Truth Is The Word

Relationship

An exception that proves the rule

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings”. Hosea 6:6

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When Zelda and her husband first attended our services I thought that they were potential trouble. They seemed so focused on what was happening that it was as if they were evaluating and even judging us. I was wrong. They soon revealed themselves as lovely people devoted to Jesus and eagerly seeking a church home in our area. When their first child was born I had the joyful task of blessing her as part of a Sunday service. While the parents were still up front with their baby daughter an elderly lady stood up and prophesied over the child. I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was about how God loved this child and that she would worship Him from a young age.

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Sometime later the little family set off with Zelda’s parents for a holiday in the Cape. She was now pregnant with her second daughter. After her husband Hilton had completed the Argus cycle race they left to return to Johannesburg. Before getting into the car some hours before dawn they joined hands and prayed for safety and ‘traveling mercies’.

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Dawn was breaking by the time they approached Bloemfontein and they were in good spirits. Suddenly, for reasons still not known, Hilton lost control of the car and they had a terrible accident. Both he and Zelda’s mother were killed on impact.

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A long hall truck driver was approaching them on his way to Johannesburg and he stopped and helped them. A doctor, travelling in the opposite direction also stopped and drove Zelda, her father and her baby daughter to the nearest hospital. The child had sustained severe injuries and died in her arms on route. Her father’s limbs were broken in several places but miraculously Zelda came through the terrible experience with hardly a scratch, and her unborn child was unharmed.

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As a church community we were stunned. How could this have happened?! Had words of hope and blessing not been spoken over this precious child, and now she was dead?! Had the family not prayed for protection before they set off on that terrible trip?!

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As the details of that traumatic morning started to emerge it became clear that God had not abandoned that little family. Not only had a doctor been driving by when it happened but a local pastor had rushed to their aid and taken special care of them. Our young mother had received a peace that definitely passed all understanding, a grace that enabled her to live through those early hours and days with faith and supernatural calm.

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In the weeks following the accident her husband’s best friend Robbie took a special interest in her and became a strong arm that she could depend on. He too was a disciple of the Lord Jesus but his life was pretty messed up. He was dealing with substance dependence, anger issues and financial problems. He was her physical support and she became his haven of peace and faith. It didn’t take long for their relationship to develop into genuine love.

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They came to see me one day to tell me that he had moved into her house. They were determined that they wanted to be good witnesses and bring glory to God but they were adamant that they desperately needed to be together at that time. She was having terrible flash-backs of the accident and would wake up at night in great distress. He needed to be there for her and he also needed her strength of character and faith to get through his own ‘dark night’. They said that they understood that, as their pastor, I would not approve of them staying together, but would I please have compassion and not shun them in any way. They needed Jesus, they needed each other, and they needed the church family. They stated their intention to get married when they felt that their lives were more stable and their emotional wounds healed. I believed them. I assured them that not only would I not shun them but would stand with them and explain, to anyone who enquired, that they had my blessing. Foolish by conventional church standards? Perhaps it was, but I had a deep sense that this is what Jesus would do.

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A month later her child was born, and they were married soon after. I had the privilege of officiating at their marriage ceremony at their home. Shortly after this they moved down to the coast and soon had another daughter of their own. It is now 22 years later and they are still happily married and serving God. For years now they have been running a house church from their home. Together they pastor a couple of dozen believers. Their daughters have grown into beautiful young women who love Jesus and their parents.

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Did I do the right thing in sanctioning and defending their ‘cohabitation’? She told me some time later that she doesn’t know how she would have survived if she had been confronted with a choice between her church family and the support of her friend, and now husband. Would I do it again? Yes. Some will quote scripture at me, although strangely enough no one did at that time. I am still full of admiration for their commitment to each other, to the Lord Jesus, and to the spirit and intent of His written Word.

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I guess that grace is the exception that proves the rule.

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Names used with permission

ROADS

Many years ago the Holy Spirit led me into an appreciation of the key dynamics of church life that has served my local church well for more than two decades. I call the concept ROADS – Relationship, Outreach, Anointing, Doctrine, and Structure.

How the five dynamics relate to one another

Before I develop each of these dynamics, I need to comment on how they relate to each other as parts of a whole. All five dynamics need to be equally strong driving forces that energize the local church. If a church has great relationships both with God and its members, but gives little attention to outreach, then it will inevitably implode into a holy huddle. If it functions gloriously in the gifts and anointing of the Holy Spirit, but is light on sound doctrine, then it will most likely fly off into some form of charismania. If it gives much attention to doctrine, but little energy to anointing, then it will probably calcify into some form of religious legalism. Even if a local church is strong on relationships, outreach, anointing, and sound doctrine, yet lacks biblical church structure, it is unlikely to be able to sustain itself over time or to reproduce itself in kind. All five dynamics are needed in equal measure for a church to be healthy and effective.

 

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Hellfire or humour? Watch for the glint in the pastor’s eye!

Helena (that’s what I will call her here) was a mature lady with a strong Pentecostal background. She had been with our church for several years when she enrolled for a series of teachings on deliverance run by another church.

I had been close friends with the pastor of that particular church for a long time and met with him regularly for lunch. On one of those occasions he said to me; “Chris, you need to know that one of your church members is telling people that you are demon possessed.” I didn’t know if he was serious or just teasing me as he liked to do, but he went on; “She says she knows you are because of the evil glint in your eye.”

I couldn’t think of who it could possibly be but I did know that Helena was attending the teachings and I thought that she might know. So I phoned her. “Helena, please help me with something. Who else from our church is attending the teaching series at XYZ ? You see…”, and I told her what my pastor friend had reported to me. There was a long silence on the line and then in a little voice Helena said…” it was me pastor Chris.”

What had happened was that the course lecturer had listed symptoms that purportedly indicated that a person was demonised. One of them was ‘a glint in the eye’. I have a good sense of humour and I am told that my eyes often twinkle when I hear something amusing or am telling a funny story.

Helena had latched onto this and blurted out to the group that her pastor had a ‘glinty’ eye and so must be demonised. I am glad to say that my sense of humour did not desert me on that occasion and my eyes undoubtedly twinkled as I explained to the dear lady the difference between humour and hellfire. We remained on good terms and enjoyed fellowship for many years after that.

You would think that the main lesson to be learned from this incident was, ‘don’t go bad-mouthing someone else and certainly don’t accuse your pastor of being possessed.’ Perhaps it is, but my take away was different – don’t pay too much attention to lists that are derived from experience rather than from scripture.

Far too many ‘teachers’ develop doctrine and practice from their own experiences and the accounts of others. This is an unreliable source; it is far better to take what we teach directly from the Bible and what Jesus modelled through his teachings, actions and character.truth-is-the-word-main-menu-pic-what-the-pastor-saw-2

Seeking Unity

Church unity is so important yet so illusive. In this article I attempt to describe some of the parameters for unity, its continuum and its locus, before coming to the tentative conclusion that networking seems to provide us with the only viable working model available. Having come to this point in my search I then sketch some simple building blocks . In the final analysis, only the Holy Spirit can forge a functionally united global church. Our responsibility is to seek the Lord’s will and to be sensitive to His voice. We also need to place ourselves into interlinking relationship networks thereby making all of the church potentially available to all of its parts

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When the flame flickers low

I have to confess that I am amazed when I hear someone who has been married for forty years say “I am as much in love with my wife now as I was when we first got married.”

I would relate more to “I love my wife more now than I did when we got married” because love does mature. To be ‘in love’ though is something else altogether. The words evoke memories of a heady hormonal euphoria when everything was new and utterly charming. But this fades as the relationship deepens over time and, whether good or bad, we tend to fall into a comfortable rhythm of life with our partners.

Something similar happens in our spiritual life, and this is not surprising because Christianity is also relationship based. We love the Lord and we love His people but it all seems a little routine and stale. We pray, we read the Bible, we attend church, and on occasions we speak to unsaved people about Jesus. Yet the flame that once burned so bright now seems to be flickering low.

When we are honest with ourselves we realize that we aren’t altogether satisfied with a stale yet comfortable relationship, either with our spouses or with the Lord. But what is to be done about it?
In the book of Revelation Jesus address seven local churches and to the Ephesians He writes, ‘You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’ (Rev 2:4-5) NIV. In this one succinct statement the Lord Jesus sets out what is needed to rekindle the flame of a relationship, either matrimonial or spiritual. Remember – Repent – Repeat.

CandleRemember when you first met Jesus as savior and lord? How did you feel? What engaged your attention? What was it about this relationship that intrigued and fascinated you? We need to remember so that we can appreciate the difference between then and now. Once we realize that what we have now falls short of what we had then, we repent. To repent means to change one’s mind and so we say, “I am sorry Lord. I want to be different. I want to return to the vitality of the relationship we once had.” But having remembered and repented, we still need to repeat.

Jesus said that we should do again the things we did at first. What do we need to repeat? What did we do when we first met Him? How did we behave? What took priority over our time and energy? I remember how I was as a new Christian. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. I read it eagerly and studied it diligently because I knew that it was God’s Word to me. I was filled with wonder every time I learned something new about the nature and character of Jesus. I was determined to obey what it said and take seriously its guidance. Another thing that characterised those early years was deep desire to talk to other Christians about the scriptures, faith, and particularly about Jesus. I would sit them down at a table, get them a cup of coffee and then say “Now tell me, what does the Bible mean when it says….?”  And I was so totally engaged in my relationship with Jesus that it was natural for me to talk to unsaved people about Him. I didn’t Bible-bash or systematically evangelise, I simply witnessed, and chatted, and shared. Anyway, that’s how I remember it and I am sticking to my story.

So, if the flame is flickering low, then a way to fire it up again is to repeat the activities of the early years.
Read and study the Bible prayerfully and with expectation. Spend time with other Christians speaking about Jesus, not just about rugby or the economy. And witness to those who do not yet have a relationship with Him. Talk to them about Jesus as you would about your much loved life partner.

I know this is good advice when our spiritual flame is flickering low and I am pretty sure it also applies to other relationships, like marriage – Remember, Repent, and Repeat.

 

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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. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.