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

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

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

Lillico Beach

The filming of a new, short gospel film went remarkably well last week. Lillico Beach is located on Tasmania’s North West Coast, and it proved to be the perfect venue for filming “Time Alone With God”. Apart from the gentle, lapping waves and occasional bird sounds in the distance, it was perfectly conducive to this topic.

Contrasting this place of perfect peace, I’m in the frenetic hum of Sydney at the moment, with plans for filming in the Blue Mountains later this week. I look forward to editing the Lillico Beach footage as soon as I’m back in the film studio.

Filming at Lillico Beach
Filming at Lillico Beach

See final short film here:

Grace and Truth

Take a 30 minute sermon shared about a month ago which focussed on the two great characteristics of Jesus: “Grace and Truth”, and later present it as an eleven minute sermonette. And then, if that’s not enough, distill it even further to just four minutes!

 

Trust you’re blessed with this shorter version but by no means any less important.

By John Klassek

GC Missions

I really want to thank Bryan for his help. After returning from Malaysia a few weeks ago, Bryan uploaded some 64Gb of video to our server which he had filmed while on mission work in Africa and Asia. A tentative script I wrote was further edited by Calvin, and with the audio track finally recorded, it then took about three day’s work to finally get the six minute film to where I felt reasonably comfortable about uploading it to YouTube.

If you have a heart for mission and a desire for your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world to be blessed, then you’ll probably enjoy this short film.

john2015thumbaaaBy John Klassek

Radical Commitment to Christ

George was 17 years old when he was dismissed from his dream job. His employer demanded that he work Friday nights, but George wasn’t willing to compromise Sabbath rest. Though devastated at the time, this young man could not have known that embracing such a decision would in time set him on a path that would lead closer to Christ and deeper into His will. It was a defining moment.

Years later, as George experienced a greater distinct call to discipleship, a sceptical friend in the Christian community quizzed him about his understanding of Matthew 6:33. It seemed to George that believers were to “seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness, and God will provide for all those physical needs” [my paraphrase].

“Get a job that pays well,” chided his friend, further quoting the national minimal wage. What he was saying, really, in his opinion, was that you can’t rely on a literal understanding of Jesus’ words that God would provide all our needs.

But George saw it differently. That’s what Jesus had said. Surely He meant it, especially in the light of His pre-incarnate words of, “Put me to the test and see if I will not bless you”. (Malachi 3:10) [my paraphrase].

God desires that we are generous with all our resources. This is particularly true with our increase, our time, talents and desires. Echoes of this generous giving appears in the book of Acts where faithful believers, wanting to step up in service to Christ, donated their land and valuables for the sake of the Kingdom. Those who feigned generosity, who lied to the Holy Spirit, paid the ultimate price.

God’s model for generosity begins at ten percent, but a willingness to give under the terms of the New Covenant knows no bounds. That’s where, for many people, the challenge exists in the words of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Matthew. Do we trust God with our entire lives? Can we trust Him, for example, with a greater portion of our increase? That’s a radical reliance and an extraordinary step faith. For the sake and call of the Kingdom, these are important commitments to consider.

Most of our prayers are spoken in secret, so perhaps it’s reasonable that most of our alms ought also be done in secret. Have you ever considered putting aside, for example, seventy percent of your time and resources in deployment for Christ? Of course, make sure your heart is right – there’s no room for pretenders. Start a ministry. Join an existing ministry. (In his mid-thirties, that’s exactly what George did). Do what you’re naturally gifted with, and live every moment prayerfully. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide, counsel, comfort and help.

And don’t bother trying to do the maths, for such calculations would not have helped the widow with the abundant flow of olive oil from her one small jar during those days of trial and drought (2 Kings 4). Such small steps of faith begin to reveal a powerful truth in Jesus’ words. More than we can perhaps know or understand, this is our Father’s world. He calls us to trust Him.

George may have lost a promising job early in his career, but through the experience gained his life in Christ. His initial loss was, in reality, a divine calling-card that led to a radical reliance and trust in his Heavenly Father!

By John Klassek

IMC Meeting In Malaysia

We’ve just returned from an inspiring time with brothers and sisters in Christ at the inaugural International Ministerial Congress in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Represented by leaders from Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, USA and Mexico, we experienced four days of fellowship, learning, teamwork, prayer and planning amidst a great unity of Spirit and an inspiration for greater collaboration and sharing.

Take a sneak peak with this four minute YouTube synopsis (uploaded yesterday), or see our online gallery of photos: