Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

13 March 2018

John 8
Psalm 23

As you read from John 8:12 onwards, you notice how there are two conversations happening. Jesus makes a statement, for example as He does in verse 12, “I am the light of the world” and the people listening (in this case the Pharisees) respond, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (vs 13).  It is clear that the Pharisees (and later in the passage the Jews) have not understood what Jesus is saying.

The basic problem for the Pharisees is that they do not believe Jesus. They do not believe Jesus because they still walk in darkness. They do not have the light. They do not have the “light of the world” and nor do they have the “light of life”. Until verse 30, they are talking past each other. In verse 30 we are told, “many believed in him”. At that point, Jesus turns to those who believed and says “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (vs 31).

It is a reminder that we cannot know and understand the Truth until we believe in Jesus. In that moment the scales fall from our eyes and understanding, and the truth of the gospel shines through. It is not about our intellectual knowledge or understanding, what is required to see the Truth is to believe in Jesus. When we believe in Jesus, we have the ”light of life”.

In conversations and discussions with unbelievers, we can bring out the best rational arguments and they often still walk away not understanding. We can get frustrated and wonder how can they not understand, how can they not see the truth. This passage reminds us that the key turning point is believing in Jesus. Let’s pray for our friends, family and work colleagues to believe in Jesus so that the scales are lifted from their eyes and they are able to walk in the light and see the truth.

12 March 2018

John 7
Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?

 Psalm 22:1

When we read these words we immediately think of Jesus’ cry on the cross. And yet here we find them as the opening words of Psalm 22. Jesus, as He was dying an excruciating death, didn’t just call out words, He called out Scripture that came to His mind.  He was so immersed in Scripture that even as He was dying, His cry to God was a quote from Scripture.

But this Psalm not only reminds us of Jesus’ final words and His death, it reminds us that what we feel is not always a reflection of what God is doing. David was convinced that God had forsaken him and that his cries for help were not being heard. David does what each of us needs to do when we feel that God has forsaken us. He reminds himself that his descendants had trusted in God (vs 4) and how God had delivered them. He reminds himself that God is to be trusted because He has a track record of never letting his people down (vs 5).

There are two challenges for us in these opening verses of Psalm 22. Firstly, in our moments of difficulty and as we face hardships in this life, do we allow our feelings to drive our thoughts, or do we recall the faithfulness of God and what He done for us in the past?

Secondly, in our toughest moments in life, are we so immersed in the Scriptures that our cries of anguish are cries dominated by the Scriptures? These moments are some of the greatest tests of our faith. Our feelings in these moments need to be controlled by our knowledge. Knowledge of the Scriptures and knowledge of what God has done for us.

9 March 2018

John 6

In John 6 we see Jesus miraculously feeding the five thousand, till all were satisfied and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers. He then demonstrates His power by walking on the water to His disciples. These miracles point us to a climax statement that Jesus makes in verse 35: “I am the bread of life”. Jesus demonstrates that He is the only one who can truly meet all our needs and satisfy us completely. He is the Bread of life. “…it is my Father who gives you the true bread of heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33).

It is a constant struggle to keep our eyes on this heavenly reality when we live in a broken world with earthly realities – physical needs demanding our constant attention. Yes, we need our daily food and we are to ask our heavenly Father for that, but we also need to remember that we should be more concerned with finding our satisfaction in our Lord, Jesus Christ: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27).

God’s seal of approval was declared at Jesus’ baptism and is seen clearly in the two miracles in our passage today. Jesus shows His power over nature and creation, as well as His ability to satisfy man’s physical need for food. But these point to the reality that Jesus, as the Son of Man, satisfies our eternal needs. Only in Him will we, and the world He created, find true and everlasting satisfaction to all our yearnings. It’s a helpful reminder when we see the world around us searching for their satisfaction in everything else but Jesus, especially when we are tempted to do the same. We need to remind ourselves that He is our source of life, true life, and keep resting in Him. We also need to realise that we need to point others to Jesus every opportunity we have, as they will only find satisfaction and peace in Him. Dissatisfaction and discontentment are one of the gracious means God uses to bring people to Him. We need to be ready to share about Jesus, tell people of this life-giving ‘bread’ that will satisfy them completely, every time other people’s disillusionment and discontentment give opportunity.  

8 March 2018

John 5
Proverbs 7

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaderssaid to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

 John 5:1-15

This record of Jesus healing at the pool always tugs at my heart strings. That pool at the Sheep Gate must have been quite a heart wrenching sight. The desperate situation of those crippled people left alone and – I can imagine – rejected by most people, so that they felt their only hope was to throw themselves into this pool when the water was stirred. The invalid that caught Jesus’ attention was probably the most desperate. Even if this pool could somehow magically heal him, he was stuck on the side, completely unable to get himself to the pool. For 38 years, we are told, he has had a front row seat to what he believed could save him, but was never helped by anyone to access it himself. This account of the miracle performed by Jesus is one of many in the gospels. It points to Jesus as God, particularly here as the Son of God who has the authority to show compassion and work on the Sabbath.  But when I read this passage I am also struck at the person of Jesus, the compassion He shows, and the challenge it is to us as His followers.

I wonder what we would see and feel if we walked past that pool daily. Would we have become numb to the plight of these people, excusing ourselves from any responsibility for them? Or would we be in amongst these people, helping them when we can?

I think John wants us as his readers to feel the depth of this invalid’s desperation, and we are supposed to be sitting on the edge of our seats when we see Jesus walking into this situation. Knowing what Jesus is capable of and He has done up to this point in John’s gospel, we anticipate that He is the only person that can take this invalid out of this desperate situation. And Jesus does. Jesus speaks and the man is cured. Again we see Jesus show compassion to the desperate and do what only God could do.  

Our Lord and Saviour models a compassion that often we as His followers lack. We often, in an effort of emotional self-preservation, numb ourselves or choose to ignore the plight of those around us. Seeing Jesus’ compassion in action in this passage, reminds me that we are called to be like Jesus to live with the same compassion, being His hands and feet in this broken world. Each of us can only discern for ourselves how we do in this area or what it could look like in our own lives. I hope that being reminded of our beautiful Saviour’s compassion, will encourage our hearts to be more compassionate.

 

 

 

7 March 2018

John 4
Psalm 21

Surely you have granted him unending blessings
    and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
    through the unfailing love of the Most High
    he will not be shaken.

Psalm 21:6-7

As King David praises God for all the blessings God’s given and the prayers and requests God has answered, I was struck most by verses 6 and 7. David is not only praising God for what he has received, there, and now as king of Israel, but he is praising God for God himself. In these verses, David speaks of being blessed forever because of the joy of being in God’s presence, for experiencing God’s steadfast love. David finds his joy and strength in the blessings of a relationship with his God.  

I couldn’t help feel how often this is lacking in my own experience. How often I lose sight of the immeasurable love of God and the privilege it is to just know God and call Him my God. How often do I seek joy and gladness in other worldly things, when He is the only source of perfect and unending joy. How often do I search for help and strength to get through the day (never mind life) in the world and people around me. If only I consistently sought to know and understand the steadfastness of His unfailing love! Then I would be strengthened to the point where whatever life throws at me, I will be able to stand. And not just stand, but stand with a deep seated and unwavering joy for knowing my God.

 

 

 

 

 

6 March 2018

John 3
Psalm 20

Now this I know:
    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:6-7

These words were spoken by God’s chosen king David, to and on behalf of the people of Israel. However they are still true for us now, who trust and follow God’s true King, Jesus Christ. This psalm calls us to trust in the Lord. It is a wonderful reminder that we have a God who has, throughout history shown that He is trustworthy. In the way he asks his requests of God, David testifies to the fact that God is a God who answers you when you are in distress, sends you help, grants you support and saves His anointed. David, of all people, has first-hand experience of God’s faithfulness as we see his life recorded for us in the bible. With the words written in this Psalm, he testifies to God’s faithfulness, showing his confidence and trust in God.

I was struck at how slow we often are to call on this trustworthy God. Do we turn to Him first when we are in distress and needing help? Are we fully confident that He will answer and meet our needs? Granted, God might not answer us how we might want or think is best, but He will answer us, according to His will as a completely good and trustworthy Father. We have an entire Bible that testifies to His unwavering trustworthiness. In times of distress, need and stress, let your God be your first port of call when asking for help.

 

 

5 March 2018

John 2
Psalm 19

Psalm 19 is one of those psalms that leave me in awe of my God every time I read it. I am reminded how the entire creation is constantly singing God’s praises, declaring His Glory. We live in a place that gives us ample opportunity to see this first hand, from our mountains, beaches, seas and everything in between; we have to acknowledge that this city we call home is an undeniable declaration of our God’s glorious handiwork. And if that were all that God has revealed of Himself to us, it would be an awesome thing to behold. But it’s not.

Verses 7-11 remind us that we can call this awesome creator God, our Lord, and that He has spoken words directly to us, His perfect words, which we have the privilege of holding in our hands every time we pick up our bibles. This psalm reminds me that these words from God are all we need for living this life, as they meet our every need. We are told His words revive our souls, make us wise, cause our hearts to rejoice, enlighten our eyes. Can you think of anything else in this world that so completely holds us, keeps us, guides us, and fulfils us?  Like the Psalmist, I cannot help but be in awe, wondering who could possibly find any fault in this perfect God, our Lord? (vs.12)

From gazing at God’s glory, both in creation and in His word, and then shifting my gaze to myself, I can’t help but notice the glaring need for improvement and the feelings of disappointment and guilt. I become acutely aware of my brokenness. My daily failures, lost patience, unloving thoughts, words and actions, are some of the many instances in which I fail to reflect my Creator and Lord’s glory to the world around me. This should bring me humbly me to my Lord’s feet for help. But that is the beauty of this psalm. Knowing who his God is and who he is, the psalmist cries out for his God to cleanse him, make him innocent. Like him, we too need to be saved us from ourselves, our sinfulness, both what we are aware of and the many sins we are not aware of. Only our Lord by His grace can save us and change us, so that we too can pray with confident assurance and say “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”.

 

2 March 2018

John 1

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:9-13

Life is full of mysteries which we can’t easily explain with our human understanding. One of these is the profound truth that God came to us in the flesh and dwelt among us. We can’t fathom, humanly speaking, how this happened. What we can begin to grasp from our reading today is what God was doing through Jesus’ incarnation and how we should respond.

God’s dwelling among us was to open the door to His household, to give entrance into His family. The right to become children of God is not automatic. It is a right bestowed by God alone. Our choice, our will, our purposes are all subject to God’s right to include us in His family. What we do need is to hear His offer to be born again, receive it and believe in the name of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh). Our entrance is based only on us receiving and embracing what God has done through Jesus, namely His incarnation, His life, death and resurrection.  This further immerses us in the unfathomable reality that Jesus, God dwelling among us, lived to die so that we can be called ‘sons of God.’ Let that sink in!

The more deeply this truth sinks in, the more deeply we should be shaken and saddened by our reception, as humanity, of our God visiting us. For the welcome we gave Him, and give Him all to often, is to not recognise Him nor welcome Him, He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him” (v11). It’s one thing to brush off another person, it’s quite another to brush off our Creator. What a sad and disturbing truth: God condescended to us and for us, and we couldn’t even muster up a worthy welcome.

In light of all John 1 puts before us, we need to constantly be asking the questions, have I welcomed God? Will I continue to welcome Him in every area of my life? Will I honour Him daily? Will my worship of Him match His worthiness? There is no-one more worthy of honour, praise and adoration as the one who came to dwell among us, God come in the flesh.

1 March 2018

James 5
Proverbs 6

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
    consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
    no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
    and gathers its food at harvest.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
    When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and grows as we immerse ourselves in His word. The surprising places the word points us to in order to grow in wisdom are a reminder that the world and everything in it  – even the ant – belongs to God, for His glory and His purposes.

The observation and consideration of an ant’s ways, can lead us to wisdom if we will learn and act on what we see. There are a few things we learn from the ant. Firstly, it leads itself (v7), “it has no commander, no overseer or ruler.” In other words it does not rely on someone else to lead it, motivate it or keep it accountable. Secondly, the ant knows when to be prudent and when it’s time to gather (v8). Its work ethic and its consumption is driven by an understanding of time. It works hard and saves when appropriate and it gathers at the right time. This I take it, means the ant is consistent in his work, according to times and seasons. In other words, his work ethic is consistent. Thirdly, it’s implied from verse 9 that the ant knows how much rest is good and when it’s time to get up. It is never seen to be sleeping too long or questioned about its work ethic. Who would have guessed that observing an ant could shine such a penetrating light on what God expects of people?

This proverb is directed at the sluggard (the lazy person) but is a good reminder for us all. It’s a reminder that God has created us to be productive and fruitful; to be wise and ethical in our work and to use our time well. How much more so for the Christian whose higher purpose is to serve God and bring Him glory. Although the ant is not led by another, we are led by God and should therefore be accountable to God to lead ourselves (humanly speaking), work hard and steward our time. It’s to this end we must pray that God would strengthen and empower us by His Spirit to live fruitfully for His glory.

28 February 2018

James 4
Psalm 18

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?

James 4:1-12

Still on the subject of “asking”, today’s reading urges us to “come near to God and he will come near to us”.

And this is in the context of quarrelling and fighting in the church.

In a suburban church setting there no doubt are many things that we do have – we generally are so much better off materially than many churches in the townships are. And we thank God for His kindness and generosity.

Yet, there is much that we lack – even in our relatively wealthy church.

Not least, we lack humility – we are proud, selfish, self-centred. We think so highly of ourselves. We say and think that we are better than others who perhaps may not have the privilege of a good home and family. Or others who don’t have the level of education that we have or the jobs and careers that we have.

But there is the solemn caution in this passage (vs 6) that God opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34).

That is strong language right there, because it implies that you are an enemy of God.

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, as we acknowledge our pride before God Almighty, this word then becomes an amazing word of grace to us.

Today let’s allow this reading to inform our prayer.

Today let’s turn this reading into a prayer.

A prayer unlike the prayer that is described in verse 3.

A prayer that must obviously begin with confession of this lack of humility which always leads to fighting and quarrelling.

And a prayer that continues in the line of verse 7.

A prayer that we are assured of will result in us “being lifted up” as we humble ourselves.

Grow deep…love deep!

 

27 February 2018

James 3
Psalm 17

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:13-18

In a church like ours, made up of different people from different backgrounds the potential for envy, selfishness, boasting, disorder, and every evil practice is real. Real because we live in this broken sinful world when these things are not foreign.

Thankfully it is not a surprise to God.

Not only is not just a surprise to God, but He has given us His wisdom (the Scriptures) to address this worldly behaviour, this earthly wisdom – “such wisdom does not come from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil” (James 3:15).

God addresses this earthly wisdom through James by saying that in order to be peace-loving and considerate and submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere, we need His wisdom, the wisdom from heaven which we evidently don’t have.

And what do we do when we don’t have anything? Well, we ask. Have a look at chapter 1 and see the result of our asking: “God gives generously to all” (James 1:5).

What an amazing word!

Dear brothers and sisters, we have access to two kinds of wisdom: our own, earthly, distorted wisdom – and God’s wisdom. Put another way, there are two ways to live: the Frank Sinatra way – my way and our God’s way

Today, as we reflect on James 3 let us pray that the Lord by His Spirit will convict us to seek His wisdom. And as we pray that for ourselves, let us pray it also for all our brothers and sisters in Christ – known to us and not known to us.

 

26 February 2018

James 2
Psalm 16

James 2. In our beautiful country it is convenient to go with the flow of worldly and corrosive thinking that values a person based on their appearance, race, gender, education or status. What are your hurried thoughts when you see a questionable person approaching your car at a traffic light? And what about when someone “interesting” comes to church? Or maybe sits in your seat? How charitable are your thoughts?

Discrimination, neglect or abuse of any person contradicts and even assaults the ministry and character of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He loved, served and died for everyone. Even His enemies.

Our Lord Jesus commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves and to treat others as we want to be treated. No exceptions.

Favouritism of the rich is obviously with an ulterior motive. In contrast, if we treat the lowly with dignity we enter into the joy of our Lord because that’s how He has gladly treated us with kindness in our brokenness.

If we have saving faith in Christ, James encourages us it show it with good works. And Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Do you like happy endings? I do. And here is the joyful ending of this true drama:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”‘ (Matthew 25:40)

23 February 2018

James 1

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

James 1:2

“Joy” and “trials” are two words with which we are all well-acquainted. Taken separately they don’t surprise us. We know we will face trials in this life. We all desire joy. But put the word “in” between them, and we suddenly have a problem. “Joy in trials?” Really? How is that possible?

The book of James packs a punch in its first chapter. In fact, it hits hard on several areas of life. The brother of Jesus wastes no time in telling believers in the Lord what life is like as a Christian, and how to live as a follower of Christ. We all can relate to trials in our work situations, our family relationships, our financial state, and in trying to live as a believer in a world that more and more hates God. So how do we have joy in the midst of those struggles?

Joy is often equated with happiness. While we can be happy and joyful at the same time, joy does not mean we put on a plastic smile and act like nothing bothers us. But it does mean we are at peace because we know that even this battle will be used by God to grow us. Perseverance is its fruit and maturity is its end. Nothing is wasted when we trust in the Lord and lean on Him. It sounds simple but it runs counter to our sinful nature. We want relief now. But God often has a different timetable.

So how do we attain joy in the midst of trials? Only when we focus on God and not our circumstances can we have joy. In Philippians 2:17, Paul tells the Philippian believers: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Paul was chained up in prison, possibly facing death. But he kept his eyes on the Lord, and knew he did not suffer for nothing. Scores of other believers in the Bible did the same. So can we. Only when we keep our eyes on our loving Father and remember how He has carried us in the past do we have joy in the midst of the struggle. Is it difficult? Yes. But it’s not impossible.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

James 1:2

 

22 February 2018

Luke 24
Proverbs 5

Luke 24. Nobody’s testimony of coming to faith in Christ is the same. The beauty of our God is that He meets us where we are. My testimony is different from everyone else’s because God chose to open my heart and mind to Him in a unique way from everyone else. Some come to faith by hearing a sermon. Others by hearing the testimony of a friend who is a believer. And still others by reading the Bible for themselves.   

After He rose from the dead, Jesus revealed the Good News in different ways to those who followed him. The women taking spices to the tomb were met by two men in gleaming clothes who proclaimed His resurrection (Luke 24:5-6). The disciples heard about the resurrection first from the women (vs 9), then by going to see for themselves (at least in Peter’s case – vs 12). Two of them met a “stranger” on the road to Emmaus who was seemingly oblivious to all that had just happened, then revealed His identity to them as they told him of all Jesus had taught them (vs 25-27, 31). Jesus later appeared to all the disciples and proved He was really alive (and not a ghost), by eating a meal with them (vs 36-40) and showing them His scars.

How reassuring to know that the Lord meets each of us where we are, rather than waiting for us to come to Him. Some of us need to “see for ourselves” before we trust in Jesus, while others believe the first time they hear the gospel message. Praise God for His grace that extends to each of us no matter where we spiritually stand!

 

21 February 2018

Luke 23
Psalm 15

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Luke 23:44-45

One detail of the crucifixion story that has always amazed me is the account of the curtain in the temple being torn in two. It is stated so matter-of-factly in Luke that it seems almost a throw-away comment. But these 10 words changed everything for the Jew, and for us.

To suddenly witness the tearing of a curtain that not only was too heavy (at least 4 tons) and too thick (over 10 cm thick and 20 meters high) to be torn by a human, but was also torn from top to bottom, must have been staggering. For the casual onlooker this may have been impressive because of the size and weight of the curtain, but for the Jew, this was life-changing. God did not wait for us to find a way to Him. He tore the division between us by sending His Son to pay our penalty for sin. The bloody sacrifice of lambs was over. The yearly practice of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people was now obsolete. Anyone could come before the throne and ask forgiveness for sins.

This tearing down of the dividing wall between us and God is both terrifying and freeing. It is terrifying because we cannot hide from the God who judges our sin. His holiness is overwhelming. It is freeing because the sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins is now complete. Jesus, THE Lamb, has been sacrificed once for all time and now we have access to God. What an awesome privilege we have to “approach the throne of grace with confidence”! (Hebrews 4:16)

 

20 February 2018

Luke 22
Psalm 14

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22: 42, 44

When we read passages like this from our western point of view, we miss a lot of the cultural significance behind what happened. When Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives, it was in the area known as Gethsemane. Gethsemane actually means “olive press.” In the Mark 14:32-40 account of Jesus’ anguish, Jesus asks three times for the Father to take from Him the horror of what He was about to face. Yet each time Jesus ended His prayer with submitting to the Father’s will. In the same way, sacks of crushed olives were put in the olive press and pressed three times, in order to extract every last drop of oil. The olive oil, as it drained, had a brownish-red colour, much like blood. In the same way, Jesus prayed three times to the Father, each time with more anguish, until He was sweating drops of blood. The symbolism of this would not have been lost on an Israelite at that time.

Nowhere do we see so vividly the humanity of Christ. He was not some super hero that felt no pain. As if the physical torture and brutality He was about to face weren’t enough, He faced an emotional heartache that screamed for relief and deliverance. But always He ended His prayer with submission to His Father. If we are tempted to believe Jesus doesn’t “get” what it is to be human, to be in pain, to struggle emotionally and mentally, we need only read this account to see that He not only “gets” it, He experienced it to a degree far greater than we do.

All of this our Lord and Saviour suffered for us, that we might be reconciled to God.

19 February 2018

Luke 21
Psalm 13

All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Luke 21:4

Jesus was a keen observer of human nature. On this particular day in the temple, he watched those who came in to bring their offerings. Much like in Luke 18 with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus here compares two kinds of people coming to worship through giving.

The first is the rich. In the Mark 12 account of this event, it says that many rich people “threw in” large amounts. The word “threw” implies it was given haphazardly, carelessly, almost as if it didn’t matter. The choice of verb suggests that had they given sacrificially, they would have taken more care in how they deposited their gifts.

But here the poor widow comes forward and puts in two very small copper coins. The fact that Jesus notices the details of the size and worth of her offering demonstrates that she probably took great care in giving her gift. It was worth a lot to her because it was sacrificially given. Jesus, knowing all things, tells his disciples that she gave out of her poverty. Her offering was not “thrown” into the temple treasury. Her gift was humbly given, not to “earn” her salvation or somehow gain favour with God, but because she loved the Lord. Otherwise Jesus would not have made an example of her.

What is our attitude towards the offering we give towards God’s work? Do we “throw” our money into the offering bag carelessly, as the rich people did? Do we even remember what we give because our offering is submitted via EFT? Are we still giving the same amount monthly as we did three years ago because we haven’t thought about giving more sacrificially?

To Jesus, it was never about the amount of money given, but rather about the heart of the giver. What would Jesus say about our giving? Oh that we would be praised as the widow was!

16 February 2018

Luke 20

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Luke 20:20-22

The world loves to poke holes in Christianity. It loves to prove scripture wrong by pointing out contradictions. The world points fingers at God by asking how a loving God can allow tragedies to happen, especially if good people suffer. In the verses above the teachers of the law and chief priests try and catch Jesus out and find a way to arrest Him. Sarcastically they indicate that Jesus teaches what is right and true in accordance with God’s word. However they are not being truthful as Jesus often spoke against them; highlighting their hypocrisy and sins.

The world today acknowledges Jesus as a good teacher but is not prepared to follow His teaching. Jesus gives a brilliant answer to the Jewish leaders’ question, and as a result the Jewish leaders walk away defeated.

Today Jesus is the answer to the most important question of all – how can we inherit eternal life. Jesus answer back then was that he was “The way, the truth and the life”. What we do with Jesus’ answer to this important question is critical. We can walk away like the Jewish leaders and see Jesus just as a ‘good’ teacher, or we can take Jesus at his word, i.e. that he is the answer to life today and for eternity.

If we take Jesus seriously we will not be swayed by the challenges of the world and we will remain firm in our faith. The way in which we live our lives trusting in the Lord should reflect that Jesus is the only answer. Our daily walk with Jesus should be attractive to a cynical world so that our families, friends and colleagues see the difference that Jesus makes. As we give our lives to God we also will give the world what the world needs.

 

15 February 2018

Luke 19
Proverbs 4

In Proverbs 4 we see the writer encouraging his sons to seek wisdom just as his father taught him. The search for wisdom may even be costly but it is worth it in the end. Interestingly, the wisdom comments made in this chapter are expounded upon in the New Testament. It is in Jesus that we find true wisdom.

Paul says that when we seek God in prayer, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7). Paul also encourages us to focus on the prize of heaven (Philippians 3:14). James warns us to tame the tongue and be careful about what we say, indicating that we need God to help us. James closes chapter 3 by commanding us to gain wisdom from heaven.

The wisdom given at the end of Proverbs 4 instructs us to watch the path we walk and to stay on the right path without wavering. Jesus in Matthew 7:13 & 14 says that we need to enter through the narrow gate and follow the narrow path that leads to life.

Proverbs reminds us that we need to seek the Lord and we will find wisdom. God’s wisdom is clearly set out in His Word. The pursuit of God’s wisdom in Scripture may be costly in terms of time; but it is well worth the cost.

Help us Lord to persevere in Your Word and give us the obedience to put into practice what You instruct us to do.

14 February 2018

Luke 18
Psalm 12

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:14

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus gives us a clear indication of how He views self-righteousness. The Pharisee praised himself before God and set out all his personal achievements and compared himself with others. The tax collector on the other hand came before God and begged for mercy. Jesus then says that it was the tax collector who was justified before God and made righteous.

The Pharisee looked at his achievements and compared himself against others; people who he saw as sinners. He did not come to God to seek God but to tell God how good he was. Instead of comparing himself with Jesus and seeing his own sinfulness; he in effect tells God that he is okay and does not need God’s forgiveness and justification.

The tax collector meanwhile sees that his life is not acceptable to God. He is embarrassed to even look up to God and asks God for mercy because he knows that he is not living as God wants him to. He knows that he does not measure up to God’s standards. He acknowledges that it is God alone on whom he must depend.

Jesus’ teaching is that we need to seek God with humility and an attitude of being poor in spirit. We don’t bring anything in and of ourselves that makes us acceptable to God. Daily we need to consider others better than ourselves and acknowledge our dependence upon God. This is not easy to do as the world tells us to do the opposite; this shows us that we need God’s help and mercy. Walking humbly before God (James 4:10) and others will be a great witness to the world around us.

13 February 2018

Luke 17
Psalm 11

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Luke 17:15-18

Our response to God’s work in our lives is an indicator of our faith. One would think that all the lepers who were healed would be grateful for their healing and come to thank Jesus. Self-righteously we would respond by thinking that we would act in the same way that the healed Samaritan did.

When we consider our salvation how thankful are we for what God has done in our lives. Our salvation is the greatest act of healing; as it is our souls that are healed forever. Our healing from the curse of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross should lead us to give God all the honour, thanks, and praise every day of our lives. Our thankfulness also implies that our faith is strong – that we live with the assurance that our salvation is secure.

Our thankfulness should be evident in our prayers, the way we live each day; in the words we speak, the acts we do, and the time we spend in communion with the Lord. We should never take our salvation for granted and just move on and live like the rest of the world. Thankfulness takes the focus off ourselves and onto Jesus who died for us. Thankfulness moves us from being selfish to an appreciation for what God has done for us. Thankfulness changes our outlook from being woeful to rejoicing in the goodness of God. Thankfulness is doing what God’s Word tells us to do.

Thank you Jesus.

12 February 2018

Luke 16
Psalm 10

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Luke 16:27-28

The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man presents a strong warning to non-Christians and a call to Christians to share the gospel. The rich man does not even ask to cross over to Heaven but asks for a brief respite from the pain and torment that he is going through. The rich man cries out that his family at least be warned about the terrible future that awaits them. The rich man’s cry should convict the unsaved hearer, as he is speaking from experience that hell is not a place to spend eternity.

The rich man thinks that if someone who has died goes and warns his family that this would be enough. Jesus response is frightening – even if someone rises from the dead (referring to his resurrection) and gives this warning that this would not be enough.

This desperate picture should galvanise us as Christians to go and warn the world of its eternal damnation. This parable challenges us to go out and be the watchmen (Ezekiel 3:16-19) that God calls us to be. To go out and warn the unsaved that their sin will lead to death, our message though should not be one of bad news, but of good news. The good news that Jesus saves them for a glorious future. The good news that the brief life on earth with all its struggles and heartache mixed with joys and pleasure can be followed by eternity in heaven in a right relationship with their Creator God.

9 February 2018

Luke 15

Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

32 ‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Luke 15:6,9,32

With the water crisis that we are facing, I am reminded with shame of those times when I have wasted and abused the privilege of having more than enough water. That sad, bleak feeling overwhelms us when we don’t have something that we used to have and have become accustomed to, and most probably have taken for granted! We have literally moved from having plenty to very little or nothing!

In today’s reading (v6, 9, 32) we see exactly the opposite: what was once lost has been found and instead of sad, bleak feelings there is much celebrating and rejoicing!

Think about the time in your life before you became a Christian. Do you remember how bleak and sad your life was in comparison to today as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you remember the terrible things you did and were involved in and how much pain and suffering it caused you and your loved ones? Do you remember the joy in your heart and the celebration of those around you when you were enabled by the grace of God to cross that invisible line?

Well, this reading today must motivate you to stop and consider the lost-ness of so many people. But it must also make you stop and pray intentionally and earnestly for those who are near and dear to you who do not know how much they need to be saved from this world. Pray for those who are unknown to you and who are ignorant of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Pray for all those who minister God’s Word wherever they are. Pray that perishing souls be saved and the whole Church revived for great rejoicing and celebration to continue on earth and in heaven. Because what was once lost – through our prayers and the faithful work of many – will be found!

For the Glory of God.

8 February 2018

Luke 14
Proverbs 3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

 Proverbs 3:5-6

The Book of Proverbs speaks of the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness:

  • The way of wisdom will lead to life.
  • The way of foolishness will lead to devastation and eventually death.

This passage invites us to follow the way of the LORD. It is a great invitation urging us to trust in God wholeheartedly. To trust means “to lean your whole weight upon” and here we are invited to place our whole weight upon God. We do that by not leaning on our own understanding. Not our knowledge, or speculation, life experience, gifts, or financial wealth.

So we don’t know what 2018 will bring, do we? But we can put the whole weight of our worries upon God because He is bigger than the problems that we face. He is SO superior to “our own understanding”. And that must affect the amount of trust (if we can quantify in human terms) we have in Him.

The Proverb says that the quality of our trust must not be partial and half-hearted.
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your finances?
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your marriage and your many human relationships?
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your faith?

Listen: “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”. And the result of trusting God wholeheartedly is that He will make your paths straight. That is a powerful statement!

How have you experienced God’s leading in your life? What does it look like? He will direct you and lead you.

  • He led Abraham out of his country of Ur of the Chaldeans into Canaan.
  • He led the Israelites out of Egypt.
  • He led Nehemiah in the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem.
  • He led the disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

God will lead you too, all it takes is trust. Will you trust Him today? Will you use these two verses to inform your prayers for yourself today and will you pray this for everyone who is reading Proverbs 3 today?