Mardi Gras

It seems that more sectors of Australian society is visibly getting sicker with a pronounced depravity, aided by a news media that touts the notion homosexuality as something to celebrate and revel in. Terms like “equality” and “rights” mask their agenda to destroy marriage.

The Sydney annual Mardi Gras is simply “depravity” at its flamboyant worst, demonstrated by the broken, lost and wicked celebrating their idolatry as “liberating and wonderful”. Sadly, with few dissenting voices decrying this immorality and plague, we have every reason to worry. Those who express deep concern for this abandonment from traditional marriage and family values are frequently labelled as homophobic, racist or bigoted.

So what does the future hold? At the heart of every Christ believer is the surety that history repeats itself. The natural laws of consequences are inevitable. Thus, as society descends further into the abyss of immorality, another is already on the rise. Many of our middle eastern immigrants, for example, already have it in their hearts and ideology what their future holds. And, if we’re honest, such histories are too bloody to document here!

Enas Andras

Visit to northern India and Myanmar

Together we give praise, honour and glory to our Heavenly Father, who in Christ Jesus is building and strengthening the church.

In the past two weeks, I have been honoured and blessed to have witnessed and shared first-hand in God’s wonderful work amidst faithful and humble people in both Mizoram (in northern India) and in neighbouring Myanmar. My visit was voluntary, somewhat “unofficial”, although I am well aware of my service as Secretary for the International Ministerial Congress. I was simply encouraged by a growing friendship, fellowship and further prompted by written invitations to the Golden Jubilee in Mizoram, as well as to the graduation of nine theology students in Myanmar. My intention was simply to bear an open heart of encouragement with the right hand of fellowship.

Arriving in Aizawl, Mizoram, northern India, on February 3, 2017, I was warmly welcomed at the airport by a delegation of Church of God (Seventh Day) leaders and youth. It was good to again see old friends. What was surprising was to see a large white cross at the airport with the words in red, “Thy Kingdom Come”. On enquiring, I learned that the population of Mizoram is estimated to be over 90 percent Christian – whereas the rest of India differs as being estimated at about two or three percent.

I immediately experienced the great love and faithfulness of God’s good and long-time work in this remote part of the world, meeting brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom had travelled significant distances and who warmly welcomed me with repeated affirmations of gladness and joy.

Further welcomed into the Golden Jubilee celebrations, over the next few days I met elders and leaders of various church ministries, as well as a vibrant, energetic youth group. I was delighted to further affirm a beautiful understanding among the youth of God’s grace extended to us through Christ.

After discussing the aims, goals and efforts to serve our growing church community throughout the IMC, I presented the conference with the church’s ten statements of “Who We Are In Christ”, as handcrafted by my wife Rebecca from selected fine cloth. It was then hung from their main podium. The message I shared on the second day of the Jubilee was titled “The Word of God” – as spoken, written, codified, personified in Christ, internalised, never returning empty and ultimately transformed into glory.

The church bell was tolled 50 times by 50 different people, each representing the past 50 years of church life. This was followed by the unveiling of a commemorative Golden Jubilee 50 year stone. Another highlight of the event was the baptism of a young woman.

The Jubilee celebrations reflected an encouraging and wide variety of roles and services, equally shared by men, women and youth. Worship was vibrant, joyous and wholehearted, reflecting enriching local cultural traditions with newer, contemporary forms of music. The love of God, and a willingness to listen to the practical living of the gospel of Jesus Christ was reflected by leaders, elders and members from near and far – and from what I experienced and could see, the organic and grass-roots efforts for reconciliation between two conferences that operate separately there, has, in my opinion, already begun.

Following the Jubilee, together with a group of elders, we visited two remote village churches – and again I was delighted to share in their enduring love and faith. Many expressed a great joy as we shared in fellowship. With prayers and affirmations, our brothers and sisters were gladdened to hear that they are loved by Christ and throughout our international church family, as reflected in the IMC’s heart and mission.

One gracious and gifted young man from Aizawl, stepping up into youth leadership and service, said that he had prayed for something like this catalyst visit since he was eight years old. For him, his answered prayer meant more than he could have anticipated.

In the fellowship activities that followed the Jubilee, through various meals and opportunities, I was able spend occasion in earnest and brotherly conversation with elders and leaders. By God’s grace, it was a time for heart to heart, eye to eye, side by side, with occasional arm on shoulder conversations.

It is a blessing to share in strong, mature and genuine fellowship – for which we can praise our God for the great favour He has granted and sustained us with. The Jubilee symbolises grace, forgiveness and release from debt and slavery, and in discussing the unique issues facing the church there, we noted that God’s grace can be defined as, “God treating us better than we deserve”.

Throughout the Jubilee, I was delighted that two or three other Churches of God, local and remote, were represented. This resulted in several behind-the-scenes conversations building bridges, with affirmations of Christian love for each other with the added mutual urgency for reconciliation. Leaders of other conferences joined in the joy of worship, community dance, and finally speeches further affirming the seeds of reconciliation. Speeches and acknowledgments expressed a desire for more cross-pollination of speakers, events and fellowship anytime and always.

Thanks to various contacts and fellowship on Sabbath, as well as a phone call or two, I was blessed to spend an entire day with another part of the Church of God (Seventh Day) family and their conference leaders, meeting first of all in a hotel lobby and later in their churches. Again, with the right-hand of fellowship and brotherly love, we spent many hours together sharing and listening. All their ten or so leaders asked sincere questions, requesting clarity on a number of issues.

In the afternoon, with the conference leader and their pastors, I enjoyed spending time in their two church buildings. We prayed together, took numerous photos, and I was again asked to share a few words of encouragement to their leadership and pastors. We also laid hands on those requesting healing. Throughout the day, there were many joyous and memorable moments of deep and shared fellowship.

On February 8th, 2017, several car loads of Church family from Aizawl joined the convoy as we travelled the winding, narrow road to the airport to wave our final and affectionate goodbyes. I will always cherish their the great love, hospitality, faithfulness, and love for the Lord (LALPA) – many of whom travelled significant distances on arduous roads to be at the Jubilee. Of course, they would all now like to meet my wife Rebecca.

Flying from there via Kolkata and Bangkok, I was met at the Yangon International Airport in Myanmar by the conference leader there and dear brother in the faith.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time together with brothers, including two friends who had flown in from Cambodia, sharing many occasions for fellowship and reflection over the next few days. The worship and fellowship was again tremendous. On the Friday, we baptised seven people, and after Sabbath worship in the morning, the afternoon was spent at the graduation ceremony of nine young men into church service from the Asian Christian Theological Seminary. The planning and dignity of the graduation service was impressive, with speeches, prayers, presentations and the level of protocol and excellence one might expect to see at a major university.

Again it was delightful to witness and affirm God’s good work among His faithful and loving people living in Yangon, Myanmar.

The following day, after seeing our brothers off at the airport on their return to Cambodia, we boarded an overnight bus for the eight hour ride to Mandalay, from where we caught a flight to the Kalay Valley. There, several faithful, thriving congregations live and work, and who abundantly reflect the love of God and an overwhelming gladness that they’d been visited again. Many in Myanmar remember with appreciation previous visits by representatives from the International Ministerial Congress.

It was enjoyable being “among family”, sharing in mealtimes, worship, and warm brotherly conversation, with several opportunities to share greetings from the churches in Australia, from the international Church of God (Seventh Day) as well as personally from every IMC Officer. I again shared the message “The Word of God”.

On our final day together, a group of us travelled by motor scooter to a mountainside lookout giving picturesque and sweeping views over the Kalay Valley, before we concluded our time together at a huge dam water reservoir.

I really enjoyed time spent in Myanmar. Their conference Secretary provides gifted and warm leadership throughout Myanmar, as well as continued visionary investment in training and growing the church there.

I came to Mizoram and Myanmar on the basis of fellowship, friendship and by invitation. What a great joy to have witnessed God’s good work in these two countries enriched with similar cultures and traditions but of one Spirit and faith. We have much to be thankful for in the grace and fellowship we share in Christ. Thus, so much more do I look forward to, by God’s grace and providence as He wills, to one day return (with my wife Rebecca) perhaps at the close of the Jubilee in a year’s time, and again affirm and share in the blessings of Christ-centred faith, fellowship and family.

A special thanks to so many people (you know who you are) who gave so generously in order to make this trip at all possible.

In the next few weeks I plan to begin work on two short documentary films, retelling in song, narration and events of God’s abundant grace and truth growing in both Mizoram and Myanmar.

John Klassek
Secretary 2016-2020, International Ministerial Congress

International Ministerial Congress

We’ve just returned from the International Ministerial Congress, of the Church of God (Seventh Day), hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Represented by 100 delegates from 45 countries, the congress met to continue it’s Christ-led mandate of sharing “The Whole Word for the Whole World”.

What a wonderful time of inspiring worship, powerful preaching, great fellowship amidst the business of the Congress.

Thus, since we’ve returned, we’ve been busy editing and uploading a series of videos, not only in time for the IMC’s annual Sabbath on Nov 5th, but also with a bigger vision of utilising media for the sake of the gospel.

The above short clip was spontaneously filmed by Jamin Trujillo, promoting the annual IMC Sabbath event.

The 2nd Reformation

Jesus has called us to share his good news to the people of this 21st century. It’s a task that apparently needs further defining, given Christianity’s varied and mixed history.

To initiate this mission some 2000 years ago, Jesus chose twelve young men, probably not much older than twenty years of age, nurtured and mentored them, before commissioning and empowering them with, “Go, and make disciples of all nations!” They then healed the sick, preached the gospel, cast out demons, and baptised in Jesus’ name. Thus they were instrumental in perpetuating and deploying more disciples in Jesus’ image.

Since then, the followers of Jesus have both survived and thrived. Christianity  across the Western world steadily grew. Its significance was felt to the “ends of the earth”. That is, until now, because followers of Jesus largely in the West find themselves living in what is now called the “post-Christian era”. How times have changed.

For hundreds of years, Christianity significantly influenced the thinking and ethos throughout the rise of the Western world. Great cathedrals dominated its skyline. The clergy were held in high esteem. Churches yielded power and influence, often consisting of two classes – priests and laity. But, now, the demographics are rapidly changing. The previous model of ministry doesn’t any longer seem to be working. In fact, our focus will require rethinking and recalibrating if we’ve any chance of continuing past momentum, as the fruits of our current marginalisation is increasingly evident – at least here in the largely secularised West. (It is worth noting that Christianity’s redemptive message, however, is still taking root in other parts of the world, such as in Africa and Asia).

Thus, given the challenges we face in a generally suspicious if not hostile environment, we must explore being part of a new, second Reformation, a journey initiated by the first but which largely remained unfinished. We must follow Christ’s leadership through what portends to be absolutely unprecedented times. The bygone age of grand cathedrals, of Christianised ethos and law, of the “Lord’s Prayer” recited in schools and government, and of respected clergy, can and will never be revisited in this age. From high esteem, many clergy are now, for example, under cross-examination by Royal Commissions for institutionalised paedophilia! Modern Christianity seems irretrievably tarnished!

Nonetheless, Jesus is still building his church. And, we need to embrace and align our energies with his vision of the future. It seems we need a different paradigm to what was manifest in previous centuries – one that was, of course, that Jesus himself modelled.

Today, however, old practices die hard. Still too many pastors are operating under an outdated paradigm, acting as chaplains and care-givers, and often rushing off to meet the needs of the bleating sheep. Thus, they inadvertently perpetuate a model of dependency. God, however, has called us not to remain infants in the faith, but as his followers become empowered by Jesus to be equipping leaders of other leaders. We are not called to passivity, but to an active faith!

The dynamic of the second Reformation is emerging and evident not only throughout parts of Christendom, but also in greater clarity in the Church of God Sabbatarian community. Twenty or so years ago, at least in my personal journey, the prevailing church paradigm I was accustomed to began to crumble. Its exclusivity and significant awkwardness with the person of Jesus had reached the end of its course. Did Jesus step in and “remove the lampstand”? It certainly sounds like it. But that’s another story.

Today, we increasingly see different parts of the Body of Christ, albeit under different administrations, but sharing a common faith and heritage, working and worshipping together in unity and grace, extending to each other the right-hand of fellowship. Thus, we’re experiencing a revived model of Jesus leading the church. This is manifesting in some refreshing changes. Pastoral care is changing from “one size fits all” exclusively doing corporate ministry, to equipping and empowering others for ministry, utilising their spiritual God-given gifts.

The momentum for this “new” ministry model finds its roots and authenticity in the first century. The old Pharisaically-driven paradigms would never allow the equipping of all to discipleship and ministry according to their spiritual gifts. Pastors must continue to shift from fostering dependency to an equipping model.

The old covenant with the hierarchal Levitical priesthood ceased when Jesus was crucified, evidenced with the tearing of the temple veil of separation. Access to the Holy of Holies, symbolic of our direct access to our heavenly Father, became freely available. Jesus is now our High Priest. The new covenant accordingly ushered with it the priesthood of all believers, something that must be understood and embraced in the new reformation!

Pastors begin “teaching” the word of God, and then continue equipping and coaching all believers to ministry. While Jesus said “Feed my sheep”, he also expanded it with, “Make disciples”. This is the model Jesus commissioned his disciples.

The church no longer consists of two classes, ministers and members. We’re all saints. We’re all brothers. We’re all children of God. All are called to ministry. And we’re all encouraged to develop and utilise those spiritual gifts.

Jesus reminded his disciples, against the model backdrop of the Pharisees, “Don’t be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.” (Matthew 23:8) We are called to grow up in Christ’s fullness and stature, and less dependent on human leaders.

Paul further developed this in his letter to those at Ephesus, when he said, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service [ministry], so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach the unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The dependence model doesn’t any longer work under the terms of the new covenant! The lament in letter to the Hebrews bears this out: “By now you ought to be teachers, but you’re still in infancy, dependent on the milk of the word”. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

A baby is dependent on his or her mother’s milk. Given that’s where we all started, it’s not a state we want to stay with. We’re called to spiritually grow beyond infancy.

That’s where Jesus’ gentle and humble words beckon us to empowerment, if we’re only willing to listen. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [from the Pharisaical-modelled version of old covenant ministry], and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus wants us to take his yoke upon us – something that fits us right, matches our spiritual gifts, and is really as we’re meant to be.

Someone once said that, “A man makes the dream, and then the dream makes the man.” Therein lies a powerful truism. Love and passion can drive us to great heights. The seeds of God’s kingdom have been sewn in our hearts. “Seek first His kingdom,” says Jesus.

So you have a passion, a gift, a skill? Follow that dream. Develop your gifts. Grow your ministry – to the glory of God and in the name of Jesus. Remember the wisdom from an old proverb: “A man’s heart [his God-given gifts] plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

God bless you in your service in the body of Christ.

 

By John Klassek

 

Mystery of Glory

The wonder and mystery of the central gospel message, salvation in Christ, is conveyed throughout the pages of the Bible using poetry, prophecy, prose, preaching, praise and parable.

When perusing the scriptures, we may find ourselves wondering about the heavenly dimension where Jesus has, for the time being, returned. How do we then grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ while he is in heaven? How do we comprehend all that Jesus asks us to believe? Why are there only a few glimpses into the heavenly dimension by so few prophets? Like a well-written story, we hunger for more details about this promised “glory”.

Unlike those in ages past who mostly accepted the mystery of life, our era of scientific rationalism wants to dissect everything into manageable bytes. However, the lesson that we must learn is finding satisfaction in the “mystery” element – being content that ultimately, in due course, we will understand and experience our awaiting hope of glory. We cannot begin to comprehend the details of what exists beyond time, space and matter! We also learn from the parable that we’re not the “potter” but rather the “clay”.

Thus, as hard as we often try, we simply fail to comprehend the depth and height and greatness of the glory revealed in the heavenly – past, present and future – even when such glimpses are generously made available. A good example that comes to mind is found in Matthew’s gospel account.

Of the twelve, Jesus took just three of his closest disciples, Peter, John and James, into the wilderness and atop a remote mountain. And there, in the isolation of that pristine environment, Jesus allowed them, suddenly in vision, to gain a glimpse of a heavenly dimension. Known as the Transfiguration, the disciples momentarily saw Jesus glorified shining “brighter than the sun”, and with him in conversation were two others whom they immediately recognised as Moses and Elijah – prophets from antiquity who were deceased long ago!

Yes, these were two of greatest men in Hebrew history: Moses who was instrumental in the giving of the Law, and yes, there was Elijah, the quintessential and epitome of all the prophets! So, what was this vision all about? Just as the disciples were grappling with and trying to comprehend what they were experiencing, a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)

How would you have responded to such a heavenly, other-dimensional experience? Would you have fared any better than Peter who, for example, as the most outspoken of the disciples, without hesitating suggested that they build three cubby houses to accommodate Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Of course, this definitely wasn’t what the vision demanded – we immediately sense the folly of trying to create booths to “accommodate” the heavenly. Peter profoundly misread this situation and as a result profoundly misspoke!

What about John and James? We don’t know much about their reaction from this account except that they either fell down in great fear or simply fainted. Many years later, however, in the Revelation vision that Jesus gave to John, John became so overwhelmed by what he saw and heard that he inappropriately prostrated in worship before the angelic messenger – an idolatrous act for which he was promptly rebuked. Most prophets, including Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, trembled and often fainted when confronted with a glimpse into the heavenly dimension.

Thankfully and understandably today, we are largely shielded from such other-dimensional experiences, partly because we cannot cope with them, and, as Jesus taught, even if someone were to miraculously rise from the dead it still would be insufficient to convince an unbelieving heart. (Luke 16:31)

God wants us to remember, however, that like an unborn baby, we’re still not yet equipped to embrace the resurrected, fully-glorified rebirth splendour promised to us, when we will see our Heavenly Father face to face!

This explains why, when God came as the incarnate Jesus, he mostly taught using basic, easy-to-understand parables rooted in first century fishing, domestic livelihood and agriculture that local villagers could understand. Today, God continues to convey his will and purpose throughout the scriptures, telling of this glory through: Poetry using rhythm and rhyme; Prophecy foretelling and forth-telling; Prose given letter by letter, word by word; Preaching sermons long and short; Praise in the Psalms and glimpses of angelic worship; and only as Jesus could, Parables that are metaphors of a greater reality.

Thus, somehow engrossed in awe and wonder, we too must become content in the mystery that words in this life simply fail to accommodate. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:23, 26 paraphrased): “All creation yearns for the revealing of the sons of God… and the Spirit in us affirms this in ‘groans’ that words cannot express.”

Cherish the mystery, be content in the wonder, and believe in Jesus and all that he tells us.

By John Klassek

House Church echos

All through history God has preserved and encouraged faithful people. The organic presence and growth of the first century Churches of God did not manifest in great cathedrals or elaborate liturgy, but in a variety of simple, family, house churches scattered throughout the known world!

The apostles of yesteryear would marvel at the communication and collaboration between the churches of today. Big churches. Small churches. Worship in hundreds of languages and dialects. And size doesn’t matter either, for if grace and truth exist in a fellowship, there you’ll find Jesus.

The four most recent sermons echo, via media streaming on this website, from a small House Church in the world’s most isolated capital city: Perth, Western Australia. If the messages sound familiar to you, it’s probably because you have a heart for words of Jesus: His Word personified, His written Word, and His Word emboldened on your heart.

john2015thumbaaaYours for Grace and Truth,

John Klassek

The Gift of Disillusionment

Occasionally you’ll discover someone’s insightful observations that reflect hard-earned experience of having a travelled a long, often rough road of faith.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/may-web-only/gift-of-disillusionment.html

It’s not only a good read; it really “nails it”!

Let’s join that growing band of believers, and triumph just as those (ditto Peter, for example) who have travelled before us.

Judgment is Coming

The title of “Judgment is Coming”, I fear, is too hopeful. It may be that we are already judged!

…the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (15) And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. (Revelation 9:14-15 NIV)

Sometime in the future, perhaps nearer than we think, the forces of retribution and bloodshed will be unleashed.

muslims340x340
It may just be a humorous poster in a New York subway, but it may also be fiercely prophetic (without the humour).

The Euphrates River runs through the geographic heart of the Islamic world, and it is from there that those demonic forces, apparently bound and restricted throughout the centuries, will be released to “kill a third of mankind”.

Shocking? Yes.

Why? Because this generation has descended into wickedness. Just one example will suffice! We have killed the most vulnerable, our own children. An entire generation of humans, before or at birth, have silently screamed. We call it abortion. We’ve justified it, legalised it, and smugly sanitised our crime – which compounds our guilt!

And one day we’ll be held to account for those sins.

But, even then, with a third of humanity killed in less than a year, it seems, in the words of the prophet John, we’ll still be reluctant to confess our guilt.

Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:21 NIV)

It will take a far greater Judgment to teach us what is right. God hasten that day.

Time to Celebrate

Two trips to the Blue Mountains invoking lots of old memories, a variety of shoots at several locations, with the subject matter all based on conversations I’ve had at various times. Thus, we hope this short gospel film inspires you to re-examine the veracity of these annual end-of-year celebrations.

Filmed and produced by John Klassek