SBC News

Thoughts on Christmas 2016

christmas jesus christ bible verseAs we cross the threshold of the festive season, there is an apparent sense of excitement in the air; schools have closed, giving way to the holiday; shopping centres don their halls with an array of colours; homes are filled with wonderful aromas as food takes on a nostalgic theme. The Christmas season has a way of bringing about change. The Church, however, is not immune to its effects.

The question which inevitably arises is, “How should the Church respond to this cultural phenomenon?”

As we begin to seek answers, we must remember that Scripture does allow for believers to have differing opinions on the importance and significance of different days. Romans 14:5-6 affirms, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” Thus, as we near our application of Christmas Day let us understand that Christians will have differing attitudes toward it. But these differing attitudes are not sinful.

However, this year (2016) presents itself with another challenge, Christmas falls on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). Historically, if you’ve attended a Church which has a Christmas service, the Christmas service would have been much earlier than the normal service to allow time to return home and make the final preparations for family and friends. Can such an approach now be imported to the Lord’s Day?

Below we seek to highlight those considerations we believe every Christian, and local church, must consider in determining their answer to this question:

1. It is Primarily the Lord’s Day

As one reads the New Testament, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is a momentous and monumental event. It shifted the entire reality of the disciples, initially, but also all those who would later have faith in Christ. As a result, the early Christians deliberately chose to meet on the first day of the week to honour the Lord (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:2). We do understand that this day therefore is regulated by God’s Word as a day to be set aside for corporate worship and enjoyment of our Eternal Sabbath Rest – Christ Jesus who became flesh.

As we approach the Lord’s Day on the 25th, we must remember that it is first and foremost, not Christmas day or Christmas morning, but the Lord’s Day.

2. Its Christmas Day

As we approach such a sensitive topic, it’s important that we do so being informed.

During the reign of Roman emperor Aurelian (270-275 AD), a common festival, “The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” was inaugurated to celebrate the sun god at the winter solstice. However, it was during the reign of Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD), the first emperor to believe in Christ, that he assimilated the feast as a commemoration of Christ’s incarnation. He used Malachi 4:2, “Sun of righteousness,” as a motivation for the shift. It was only in 354AD, a good 3 centuries after Christ and the death of all the apostles that Christmas first appeared on the Church’s chronological calendar.

While such a stance, in the midst of Roman paganism, is commendable for Emperor Constantine; we must remember that it is, at the end of the day, a social construct and not a regulative principled Scriptural means of worship.

3. The Incarnation is Applicable

Since Christmas is the social construct that remembers the Incarnation, our application of it can be firmly rooted in its theology. While the common sentiment in many Churches will be the pressure to accommodate various commitments, let’s remember again Philippians 2:1-4 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The imperative here a doxological (praise to God) in nature, “complete my joy.” It’s about joy, happiness, merriness, not a mere set of strict theological prose. We do this by being of the same mind (agreement) and having the same love (living in light of the agreement). Such joy, Paul argues, flows from selflessness in the service and regard of others as you count their needs above your own.

Paul then presents the incarnation, at length, as a reason for why the Church ought to present themselves this way.

Unfortunately, this has simply meant dropping a teddy in an orphan trolley for many people, but Paul is speaking about the Church here. The pressure that is placed on churches to cancel services, or even change service times runs contrary to the thrust of Christ’s redemptive work.

4. How do we at SBC apply this?

As elders we acknowledge that many of these truths may be unfamiliar and even new to some of you. We also acknowledge the evangelistic opportunity this day presents to us. To be stringent now, would be unwise and unhelpful.

However, we are committed to the Lord’s Day. This is not a day that may be wavered for anything other than the Lord to take precedence. He is preeminent, not you or I. Thus we have agreed to hold two morning services on the 25th of December.

The first service will be held at 8:30-9:30 and the second service will be from 10:00-11:00. We will also still close the Lord’s Day with our evening service from 17:30-18:30.

While not ideal, such an undertaking may be prudent at this point in time. Christ is worthy.

Pastor's Pen - Jul /Aug 2016

Dear Beloved Church Family

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Gods GraceAmidst all the change and happenings around us recently there is one thing that remains constant and steadfast – the love of the Lord toward those who trust in Him. He sustains us, as His people, in His grace and mercy that He has shown to us through Christ Jesus our Lord. All of this is for the display of His glory in and through us. What amazing grace!

When we consider who we were in our sin – separated from Christ, isolated from the community of God’s people, and foreigners to all the Lord’s covenant promises – we truly had no hope and were without God in this world (Ephesians 2:12).

But now Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest, offering the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sin – Himself, has brought us near to God. He has made us one new man together in His Church. He has made peace for us – peace with God and peace amongst us as His people, bringing us together from diverse cultures and backgrounds. He has killed the hostility that our sin had caused. All praise to His Glorious Name!

And so, through Christ, we all have access to the Father that we may draw near to Him together in prayerfulness and intercession, lifting up holy hands to the Lord without anger or quarrelling. We are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s family. We are established on the truth of the Faith, God’s Word, that has once for all been delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Jesus Christ holds us together and keeps us in the steadfast love of the Father till the end. What a great hope that we have in the love of God and our salvation (1 John 2:28-3:3). What an amazing heritage that we share in Christ’s righteousness (1 John 3:4-10). Let us remain steadfast with one love, having the same heart in Christ (1 John 3:11-18).

Let us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit given to each of us, work together in Christ to be a dwelling place for God in Springs community. May we increasingly see the Lord’s kingdom come amongst us and may He be pleased to add to our number and grow us into a holy temple in the Lord.

Let us pray earnestly with and for one another. Let us intercede for our community. Let us share the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us converse the worth of Christ.

Your brother and fellow minister in the Gospel
Michael Lear

Pastor's Pen - May / Jun 2016

Beloved Church Family,

Fellowship 3The past two months seem to have gone by so quickly. For ourselves as the Lear family we have already felt so much a part of the Springs Baptist Church Community. It has been our great privilege to have come to know many of you in these couple of months. We thank our God for the fellowship of the saints and the encouragement of corporate love amongst those who are being saved. It is our prayer that our fellowship may continue to grow in both quality; as we grow closer to one another, and in quantity; as the Lord would be pleased to add to our number those who would become obedient to the Faith that has once for all been delivered to us in the Scriptures.

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:3-4 that the immediate outcome of the proclamation of the Incarnate Word of Life (our Lord Jesus Christ) is fellowship with one another, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, Himself. The ultimate result of this is a fullness of joy. Paul urges the Ephesian church to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is done by keeping a close watch on their attitudes and conduct in fellowship with one another. It is Christ that has established this unity and bond of fellowship, but we are to be fervent to continue steadfastly in giving ourselves to maintaining this unity – that the world may know that we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).

There are many opportunities to enjoy fellowship with one another throughout the week, and especially on the Lord’s Day in which we are provided the opportunity to give ourselves more freely to one another in worship of our God. Let us utilise these opportunities to gather together and to consider how we may stir one another up, encouraging one another to greater love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). Let us make ourselves available to one another as the Body of Christ. Let us personally practice hospitality in having one another in our homes.

I know in my Christian life I need help, and I need accountability with brothers and sisters in the Faith. We have truly been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and one of those blessings is the fellowship of our local church. Let us give ourselves to one another in love for the One who brings us together from such diverse backgrounds – across cultures, demographics, age groups... – we have been created in Christ Jesus our Lord to be one new man (Ephesians 2:15). Let us walk in the light that we may have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanse us from all sin.

...to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)

Yours in Christ
Michael Lear

Pastor's Pen - Mar / Apr 2016

Beloved Church Family,

Word of GodThe Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-13 that our Sovereign Lord and Good Shepherd of our souls gave to us, His Beloved Church; apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip each one of us (saints) for works of ministry, building up the corporate body of Christ (His Church - us), until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...”.

Paul Tripp, in his book “Dangerous Calling” identifies that this passage clearly has an “already-not yet” structure. As believers we have each been given the gift of redeeming grace. Each of us has the indwelling Holy Spirit. We all carry with us the full, final, authoritative and inerrant illumined Word of God. But none of us; not either of our prestigious pastors, neither of our esteemed elders, nor any one of our distinguished deacons have yet attained to a full maturity in the likeness of Christ. We have not yet prevailed in the war with our deceptive hearts. We live and we minister right here in this middle phase of already but not yet. We all aspire, and exercise ourselves toward the unity, knowledge, maturity and fullness of Christ. But it is only obtainable as we together minster in an “everybody-all-the-time” ministry.

As a family we are so excited to have become a part of the Body of Christ here at Springs. We are so looking forward to ministering to, amongst and with you as a complete body of Christ, where we all use our gifts, talents and abilities for the glory of God, the edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the salvation, not just of ourselves, but of those who would hear our message too.

May this next season of our ministry together be a season of growth as we grow together in our knowledge of our Lord, and also of one another, that we may with greater sincerity stir one another up to greater love and good deeds.

Soli Deo Gloria

Your partner and fellow minister in Christ
Michael Lear

 

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

It’s so easy to doubt the faithful grace of God in our lives. Almost every Believer I know is familiar with what it means to pray but fewer, including myself, don’t really pray believing that what we ask will be accomplished. Much like the early Church in Acts 12, praying for Peter to be released from prison, we hope for answers to prayer but are slow to believe when those answers arrive. Jesus articulated the human condition well when he described us as having little faith (Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). This has been true of me for the past few months and particularly this very morning.

While today may have started off as just any other Friday morning, preparing for Beavers and Exodus, it ended off being anything but routine. While searching the web for some games I received a rather strange phone call. After exchanging the usual greetings, the man on the other end of the line (Briers) indicated that he had a package that needed to be dropped off with the Church. I must confess that my skepticism drove me to think the worst, especially since he refused to tell what the package was or who it was from.

Meeting Briers outside my home and realising he had no brown parcel, typical of my usual takealot packages, made me somewhat worried and making a phone call to his partner made me rather anxious.

IMG 1109Turning to me Briers announces, “There it is.” In my ignorance, and confusion, I asked, “Where what is?” It was then that Briers pointed out a brand new combi that an anonymous individual had sponsored to the Church.

Its in moments like these, no matter how composed one thinks they may be, that all barriers of pride fall to the ground. Like the Church in Acts 12, I couldn’t believe that what we had been praying for was now standing outside my gate. We are so undeserving of God’s grace, yet He freely pours out His riches to those who deserve judgement. Praise be to Christ Jesus who shed His blood that we might be called sons and daughters of God.

We want to thank all those who have been so generous to the Church.

Firstly, the Church recognises that this wonderful gift has only been possible through and provided by our wonderful God. As a good and perfect Father, He knows the needs and has the resources to provide for His children.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift (2 Cor. 9:15).

Secondly, we want to express our deepest thanks and gratitude to the anonymous sponsor of this wonderful vehicle. We wish we could do this in person, but I hope that this letter somehow finds its way to you. While we do not know who you are, we have prayed and thanked God for you.

Thirdly, we want to thank Groma Taxi Centre for all your help and assistance with the administration of the vehicle. Briers and KG, thank you for your support and kindness.

Finally, we want to thank Swiftair International for your contribution and support. You were the first to support the Church since this endeavour was taken up. Thank you for your encouragement along this road, I think we would have given up very early on if it wasn’t for you.

To the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen! (1 Tim. 1:17)

Conversing the Worth of Christ
Parmesh Venkatasami
On behalf of Springs Baptist Church

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