Peacemaking and Reconciliation Initiatives

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Guest Post

For the blog today we have a portion of an article shared with us by Herman Groenewald. Herman has contributed to this blog from time to time and really has a heart for mission. The following is from the “Praying for the World” newsletter:

Peacemaking and reconciliation initiatives

Jesus taught, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ However, different situations require different kinds of reconciliation and peacemaking as there are many types of breakdowns of community. Beyond personal conflict, strife can break out along religious, political, ethnic, regional, or even, sadly, denominational lines. Reconciliation of believers one to another is a Scriptural imperative, not a negotiable extra! But in a world where such fault lines exist virtually everywhere, the power of Christian peacemaking is also a profound evangelistic tool.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. John 14:17 ESV

An example from Egypt

On April 9, 2017, as Egyptian Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, carrying palm branches and chanting ‘Hosanna in the Highest’, coordinated bomb attacks on major churches in Alexandria and Tanta in northern Egypt left tens of people dead and hundreds seriously injured. The joyful celebration turned into mourning across the country. The attack was one in a series of attacks on churches and Christians that has left thousands dead and injured.

While many Christians struggle to choose between leaving the country or enduring more suffering, the extraordinary Christian response to the violent attacks that have taken place since 2013 has provided many opportunities for witness to the gospel and a renewed sense of mission to the larger community. Christians did not seek revenge; instead they extended forgiveness to those who murdered their loved ones.

Such powerful Christian testimonies had a lasting impact on the larger Muslim community that was stunned by the Christian response.

Meanwhile, many Christians have been empowered by the testimonies of those who boldly extended love and forgiveness, leaving them a renewed sense of mission amid suffering.

What is happening in Egypt is not a remote event in church history, but a living testimony to the power of the Christian faith.

  • Thank God for the service and suffering of the Church in Egypt. Pray for them.
  • Pray that persecuted churches everywhere will transform suffering into mission through forgiveness.
  • Pray for a zeal for peacemaking and reconciliation to spread through the whole Church.
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Advent

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by Graham Mol

Yesterday, Sunday 28 November, marked the beginning of Advent on the Christian liturgical calendar. At New Harvest we do not follow a particular liturgy but we can still learn and benefit from these traditions as their purpose is to help us to acknowledge and meditate on the wonderful truths of God’s word.

The purpose of Advent is to help us pause from all the busyness of this time of year and be mindful of both Christ’s coming to this earth in the past and His return in the future. It is a time of preparation as we reflect on the year that has passed recognising that only Jesus can solve the ills that we face in this world. We are thankful that He stepped down from glory and intervened. Jesus is still involved in our daily lives to this day.

During Advent, candles are often lit, either daily or weekly, representing different aspects of focus during the build up to Christmas. As I read up about the different practices and traditions that are followed, I came across the following practice in lighting Advent candles: (from ourlittleroses.org)

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, and one candle is lit each Sunday. Three of the candles are purple because the colour violet is a liturgical color that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

    • The first candle, which is purple, symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
    • The second candle, also purple, represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
    • The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is called the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical colour for joy. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
    • On the fourth week of Advent, we light the final purple candle to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait for the birth of our Savior. This final candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
    • Sometimes a white candle is placed in the middle of the wreath; this is a beautiful modern adaptation. The white candle is lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ. The colour white is for purity—because Christ is our sinless, pure Saviour.

I can definitely see how the lighting of the candles would act as a reminder of the beauty and wonder of the Christmas story. Now, you don’t need to go out and get an Advent wreath with purple candles to celebrate this season, but maybe it is a good idea to find some way to help you reflect on the significance of the birth of Christ, and what it means for us today. Small, symbolic acts are a powerful way of slowing down, taking our focus off of all that’s going on around us and placing it firmly on Christ.

My wife found this idea of a “Names of Jesus Christmas Countdown” where you can print off and cut out star-shaped ornaments that each have a different name or title for Jesus along with a Scripture reference. Each day you can hang up one of the ornaments and read the related Bible verse. This could work well as a family activity or personal devotion. We’re looking forward to sharing it with our kids this December.

Here is the link if you’d like to try it out: https://hymnsandverses.com/names-of-jesus-christmas-countdown-ornaments/

God Bless

Graham

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Bear Each Other’s Burdens

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by Calven Celliers

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2NIV)

Most Bible scholars understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated were the greatest commandments – 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30 & 31NIV)

Love God and love people, that’s the law of Christ. And what better way to express our love for both than to carry each other’s burdens? There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbour as ourselves It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.

“If we love God most, we will love others best.” (Jon Bloom)

One of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that you are not alone. God intentionally connects you with other believers and one of the reasons is so we can strengthen and encourage each other when life threatens to overwhelm.  It’s during those times that we can carry each other’s burdens by coming alongside a struggling brother or sister and helping them shoulder the weight of a trial or temptation that threatens to pull them under. I probably don’t need to tell you that the added strength and encouragement of others is often the difference between pressing on and giving up when the going gets tough.

No one should ever go through situations alone. The bottom line is we need each other. For every one of us there will come a point where you are overwhelmed by the weight of life. In those moments you will be grateful that there is someone there to help you carry that weight. This is one of the responsibilities of the body of Christ.

In our efforts to do good, we must not overlook the priority the apostle Paul sets in Galatians 6:10 – “ 10 Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” (Galatians 6:10TheMessage)

The call to believers is to take advantage of every opportunity to do good and be helpful to all people, but especially to those who are of the household of faith, your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Bearing one another’s burdens is where the rubber meets the road. It is where you don’t just talk about your faith and the love you have for God’s people. It is where you show it. Remember, when you do this, you are being Jesus’ hands and feet to those who are in need of it. There are plenty of people who are carrying burdens right now who could use your help to lift that weight off them. If you know someone in that situation, then be the one to help them through it. I can say from personal experience they will be eternally grateful.

 

God bless you,

Calven

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We Believe

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by John Doyle

Today’s devotional is a reminder of the key aspects of what *WE BELIEVE*

The God of all creation is made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in ONE! Its a reminder to us that we are made up of BODY, SOUL and SPIRIT – 3 in ONE and when we choose to place our Faith in the TRIUNE GOD by trusting Christ as Lord and Saviour we become United in God and with one another Eternally.

Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you had an extended, uninterrupted conversation with someone face-to-face? Without checking on your phone for text messages or taking a call? For many of us, we’d have to think for some time to come up with an answer. And even if you have enjoyed such a moment in recent days, you may still agree that there’s so much noise going on all around us and generally in the World today.

It’s hard to stand still when we’re all so busy. It’s difficult to stay centered when we’re pulled in so many directions. The same can be said of our spiritual lives when so many forces push for our attention and our affection. When our lives spiral out of control and we can’t make sense of the circumstances we are in, we often find ourselves longing for a solid place to stand, to find rest and make sense of it all.

In the song “We Believe,” we’re given a musical reminder of what it is that is essential to our Christian faith. When we find ourselves struggling with all that’s happening in these days of COVID 19 and the Lockdown we will come across so many that seem to have no hope. But when we remind ourselves and center on the life and death and resurrection of Jesus it greatly helps us to find HOPE, knowing and believing in the TRIUNE God that so Loves us. When we find ourselves arguing about things that don’t matter, we can remember that we are all united as children of the same Heavenly Father.

We believe in God the Father / We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit / And He’s given us new life
We believe in the Crucifixion / We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection / We believe He’s coming back again
WE BELIEVE

These words to the song below provide us with the Focus we are to have in these difficult days and reminds us the Biblical Truths of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Placing these central truths in our hearts and minds will allow us to stand strong when the uncertainty of all that is going on attempts to move us away from what truly matters. The Holy Spirit at work within us will keep us strong, so its important for us to recall what is true about God and His work in each of our lives.

The beautiful opening to the first Psalm gives us a picture of someone who remains firm despite the major problems around them at that time.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

May we all become like a tree planted firmly, rooted in the deeper truths of God and His Word. May we remember and reflect on what it is that we truly believe and carry that in our hearts as we move on in Faith despite all that is happening in the world around us. Lets centre ourselves on the core of our faith and share this with others whom God sends our way and lets demonstrate His Love and His Grace that this World that so needs in these days we are living.

In the Love of the Lord Jesus,
John and Barbara


*WE BELIEVE*

We believe in the Father, who created all that is,
And we believe the universe and all therein is His,
As our loving heavenly Father, He yearns to save all souls,
To lift us from the fall . . . We BELIEVE

We believe in Jesus the Father’s only Son,
Existed uncreated before time had begun,
A sacrifice for sin, He died then rose again,
To ransom sinful man, We BELIEVE

We believe in the Spirit who makes believers one,
Our hearts are filled with His presence, t
he Comforter has come,
The Kingdom unfolds in His plan,
Unhindered by the quarrels of man,

His Church upheld in His HAND . . . We BELIEVE

Though the earth be removed, And time be no more,
These truths are secure.
God’s word shall endure,
Whatever may change, these things are sure . . . We BELIEVE

So when the mountains are cast down into the plains,
when kingdoms all crumble, God’s Kingdom remains,
Our faith is not subject to seasons of man, With our Father we proclaim,
We believe our Lord will come as He said,
The land and the sea will give up their dead
His children will reign with Jesus as head
WE BELIEVE, WE BELIEVE.

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