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Ignatian and Eastern Orthodox Spirituality

A while ago I asked for prayer regarding my wife and I starting the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises under the weekly guidance of the Jesuits in Johannesburg (“Ignatian Retreat in Daily Life”, an hour a day of prayer-meditation over a ten month period). It drew quite a bit of feedback. A few years ago a friend of mine in Norway gave me an eastern orthodox prayer rope (he makes them). He recently asked if I could share a picture of it, as he wanted to put it on his Facebook page. This too has drawn comments. I’ve been asked, “why are you doing this Catholic and Orthodox spirituality stuff?” Here’s a brief perspective. Continue reading Ignatian and Eastern Orthodox Spirituality

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End of the Year Update

It’s the last day of 2012 and we are all still here. The world has not ended. Despite all its publicity and hype, the Mayan prophecy was a hoax, a false doomsday deception. We have the privilege of yet another year of living and sharing in God’s truth, telling the world that Messiah Jesus is God’s answer to the human crisis: the One who came to save the planet, who daily changes and transforms people – in anticipation of his soon coming Kingdom on earth.  We participate in its coming to the extent we daily follow Jesus, and live and pray and act as he did, “as it is in heaven”.

Continue reading End of the Year Update

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Story of the Pakistan Visa!

Late yesterday afternoon (Thursday 29 March 2012), after a long wait and “assertive” discussion with a consulate representative at the Embassy, I went home without a visa. Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) had not sent through approval to Pretoria Pakistan Embassy for our visa, despite our visa application being in the Embassy for four weeks ago, and despite the inviting pastor, Sarwar Masih in Lahore, going to their Ministry of Interior with letters and copies of passports, etc. It’s rather disappointing.

We were scheduled to fly today (Friday 30 May), but have now cancelled the ministry trip, despite Sarwar Masih having done posters and organised the whole pastor’s conference, etc. Our friend and Vineyard colleague from Norway, Odd-Ivar, who planned to join us as part of the team, will arrive in Lahore on tomorrow and will participate in the conference.

I found the Pakistan Embassy a shambles of disorganization and rudeness. I had been personally three times to the Embassy and made well over ten phone calls over four weeks. Yesterday they said my passport was locked in the office of the commissioner who had left the Embassy early and no one had keys to go in and get the passport. I waited for over an hour and talked to no fewer than three people, and then made a phone call to a Pakistan official, before a senior consular official came.

He explained that Islamabad had not yet sent a reply, so the visa was not approved in time for our trip – after having our passports and application for four weeks – have you ever heard of such a thing? I expressed my strong disagreement and dissatisfaction with their process, then simply insisted in getting our passports and begin our hour and half drive home – two hours in traffic! Anyway, after further insistence on my part they managed to get our passports and I came home.

Thanks for the prayers. I am relieved its all over, but sad that my son and I will miss our ministry trip to Pakistan. And I’m sorry for Sarwar and the pastors there, but I feel relief. God’s in charge and I believe he will work this for our good. Part of the good is that I have some uninterrupted time this coming week – when I was supposed to be in Pakistan – to work on my book “Doing Spirituality – Introducing Christian Spirituality as Discipleship to Jesus and his Kingdom”. I plan to write fourteen chapters and right now I am at the end of chapter six. I’m excited to have a week to write, it’s like heaven for me!! I always think of the athlete in the movie Chariots of Fire who, when he ran, put his head back and “felt the pleasure of God”. When have uninterrupted time to write I put my head down and I feel the pleasure of God – it’s one of the things I was made for!

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Report on Pastor’s & Leader’s Prayer Retreat

I was privileged to lead a pastors and leaders retreat from 25 to 27 January, 2012. My Vineyard colleagues in the NECSA region asked me to lead the retreat on “Entering the New Year – Praying the Psalms”. What an honor for me to do that! We had 32 people in attendance. See the photos of some of the heavy dudes who came!

I gave 5 meditation inputs with handouts for personal reflection, journalling and prayer. I dealt with issues like how we enter and plan the new year, how to deal with busyness and “the tyranny of the urgent”, and above all, how to make prayer a practical priority to keep our own hearts soft and fragrant as a garden for the Lord. We are first and foremost personal followers of Jesus, working on our own spiritual formation, as leaders of God’s people. Then our primary task as spiritual leaders is the spiritual formation of our people – by inducting and guiding them in the basic practices required for spiritual growth and health. That was the overall focus of the retreat.

We kept silence for the morning and afternoon sessions to best engage in our meditation times, and then the late afternoons and evenings were for relaxation, interaction, sharing and fun! The feedback from those who attended was good – God evidently met with many in meaningful and significant ways!

I am happy to post a disk of the 5 talks (in MP3 format) with the notes and meditation sheets, so that you can set aside time and do the retreat yourself where you are. The talks and notes are self-explanatory; they will guide you through the retreat step by step. All I ask is for you to pay my costs (the disk and postage, etc) by electronic transfer or direct bank deposit. If you email me I will give you all the details.

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Baptist Pastors Retreat – “Isaiah 58 Network”

Gill and I went to the beautiful town of George (the Southern Cape, South Africa) a Christian Guest farm called Carmel. We were invited to lead a pastor’s retreat from 24 to 27 October, for a group that call themselves the Isaiah 58 Network. They are ministers in the Baptist Union of Churches that are seeking the renewal of the Holy Spirit, not just of the ‘signs and wonders’ kind, but also in the area of social justice – hence Isaiah 58 (it’s worth reading). There were just over 50 leaders mainly from the Eastern and Western Cape.

The way into Carmel Christian Guest Farm
To Carmel guest farm

We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the place. See the photo of the view from our room. The gardens were so fragrance and full of blossoms. The food was delicious – we added a cubit to our stature! But above all, the pastors and leaders were so warm and receptive and open to the Spirit. We felt so at home. They drew the Word of God out of me like sponges soaking up water! And their sense of worship and waiting on God and receiving words from the Spirit, was such a refreshing for Gill and I. It is so amazing to me that we come to minister to them, but so often on retreats and ministry trips of this nature, we are the ones who are ministered to! We went home full of joy!

View of the ocean from our room
This is the view from Carmel

I was asked to teach on Isaiah 58 with a focus on social transformation, healing and spirituality. The first night I shared my personal journey in following Jesus in ministry as a spiritual leader. Then over the next two days I gave five teachings on the themes just mentioned. We spent more time doing Spirit-ministry in the evening sessions, and many reported being deeply touched and cleansed and healed and empowered by God. What a privilege and honor to minister to pastors and leaders in this way. I feel so very grateful to God that I had this wonderful opportunity.

View of chapel on the hill
The lovely chapel at Carmel
Carmel chapel where the meetings were held

Here are two snippets of feedback – among others – that I got from some leaders soon after the retreat.

Alexander, I have so longed for a healthy marriage of the Word and the Spirit and am rejoicing at what the Spirit is doing in Isaiah 58. Your teaching, spirit and ministry was as rain to us all. Thank you once again.

Dear Gill and Alexander,  The more I think about the week that has just gone by the more I feel incredibly blessed to have sat under your ministry. There were four things that stood out for me and were a blessing. A lack of arrogance from both of you. SO many Christian leaders can lose touch with people. You are both so warm and humble. Secondly it was your awesome mix of knowledge and spirit. The Isaiah bunch can be a funny audience because as good Baptists they have the Word grounding but also have a desire for the work of the Spirit. Many people can be strong in one area and weak in another. You are well taught on both sides and blessed me in both ways. Thirdly your testimony challenged me hugely, your willingness to share your story and be vulnerable among a bunch of strangers. There is so much power in a testimony and it opened the ears of everyone in the room, it gave you a platform to share everything else you had to say. And finally, the partnership that you and Gill have really does speak volumes about the power of a good marriage and how it represents Christ to the world. So thank you for the time spent. I am probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know but I felt I needed to tell you that as a ‘thank you for being who you both are’ sort of mail. God Bless.

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This blog – Alexander Venter – is the product of Alexander’s teaching ministry since January 1975 when he was ordained to ‘the ministry’ as a church planter and pastor. His years of experience, empowered by numerous significant relationships, has produced relevant resources in the form of teaching notes, audios, DVDs and books – to help all who want to follow Jesus, with a view to equipping them for life and ministry in God’s Kingdom. As a “teacher of God’s Word instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven, he brings out treasures from his storeroom, both old and new” (Matthew 13:52). This website makes some of these Kingdom treasures available to all who may be interested.