Scripture: Ezra 7:1-28
Preacher: Gerhard Venter
Summary: Ezra is a great example of how we as followers of Christ can impact our world.
For the title above I was actually tempted to use the well-known and commonly used Afrikaans expression “vasbyt”. Literally translated it means “bite tight”, meaning to hold on and not let go. This expression may have originated from seeing at how some dog breeds can lock their jaws on an item and, no matter how hard you kick, scream or beat, they simply will not let go. “Vasbyt” developed into a standard expression when we encourage one another to hang in there, don’t let go or to be patient. This is what I want to do here.
Many pictures come to mind when I think about not letting go, such as an athlete in a marathon race, a person enduring long-term illness, or the encouragement to remain hopeful during this COVID-19 time when life is no longer what it used to be and there just doesn’t seem to be an end in sight!
The Bible has much to say about “vasbyt”, both in examples and also in direct instructions. Just think about Moses’ life of 3 X 40 years (palace, desert and leading Israel during their wanderings), Joseph sold in slavery and ending up in prison in Egypt, David fleeing Saul for many years, and Paul enduring much persecution in simply wanting to share the message of the Gospel. But also, and very relevant for us during this month as we prepare for Easter, think about how Jesus endured much rejection, pain, suffering and ultimately death to redeem us for God.
The Bible is clear that the Christian life will include a lot of “vasbyt”. We are encouraged to hold on, be patient, wait and not lose faith. In this former believers (people of faith) and Jesus set the example, as we see in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In other words: Hang in there! Don’t let the current lockdown, debates, loneliness, economic hardships and many other challenges take your focus away from the Lord.
May the Lord Jesus help us all
Dealing with fake news…
News spreads quickly these days. Just think about how quickly we know about the latest event via our phones, and sometimes watching live events on television, literally seeing how events unfold in real time. Every morning I can read the latest COVID statistics for the past 24 hours – it’s as quick as that!
Unfortunately, this is also true for false news, conspiracy theories, “solutions” to hard questions, guesses about why things happen in the world, and how the world will come to an end (end-time theories). These have been around for ages and there is no doubt in my mind that we will see more of it. The internet and cyber communication has made it so easy and quick to spread news … even false news, thoughts, ideas, interpretations, sermons and much more.
One of the big news items currently has to do with theories about where the Corona virus came from, how scientists or wealthy people (or companies) have designed and manipulated it, spread it, and now have the power to make money or rule the world, even suggesting a possible implant of some chip in all of us via the vaccines.
The question for us as Christians is: How do we deal with it?
Without trying to be too simplistic, let me highlight a few truths that will help us respond to all these theories and ideas.
If you need prayer, advice or just need to chat, please contact me.
We’re grateful to Kelly for preaching during the Advent Season. He is thus bringing a reflection at the start of the New Year.
Light-hearted “Resolutions” or True Commitments for the New Year?
In last month’s “Pastor’s Pen” Gerhard encouraged us during the “giving season” of Christmas to consider the many gifts we’ve received in 2020 – despite the obvious challenges – and to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned this past year. I would echo that encouragement as we finish this year and begin the new one!
In the U.S., we have a tradition of making New Year’s “resolutions” that are normally goals for self-improvement in the coming year: ending bad habits, eating better, being wiser with our money, etc. In fact, January is the top month for new memberships at gyms/fitness centers! For many people, writing up a list of resolutions is merely a fun or expected “exercise,” but others approach their resolutions in all seriousness.
Unfortunately, good intentions alone don’t lead to changes in behavior! As believers, there are some things we can do to increase the likelihood that we will follow through on our goals for the new year:
So intentionally set aside some time before we’re too far into January and review the lessons learned from 2020 (and honestly assess the failures) and establish some clear goals for 2021: personally, professionally, in your marriage and family/parenting, and spiritually (evangelism, Scripture reading and devotional time, prayer, and/or Scripture memorization).
May we all experience growth in our lives in 2021 – individually and as a church family!
Blessed to be a part of BFC with you ~Kelly Fath