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Senior Pastor of Shofar Christian Church
Here we are, with February 2019 already upon us.
If the first few weeks of your year have been anything like mine, then you too might have to dig quite deep into your memory bank to remember what your holiday was like! But I do sincerely hope that you had a refreshing time with family and friends and that your short journey into 2019 has been a blessed one thus far.
As a family, we had the privilege of spending a few days in Beaufort West for my cousin’s wedding. A couple of months before we went, our little 7-year old Kate-Rose decided that she wanted to get baptised and that she wanted to get baptised in Beaufort West (I was born there, got engaged there, and almost got married there as well). Of course, we were elated at her decision, and yet could not help to think, “We live near the beach, can’t you get baptised here?!” No, it had to be in Beaufort West.
And so a couple of desperate prayers went up to heaven. God needed some reminding that the area was in the throes of one of the worst droughts in a long time, that there was absolutely no water in the dams in Beaufort West, and that the taps were turned off every evening at 22:00 to conserve water. Also, that there was a little girl who had her heart set on getting baptised there.
Well, needless to say, the Lord came through for Kate and someone blessed us with guesthouse accommodation, complete with borehole water, a swimming pool, and everything else you need for a baptism!
So, at the height of the December summer heat and in the midst of a drought-stricken Karoo town, a mighty God answered the prayer of a heart filled with child-like faith. With her grandfather there to help me baptise her and the rest of the Titus clan looking on, that pool became a holy place, where heaven parted and I could hear Him whisper from His throne, “This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.”
What you don’t see in the picture, is that before we could get around to baptising her, Kate dove head first into the water, just after she had shared her testimony on why she wanted to take the step of obedience! I must confess that a fleeting thought of panic crossed my mind, for surely a person has to walk into the pool and then wait to be baptised? But we were way too slow for her! She was going to be obedient and she was going to have fun doing it as well!
And so the Holy Spirit challenged me in my predisposition towards religiosity. I saw in Kate’s response to Jesus’ command joyful, willing-from-the-heart obedience, an innocence in faith, and an expectation that the Father will provide whatever is needed to fulfil the steps of obedience laid out for her.
Joyful, willing obedience
The prophet Isaiah gives the nation of Israel this beautiful invitation, and I believe it is an invitation the Holy Spirit is extending to each one of us as we prayerfully venture further into this year.
Isaiah 1:18-20 (NKJV): “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
This beautiful passage invites us to once again consider the magnitude of the truth that it doesn’t matter how deep or how dark our sin and brokenness have scarred our identity, how painfully the shackles of shame have been cutting into our consciousness, or how overwhelmed we might feel by the expectations, challenges, and mountains of 2019: His blood-infused mercy is more than sufficient for anything we bring to Him. And as the power of baptism reminds us, that mercy is sufficient not just to cover our sin and brokenness with a layer of superficial spirituality, but to wash it away, to cleanse the deepest chambers of our hearts, and to awaken us to the promise of new life in Him.
In the midst of the drought of empty human promises, of teetering political foundations, and of uncertain economic climates, I believe that the Holy Spirit is wanting to remind us of the promise attached to this invitation:
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
We have a choice in every situation: the choice of obedience (trust and surrender) or rebellion (fear that is often just another manifestation of pride) against God.
As I am writing this, I believe with all my heart that God is incredibly proud of us as a church family. We are a faithful people. Each one of us can remember the day God called us, and everywhere I go I meet Shofar family who is holding onto the promises of God and to what the Lord has called them to do. Right across our church movement, from nation to nation, the Lord has blessed us with incredibly faithful men and women. Hear my heart, simply echoing His: you are His beloved son and daughter and your Father is well pleased with you! 1
Having said that, I am convinced that the Lord is wanting to add a further dimension to that legacy of obedience, namely joyful willingness as the foundation of our obedience.
I am encouraged by the conversations I am having with pastors and staff members who are chatting to me about dreams that they have. Some of them are leaving the formal Shofar employment to pursue other avenues, and my heart responds, “Go for it!” If that is what God is saying to you, if that is what the Lord is laying on your heart and if that is your calling, go for it! Pursue it! Don’t walk in fear. Don’t be afraid that you are going to disappoint us – please God, not man. Do it responsibly and wisely with due consideration to the practicalities and responsibilities involved. Make sure you are responding to a word from God and not out of fear or any other carnal motivation. And if God has spoken, then we want to bless and release you to follow that call on your life.
God does not relate to outside conformity, to an obedience that is stripped of the passionate engagement of our hearts.2 His promise is for those who are willing and obedient!
Religious obedience brings bondage and strips us of our joy. Willing, heart-engaged obedience flows from the joyful, surrendered heart of a child trusting his or her Abba. I believe God is standing poised to release a powerful dimension of joy over us as a church family. We regularly sense and experience this as we gather for corporate praise and worship and I have an expectation that we are going to see that joy multiplying and extending into every aspect of our life together. There is a strength that the Lord has made available to us, and that strength lies in our joy.3 Tap into it and drink deeply from this well.4
At a time when we are bombarded with so much negativity and when there seems to be more than enough reason to panic in the natural, I want to urge us not to neglect to come together as households of faith. Cherish the moments of corporate praise, go towards it expecting to meet with Jesus, the One who builds His church. Go there, ready to pour out your praise to the One who alone is worthy and join the band – not the band on the stage necessarily, but the band of unseen angels that are waiting to lift up their voices with us to exalt the Ancient of Days and the Lamb upon the throne.
As we sensed again last year with the release of the latest ShofarBand album, God has graced our church family with a spirit of purity in worship that is indeed a special gift from His hand. Ask the Holy Spirit this year for the grace to never settle for simply going through the motions of outward obedience, but to engage with your heart, to draw near and to give your all to Him, and expect to see Him fill you with joy for the journey that lies ahead. The nations of the world are desperately needing to hear the sound of authentic, sustaining rejoicing, even in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations.5 For our joy is not based on things or circumstances, but rooted in a Person.
The time has come for us to take the transforming joy we experience in His presence during corporate gatherings with us into our cubicles, our trains, our boardrooms and dining rooms, the operating theatre, classroom and sports fields of our everyday lives.
I want you to have an expectation that God wants to come through for us, He wants to provide for us. I’m challenging my own unbelief, my small thinking that expects just a little bit of water in drought-stricken Beaufort West and yet, all along, God had a well of abundance prepared for that little heart who had willingly and obediently responded to His Word.
Yours in His Service,
1 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11; “To the praise of the glory of His Grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6
2 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” Matthew 15:8 & Isaiah 29:13
3 “…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
4 “…in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalms 16:11
5 “…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: ‘Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever’ – and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 33:11
Senior Pastor of Shofar Christian Church
What an honour it was to sit under the ministry of Suzette Hattingh during our God Encounter held in November 2018.
It was truly a God encounter as Suzette came to stir our hearts again to walk in the fullness of our calling to pray for the nations of the world. Over and over again, the call to the nations came as a personal call to intimacy with God in the first place. It is clear that everything in Suzette’s life flowed from a personal, intimate and faithful walk with God. Her passion for Jesus and for time with Him, outside of any ministry context, was refreshing, challenging and contagious.
Her teachings were a reminder that the lifestyle of an intercessor is not the preserve of a select few very radical Christians, but the inheritance of every believer. Her emphasis on the dovetailing between entering the presence of the Lord through praise and worship and then praying out of that place was confirmation of what I believe the Lord is reminding us of – that the sound of prayer and the sound of worship go hand in hand. It truly is the blowing of the shofar.
Her session on the different, yet complementary approaches to intercession, was especially powerful. Some of us are more inclined to pray prophetic prayers, others prayers of declaration, still others prayers of warfare and still others feel more comfortable within a very clearly structured prayer environment that makes provision for praying through a predefined list of needs or objectives. The beauty of all these styles or approaches is that not one of them is more spiritual than the other nor more special than the other, but that each one is dependent upon the other to bring the full counsel and wisdom of God to the fore.
Be encouraged therefore that there is a place for each one of us, even as we differ in our praying styles and approaches. I believe that this mutual respect for differing spiritual approaches is a powerful building block that will enable us to walk together in unity as we earnestly pray for the harvest and the harvesters in these days.
As far as teaching impartation is concerned, this promises to be one of the most significant, challenging and practical opportunities we have to be aligned with one another and with the Spirit of God, so I urge all of us to make an effort to download and watch the sessions in whatever capacity you can.
Feel free to visit Suzette’s website for more information on her ministry and further equipping resources. For more information on her ministry, visit Voice in the City.
A big, colossal thank you to the entire Shofar Wellington team of elders, leaders and volunteers who initiated the weekend with Suzette and organised it with such excellence and loving service. This is truly a wonderful example of how the gifts and opportunities of one congregation can be leveraged and used to benefit the entire church family. It was hugely encouraging to see so many friends from other denominations and churches also joining us for the weekend. We are truly beginning to see the Body of Christ beginning to walk in ever-increasing unity and mutual service.
It is time for us to gather to pray. It is time for us to dare to believe that our prayers are answered and it is time to believe that God can still do impossible things when we cry out to Him.
See you in the throne room.
Four years ago, as the number of young families in Shofar grew, a desire to develop a praise and worship resource for children was birthed. The worship ministry started adapting existing songs from Shofarband to create a product that could be used both at home and at children’s church for praise and worship.
Seven songs were reworked to be more child-friendly, without compromising on the truth. Production began in 2014 when Shofar’s global theme was ‘The Harvest’. Now, it will be released in the year where the church’s focus is ‘The Sound of the Harvest’, with a strong focus on reaching the nations. In the accompanying videos, kids fly around the world in a space ship. Each song has a different “destination”, representing the sound of a specific country, such as Argentina, Germany or China.
“The audio is an amazing tool for worship in the car or at home,” says James Pringle, worship pastor and father of two. “I’m really happy with how it came out.”
Noah’s ark. Abraham’s faith. Joseph’s dreams. Joshua, Deborah and Gideon’s courage. These larger-than-life figures’ stories come alive in Alida Bornman’s children’s book Heroes of the Bible, which is now going for its second print after its release last year.
Vividly illustrated by Lenka Cronjé, the book chronicles the stories of true heroes who trusted in God and led courageously.
Alida, a children’s church champion and mother of three, pastors the Shofar Worcester congregation together with her husband, Rick. A friend asked her to write down the way she tells Bible stories to her children and put it in book form to help other parents do the same. And so Heroes of the Bible was born, with a fresh new approach that makes these stories relevant to today’s children.
The primary purpose is to facilitate Holy Spirit-led Bible study in families, assisting parents in leaving a spiritual legacy for their children.
“With busy schedules and demanding lives, as parents we often neglect the spiritual journey we are supposed to walk with our children,” she says. “I’ve found it’s difficult for us to disciple our children.”
Considering the future challenges that the next generation will face, Alida believes it will be of utmost importance for children to be able to stand up in society and proclaim Christ as Lord of their lives. “Therefore it’s so important for us to invest enough time and energy to build them up spiritually.”
Heroes of the Bible is a tool for parents on this journey – to make Scripture real to their children and establish eternal truths in their hearts.
Notes in the text help parents have honest conversations with their children around topics such as obedience, trusting God and waiting for the fulfilment of His promises, as well as how these concepts play out practically in daily life. The lessons will challenge both parents and children: Can you give something precious away just as Abram gave Lot the best land? And how does this make you feel?
This approach takes these stories from the pages of the Bible and brings them into the child’s world. What did it look inside the ark? What did it smell and sound? Families are invited to pause and reflect on the small details that reveal God’s character, also laying a foundation for the children’s own Bible study as they grow up.
The book doesn’t shy away from difficult passages or skim over important details but makes them understandable. Alida encourages parents to not only share their good experiences with their children but to be real about the challenges they have faced and how following Christ costs something.
Through these conversations, parents will also gain an understanding of how their children experience God and His presence in their lives. Throughout the book, families are encouraged to pray together.
“Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and allow Him to be the facilitator of the beautiful conversation happening between a child and a parent,” she says.
You are not a mistake. God created you for an assignment only you can fulfill – to impact those around you with His love and goodness.
In order to walk in the fullness of what God has called you to do, you need to be free from bondage and shame, fears, offences and lies. To be victorious, content and effective in the sphere God has placed you in. To grow in influence and leave a legacy. To make your voice heard. This is Sonika Kruger’s heart behind Free To Be – to lead other women on the journey from victim to victor in Christ and step into the fullness of their destiny, as she has experienced in her own life.
“The book is about releasing hope. If God could do these things for me, then He will do it for you.”
Sonika pastors the Shofar East London congregation together with her husband, André, but before she could step into that role, there were many giants to conquer. And even then, the promised land still had some villains that tried to throw her off course.
“Originally, my husband inspired me to write, as he has always believed in me and encouraged me to dream bigger; to look at myself through God’s eyes,” says Sonika. “Also, Psalm 102:18 (NLT) says: ‘Let this be recorded for future generations so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.’ God has done incredible things in my life and I want other people to glorify Him when they hear my stories. But how will they glorify Him if I’m not there to tell these stories anymore? If it’s recorded, then future generations can read it and glorify God.”
Throughout the book, she shares honest and deeply personal stories – the battles she has fought and the trials she has faced, and how Jesus through His Holy Spirit brought the breakthrough. She also documents her personal testimonies of salvation, Holy Spirit-infilling and water baptism as three crucial keys to pursuing your destiny.
With 30 short sections written in simple English, the format can be used for personal daily devotions, home or Bible study group discussions, or in a discipleship relationship.
It’s written for women of all ages and walks of life. “I’ve heard testimonies from women in traditional churches in their sixties who thoroughly enjoyed the book. And then there’s a young girl in Grade 8 who loved it and read it three times.”
In October last year, a team from the worship ministry was invited to take Shofar’s vision of reaching the nations to New Delhi, where they hosted India Must Worship – a workshop and retreat for those with a heart for worship from different churches and denominations.
In John 4:24 (NKJV) Jesus said to the woman at the well: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Following a word that “the nations must worship”, the Spirit | Truth School of Worship was started in 2015 and has since been presented across South Africa, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Namibia and now also India.
“Our focus is on worship discipleship,” says Richard Wade, pastor of Shofar Franschhoek and a worship ministry leader. “Our heart is to worship together with churches in those nations, discuss issues related to worship discipleship with local worship leaders and praise teams, and learn from each other.”
The program includes teaching on topics such as the theology of worship, songwriting, prophetic dance and worship, music theory and recording. Students attend weekend retreats and complete the remaining sessions online on the Shofar courses site.
There are also designated times of free worship – unscripted, open-ended worship sessions where they really trust for a connection with God.
“We see local worship leaders and band members set free in their worship expression following teachings and times of impartation and praying for them.”
Shofar’s Ministry Training Program (MTP) is an established finishing course to equip leaders for pastoral training and expose them to practical ministry in order to plant churches.
But the perception of ‘skills development’ or ‘learning’ does not do MTP justice, according to Kennith Muller, pastor at Shofar Klerksdorp from the MTP class of 2018.
“Both the testimonies of the teachers in the sessions and those of the fellow brothers and sisters in Christ touched me deeply. It stirred my faith in God for my journey in ministry. Although some sessions would be scheduled for a specific topic/theme, the teacher would be flexible enough to listen to the Holy Spirit and teach the theme accordingly.This is also where you learn to work with ‘nations and generations’ you would not normally be exposed to. We arrived there on the first day as strangers: various people from various places; but we left as family. Understanding different contexts and what God is doing in each context also influences one’s faith. Something as simple as quickly having lunch together was a learning experience – of language, etiquette, love and acceptance. Everybody learns and learns to love, just like Jesus. Through community and fellowship, God came to heal and restore what no course, skill, Encounter or sermon could.”