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European Kwasizabantu Ministers' Conference 6 - 9 May 2002

The first Kwasizabantu Ministers' in Europe has started on 6 May 2002.

About 200 ministers and Christian workers, from across Europe, arrived at the Kaltbrunn centre in Switzerland at the start of the conference.


DAY FOUR 9 May 2002

FINAL SERVICE – 11am – Dr Joachim Cochlovius (Church Consultant & Director of Gemeindehilfsbund in Walsrode, Germany)

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"The responsibility of the Christian in Society" – Romans 13

Martin Luther said that we are citizens of two kingdoms. He also showed that all work, spiritual and secular, is service to God. This is important to remember as some Christians today think they are too spiritual for earthly work. They consider any involvement in the world to be defiling. They forget that God came into the world through Jesus Christ. God has called us into this world, into time, politics and culture. There are two dangers:

  1. Fleeing from the world into the ghetto of isolation. There is an example of Deaconesses in Germany giving the Nazi salute outside the walls of their order – obviously they had not been reading the papers and following what Nazism was all about.
  2. Trying to "christianise" the world. If we try to be expert politicians and prescribe to the political leaders ideas such as: no more jails rather social service, we simply make a mess.

In Romans 13 Paul tells us that the state is from God and it is the servant of God. The servant must not be a dictator. The first Christians in the Roman Empire were martyred because they refused to submit to the Emperor when he usurped the position of God and expected incense to be burnt for him. We are to honour but not slavishly obey the state.

The new liberalisation of the law, which I’ve observed from 1950 to 2002, is a new form of dictatorship. For instance, in Germany, if you condemn homosexuality you can be punished under the law. Also, porn is officially protected by German law.

We are to pay taxes, fear and honour the state.

 

FIRST MORNING SERVICE – Dr Orlando Bottenbleij (Baptist pastor, originally from Surinam, in Drachten Holland)

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"The Church and the Word"

The church of Jesus Christ is the main instrument in reaching a lost world. As one considers the church in Europe one admits that it has become a victim of the post-modern society.

In 2Tim 4:3 & 4 we read an accurate statement about the post-modernist time in which we live, where people "will not endure sound teaching" and instead run after teachings to suit its own lusts. The Bible alone can bring "soundness" and health. The world runs after its own form of health and becomes sicker.

In Holland it is asked why we have not reached our post-modern society. The churches are emptying despite some good movements going back to Reformed truth. However, these groups are powerless to communicate their message and if someone comes to their churches it is as if though they have stepped into another era of centuries ago. On the other hand, one has Evangelical groups who are desperately trying to communicate with the post-modern society around them but communication itself takes centre stage and the Word is given back-seat status. I was invited to a conference of these groups and was told that 10 minutes would be given to me to propagate the Word. Needless to say, I turned down the invitation because of the lack of prominence given to our central message, the Word.

How did Paul bring his message to the different culture of Thessalonica? In 1Thess 1:45 we read that Paul spread the word not just in orthodoxy but in power. As Dr J. Tson told us yesterday about a comment regarding one of his first well-worked-out sermons – "Spiritless!".

In Corinth, Paul also came, not in wisdom, but with the power of the Word. He writes in Rom 1:16 that he is not ashamed of the Gospel "which is the power of God to save…".

The Word can only reach post-modern society when it is accompanied by God’s power!

As we study the book of Acts we discover the awesome power which overwhelmed people and brought them to repentance despite their strong cultures.

There is hope for Europe for God wants His Word to be spread with power. In our church in the Netherlands we are experiencing how God is saving prostitutes, businessmen, young people etc, and they go back to their friends and bring them to the Lord. Our post-modern society does not want to hear a word from man but from God Himself. They cry out for real life and we have been entrusted with the Word.

In Col 1:25-29 we read how the Lord worked in Paul "mightily". We cannot do the work but God can do it in us "mightily".


DAY THREE 8 MAY
EVENING SERVICE - 7:30pm - Rev Mike Evans (Director of the Geneva Bible Institute)
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"Father, forgive us as we forgive others" - THE PROCESS OF FORGIVING OTHERS
The concept of forgiveness, though central to Christianity, is sorely lacking among Christians. One often finds, for example, in marriages, that small things are the source of conflict and lack of forgiveness. Some hold to the idea that "we can only forgive if the other party repents."
The process of forgiveness can be found in the story of Joseph found in Genesis 45. Some lessons to be learnt:
1. In verse one we see Joseph protected his brothers (to people who were unaware of the situation) by not telling others about their sin.
2. When God forgives He forgets and closes the distance between us. In verse 4 Joseph asked his brothers to come near him. God forgives by putting a distance between us and our sins, as far as the east is from the west (which is immeasurable). Too often, we forgive and then have a perverted relationship with the person we have forgiven by trying to keep a certain distance from them.
3. The process of forgiveness requires a broad concept of the sovereignty of God. In verse 5 we read that Joseph saw God in the act of his brothers (in selling him into slavery). He must have wrestled with the consequences of his brothers' evil for many years. In 1986, Billy Graham was asked by the press why he doesn't answer the various criticisms made against him. He answered that "if I had to answer all my critics I would have no time to evangelise".
4. In verses 9 to 13 we discover that Joseph did not force his brothers to have to face the humiliation of a full confession.
5. In vs 24 there is the warning "see that you do not fall out by the way" which is a warning to them not to fall back into conflict with each other (which was the besetting sin of the brothers). This is like Jesus saying "Go and sin no more".
6. In chapter 50:15, a gap of about 22 years, we find that the brothers had not understood the essence of forgiveness closing the distance (as in point 2). But Joseph stood by his forgiveness which shows that the forgiveness which is of God is irreversible and eternal.

Forgiveness is the foundation of Christianity. See Heb 10:17 "and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more."

SECOND MORNING SERVICE - QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSION
The conference speakers were invited to sit on a panel to answer questions from the audience.

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Questions, both written and verbal included: What should our response be to the Islamization of Europe?; Is the sealing and baptism of the Holy Spirit one and the same thing?; What is the Christian response to feminism?.
These and other questions were answered by the speakers. In particular, the question Islam was looked at extensively by Rev Erlo Stegen and Dr Joseph Tson.

FIRST MORNING SERVICE - Rev Erlo Stegen (Director of Kwasizabantu Mission) - "Take heed to yourself"

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The teaching from the Word which we have heard these days, has been wonderfully clear. The subject we look at is found in 1Tim 4:16. The text speaks about salvation and starts by saying that we should take heed to ourselves. There are some great men of God who did not pay attention to their own walk with the Lord and only eternity will reveal the tremendous damage wrought through them.
A bishop from Westminister, England, was full of enthusiasm when he started his ministry. He wanted to change the world but it remained the same. Disappointed, he then decided to change his country England. The English refused to listen. He then tried to change his wife and children but they too did not change. On his death-bed the bishop cried out: "My God, I started at the wrong end, if only I had begun at the right point - with myself." What a revelation at the end of his life.
We so easily talk about the sins of others, even using their names and attacking them in the Christian press. It is easy to blame every Tom, Dick and Harry and ignore ourselves. Jesus said that the Pharisees were hypocrites because they are able to discern splinters in the eyes of others but cannot discern the log in their own.
Jesus said that we should go and teach others all that He has taught us.
It is amazing that the Tree of Life had attraction to Eve but the tree of knowledge had incredible fascination for her.
Godly authority must stem from a personal "back to Biblical basics" in our own lives.
You are a letter written with the finger of God the Holy Spirit.


7 May, DAY TWO:

EVENING SERVICE – 7:30pm – Prof Dr Georg Huntemann (Prof of Ethics at STH in Basel and Bremen) – "Is theology destroying our faith?"

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There are 3 sinful things about theologians: those who want to know all (like satan), those who are popularist and want their theology to be "mainstream", and those who try to force God into the image they have created.

One of the main characteristics of popularist theology is that it has lost, or even denies, the Fatherhood of God.

Christianity is not a theory about God but is about an experience of God, something of the heart. It means an identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. As Paul says, we are "handed over to death" so that we can show forth life.

The recent school massacre in Erfurt shows how we have limited the knowledge of God in teaching our younger generation, by excluding the reality of the experience of life which always includes difficulties and suffering.

When we try and embrace the creation, which is only temporal, we are locked in the embrace of death. There will always be the tension between proper enjoyment of the created world and a deadly fixation with it.

Is theology a science? There are some measurable studies, such as language, archaeology etc, but we must always remember that the things of God cannot be contained within science but is transcendent above it. There is no such thing as "systematic theology".

When the church is not battling for the truth it loses its prophetical role.

AFTERNOON SESSION – 4:00 – 5:30pm – Dr Joseph Tson (President of Rumanian Missionary Society & founder of the Oradia Bible Institute) – "Sources of strength in suffering and martyrdom" (click here for MP3 audio)

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Why does God choose some of His elect for suffering and martyrdom? I asked this question many years ago and found that there was not one theological study on the subject. There have been more martyrs in the 20th Century than all the 19 previous centuries, and it continues into this century.

Often the question is asked, "if suffering comes my way will I have the strength to face it? Peter and Paul understood that we are called to sufferings. Paul went so far as to say that it was "for their salvation". Though he explains in 2Tim 2:10 that salvation is from Christ it needs somebody to "deliver this salvation" and this may require suffering. Paul was a "walking death" which produced "throbbing life" in others.

Some just see suffering in terms of self. Most Christian books take the view, which is also Biblical, that suffering perfects us. Yes, this does produce endurance, patience, the ability to comfort others, etc. But this is a result of mundane sufferings like sickness etc and it revolves around self.

The main purpose of this presentation is to us get out of ourselves to what suffering and martyrdom can do outside of us – the "multiple mission of our suffering and martyrdom."

As an example of the outside reasons of suffering we can consider Job who was involved in a cosmic conflict. Paul had Job in mind when he wrote in 1Cor 4:9 that we have been made a "spectacle to men and angels." The first martyrs of the church looked at it in this way too. In Rev 12:10 & 11 we read how Satan is defeated by death. Thus, suffering and martyrdom is not just an unfortunate experience but rather, "the spirit of glory hovers over them" (1Pet 4:14). Training for suffering and martyrdom produces invincible Christians.

How can we stand in suffering when we feel weak and frightened? From my experience I have learned 5 things we need:

  1. A clear view of the sovereignty of God. Isaiah, Daniel and Revelations are the clearest Scriptures regarding this.
  2. Union with Christ. In Jn 15:5 we find that it is in union with Christ that we can bear fruit. This helps us to have courage to confront a hating world. Jesus has made Himself one with me in an organic way. What touches me touches Him. This has cosmic dimensions because the Bible also says that we are "seated with Him in heavenly places." This is a great comfort in facing suffering and martyrdom and makes it a privilege.
  3. A strong community of believers. We are not to suffer alone but with the support and encouragement of others.
  4. Love for our persecutors. Heb 2:14 & 15 speaks of the universal fear of dying. I was liberated knowing that: a) He died my death b)my death works great things in God’s economy of things c) He pours His love into me. It is not that one must "feel" a love for persecutors but, rather, it is a deliberate decision to do something good and special for the one who hates you. We can have an "aggression of love" by not seeing ourselves as victims but instead as the ones who can aggressively love our enemies.
  5. Joy. In Heb 12:2 it speaks how Christ "for the joy that was before Him" went through suffering and death. In Is 53:11 Christ sees the result of His agony and is "satisfied."

  

MORNING SESSION 11-12:30pm – Archbishop Janis Vanags (head of the Latvian Lutheran Church) The Archbishop started by quoting from the statement of Jesus to Pilate, "you have no power except it be given to you." The theme "Back to Biblical Basics" can be used as criteria for the true and false church. The truth of the Bible provides one with satisfaction and happiness whereas "truths" from other books cannot give this joy.

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Vanags posed the question: "How has it happened that the church has moved to the point that it needs to be called back to Biblical basics?"

One could look at deep historical reasons and to explain it with a "secular" example. My old aunt would search for her glasses not realising that it was through her very spectacles on her nose that she was searching for them. So too, our worldview has become our eye-glasses through which we analyse our world.

For about 1500 years the world was in a "pre-modern" paradigm. God’s existence was taken for granted and His Word regarded as truth. These were the spectacles of the world at that time. One could view it in the shape of a pyramid with God’s truth being at the top. The priests were high up interpreting that truth to kings and commoners. Today we say that it was a patriarchal and authoritarian system but at least it was stable.

By the 1800s the glasses had changed with the advent of Rationalistic Modernism. Freedom was the main theme. Man’s interpretation became everything. Science was at the top of this pyramid and the new priesthood consisted of scientists. In the Soviet Union, in my days at school, the chemistry teacher would give classes on atheism. Faith was confined to the realm of privacy. The Bible was seen as old fashioned.

In the 60s there was dramatic change in the thinking of the world and the new spectacles became post-modernism. The slogan has been "there is no truth anywhere". The new priests are the so-called "experts" in different fields. Except for the experience of the individual in their own personal lives, all of life is meaningless. Each one was to decide on his own authority. There was more interest in power than truth. In this environment the feminist movement sprang forth. It sought to redefine things, even the Trinity. In theological circles "consensus" was used to decide what was right.

It is into this situation that we Christians have had to pour the new wine of the Word of God. There is a hunger for reality and experience. The post-modernist man will seek, even in naďve, ways, the experience of God. We have God’s Word which can really change people. Many preachers lose this wonderful opportunity by adopting "unreal" methods such as the typical nasal or pulpit tone of voice when they preach.

Many church members have left their denominations and sought reality in the Charismatic churches. The church needs to show evidence of the reality of all of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, including the powerful preaching of the Word, the Sacrements etc, in order to provide for all the needs of the people. Faith must be alive and experiential as well.

We must not be ashamed to call people back to the fear of God. In this post-modern age people appreciate clarity of belief – so we should not be afraid to call Christians to holy living (instead of the post-modern ‘integration’ of sin in the church). Surprisingly, this is what post-modern youth want. Too often, the church has sought to attract young people with dances and the like instead of presenting the reality of God’s Word. Post-modernism says that Christianity is just one of the thousands of doors for people to enter. Our challenge as the church is to make sure that the "Door", which is Jesus Christ Himself, is absolutely clear.

Some are already saying that we have moved beyond post-modernism since the 11th of September last year. Since then people can say that there is a right and a wrong. The zealous terrorists on board the planes which crashed into the World Trade Centres were wrong and absolutely evil. There is a new clarity of right and wrong, good and bad.

Let us use these new opportunities to freely spread the Gospel truth, which is made possible by Christ being with us.

 

MORNING SESSION 9 – 10:30AM - Prof Dr Jean Baptiste Biery (professor of theology at IBE in Paris spoke about "The Basis of Christian Spirituality."

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Dr Biery (originally from Brazzaville, Congo) used Phil 3:8 as the basis for his talk. "Conformed into the image of Christ," is the basis of our faith, said Biery. God reveals Himself through His Word. But He does not want just a legalistic keeping of His rules. The priority is not keeping law but having a relationship with God that brings us unto the image of Christ.

God uses a process to bring us through His school and often this school is in the wilderness. It is in the wilderness that various extremes and difficulties are met. As with the Son of God, we are sent into the wilderness. With the children of Israel it was their opportunity to be separated from the fleshpots of Egypt.
God is like parents who allow their child to walk, when it is ready, by withdrawing somewhat, so that the child must stand on its own feet. So too with the eaglet whose mother disturbs the nest to force its young to learn the art of flying.

In the wilderness the Lord tests our bond to Him and will wean us off all other affections. He brings us to the place where we can say, with Paul, all the things of the past have "become dung to me".

Only those who learn their lessons in the wilderness are useable by God for fighting His enemies. And, if they don’t learn their lessons they simply stay in the desert: they can’t go back to Egypt and they’re not ready for the Promised Land. Some take vacations away from God, some fall in the wilderness and some even run ahead of God. All of these cannot proceed further.

God seeks conformity with His Son. Without this we become just another religion.


DAY ONE: The first meeting was conducted by Prof Dr Samuel Külling (Rector of a Bible school in Basel). His theme was "The 'Either Or' of God's revelation.

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Dr Külling said that all questions about Biblical truth stem from belief in God's revelation. Has He or has He not spoken?
Seven aspects were highlighted by Külling:
1. Why the question about Divine revelation has become the pivotal question.
2. Has the Bible a human side?
3. The revelation of God is in ALL of Scripture.
4. Why it is important to unreservedly cling to all of Scripture.
5. Why a Christian cannot survive without the Bible.
6. Why we as believers also cling to the Old Testament.
7. God's intention with the Bible. Why God's people need a Holy Book.

Among other points, Prof Külling stressed it is completely unacceptable to take the "partial revelation" view. We need absolute assurance. A book which is only partly inspired by God is not completely dependable and thus has no authority for eternity.
Prof Külling spent some time on the early church controversy (Marcion 140AD) which resulted in the canonization of the full Bible.
The Word of God must be read by His children every day (Deut 17:18 & 19).

Click here to read the German programme for the Kwasizabantu European Ministers' Conference.
Read report of 2001 Conference

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