Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lessons from Jericho

“But Joshua had commanded the people, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!’” Joshua 6:10
The conquering of Jericho was unusual on a number of levels. The thing that most people know about it is that the Israelites walked around the city for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, and then shouted and the walls fell down. This is an unusual battle tactic and not to be attempted unless God tells you to do it.
Here we see Joshua commanding the people not to speak until the day he said to. In many instances, Joshua is a type of Jesus (the name ‘Jesus’ is ‘Joshua’ in Hebrew). There is a parallel here. Jesus commands us to be gentle and not to retaliate (Matt. 5:38-42, Matt. 11:29). He set us an example in this (Isa. 53:7, 1 Pet. 2:23). “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19, quoting Deut. 32:35).
God will judge the world in due course, just as He judged the city of Jericho and gave it over to the Israelites. One day we will return with Jesus and watch as the nations fall before Him (Zech. 14:3-5).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


“The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12
Manna was God’s miraculous provision given to the Israelites during the 40 years in the wilderness to sustain them. Initially it was met with disdain (the word ‘manna’ basically means ‘what is it?’ – as if presented with something undesirable, like a dog turd for instance) and later with frustration at its apparent monotony (see Num. 11:6). Yet God calls it the ‘bread of heaven’ and ‘angels’ food’ (Ps. 78:24-25).
When the Israelites entered the land of promise, God’s miraculous provision of manna stopped. It signalled a change in their walk. In a spiritual sense, the Israelites’ walk is akin to our own spiritual walk: leaving Egypt (the world), a time of wilderness, crossing the Jordan (baptism in the Spirit) into a land flowing with milk and honey (abundant Spirit-filled life). God’s desire is that the Spirit would have free reign in our lives. If we choke the Spirit, God will provide in other, miraculous ways, but inferior to us actually entering the land and eating the fruit that comes from dwelling there.
Are you in a spiritual wilderness today – you’ve left Egypt but haven’t yet entered Canaan?

Monday, March 29, 2010

The way to live

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” Acts 9:31
Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7, 9:10). This does not mean that we should have a phobia of God, but that we ought to hold Him in reverence and great respect. The more we understand just how great God is, the more we will respect Him.
The only way to live is in the fear of the Lord. This is what the early church discovered, and it’s something that the church today would do well to learn. We often hear people talking about God as their buddy and Jesus as their best mate, but all these flippant types of remarks show is an immaturity in their spiritual walk. The early church, with its healthy fear of God, saw many miraculous signs and multitudes of people come to salvation. Consider what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they treated the things of God too lightly (Acts 5). What a spiritually powerful thing this must be, when the whole community of believers lives in a way where God is feared. There would be no place for living in sin, either overtly or covertly. There would be respect for all people as being made in God’s image. There would be no personal agendas or one-up-man-ship. There would be no place for gossip, backbiting, spreading rumours, rude jokes, bad language, etc. And when we rid these things from our lives collectively, this is when the Holy Spirit can do His work through and among us.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finding strength

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
This commandment from God is a recurring theme in Joshua’s life. The fact that it is mentioned so publicly, and so many times (in Deut. 31, Josh. 1, Josh. 8, etc.) shows to us that perhaps Joshua was not a naturally brave man. He had to be reminded time and time again that with God on his side, he didn’t have to be afraid.
I think it’s great that the Bible is full of feeble people, because we ourselves are feeble sometimes. Through the power of God Joshua became a mighty leader, even though in his own strength he needed a lot of encouragement to keep going. That same power is available to us today, if we would but commit our ways to following the Lord and being faithful in the position which He has put us in life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:35
Acts 8 gives us the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was prompted by the Holy Spirit to approach the eunuch’s chariot, eavesdrop on his conversation, and then in a very natural way was able to present the gospel to him.
This is not Philip of the Twelve: he was amongst those who were scattered (Acts 8:4-5) but the Twelve were not (Acts 8:1). Rather, he is mentioned among the helpers in the church (Acst 6:5). He was an ordinary guy, just like you and me.
How well could we have answered the eunuch’s question? ‘Can you explain this Scripture to me?’ We need to know the Scriptures in order to explain them. We need to be taught by the Holy Spirit in order to understand them. And like Philip, we need to begin where the person is at in their understanding of God, when we present the gospel to them. Every witnessing opportunity is different, and we need to be led by the Spirit in how to respond.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The everlasting arms

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27
God’s eternal nature should be of great comfort to us. He is always the same; He never changes. His personality doesn’t change, neither does His attitude or His love towards us. He deals with us in exactly the same way as believers all through history. His attitude towards sin has not changed, and the extent of His patience and forgiveness is still the same.
His everlasting arms support us and hold us up. This is reiterated in the New Testament also. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father's hand” (John 10:28-29). There are two hands involved here – the Father’s and the Son’s. Are you resting in the everlasting arms today?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55
Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 was given in response to the accusations by the religious authorities that he was blaspheming against God. In reading through it, we find a common theme: leaders of the nation who were rejected by the people the first time, but accepted the second time. He gives examples of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and no doubt would have gone on to show from the Scriptures how Messiah would be rejected the first time but accepted the second. However, he doesn’t get that far. Instead, he met with stony-faced resistance himself. His frustration shows in v51: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: you always resist the Holy Spirit!”
But then comes Stephen’s reward: to see Jesus, standing at the right hand of God in heaven, approving of his witness. What encouragement that must have been to him – not only in the light of the resistance, but also as he was being stoned. Instead of being frustrated, he prays for those who are stoning him (v59-60). This is a powerful lesson to us: that if, when we share the gospel with someone and they don’t respond favourably, we can know that God still approves of us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Upholding God's holiness

“This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites.” Deuteronomy 32:50-51
At face value, the events that led to God denying Moses entry into the Promised Land seem to be rather innocuous. Was this unfair of God, to deny Moses what he had been longing for all his life – especially after all that he had had to put up with in leading the Israelites through the desert for forty years: the grumbling, the complaining, the wailing, the lack of faith?
Twice in the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites camped in a place where there was no water, and God miraculously provided water for them from a rock. The first time, He commanded Moses to strike the rock, and water came forth (Ex. 17). The second time, He commanded Moses to speak to the rock (Num. 20). But Moses, in his frustration, struck the rock, and although the water came forth, God took Moses aside and said because of this he would not enter the Promised Land.
In this verse God gives us the real reason why Moses was not allowed to enter: because he failed to uphold God’s holiness. While Moses was angry at the people for their unbelief, God was not. He was simply leading them to another place where they would have to trust Him to provide. Because of His mercy, He caused water to come from the rock a second time, even when it was struck instead of being spoken to. God would surely have been glorified if Moses had spoken to the rock and water had come forth; as it was, the event was merely a repeat of the first time in the eyes of the people.
This is a sobering thought for us: How often do we miss out on the things we long for, because we fail to uphold God’s holiness in the sight of those around us?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithful God

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4
Reflecting on God’s nature always brings me to praise Him, just for Who He is. Our God is awesome and glorious. He is completely fair, and completely good. There is no evil in Him, and no evil can exist in His presence. The mystery is indeed great – that He should love sinners such as us and send His own Son to become sin and die in our place, so that we can be with Him for all eternity. God is under no obligation to do this, but He does it because of His love for us.
God is the standard of holiness and perfection. Consider this: a straight line cannot be made any straighter. On our own, no matter how hard we try to draw a straight line, without a ruler it is impossible. Let God be the straight edge in your life, the definition of perfection. In tracing an image around an object, the closer your pencil is to the object, the more the image will represent the original. Keep close to God today, and the more you do so, the more your life will become an image of Him.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The next generation

“We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” Psalm 78:4
Many times in the Bible it is emphasised that we are to teach our children the things of God. Not just things about God, or Bible stories alone, but to fully introduce them to Him, making spiritual things a normal part of family life so that they will grow up in the faith.
I count myself incredibly blessed to have grown up in a Christian family. While I may have come to faith if this had not been the case, I am sure the road would have been a lot longer and a lot more painful than the one I took. I am finding more and more that the fundamental Christian doctrines such as faith, grace, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and so forth, are such an integral part of me that I cannot even begin to question them. On the one hand this can make them difficult to explain; on the other I know them with a surety.
The world will condemn us for ‘brainwashing’ our kids, but the Bible commands us to “Talk about [God’s ways] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7). If we really believe that knowing God and being known by God is the most important thing in life, why would we deny that from our children?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The choice is ours

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children might live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
At the end of his life, Moses took the opportunity to lay down before the children of Israel the blessings that would come if they would keep the law of God, and the curses that would come if they disobeyed His law. It must have been disheartening for him, knowing how unfaithful they had been during his own life, when they had seen miracle after miracle, and that if they continued on that track they would bring curses upon themselves and not the blessings that were available and God was longing to give them. Moses has done all that he can at this point, and so he encourages them to ‘choose life’.
Similarly we have the choice today of life or death. Surrender your life to Christ, and live; or keep going your own way, and find death. Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). There are two options, but only one choice. And that choice is ours – God will not force it on us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This corrupt generation

“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’” Acts 2:40
Peter’s words to the people of Jerusalem listening to him on the day of Pentecost, are just as relevant to us today. While this is a different generation of people, it is just as corrupt as the generation of people in Peter’s day.
The word ‘saved’ here is sozo: the same word used of eternal salvation (Matt. 1:21, John 3:17, 1 Tim. 2:4, Rom. 10:13, etc.) but having a wider meaning: to protect, heal, or make whole. ‘Corrupt’ is skolios, meaning warped, winding, or perverse (Luke 3:5, Phil. 2:15, 1 Pet. 2:18). ‘Generation’ is genea, meaning generation, age (era or persons), nation, or time – generally speaking of people of a particular era.
We cannot save ourselves in the eternal sense – that is the work of Christ – but we can be on our guard not to be led astray by the perverseness of the society in general that we live in. With Christ indwelling us, our conscience is made alive and attentive to God, and spotting the corruption becomes easier.

Friday, March 19, 2010

God's sovereignty

“But it is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another.” Psalm 75:7
There are many verses in the Bible that teach us how God brings down the proud and exalts the humble (Prov. 3:34, 18:12, James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5). God is sovereign in His choices of whom He will honour. He is not bound by rules that say if we do X, He must do Y. However He has promised, if we humble ourselves, He will exalt us.
God is the judge of all things and all people. We are each accountable to Him for our actions and our choices (the most important of which is whether we have chosen to believe in His Son and to accept His free gift of eternal life).
Many people struggle philosophically when they see godly people suffering and ungodly people prospering (e.g. Ps. 73:12-14, Eccl. 8:14, Hab. 1:13). But if we are spiritually mature, we will realise that God is in control, He sees everything, and one day He will ensure there is justice for all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It is finished

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30
One thing we realise in reading through each of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, etc. is that He was the one in control of it. Not the Jewish authorities, not the soldiers, not Pilate – Jesus was the one calling the shots.
The death of Christ was not a defeat. It was the last Adam’s complete victory over sin and death. The grave could not hold Him. It had no power over Him. Jesus’ death marked the copletion of His mission during His first coming – being obedient to the Father, living a sinless life, and enduring death so that by Him many could be made righteous (Rom. 5:19).
In saying ‘It is finished’, Jesus was not talking about the drink He had just received, but that His work of atoning for our sins was complete. He then dismissed His own spirit, just as He had said earlier (John 10:17-18).
It is possible to spend all day – indeed, our entire lifetime – contemplating Jesus’ work on the cross. But the most important issue is this: have you personally received the gift that He offers you through it, the gift of eternal life? If not, ask Him for it today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jesus' kingdom

“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now My kingdom is from another place.’” John 18:36
There is a huge difference between the kingdom of Christ, and any other worldly kingdom. Worldly kingdoms and governments are inherently selfish. Consider how easily taxes are required and interest on them is charged, yet how hard it is to claim rebates when these are overpaid. Consider the disastrous outcome to a nation because of a tyrant’s selfish whims.
Jesus’ kingdom does not operate on the world’s principles. Instead of ‘look out for number one’, it is “consider others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Instead of ‘get what you can, and can what you get’, it is “be generous and willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:18). It is “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 19:30, Matt. 20:16, Mark 10:31, Luke 13:30).
Jesus’ kingdom is wherever He has free reign. His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. It is in the hearts of those who obey Him.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unequally yoked

“Do not plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” Deut. 22:10
This verse gives us more insight into the oft-quoted 2 Cor. 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers”. This has reference not only to romantic unions, but also to business ventures or any other commitment that might be made between two or more people.
The ox is docile and easily tamed. The donkey is stubborn and does not work well in a team. An ox and a donkey are never yoked together, because the ox will be led astray by the donkey’s stubbornness.
A union of any kind between a Christian and a non-Chrisitan will always end in the Christian compromising his or her position. Just as an ox and a donkey have different and completely opposite natures, so too the godly-minded and the worldly-minded person have different natures, values, and goals. This is not to say that as Christians we should not associate with non-Christians. But we need to be careful not to unite ourselves with them. The issue is one of separation (see Deut. 22:9-11 also).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jesus in control

“Again He asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ “I tol you that I am He,’ Jesus answered. ‘If you are looking for Me, then let these men go.’” John 18:7-8
The events of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion were ones that He had complete control over.
His betrayal: Jesus knew that Judas would eventually betray Him. Yet He chose him as one of the Twelve (Mark 3:16-19) – probably for the testimony he would later give: “I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). Jesus sent Judas out from the Last Supper to do his work (John 13:27). When Judas came with the temple guards and soldiers to arrest Jesus, He was the one who stepped forward to them and asked, “Who is it you want?” (John 18:4).
His arrest: Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested. He could have called thousands of angels to come to His aid (Matt. 26:53). The first time Jesus told the soldiers, ‘I am’, they fell back involuntarily on the ground (John 18:6). Then we see Jesus giving the order, to allow the disciples to go. He allowed Himself to be bound and led to trial.
His crucifixion: There are so many prophecies fulfilled in the crucifixion, it’s difficult to know where to start. The beating He endured prior (Isa. 52:14), the crucifixion itself (Ps. 22:16), the soldiers gambling for His clothing (Ps. 22:18). Even after His death, the soldiers did not break His legs as they had been commanded to do (John 19:33, Ps. 34:20).
Then of course, He was in control of His resurrection.
Jesus was in control of His life, down to the letter. He is also in control of ours.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The view from eternity

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me – until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” Ps. 73:16-17
Sometimes it can get really discouraging to see ungodly people prospering and godly people suffering. This is what the psalmist was struggling to understand. But he found the key: to look at everything from the eternal perspective. Only then can we see that God is completely fair and just.
If we just look at life at face value, things aren’t fair. Children are born disabled through no fault of their own. Christians die in tragic accidents along with non-Christians. Atheists win Lotto and get promotions. As the apostle Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19).
The Christian life is not just about what we do during the 70 or so years we each spend on average walking on this ball of dirt. When we die, it’s not the end of the road. Far from it – that’s when we truly become alive. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is termporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No shortcuts

“My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.” John 17:15
I love reading John 17. It’s Jesus talking to His Father. He says a lot of interesting things in this chapter, but this verse grabbed me as I was reading it.
At this point Jesus knows that He will be taken away, and the disciples’ faith is still fragile. He prays that God would protect them and lead them in the light of salvation.
Note what Jesus specifically doesn’t pray for. He deliberately says, ‘I don’t want them to be taken out of the world’. Think about it: if everyone was instantly whisked away to heaven as soon as they believed, there would be no salt and light in the world, no witness of God, and no-one else could be shown the way to salvation. Similarly, that witness is made ineffective when Christians keep to themselves, living monastically, never venturing out into the world. Even in our society this is easy to do: only having Christian friends and our leisure time spent only doing Christian things. We are in this world for a reason.
So, there are no shortcuts in life. As Christians, we will stand out from the masses, and we will face ridicule. But we will be divinely protected. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing can happen to us that God hasn’t allowed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

He has overcome

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
This verse concludes Jesus’ final teaching to the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. It is interesting to note His tone – He is more concerned for them than for what is about to happen to Him. He knows that they will be deeply shaken by the events that will happen, and so He comforts them.
In this world we will indeed have trouble. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted [Him], they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).
Jesus faced this persecution, and more. But He faced it knowing that He had overcome it, and that the suffering was only for a time. He proved that He had overcome the world by rising from the dead. Now, if we are in Christ, we too are overcomers (Rom. 8:37, 1 John 5:4-5). We can have peace in the storm, knowing that He has gone before us. Hallelujah!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My favourite verses: Ezekiel 2:6

“Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.”

Sometimes we can feel as if we are living in a place where everything and everyone are out to get us. It may be a desert place, a place of torment and danger. But even here, we don’t need to be afraid, because God is with us.
Knowing that God is with me in both the good times and the bad is of great comfort to me. This is powerfully rendered in the “Footprints” poem, with its concluding stanza,
“The Lord replied, ‘My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.’”
Sometimes we may not feel God in the troublesome times in our lives. But when we need Him the most, it is at that point He is the closest.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My favourite verses: Isaiah 30:21

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

God guides each of us in different ways. For some people, it is through dreams and visions. For others, it is through an audible voice. For most of us, it is through circumstances and through the Word.
A story is told of three women praying in a church, when Jesus appears. For the first woman, He listens to what she is saying, then bends down and whispers in her ear. He listens to the second, and then, saying nothing, places His hand on her shoulder for a while. He listens to the third, and as He stands next to her, He simply smiles. All three women knew their prayers had been heard, even though the confirmation they each received from the Lord was quite different.
I can relate to this story in my own journey. When I was a child, I would regularly hear God speaking to me – not as an audible voice, but thoughts placed in my mind that I knew were from Him. Through my teenage years, things changed, and this mode of God’s communication became few and far between. But I grew to realise how He was speaking to me through the Word. More and more His guidance would come as I started to move in a particular direction, just as this verses says. This is why I find particular comfort in it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My favourite verses: Psalm 119:18

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law."

To me this verses speaks of the voyage of discovery that is embarked upon when reading the Bible on a regular basis. No matter how many times you've read it in the past, if you will ask God to open your eyes afresh to His truth, He will show you new things that you haven't seen before. Listening to Bible commentaries is good and may well be a source of these new discoveries, but there is no substitute for being led and taught in the Word of God by the Author Himself.
It's possible to read the Bible only with your mind. Usually this results in a feeling of spiritual dryness. But spend time in prayer before opening the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit will make them come alive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My favourite verses: Philippians 3:13

“But this one thing I do: Forgetting the past and looking forward to the present, I press on to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has called me heavenwards.”

While I don’t necessarily recommend it, this is a verse I found by opening the Bible to a random page, after a particularly unpleasant encounter with our next-door neighbour. It was exactly what I needed at that time, and ever since it has served as a reminder when I need to change my perspective.
Dwelling on things that happened in the past is unproductive. We cannot go back and change the bad things, nor can we go back and enjoy the good things a second time. All we have to work with is the present, and it is the things we do now in setting a course, that determin where we will end up in the future. What we have done in the past needn’t hold us back. It has been said that life is a marathon, not a sprint. In a marathon, and in life, it’s not necessarily how you start that is important – it’s how you finish.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My favourite verses: 1 Timothy 4:12

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

There are several aspects to this verse that have spoken to me over the years: the part about being young, being an example, and being pure.
Having grown up in a Christian home and having always known the Lord has defined me as a person, and I have come across some degree of physical age discrimination in churches (e.g. some would not allow anybody under 25 to serve in any capacity); whereas what they should have been focussing on was spiritual maturity. Also as an eldest child I was often reminded to set a good example for my younger brothers. Thus it has been a natural progression to set a good example for other believers, and I feel more of a pull towards discipleship rather than evangelism as my calling within the body of Christ.
There are five aspects we can set an example in: (a) speech – not only what we say but also how we say it, (b) life – how we live and our priorities in life, (c) love – because Jesus said in John 13:35 this is how we would be known, (d) faith – always pressing on wih the Lord, and (e) purity – seeking to flee from sin.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My favourite verses: 1 John 4:4

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

I have found this verse of great comfort when facing those overwhelming times in life when it is clear I have been under spiritual attack. In my own strength I am nothing. But the power of God within me is greater than any force from outside.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking God is on one hand and Satan is on the other as an equal. But this is incorrect. Satan is a fallen cherub, and as such was created by God. He is not omnipresent, omniscient, nor omnipotent. Satan has limitations. But God does not. When we truly grasp just how great and powerful God is, we can face anything knowing that He is with us.
The world and the powers that control it will one day pass away. But God and all that belongs to Him, will never pass away.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My favourite verses: Isaiah 40:31

“They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

This verse has been my favourite since childhood, primarily because I wanted to be a pilot and so the ‘rising on wings like eagles’ appealed for that reason. But the rest of the verse has since come to mean a lot more.
Firstly, when we wait on the Lord – serving Him – we find renewal of strength. Living a Christian life in a world that has by and large rejected God, takes a lot of strength to keep pressing on in the Lord. But the strength that we find in Him enables us to soar above it all.
The second part of the verse shows a progression. We obtain strength to soar like eagles. But when that strength fades, we can still run. When that strength fades, we can still walk. The point is, no matter what happens, we can and must keep moving forward – in the strength that we find from serving the Lord.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Spirit of truth

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He heards, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13
Truth is a powerful thing. When we know the truth, it sets us free (John 8:32). Jesus tells the disciples here, that the Holy Spirit is coming after His departure. When He comes, He would guide them into all truth. This is not just truth that is told to us from the outside, but also an inner witness through the Spirit indwelling us as to what is truth and what is falsehood.
The Holy Spirit’s role is not to glorify Himself, but to glorify the Son. Uunfortunately the church has taken two extremes over this. In so many Pentecostal churches, the emphasis is on the Holy Spirit, when it should instead be on Jesus Christ. Yet in other more traditional churches, the Holy Spirit is depersonalised, called an “it”, or even denied as existing. Where is the Biblical balance?
The Holy Spirit is God, in Spirit. He indwells believers and gives gifts to them to use for the glory of God. He seeks to glorify the Son (John 16:14). Just as the servant of Abraham, who fetched Rebekah as a bride for his son Isaac, is unnamed, so too the Holy Spirit is satisfied with working almost anonymously behind the scenes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The world hates Jesus

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.” John 15:18
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was constantly facing persecution from the people who said they were religious, but followed the ways of the world - seeking after fame, fortune, and self-righteousness. The world (Greek kosmos) is driven by Satan. Its mindset is completely alien to the things of God. We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2) – or, to translate the words more literally, we are not to let the world squeeze us into its mould. What Satan and the world cannot squeeze and control, they hate and persecute. Jesus was obviously the prime example of this – He would not be swayed from His Father’s mission. Since we belong to Him, we too are in the firing line.
The world still persecutes Jesus today. Christians and Christian ideals are marginalised in our society, and in many countries Christianity is considered illegal, and Christians are physically abused, tortured, and martyred simply for believing in the Lord. The world thinks nothing of taking the Name of our Lord and turning it into all manner of swear words.
The following verse, John 15:19, reads, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” If you want to know whether you are really in Christ or not, ask yourself this question: does the world hate you, or does it love you? Do you feel like you belong in it, or do you feel like you are up against it all the time?
Take heart when you face persecution. This is not something strange; it is to be expected (1 Pet. 4:12). And there is nothing that we will go through, that Jesus has not already endured.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Friends, not servants

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
God is very selective as to whom He chooses to call His friends. There was only one person in the Old Testament who was called a friend of God – Abraham (2 Chr. 20:7, James 2:23). Even Moses, while God “would speak to [him] face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex. 33:11), was called God’s servant [1]. We are very privileged to be counted as God’s friends.
Jesus tells us here that friendship with Him comes with revelation from the Lord. This was the case for Abraham; see Gen. 18:17.
The major difference between a servant and a friend is that a servant’s job is to obey (such as Moses, being given the Law). A friend is not an employee, but one to spend time with, one to share with, one to understand and be understood by you. Jesus taught His disciples many things about the Father, even though they didn’t understand it straight away. He showed them the things that would come to pass in the future – speaking often about His death and resurrection, and the Second Coming.
The revelation of God is ongoing in each of our lives, and will not be complete until we get to heaven. Paul says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). We can take comfort in hard times. If we were the servants of God, He could require us to do the dirty jobs just because they need to be done. But because we are His friends, everything that He brings us through is ultimately for our benefit and growth.

[1] Ex. 14:31, Num. 12:8, Deut. 34:5, Josh. 1:1, 1:13, 1:15, 8:31, 8:33, 9:24, 11:12, 11:15, 12:6, 13:8, 14:7, 18:7, 22:2, 22:4-5.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Producing fruit

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
The key to producing spiritual fruit – attitudes and actions driven by the Holy Spirit, that will be rewarded favourably in heaven – is abiding in Christ. A branch on a grapevine doesn’t strain and strive to produce fruit. It just has to ‘hang in there’. As long as it is connected to the root, and is being fed through it, the fruit will grow all on its own.
So too with the Christian life. We don’t need ‘self-help’ courses to increase our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No – these things will all flow through our lives as we continue to abide in Christ and receive spiritual nutrients from Him through the Spirit indwelling us.
The fruit is produced outwardly, once an inward work is taking place. Don’t worry if you can’t see results straight away. Just stay connected to the vine. It’s as simple as that.