Category: Pastor’s Pen

Mary, did you know?

The Christmas story is not complete without reading about, remembering, portraying (often by children in plays) or simply marveling at the way God brought his Son into the world through a young woman from Nazareth named Mary. In some church traditions this has captured the imagination so much that there is more than simply respect, but some form of worship of Mary as the mother of Jesus, ascribing to her a kind-of mediatory role to have access to Jesus. Although in the church tradition that we represent we avoid doing so, it is worth sparing a moment to remember Mary’s role in God’s provision of salvation for sinners.

Despite the fact that many suggestions, traditions and stories of legendary value arose around Mary, we don’t know anything beyond what the Bible mentions about her. But let’s think about what we do know.

She was young, born and raised in a peasant’s family – not the kind of family of special standing in the 1st Century society. She lived in a male-dominated society – not many women in that world would make it into prominence or history books. She was a simple believer in God, willing to receive a message from God, committing to something she had no idea what she was letting herself in for. Her dreams of a “normal” life of getting engaged, marrying her future husband, living in her village, and raising a “normal” family … all of these were rudely interrupted by God, maybe even shattered by what she heard and (initially) experienced.

Yet, with absolute blind faith in the God whom she served from childhood, she put her trust and her future into His hands by simply saying “I am the servantof the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Christmas story requires more than remembering or retelling the birth of Jesus. It demands our adoration, worship and obedience to the One who was willing to be born as a human to identify with us, and to pay the penalty for our sins in order to offer us forgiveness. Mary sets an example of someone who was willing to allow God to interrupt her normal life in order to receive life as only God can give it – life to the full, abundant, joyful, meaningful, eternal.

If God chose Mary to be the mother of His Son born as a human, then God can choose us for any role He plans for us to have. And if Mary could say “yes” to God, then surely we can also commit to be available to serve the Almighty God who gave his only Son to bring us forgiveness. Let us therefore not only celebrate Christmas with trees, lights and gifts, but with obedience and worship!


As people created in the image of God we crave fellowship, contact, conversation, staying updated on news from family and friends – the main reason why social media such as Facebook have become so popular and virtually a part of our everyday existence. In short, we all like to stay connected.

For any person who believes in God and who, through Jesus Christ, has a personal relationship with God, it is important to stay connected to God. We often refer to this as our relationship with God. It mainly happens through Bible reading, study of Scripture, prayer, listening to the Word proclaimed, asking God for guidance, depending on the Holy Spirit to guide us in all that we do. We refer to this as our vertical relationship.

But we also have a major need and obligation to stay connected horizontally. In other words, God created us with a need to relate to other human beings around us, such as our family members, friends, colleagues and fellow Christians. For those of us who are followers of Christ this happens primarily when we are part of a local church where we support one another, pray for each other, and encourage each other to remain connected with God. The key word in the previous sentence is “another”. It is amazing to note how many times the New Testament refers to the “one another” aspect of our faith! (See an interesting article on this aspect at

I sometimes refer to our horizontal relationships as our “connections”. I have even used the term to refer to our children’s friends and (now) spouses! I don’t know whether they were always impressed with my reference, but these are the kind of relationships that keep us connected with our social world, our family and friends. In the past while we’ve had several visits in Bratislava from people we’ve known or worked with in the past, and it was good to catch up with some our past connections! It reminded me how important it is to build bridges while I can, to live in community, to give attention to these connections of mine. We have that opportunity here in Bratislava. Whether we are here for a short while or for a longer term, let us build relationships, connect with each other, let us make sure we are well-connected with others in our church. These connections may stand us in good stead in the future!

Crossing the barriers

Another church retreat (church weekend) has come and gone and all who attended agree that it was a good time of rest, fellowship and spiritual growth. The topic addressed by Dr Kevin Roy, Cross-cultural relationships, can hardly be more relevant in a church like ours where we represent between 16 and 20 different nationalities, bringing with us different cultures, languages and personalities! It was good to be challenged about our love for ALL people and how God desires for us to reach out to all nations in order to build the kind of Kingdom that He has planned from the beginning.

Although our church is not the only one in the world with many different cultures represented, it certainly is an exciting place to be. And it is not without its challenges either! Just think about the danger of being miss-understood, doing the “wrong” thing in another culture, the difficulty of cross-cultural communication (especially if you don’t speak the local language!), doing or saying something that may be offensive in another culture. If you add to the mix of cultures the fact that we also represent different personalities, gifts and preferences, then you almost have a recipe for disaster!

It is for this reason that it is important to follow the example of Jesus Christ who accepted with open arms everyone who came to him, did not discriminate against the untouchables in his community, and specifically crossed the dividing physical and social boundaries on many occasions. And His commandment to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) was no mistake – it’s been God’s plan all along and should not ignored by us.

It’s great to be in a church where we have a sort-of foretaste of heaven where all these different people from around the world come together to praise and worship God in unity. Let’s protect this unity and pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to bind us together with His love and acceptance. Let’s also pray for patience as we face the many challenges of being from very different backgrounds and yet desire to serve our Lord with love and acceptance of one another.

Life Cycles

The seasons of the year are a great reminder of the fact that life seems to happen in cycles – almost everything seems to go in cycles, including nature, flowers, farming, churches, growing up, families, global warming (?) and much more.

As we come to the end of Summer this year (will the heat waves ever end?!) and soon enter into Autumn, I am reminded of the reference by Jesus in John 12:24 to the fact that a new seed doesn’t grow unless it first dies – a clear reference to His own death in order to bring us life eternal, as well as the fact that the death of one person (Jesus himself) will result in life for many thousands more. What an amazing gift to us by our Lord Jesus Christ!

Our church seems to “suffer” from life cycles. I personally dread hearing from members that they are leaving. This often happens in the middle of the calendar year, about the time when schools are about to reopen for the next school year. While it is sad that people leave us, I’m also grateful for the opportunity our church has had to impact their lives. I trust that those moving on will take with them the blessings they received from us and become a blessing to other people and churches wherever they go.

But, just as cycles continue, new people arrive – most often also before the start of a new school year. And the process starts over again. Welcome to all who recently arrived and are joining us for worship and fellowship. May your experience in Bratislava and as part of our fellowship be a true blessing to you. Please allow us to help and bless you in every way that we can. And my advice to you? Make the most of your stay in Bratislava and Slovakia so that one day you’ll take many good memories with you when you leave.

Challenge & Blessing!

A few weeks ago I was going through our church’s database, updating some information, moving names from one list to another, making contact with people we have not seen for a while. Two things really stood out for me.

Firstly, I was concerned to see that we have names on our database of people who still live in our city or nearby, but we have not seen them for quite a while. On Sunday, 21 July, I focused on the fact that the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different people. This made me think that their gifts are no longer available to our church, but at the same time some other members who have the gift of encouragement may have the opportunity to reach out to these people to bring them “back into the fold”. If you have such a gift, please use it!

Secondly, I was amazed (almost shocked!) to see how many people have moved away from Bratislava over the four-and-a-half years that we have been here – over a 100 people have left, moved, or moved on somewhere else. Such is the nature of our international community! And soon we’ll (again!!) see more people moving away. Part of this is discouraging, like a never-ending battle to build the church. But part of it is also exciting if we think of just how many people have been impacted by our church’s ministry, fellowship, spiritual input and challenges. Most of these people probably have good memories of their time in Bratislava and as part of our fellowship. Their lives have been impacted and they can now continue to be a blessing to others wherever they travel and live in the world. In that sense, we really have family around the world. What a blessing!

Thank you to all who prayed and supported the purchase of the house in Vajnory. We are in the final stages of finishing the transfer, getting a kitchen installed, acquiring furniture and then moving in. As soon as we are settled in, you will be invited to come for a visit – hopefully by the latest the end of August.

A Guide sent

This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the rescue effort of the Thai football club boys who got stuck in a flooded cave, an ordeal that lasted from 23 June to 10 July 2018. It captured the attention and imagination of the world and will be remembered for many years to come. In fact, this year saw the inauguration of an annual marathon to commemorate the successful rescue effort, while a movie is in the making to show the efforts of people from around the world to bring the boys to safety.

The boys were cut off from life outside the cave when flood waters from heavy rain blocked their way out. It took a major effort simply to locate them, and when they were miraculously found alive after many days, it became dangerous even just to reach them and even more risky to try to bring them out of the cave. In the process one experienced diver lost his life when he ran out of air, but in the end the boys all reached safety, only because of the help of professional divers and rescuers.

Afterwards the boys needed the help of counsellors and advisors to assist them in dealing with their trauma, coming to grips with the death of a rescuer, and (I think) receiving guidance in wisely dealing with money (from the movie rights), as well as deciding on their own futures.

This made me think about our salvation. Without Jesus Christ giving up his life and without the help of the Holy Spirit, we too would still be “stuck-in-a-cave”, with no way out and no way of rescuing ourselves! Salvation is by God’s design, God’s initiative, God’s grace and God’s power. In the process of saving us, it cost Jesus his life and we can only be brought to safety if we trust Jesus Christ to save us, if we put our faith in Him and follow Him as his disciples.

But it does not end with salvation or being born again. The Bible tells us that God gave us his Holy Spirit as a Counsellor, Guide and Advocate. What a great Gift this is for us! As we journey through life here on earth, we are not alone. Jesus said that He is with us (Matthew 28:20), and the New Testament confirms that we are given the Holy Spirit to be with us (John 14:15-17), guide us (John 16:13), fill us (Ephesians 5:18), empower us (Acts 1:8). We are not alone and we were not left to live life in our own strength or wisdom. We have Someone to guide and lead us all the way! Our responsibility is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide us each step of the way. May we experience the love, power and presence of God the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church!

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.


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.