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How effective (or not) is the church in transforming the local community?

As a native pastor in Sesheke, a small border town in Western Zambia, David was troubled by the desperate situation of his community.

Sesheke is one of the biggest timber revenue collection areas in Zambia and at the same time remains one of the poorest districts in the country. When he became the chairperson of the pastors fellowship in Sesheke in 2007 they implemented a development program with the aim of transforming the community. After a few years and having to face many challenges David was compelled to ask himself the question “how effective is the Church at its transformational task”? And secondly, “how can the church become more effective”?

In his honest search for answers he was faced with the resounding conclusion from the community that “the church had failed in its transformational task”.

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The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

A sermon by John G. Lake  in 1921.

Listen to the sermon (32 min, 43Mb) - read by Stephen Bankart.

John G. LakeThe Baptism of the Holy Ghost is the greatest event in Christian history. Greater than the Crucifixion, of greater import than the Resurrection, greater than the Ascension, greater than the glorification. It was the end and finality of Crucifixion and Resurrection, Ascension and glorification.

If Jesus Christ had been crucified, and there had been no resurrection, His death would have been without avail, in so far as the salvation of mankind is concerned. Or if He had risen from the grave in resurrection, and failed to reach the throne of God, and receive from the Father the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the purpose for which He died, and for which He arose, would have been missed.

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Doubt and Easter

There will always be doubt

Doubt was and will always be one of life’s challenges. Our world has never been without the temptation to doubt.

In the beginning, we find the snake’s question to Eve: “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden” (Gen 3:1). This question was intended to suggest something along the lines of: “Is God really so nasty in that He does not allow you to eat the fruit from all the trees?” With this question the Devil created the perception that God is not good and sowed doubt in her heart.

The Devil even approached Jesus to plant a seed of doubt when he tempted Him: “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”   After having spent forty days and nights in the desert without food, the Devil tempted a fragile and hungry Jesus with doubt. It was a temptation to go for a shortcut and to tempt God to prove his care for his Son and his Son’s mission.

The world has never been without doubt: doubt in God’s goodness, love and His involvement in this disastrous world and in our own endangered personal lives. People usually ask many “why” questions when things go wrong and events happen which is seemingly against the belief in an almighty and loving God.

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Forgiveness: a Christ-centered perspective

The act of forgiveness is one of the most powerful occurrences conquering the reality of sin and its destructive fruits as manifested in broken relationships with God and man. No wonder the strong biblical emphasis on forgiveness as an act of God, but also expected from man.

Forgiveness is sometimes identified as an act of “sending away”. God “sends away” what man has done in violation and disavowal of his will, and receives man back into uninhibited fellowship. Also man’s forgiveness to one another is seen as an act of “sending away” what has become between him and his neighbor. To “send away” is indeed an important aspect of forgiveness, and relates to the Greek verb άϕιέναι (to send away; to forgive) as mainly used in the gospels. However, that which is central to forgiveness cannot in the first instance be determined by semantics, but rather what God has done in Christ to move towards us in brokenness and sin whilst inviting our repentant response.

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Report on Survey 1: My Calling

Summary/conclusions of the findings

A great majority of the participants (68.5 + 15.8%) know with certainty that they are called and that the calling is from God as was revealed to them through the working of the Holy Spirit (43.4%). For many, this conviction of their calling has been known for a significant period of time – it is not a fleeting experience or a spur of the moment feeling.

Many participants (57%) have suppressed their calling in the past or are continuing to suppress it (11.4%) and therefor not living out their calling.

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4 common mistakes Christians make

As Christians we are prone to make a few very common mistakes, which can have major destructive consequences (sometimes even more so than the results of common sins), namely:

1.  We tend to underestimate God’s greatness.  God wants us to constantly recognise His greatness.  Or at least progressively grasp part of the extent thereof.  In the Old Testament God regularly ensures His people of His greatness by declaring that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe.

Paul was convinced that the extent of God’s greatness surpasses our mental capacity.  He therefore prays in his first prayer to the Ephesians that the Holy Spirit must reveal God to us so that we may know Him better (Eph 1:17).  However, if we underestimate God’s greatness then we are living based on inaccurate facts, therefore making wrong decisions and even becoming prone to sin.  As a Christian it is of absolute importance to allow the Holy Spirit to constantly convince us of God’s greatness.

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Six keys to a successful pastorate: lessons from Paul

The demands of being a pastor can be overwhelming. Even pastors, like Paul, who faithfully pray, study the Bible and avoid moral lapses are not immune to fatigue (2 Cor 11: 23-33). In verse 28 he says: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”. How can you minister successfully over the long haul without burning out? We can learn certain principles from the apostle Paul:

1. Know your strengths, weaknesses and limitations
Strong leaders understand how God has put them together. In 1 Corinthians  2:3 Paul says: I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. Often leaders must experience pain, failure and crisis to fully understand their limitations. The truth is that those experiences can result in humility plus a deeper understanding of strengths and weaknesses. These leaders know how much emotional input they need and the level of ministry output they are capable of sustaining over time. That is why Paul could say his ministry was not like that of Apollos and Cephas; each had their strengths and weaknesses but ultimately they were servants of Christ (1 Cor 1:12; 3:5). He didn’t always have wisdom and the gift of persuasiveness, but he had a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

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The cross, the fulfilment of the manger

Easter is the most important Christian festival of the Christian year. But Christmas itself has now outstripped Easter in popular culture as the real celebration of the year – a move contrary to the New Testament’s emphasis. Jesus’ death on the cross on Easter is the fulfilment of the manger. The shadow of the cross falls over the manger and the cross was made out of the wood of Jesus’ manger. Easter is the moment when God’s new world started growing like green grass through the thick concrete of death, evil and injustice (N.T. Wright).

All languages about the future is an effort to set up signposts pointing into a foggy future. We see through a glass darkly, says Paul, as we peer towards the future. But with the first Christmas (4 BC) God came forward in Jesus in the first person, out of the fog or mist of God’s space. Jesus stepped out of the metaphysical world of God’s space to meet us and reveal God’s blueprint for His creation.

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I am a pastor: please help me with ‘ancestral worship’

Dear Prof Hattingh,

I am currently leading an Assembly. The men’s department decided to have a discussion about ancestral worship. I need your help regarding the following verses: 1 Samuel 28: 15/16 & Luke 16: 24-29.

After the discussions I will be required to give direction on this matter.  Can you kindly clarify these verses for me within the context of ancestral worship?

The story in 1 Samuel 28 is one of the most strange and inconceivable stories of the Old Testament.  It is also a very sad story of Israel’s first anointed king falling into sin and the grip of darkness, so much so that he afterwards killed himself.  Furthermore, it is also a display of the strange reality of darkness and evil – it is a story of the night.

It is strange, if you read the story hastily, that a saint of God like the prophet Samuel responded to the call of a medium and spiritualist. She was, however, shocked and cried out in fear when she saw Samuel and immediately recognised Saul, the king.  She was not fully clued-in with the situation.

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The perfect storm

Christianity is in the midst of a perfect storm! The authority of the Bible and Jesus Christ’s position as God’s Holy Son are assaulted at every turn and by every voice. Quick and easy answers from pulpits are just not good enough anymore. People are connected and exposed to a meticulously designed onslaught on core Biblical truths. If we do not rise to the challenge, our children will be left at the mercy of the Darkness.

We were called for a time like this! (Esther 4: 14) He is able to keep our calling safe till His glorious day (2 Timothy 1: 12) but we have to do everything possible to be as excellent as possible at our task. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed…” (2 Timothy 2: 15)

The challenges of our day demand of us to be craftsmen: people meticulously prepared and equipped for the task at hand.

Be ready and fully equipped for the day: the “great professor of all there is to know” tells our children that “there is no God in heaven and there is no hell below” (quote from Almost like the Blues, Leonard Cohen).

ATS is called to equip the leaders of tomorrow to extend God’s kingdom. We are compelled by the times we live in to make an urgent call for workers, to be equipped and sent into His harvest field (Luke 10: 2).

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