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Help! I Want to Read the Bible  | Ministering God’s Word to yourself

Help! I Want to Read the Bible | Ministering God’s Word to yourself

by Lieschen Venter

When we think of cross-cultural ministry, we normally think of how we are to translate the Gospel for some foreign tribe in a far-away land. But have you ever considered that you might need to minister cross-culturally to yourself? We grow easily familiar with the Bible and we forget what a radically different, deeply ancient, and culturally foreign text we in fact hold before us. The truths the Bible hold are of course universal and timeless, but equipping ourselves to grasp them correctly is not such a trivial matter.

Thankfully, we live in the peak of the information age and rich supporting resources have never been easier to access. From books to workshops, seminars, societies, schools, online courses, podcasts and YouTube channels, there are so many tools for assisting us to understand the truth and the most beautiful proclamation ever made.

Of course the Holy Spirit is our most precious resource by far. We begin with and maintain an attitude of prayer as we go to the Author of the Book before we go to the Book. The Bible is not men’s truth, but God’s special revelation of Truth. We must always begin by conversing with the Author, asking Him to open the eyes of our heart to see, understand and illuminate His supernatural “love letter” to us.

After prayer, when it comes to studying Scripture, it is imperative for the Christian to ensure that he can deal with it rightly. The many modern translations today present the Bible to us in such natural modern language that we often think we can read it in much the same way as we would a novel stacked on the nightstand. What we find instead is that we read poorly, shallowly, and allow our minds to offer possible interpretations according to our own pet doctrines instead of seeking what the text is actually saying.

The best place to begin is to ensure that you are reading from a good translation. Some translations are interpretations where the main idea of each sentence is reproduced from Hebrew or Greek into English. These types of translations are great for casual reading. I like to read from the New International Version (NIV). Other translations are literal interpretations where one word at a time is reproduced into English. These types of translations are great for study and research. I like to study from the English Standard Version (ESV).

A good translation then pairs best with a good commentary. The commentary should ensure that you understand first the context of the Bible book that you are reading, who its original recipients were, who the author was, what the purpose of the book is, and then what we as modern readers can take from it. Any reading that puts modern day application to your life before any of the other elements will surely cause you to distil the wrong meaning from the text. NT Wright’s For Everyone Bible Study Guides are an excellent companion as well as the highly recommended New Bible Commentary edited by Wenham et. al. I enjoy David Pawson’s Unlocking the Bible as a primer before I start reading any specific Bible book and if you want to watch the original teachings from which the book was transcribed, they are available free on YouTube here.

As you are reading the different Bible books through in their context, you might find a specific topic that you are wondering about. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is an excellent introduction to our Biblical doctrines. For short, powerful answers to difficult questions, I highly recommend the website, gotquestions.org. Some modern authors I consider essential for Christian reading include R.C. SproulTim KellerGordan FeeRichard BauckhamDarrell Bock, and JI Packer.

Even seemingly dead hours can be used to feast on God’s truths. I always look forward to long roadtrips or runs so that I can listen to the wide variety of quality podcasts available. Some of my favourites are Theology UnpluggedWhite Horse Inn, Sproul’s Renewing Your MindMortification of Spin, and Ask Pastor John (Piper). YouTube too has some binge-worthy offerings with which to fill some empty hours. The Bible Project is a walk-through of the narrative of the Bible book-by-book and theme-by-theme, and beautifully illustrated, while Ryan Reeve’s Early and Medieval Church History will give great context for our ecclesiology.

I extend to you the challenge of diligently using the astounding amount of resources available to us to sincerely equip yourself. In so doing you will first find all that is true, and it will give you foundation. As you go deeper you will then find that the truth is good, and it will give you hope. And as you go deeper still, you will find that the goodness is beautiful, and it will give you joy. Do not stop digging until you have beheld the beautiful, for out of this discovery will come your deepest worship.

They Come In When We Go Out – Why Evangelism is More Relational than You Think

They Come In When We Go Out – Why Evangelism is More Relational than You Think

by Werner Joubert
Pastor of Shofar Secunda

A while back, I took a few leaders from our church on a camp to reflect on the year and learn some lessons for the future. My favourite session was one in which we considered the people who had come to our church and accepted Jesus as Saviour for the first time.

We asked ourselves some crucial questions: Why do people come to our church? What was their journey to salvation? As we celebrated the stories of each person, we discovered some very insightful patterns of evangelism in our church. I would like to share the “3 Ps” we discovered.

1. Evangelism is Progressive

We discovered that, when it came to first-time salvations, in almost every example there was a journey with someone in church before that person accepted Christ as their Saviour or came to church. Christians who came from other churches would just walk into a church meeting. Christians who moved to our town from other places would also just walk in through the front door. But those who did not know Jesus would not just walk into church. Because of this, believers had to walk out of their own worlds to make a life-changing connection.

Often a friendship starts somewhere outside of church. In our town, some of the hotspots were places of work, neighbourhoods, sports clubs, etc. We encourage believers to position themselves in such a way that they make friends who do not know Jesus.

It is naïve to believe that random people just walk into church meetings. There’s a story behind every person who comes to Christ, and that story often involves a caring believer who is praying and building a progressive relationship with the individual. As we discovered the stories of those who come to church, it became clear that this journey often starts in the community, travels through the dining room, and only then would people have the trust and faith to visit church.

How well are the people in our churches trained to journey to the “outside” and connect with the lost in the world? If we are more intentional about this, surely a greater harvest awaits (John 17:14-18).

2. Evangelism is Prophetic

What I mean by prophetic, is the ability to look at another human with “redemptive eyes”: the eyes of the Spirit. Jesus calls Peter “solid” when soon afterward he stumbled (Matthew 16:18). In Luke, Jesus forgives a sinful woman and takes her with Him on a missionary journey (Luke 7:36-8:2). In this example, the Pharisees were not able to look with redemptive vision. But Jesus sees the spiritual potential, while still unformed. He looks with prophetic vision.

How do we see people? If we look at a person, do we only see their sin? People are far more likely to open up more to a supportive and hopeful friend. As we walk beyond the walls of church, we might become overwhelmed by the vastness and the reality of sin. Yet, the hope of salvation in Christ should be a fresh breeze of hope that invites unbelievers closer to the cross.

We discovered that unchurched people often came to church and accepted Jesus as Saviour because there was a believer who inspired and encouraged them. When we look with the eyes of Jesus, we look at sinners through a hope-filled lens. Don’t let the sin in the person scare you. Go near and engage.

3. Partnership Evangelism

Another interesting pattern we discovered is that it is much more a “team sport” than we thought. A person will meet someone at the gym, and become friends. But, only after they come for dinner and get introduced to other believers, do they come to church. Over and over we saw this happen.

God uses the love we have for one another as a testimony to the world (John 13:35). We need to bring unbelieving friends onto platforms where they can experience this. Rarely will the unchurched just show up at church. We need to use our homes and other public platforms. This is how Jesus and his disciples ministered to the tax collectors and the sinners (Matthew 9:10).

Many believers in church are intimidated by the task of reaching people for Christ. This is because they feel overwhelmed with the task. We must encourage them to become connectors and start somewhere. If you can invite someone, you can reach people for Jesus. I had a friend at the rugby club who accepted Jesus. He was a young believer, but had many unsaved friends. I was confident as an evangelist but knew no one in town. So we worked together. He invited them, and I had the privilege to minister to strangers who became friends. Evangelism involves partnership. We are the body.

These are just a few thoughts on evangelism and by no means address evangelism as a doctrine. I hope this helps someone and changes at least one life.

Why Worship?

Why Worship?

by Tamsyn Teppler
Shofar HQ Music Coordinator

Shofar Institute is currently in the process of revising the First Year Bible School modules. So we asked some of our contributors to share a bit about the modules they are working on.

One of the first year modules being revised is Praise & Worship 101 – a module I am particularly excited about. I had had many plans during university, but worship was not one of them. There had been no intention, nor desire, to be at all involved in worship ministry. But through His gentle but frequent prompting, God led me first into the Praise Team in Stellenbosch, then into a unique worship internship, and finally into a job with positions in Shofar Institute and, recently, as HQ Music coordinator. Very little in life has caused me to wrestle with God as much as involvement in worship has. But its special fusion of the arts, people, and the Word, has allowed me to pursue the things I believe God has placed in my heart. Next to worship, one of these things is a passion to see the Word properly handled, truly loved, and wholly pursued. To then be involved as a contributor to a Bible School module, in which my loves for His Word and His worship are united, is an immense privilege.

Subsequently, the revised module is an amalgamation of two essential components: a theology of worship and a practical view of worship. It’s not only important to understand how to worship and what it looks like, but to thoroughly know why and, most importantly, Who we worship. Due to our humanity, we will all inevitably worship something. And while that aspect of our makeup can so easily be perceived as pure weakness, depravity, or something to avoid, it’s important to remember that that very capacity to worship is first and foremost God-given. In His goodness and with all of His perfect knowledge, He still saw fit to gift us with this capacity. When I was a first year Bible School student, I was incredibly scared of worship, but this module was empowering for me. Worship, for many of us, can so easily be a place where the enemy attempts to thwart this gift and to steal from us – whether it be our authority, our confidence, our hope, our legitimacy, or our treasured positions as sons and daughters. Our aim and heart for the module, therefore, is to equip students with a right understanding, with a godly confidence to worship and serve Him creatively, with a Scriptural foundation, and with the tools to not only grow personally in this area, but also to disciple and encourage others.

My own relationship with worship began as a young teenager while reading the story of Job. I was in awe of Job’s response to suffering and pain. Job 1:20-21 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Lord took and yet He was still worthy. I got stuck on that passage for weeks. But then I began to see this same phenomenon reoccur throughout Scripture. From the ruins of Jerusalem in Lamentations to the throne room in Revelation, worship was always the proper and right response (Lamentations 3:19-24; Revelation 4:1-11, 5:1-14, 7:9-12). What is worship that it could be counted as a proper response to suffering and joy alike? How worthy was this God to whom even the dying poured out their praise?

Something that has driven us during this process is a challenging exposition of John 4’s woman at the well given us by Pastor Hennie Swart during School of Worship. This woman was a Samaritan, a group of people considered to be inferior by the Jewish people because of their ‘incomplete’ understanding and belief in God and His Word. With this view in mind, we, too, are prone to look down upon the Samaritan – a people who did not believe the Word in its totality. This is unconscionable to us. This is wrong to us. And yet, are we so different to the Samaritans? Are we not guilty of not having read our Bibles from start to finish? Are we not guilty of doings and thoughts that are contrary to Scripture? Are we then not also guilty of not receiving the Word in its totality? In many ways we are, in fact, just like the Samaritans. It is this that spurs me on to understand and to teach what Biblical worship is. It is this that causes me to pursue being that which God so clearly says He desires: worshippers in Spirit and in truth.

According to Scripture in its totality then, if all things are from Him, through Him and for Him (see Romans 11:36), can there ever be a time we do not owe God worship? Referring to 1 Corinthians 10:31, A.W Tozer once said: “Paul’s exhortation to ‘do all to the glory of God’ is more than pious idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts that perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God, then it becomes difficult to conceive of one that cannot.” If there is no area of life in which worship is not due, if there is no time at which God is unworthy, and if God’s desire for worshippers in Spirit and in truth has been made clear to us, is it not then of extreme importance to know about worship?

As Dr Corné Bekker once asked us, what is communion if not just dinner made scared? Fragrant and anointing oils if not cultural processes in Bible times made sacred? These are ordinary things, integral parts of our lives that have been consecrated and brought as worship. Worship is not a lofty thing attainable by only the great. It is not a pursuit reserved for the likes of the psalmist David or for the disciples. It is not something far removed from the everyday life. We all have received the call to be worshippers. We all are subject to the same blood of Christ that has made us whole and able to worship at all. Whether it be eating or drinking, the mundane and the routine, can we sanctify the ordinary? Or rather, are we willing to make the ordinary sacred?

So why worship? Philippians 2:5-11 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

He is the reason; the One who created worship, the One to whom all worship is due.

Parenting in the Last Days

Parenting in the Last Days

by Alida Bornman
Children’s Ministry champion

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19

There is no doubt that the enemy is coming for our children and that he is coming hard and fast. They are bombarded with:

  • Broken families
  • Media: advertisements, TV and social media
  • A selfish generation: people who lack respect, honour and loyalty
  • Attack on institutions: such as marriage and church

Therefore I believe, as every year comes, we as parents should be more focused in prayer, more equipped and trained to disciple the next generation to STAND. The promise clearly states that the Spirit of the Lord will raise the standard. I find it hard to let go of my control over my children and allow the Holy Spirit to work in them. I need to move to a new level of faith where, like Abraham and Hannah, I surrender my offspring to Him completely. The example we set, as parents and adults in our communities, should be one of taking up our cross daily with joy, having fellowship with God’s Spirit! One of the roaring plans the enemy has is to lead our children to a religious spirit where they will not find Jesus and life when the time comes for them to fly from our nests.

In Shofar’s Children’s Ministry we want to partner with parents in this gigantic task of discipling their children. We want to help parents by equipping them, teaching them and their children, praying for their families and planting seeds into their children’s lives when we serve them on a Sunday.

Our global theme for the year, Being One, is crucial for children as well. They need to know that we belong to God’s Kingdom and His church. We are family, we are one. We belong.

In our selfish narcissistic society children should be taught how to serve. How to look outward. How to give. How to wait. How to honour. This is the focus of our prayers and planning for the first part of this year: so that they can be the feet of Jesus, no matter what their age.

Sons and Daughters in the House: Serving as an expression of acceptance

Sons and Daughters in the House: Serving as an expression of acceptance

by Tosca Ferndale
Volunteer Coordinator, Shofar Stellenbosch

February was Activate Month – a month in which our churches presented the various opportunities for congregation members to get involved in ministries and services. As we come to the end of the month, we asked Tosca to share about why we serve in church.

All who desire to serve God share the need to lay everything they have at the altar to one day hear these words: “Well done my good and faithful servant”. However, we can so easily get caught up in the Father’s affirmation that we forget to bask in the Father’s acceptance.

I have always been someone who has had a desire to serve. When I got saved, I found complete satisfaction in channelling all of my serving energy towards the Lord. However, for a long time I served as a slave. I lived in fear that the Lord would return and I would be found to be wicked and unfaithful; to be the servant who squandered the gifts the Lord had given them. I thus threw my gifts frantically and fearfully at the altar. Running and running and running – hoping to just make it over the finish line and receive my eternal reward of being called a good and faithful servant.

However, this is not the reward. Jesus is our eternal and everlasting reward. Communion with the Father through Jesus Christ is the gift we received when we became sons and daughters. I realised this one morning when I was crying in my car, waiting for intercession to start. As I was breaking down before the Lord, I shared my heart concerning serving with Him for what felt like the first time. I was burnt out, I was run down. I feared disappointing Him. I felt like an instrument that was only valued for what function it could fulfil in the Kingdom. A function I needed to prove, lest I be discarded. It was in this moment that the Lord started walking a road of sonship with me. (As a side note, please remember that both sons and daughters are included under the term ‘sonship’.) The Lord started showing me how I am first a daughter in His house, and as an expression of this sonship, of this acceptance, I serve.

Sons vs. Slaves

The matter of sonship is one that resonates so deeply with the modern Christian. With so many options of where to serve and things to do, it is often hard to sift through the noise and understand that you must first BE. We are inclined to DO to gain the necessary acceptance and/or membership into the house. In addition, we often fear that if we do not serve, we will be discarded – be found unworthy of Him. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10, we see that He first called the twelve disciples to Him. Thereafter He gave them authority and then instruction on how to go out. He calls us first to be with Him before He charges us to do anything.

In Romans 8: 14-16 we read, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”. The Spirit bearing witness to our identity as children of God was never on condition that we serve. On the contrary, we serve as an expression of our sonship. We serve because we are sons/daughters, not to become sons/daughters. We are free from our bondage to slavery and fear.

I often use the example of a natural family to illustrate this point. You assume responsibility of your natural house because you are a son/daughter in the house. You wash dishes, clean your room, lend a hand when guests are over, run errands for your mother or father. You take ownership of your home because it is just that, YOURS.

The same goes for the house of God. Once you have become a son/daughter, you take ownership of your home and serving naturally flows from this place. You will put your hand to the plough where you see fit. But if you are orphaned you will assume the position of a slave. You will be subject to the master, taking ownership only of that which you are commanded to do. Slaves do what they are paid/obliged to do. Their interest is in their wages/acceptance/reward. A son’s interest lies in the house and the will of their father.

A call to serve

That said, when you are planted in your identity as a son in the house, there remains a challenge to not serve out of performance, desiring acceptance. The need is indeed great and the labourers are indeed few. However, in understanding your position, you also need to understand your place in the house. We are the body and we cannot all do everything. The reality is that church often runs on a small percentage of volunteers whose hearts are to serve. We all know that one member who is on the worship team, makes coffee, intercedes, does the announcements, facilitates ministry and sets down after the service. Burnout is a reality many people have experienced and to avoid this we need to respond to the call to serve in prayerful obedience.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you are an ear – don’t try to be an arm. I often tell volunteers – don’t volunteer at Children’s Church if you dislike children. The Kingdom will come in that ministry without your disgruntled offering. What greater pleasure is there than to enquire from your Designer what He would have you do?

When considering where to serve, bring the decision to the Lord. Pray concerning where to put your hand to the plough.

Please note: if your district and therefore your Small Group is on ushering duty – you do not need to pray about whether you should usher or not. Some service is based on the fact that you are planted in your church, and you are necessary for that function to be fulfilled.

Not every good thing is a thing God is calling you to. The Lord doesn’t ask us simply to be good people, but to be obedient people. Thus, when considering taking on ministries in church, seek the Lord’s heart. Prayerfully consider where to serve and where to build. Then, being obedient to His Word and voice in your life, serve. Get in touch with someone at your church office who can point you in the right direction. Get some accountability around this area. Learn how to draw healthy boundaries in which you can freely serve the Lord.

This is wonderful. But remember that you are first a son/daughter in the house. Your acceptance is not dependent on your serving. On the contrary, your serving is an expression of your acceptance. Prayerfully consider each ministry and ask the Lord where He would have you serve in the coming season. Let us not see serving as a duty, but as alabaster boxes we break, willingly, at the Lord’s feet.

Shofar Institute: Short Courses 2017

Shofar Institute: Short Courses 2017

By Sucelle Olivier & Tamsyn Teppler

We are very excited for this year’s four upcoming Short Courses. Each course will comprise of four days’ worth of teaching by reputable speakers. The first of these courses, A Place at the Table: Social Conflict in the Gospel of Luke, will take place from the 27th of February to the 2nd of March. It will address pressing social needs in South Africa today, elevate the social relevance of communion, and seek to navigate the ideological differences between social groups. In addition, the course will seek to help attendees develop critical thinking and Bible interpretation skills.

Thereafter, we look forward to an exciting course structured around Missiology, from 24-27 April. For those studying their Theology Honours through SATS, this course, as well as that of Old Testament Studies, will serve as enrichment towards those relevant modules. Our third course, Discipleship: From Self-Consciousness to Self-Awareness, will take place from 10-13 July. Finally, the Old Testament Studies Short Course will be hosted by Shofar Johannesburg from 4-7 September, in order to accommodate our northern congregations as well.

We hope through these courses to help equip attendees to be, as Pastor Hennie Swart often says, fruitful for the times and faithful to the text, fully living out our theme for this coming year: Being one – the mind, heart, hands, and feet of Christ.

Everyone has a theology – what is yours?