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December 2010

Theme: Relationships in times of revival
‘They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.’ Acts 15:39-41
One of the most difficult things I have had to face in the pastoral ministry was the need to discipline a fellow Elder who was also a close friend. There was no doubt in my mind that he had seriously offended fellow believers and had acted in a way that was not acceptable as an Elder. He disagreed with me and our fellow Elders and refused to apologise and make amends. We had to ask him to step down and this made him bitter and angry. I tried to continue to be his friend but it was terribly hard for both of us. Choices between ministry or church health and personal relationships are heart-breaking and, in essence, a contradiction of what we believe is the very heart of church life.

Differences of opinion happen in church life at the best of times but in the intense heat of revival they become more marked and often more severe. Paul was a great man of God and Barnabas, son of encouragement, was his mentor, yet they differed so strongly on a relationship issue that they went their own separate ways. Paul felt that Mark had let him down and Barnabas presumably felt some sort of personal loyalty to John Mark. The disagreement seems to have driven Barnabas right out of apostolic ministry and into some sort of retirement on the island of Cyprus.  

In times of revival it is so important that we all work together in harmony and with singleness of mind and heart. Unfortunately though, the very nature of revival raises the temperature both in the church and in our personal lives. Any blatant imperfections of character, particularly pride, are likely to catch flame and flare up into potential interpersonal conflicts. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would weld us together rather than melt us in the fires of revival.

My friend and I eventually reconciled and he came back into church life. Shortly after that he contracted cancer and we were able to minister to him as a church family as he passed through the greatest fire of all. When we parted company for the last time it was with love and a burning desire to see each other again one day. Thank you for your grace Lord Jesus.

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Divisions in times of revival

Theme: Relationships in times of revival
 ‘I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.’ 1 Corinthians 11:18-20
Several years ago I preached what I believed to be an encouraging, biblical and enabling sermon in my home church. After the service a first (and only) time visitor came up to me, looked me calmly in the eye and told me that the Holy Spirit had prompted him to tell me that I was preaching heresy, manipulating the people and leading them woefully astray. The theme of the sermon had been ‘revival’.

Revivals polarise the church. If one church community is experiencing genuine revival you can be sure that some other church’s leaders will be criticising and judging it to be false. It is easy to say that opposition to revival is satanic in origin and should be expected whenever God is doing something significant. Perhaps some of the opposition to genuine revival is demonically motivated, but much is more misguided than evil. In our day there have been so many so-called revivals that have proven to be unmistakably false that one cannot blame conservative Christians for being sceptical and even antagonistic to the very idea of ‘revival’. It is a hard judgement call to make when something is afoot that one suspects is more of man, or the devil, than of God. On the one hand we want to sponsor inter-church unity, but at the same time we want to walk away from anything that smells of hell-smoke or human arrogance.

Sometimes revival brings divisions within denominations and local churches. In 1905 Joseph Smale, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, returned from a visit to Wales full of the hope that God would do in his church what he had witnessed in the Welsh churches. However, it did not take long before the church officials lost patience with the spontaneous prayer and worship that was ‘invading’ their church. They banned the ‘revival’ and gave their pastor the option of conforming or quitting. The Holy Spirit moved on and found a one-eyed illiterate negro man by the name of William Seymour, and the rest is revival history.

I am of the conviction that God is about to send revival upon His church; real Holy Spirit revival. I am encouraging my congregations to pray for this and to expect it, but how will I handle the divisions that will surely accompany it? I do not know, but I trust that God will give me both grace and perseverance. Do you anticipate a great revival in our time? How will you respond to the challenges of division both in your church and those in the denomination or area?

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Devotion to each other in times of revival

Theme: Relationships in times of revival
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42
There is a couple in my church who have been married for 42 years and like most married couples, they have had some ups and downs. About two years ago she was diagnosed with lymphoma and started on the long process of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Her husband responded with true devotion. He learned to cook and took over much of that duty. He went with her to every treatment and was with her every step in her emotional and physical trial. When I see this, I can easily comprehend the meaning of the word ‘devotion,’ but what does it mean within the context of church life?
The early church was characterised by the devotion of the believers to the apostles teaching, communion, prayer, and each other. If we could travel back in time, what would we observe that would help us understand the nature of their devotion to each other? Well, for starters, we would observe many of them selling off some of their possessions so that the less fortunate among them could have food, clothing and accommodation. Now, the commentators are probably right when they observe that many of the disciples would have been from out of town and would not have come prepared for a lengthy stay. They would have come up to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost and then return home. They would not have possibly known that they would get saved, filled with the Spirit, and bonded into the Jerusalem church. But this does not detract in any way from the generosity and community-mindedness of the believers, in fact it enhances it. It is one thing to financially support long-term Christian brothers and sisters but quite another to liquidate assets to care for people you hardly know and who will probably not stay for too long. Yet this is precisely what these early disciples did. Why? It is wonderful yet humanly improbable. And that is the precise point. The Holy Spirit came with power and created a unique and distinctly supernatural devotion in the hearts of the members of the church.
In revival times it seems that something similar happens. Our ingrained self-interests and stubborn insecurities are swept aside and we see beyond ourselves. The Holy Spirit blows away our materialistic indoctrination and we are freed to give sacrificially, generously, and unconditionally.
So, before we say, “Come, O Lord, and send revival upon us,” it might be wise to count the cost. What do you think?

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Relationships in times of revival

Theme: Relationships in times of revival

‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place’. Acts 2:1
I recently spent two days participating in a high level strategic thinking workshop for a higher education institution. All of the people present were dedicated disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ yet each of us had our own views, priorities, and agendas. We achieved a lot yet, at the end of day , we could not honestly say that we were of one mind.
When the Holy Spirit breathed life into the very first church on the day of Pentecost, the Bible describes the 120 or so believers as ‘all together in one place’. The word ‘together’ here means that they were gathered as a group in one place but in Acts 1:14 a similar word indicates that they were of one mind and accord. In other words, they were in agreement with one another. When I met with my colleagues to strategies a way forward, we were together in one place yet we were not in one accord. Anyone who regularly attends church committee meetings or institutional board meetings will understand that there is nothing unusual about it.
What were those early disciples likeminded about? Doctrines had not yet been established and there were no systematic theologies in existence. However, they were in one accord concerning at least three things – Jesus, His promise, and their community status. They were devoted to Jesus and they were committed to each other as fellow disciples of His. They were also clear that He had promised that in a short while the Holy Spirit would come and breathe life into their little community.
Revival appears to bring about this sort of relational unity. Doctrinal differences, personal agendas, and strategic considerations are swept aside by the wind of the Spirit. Instead, the palpable presence of God in the church brings about a unity of heart, mind, and spirit around three central beliefs – the centrality and lordship of Jesus, the authority of the Word of God, and dependence on the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Revival brings unity and unanimity to all who hold to these foundational concepts. If you believe in these three foundational truths, the revival will most likely bring you into wonderful accord with likeminded believers. So come O Lord and revive your church!

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.