant and water, cast the seed of the word, preach the Gospel, but all the success is from the Man above. It is He who only causes what we've done, to spring up and grow. It is he who gives it its increase, spreading, fructifying virtue and efficacy, because we are just co-workers with him.

I planted the seed, Apollo's watered it, but God made it grow.      (1Corinthians3:6 )

(I am Bongiwe Ngebulana. I'm single, a mother of one beautiful daughter and a granny to a handsome boy. I also have 2 adoptees, both girls. I like walking every morning, playing netball, cooking and to be around kids or elderly people. I am currently not charged, but an interim Moderator at St Paul, Alberton in Highveld.)