Category: Pastor’s Pen

On Mission with God

On mission with God

A while ago we focused in a sermon series on “Missio Dei”, which is Latin for “The mission of God”. When we read the Scriptures and understand the message of the Bible, it is clear from the first page in Genesis to the last page in the Book of Revelation that God is on a mission to save this world that He created!

It’s interesting to note that most corporates, businesses and organizations have a “mission statement”, referring to their main focus or main business. It helps them to clearly focus on what their real business is and therefore to not get distracted by unimportant issues. For several years now, there are experts who help organizations and businesses to decide, write and refine their mission statement, usually at great cost to the company or organization.

Many churches have also developed and accepted their own local mission statement. This is a good exercise since it provides them with a clear focus of what they are about, what they should get involved in, and even limit what they try to do. However, there is also a sense in which the main focus of any local church has already been given to us, namely to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost world. It means joining God in what He is doing in this world. God’s mission is our mission.

This is why the recent visit by a group of leaders and students from North Carolina should be an encouragement to us. The six students in the group are “just regular” people who paid their own way to respond to an opportunity to share the Gospel in different ways in a country none of them ever visited before. It reminded me that every Christian is on a mission to serve God, to share his love and the message of the Gospel of hope with people in need of salvation. Missions is not only for people in full-time service. In fact, pastors and missionaries often do not have the regular contact with people in the world in the same way as those who are in regular corporate or secular jobs.

Thank you to all who made an effort to accommodate and befriend the Gardner-Webb University team. They were a great help to us and we pray that they have been encouraged and challenged in their faith too.

Overhaul

When something like a car engine is renewed, it needs to be “overhauled”. The engine remains the same thing, but it needs to be given some new parts, while some old parts need cleaning, drilling, adjusting in order to give the old engine new life. In a sense, the same thing happened to God’s covenant.

 God’s plan of salvation has been the same one from even before the creation. However, it took a long while for the world to be prepared in order to receive God’s final Revelation, namely Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to continue God’s existing, old covenant, but also to give in new meaning, new significance, and a new emphasis.

 This “old-new” (renewal) theme is strongly emphasized in the New Testament by Jesus himself, for example, when He spoke about the “new covenant in his blood” – Luke 22:20). It is also highlighted the authors of Acts, the Epistles and the Book of Revelation. Here in the Northern Hemisphere we even have the well-loved season called “Spring” to remind us that renewal is promised, that it is constant and consistent. Just as we expect Spring to arrive, waiting for the weather to change, knowing that new life (leaves, flowers) will appear, in the same way we are assured that Jesus not only brought new life to us when He died and rose from the dead, but that there is a promise of future life with Him for eternity.

 April-May is just that season of the year in our Christian calendar that speaks to us so much about God’s New Covenant, Jesus Christ who came to die in our place in order to offer us new life! Jesus came to renew God’s covenant, to give it new meaning, to bring it to fulfillment.

 Somehow, during this Spring, remember that God sent Jesus to give his old covenant an overhaul! And by His grace we are the ones who benefit from what Christ has done for us.

Love so amazing

It happens from time to time in every family that they either get together for a funeral or a wedding. In many cases these are the only occasions when some family members see each other, especially in the different family members are spread around the world. It’s actually very sad, since as family we share a bond that should be celebrated on a more regular basis. But reality is that for many of us in our church, these are the times when we travel home to be with family, either to share in their grief or to rejoice with them.

It is for this very reason that our church’s “motto” is: Your family away from home. Since we are an international church we recognize that for many (or most) of the members of our fellowship this is “family away from home”. Family members share a bond, grief together, celebrate with each other, journey through life together. And this is how I like to see our congregation.

This past month we have seen some amazing things, filling us both with joy and sadness. The following is a “taste” of the things we share together: a well-loved past interim pastor, Ron Clarke, passed away; a “not-guilty” verdict for a member for whom we prayed for more than a year; new people arrived and joined our fellowship; members found jobs; a baby was dedicated; a couple got married in a far-away country; prayers for protection and help were answered; we enjoyed a great time of fellowship and eating around the Thanksgiving Lunch; we trust God for his healing touch on members who are sick or will have surgery; and there is so much more. Some of these may sound insignificant, but these are the things that make church happen! And in all of these things we can be grateful for God’s love, care, protection and guidance. Thank you for being part of being Church!

During this month of December, we will celebrate the very reason why we are a “family away from home”. Yes, it’s Christmas and more reason to experience joy, happiness, fellowship, forgiveness and God’s grace. The God of heaven came down to “become flesh” (John 1:14), born as a human baby in order to be with us, to join us in our needs, to ultimately give His life so that we can become part of God’s family. May this month and especially the message of Christmas bring great joy to our hearts as we remember the true message of Christmas.

The Church: God’s exciting idea!

Many a young person grow up thinking that going to church is outdated, boring and a down-right useless or unnecessary. They could not be more wrong! Yes, there was a time I also thought that church was not exactly what my peers offered me, that I need to “go out there” and explore or enjoy the world. But, as it turned out, I found the Church of Jesus Christ the most exciting and challenging place to be!

In fact, I have discovered that Church is exciting! There are many reasons why I believe this to be so.

The Church is God’s idea. God always wanted the people that He created to be part of a community. We have heard it said a thousand times that “no man is an island”. We were born into a family, soon join different social groups, belong to different organization, seek to befriend our peers, find a person to marry and start a family – all of which simply serve to prove that we are not made to exist alone.

The Church gives us opportunity to meet some family members from around the world, become friends with them, be enriched by them, and give us opportunity to support those who feel led to go to other parts of the world to share the Gospel. The missionaries who are supported by our church enrich our lives and make our impact go far and wide.

The Church is where people find peace, forgiveness, acceptance and belonging. The local church in particular is an expression of God’s family. I like our church’s motto: Your family away from home. This is what we want to be to every person who belongs to our fellowship.

The Church is a place where we see God at work. Miracles happen, the biggest of which is when people are drawn by God to meet His Son Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Over the last while we have been privileged to witness several of these miracles right here in our midst! And miracles they are, since it has nothing to do with our ability or our efforts. God, by His amazing grace, prompted people to find Jesus and we are simply the observers who can enjoy seeing God at work.

Next time you kind-of wonder whether to go to church, just think about the amazingly exciting place it is! Thank you for being part of this church.

Joy-filled family

As we approach Autumn (Fall) I am reminded of the creativity and grace of God. How can anyone experience the weather, the colourful changes happening around us, look at the beautiful crafted mountains, stare into the seeming unending universe with all its undiscovered galaxies … and still not believe in God? The intricate nature of how the human body and nature around us work is proof of God’s design – nothing is left to chance and nothing this special could’ve simply developed on its own.

But, as much as I am intrigued by God’s design and almighty power, I am also amazed at his grace in being willing to accept and forgive a sinner like me. Despite my rebellion against a holy God, despite my inability to reach his standard to please Him, God himself came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ to take my sins on Himself, dying to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, and now offers the gift of forgiveness and eternal life to anyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

And then God accepts us into his family, provides us with a family of believers, so that we are not alone. Not only does God live in us by his Holy Spirit, He also ensures that we have brothers and sisters to love and support us.

And for most of us it is great to know that Bratislava Faith Community is that family for us – our true “family away from home”. In our fellowship we can laugh, sing, pray, worship, love, reach out, support, cry and rejoice over every person God adds to his (and our) family.

Let’s together make this family a wonderful and joyful place to be!

World-wide impact

Summer is such nice weather, providing us with an opportunity to be outdoors and enjoy God’s wonderful creation for a different perspective. It’s also the time when the schools have a break, many are travelling to see the world or to visit family in their home country. While all this is clearly understandable and to be encouraged, it does mean that attendance on Sundays at our worship services is affected. However, God does not sleep and the church does not take a break either! It’s great to have a home church and a “family away from home”. Whether you are in Bratislava or travelling somewhere in the world, please continue to pray for our church, that God would use us to reach the expat community in our city.

We rejoice in the fact that we are able to witness a baptism this month. It does not happen often enough, but when it does, it’s a great opportunity for us to truly celebrate the Lord’s saving grace. We pray that the Lord will bring salvation to many more as we seek to be witnesses in our families, neighbourhood and at work.

Although the numbers in church on Sundays do not always reflect it, it is good to be reminded that our church has made a major impact in the lives of many people since its inception in the 1990’s. It is no over-statement to say that hundreds of people have either visited or been part of the church here in Bratislava. Each one of these has been impacted by the international make-up of the church, tasting a bit of what heaven will be like with multitudes of different languages, nations, cultures gathering to worship our God and Saviour (Revelation 7:9).

 

I am praying that all of us are growing in our appreciation of who God is, how deep our salvation goes, how much God loves us and how wide the kingdom of God stretches around the world. May our church continue to focus on God’s grace, God’s Word, true worship and caring hearts to reach out to those who still need to experience salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

An ongoing story

Royal wedding reflections (pictures, analyses and more pictures!), Soccer World Cup, students taking examinations, end-of-school-year buzz, summer break, people travelling … it’s all happening in June 2018! Yes, June has arrived and with it much excitement as we are able to enjoy the outdoors much more than other times of the year. It also provides an opportunity for us to appreciate God’s creation from “up close” much better and more often.

Being in nature and seeing the beauty of it is a great reminder of the start of the Bible’s message: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1). But, as Genesis clearly states, this was only the beginning. The Bible goes on to describe the progress of God’s story through Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, David, ultimately culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ to this world. And in the New Testament we discover that this was God’s plan and purpose all along. However, it did not happen overnight. God did not fast-forward the story! Many years, thousands of people and numerous events (good and bad) contributed to the chapters preceding the coming of Christ.

And the story of God continued through the Early Church in the First Century and for the past 2000 years. And, if you are a Christian, you form part of the ongoing story of God, planned even before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The final page of the story of life on earth as we know it will only be written once Jesus returns to earth at the Second Coming. Then life will continue in the presence of God for eternity – a wonderful reality to look forward to.

So, next time you enjoy the outdoors or get a glimpse of God’s wonderful creation, think about the story of God, culminating in your own salvation through Jesus Christ the Saviour.

Enjoy the Summer! And God’s blessings that come with it…

Overcoming cultural barriers

I am currently reading through the Book of Acts again. In it the author, Luke, tells the story of the Early Church, following on from his earlier description (in the Gospel of Luke) of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts is the story of the Church, which against all odds, marched on and took the 1st Century world by storm.

Not that it was easy! The early Christians and missionaries faced many difficulties and challenges. They travelled great distances by sea or land, faced persecution and rejection, had to overcome cultural and language barriers in different countries, while trying to convince both Jew and Gentile that Jesus of Nazareth is the Saviour of the world. After the first eight chapters, Luke begins to focus on the life and travels of the Apostle Paul – how he persecuted Christians, became a Christian himself, travelled to distant places to establish churches, and ended up in Rome, the capital of one of the largest and most successful empires in history.

The story of Paul ends with Paul in Rome where, although under house arrest, had freedom to preach the Gospel to all who paid him a visit. This proves both the far-reaching impact of the Gospel of Christ, as well as the fact that spreading the Gospel is still an unfinished task. Hence the “open-ended” ending of the Book of Acts.

And this is where we fit into the story…

As an international church we, in some sense, face similar challenges to that of the Early Church. Many of us travelled great distances to get to Bratislava, experienced culture shock, while we continue to face cultural and language barriers on a daily basis. But my encouragement from the story in Acts is that none of these things should prevent us from being effective witnesses in the places where we live, work and play. Just as the Holy Spirit filled and used the early believers, so we can trust Him to empower us and use us as instruments in his hands to spread the Good News that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

May He make us faithful in shining the Light in our world!

Sharing with expats

As we already got full-steam into this new year it is good to know that we serve a great God, who exists from eternity to eternity. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). With all the changes and challenges we face on a daily basis, as well as the fact that we don’t know what this year will bring or what the future holds for each of us, it is comforting to know that God is in control of our yesterdays and tomorrows!

Now that we are already a full month into 2018, I pray that the Lord would guide, protect and provide for you, as well as for our church in all that we need to bring Him glory throughout this year.

One of our biggest challenges and opportunities as a church is to reach the expat community of our city. More foreigners are coming to Slovakia each year, most of them to Bratislava. Many come to simply experience a different world, others to study at university, while some come to settle here for the foreseeable future, either because of a job offer or as a result of cross-cultural marriage. We need to identify these expats in our community, where we live, work and “play” to be able to invite them to join us as we worship the God of the Bible, the unchanging God who revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ. So, be on the look-out for people who speak English and are not fluent enough in Slovak to be able to join a Slovak church or be challenged to consider Jesus as Saviour.

Join me as we pray that God would open up opportunities to share the Good News of the Gospel with those with whom we rub shoulders on a regular (or once-off!) basis. Pray that God would use the website, Facebook and other forms of promotion to reach the many expats who live or visit our city.

Reflection!

Christmas 2017 has come and gone … always a great time of fellowship, family and (especially) an opportunity to remember and celebrate the greatest event in history – that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) to live with us and bring salvation to a dying world. I trust you had a great and joy-filled Christmas!

Christmas always reminds me that we are approaching the end of another year and that a new year starts soon. That time has arrived! Although some people feel sad and almost depressed, especially since it’s winter, cold and there is very little evidence of life in the outdoors, it can also be a great time to look forward to what will happen in the next season of our lives.

New Year gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives, as we look back to what happened in the past year and then anticipate (plan) where we want to be in the next year. What did you miss or mess up this past year? How will you ensure that it will be better in the next year? New Year gives us a chance to make (and keep!) some resolutions, such as spending more time with God in prayer, Bible reading, church fellowship and sharing our faith. To give more attention to family, friendships and relationships. To pursue studies, career, health and fitness … and a host of other good things.

I encourage you to do at least the following:

  • Take time to reflect. Don’t rush the process.
  • Write down your wishes and dreams (be bold and “wild”!).
  • Identify only those wishes that would make a real difference to you and your world (personal, family, work) and prayerfully commit them to the Lord.
  • Write down a few simple resolutions, including how you are going to ensure that they are kept.