Monday, January 31, 2011


“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1
All animals need water to survive. But water is not the only thing that man thirsts for (John 4:13-14). We are all born with a spiritual void inside us that only God can fill. People may deny that God is the answer to their inner craving, but those who don’t know Him are constantly seeking for meaning in life, whereas those who know the Lord and are known by Him, have inner peace and satisfaction.
This isn’t a one-time thing though. Just as we have to keep drinking water in order to keep on living physically, so too we need to keep on drinking spiritually in order to have that vibrant Christian life.
How thirsty are we for the things of God? Do we look upon reading the Bible every day as a chore, or do we enjoy it, knowing that the Holy Spirit will speak to us through it? Would we rather stay home in the evenings and watch TV, or spend time in prayer and fellowship with other believers? Over time, that initial thirst that we had for God, tends to fade. But the truth is that we need Him now just as much as we did when we first called out to Him for salvation. The point is this: don’t graze too far from the stream.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Speaking from the heart

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
This is an often-quoted verse, but let’s try to set aside its familiarity and understand what it is saying to us today. It’s one extension of the law of sowing and reaping. If you sow apple seeds, you will get an apple tree – not a peach tree, or radishes, but an apple tree. If you don’t want an apple tree, don’t sow apple seeds! So the first law of sowing and reaping is that you always reap the same kind of thing that you sow. The second law is that you always reap much more than you sow. The third, is that the reaping always comes, and it always comes later.
In one sense, our heart is like a computer – if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out. But if you put quality things into your heart – meditating on the word of God, spending time with Him – you will get life and fruitfulness out.
How do we know what is in someone’s heart – including our own? Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). But Jesus gives us a clue here: to know what is in someone’s heart, we just need to listen to what is coming out of their mouth. What they say is a reflection of what is in their heart. What are you saying today?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The golden rule

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
This saying of Jesus – which occurs in both Luke 6:31 and Matt. 7:12 – has been given the nickname ‘the golden rule’. At face value it is something which seems to have been echoed by many other teachers and philosophers over the years – but there is a fundamental difference.
The common way of expressing the ‘golden rule’ is ‘Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.’ That is, don’t hurt other people, because you don’t like being hurt, do you? Don’t spread gossip about other people, because you don’t like it when people spread gossip about you. Or even in the words of Thumper to Bambi: ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.’
However, the ‘golden rule’ that Jesus gave us goes far beyond these. We can easily live by the world’s ‘golden rule’ of not doing bad things to others – the easiest way is not to do anything for other people. We sit by passively. But Jesus challenges us, instead of refraining from doing evil, to actively do good for others. Leave extra change in the parking meter. Mow your neighbour’s lawn when they’re out. Cook meals for people. Be spontaneously generous. It will spice up your life – you’ll have fun doing it – and God will bless you for it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Count your blessings

“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders You have done. The things You planned for us no-one can recount to You; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5
It’s good for us to count our blessings on a regular basis, and thank God for everything He has done. Sure, we can thank Him in general, but there’s overwhelming gratitude that spills over when we actually recall specific examples.
For me, here are some of the things God has blessed me with. First and foremost, for sending His Son to die for my sins so that I can receive salvation and spend eternity in heaven with Him. After that, things like good health, having grown up in a Christian family, the education I received, my job and all the opportunity it brings to be constantly learning and discovering new things, the opportunities to travel. My church, the pastor and the people there. Friends I have made over the years. My abilities and talents – intellectually and musically. The ability to play sport. The fact that I grew up and live in New Zealand, at the present time. My financial situation, and having a good place to live. Knowing that God is with me and He will never abandon me.
How about you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Only God was there

“Who is this that darkens My counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, if you understand.” Job 38:2-4
It never ceases to amaze me how Christians can come up with umpteen different hypotheses as to how the world was created, when God has told us all along in the Bible how He did it. Perhaps the most popular idea is that of trying to mix the idea of macro-evolution with creation, saying God directed evolution, or set the process in place and let it run its course. This is completely contradictory to what the Bible teaches: that God created the world in six days (see Ex. 20:11). The creation account does not line up with what macro-evolution teaches. The Bible tells us light existed before the sun, that birds existed before reptiles, etc. So even if you buy into the ‘one day is a gazillion years’ hypothesis, you still have the order of events to deal with.
At the end of the day, only God was there at the creation of the world. There was no human observer to witness it. Do we trust God to tell the truth? Of course. And He has told us in His Word what happened. Why do we have such a hard time accepting and believing it? Why do we try to supersede what He has said on this issue?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This scripture

“and He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:21
Jesus’ first sermon was in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and read the passage in Isa. 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19). And indeed, this is what Jesus did during His first coming.
However, if we actually read Isaiah 61, we find that it says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2, emphasis added). It’s critical to note where Jesus stopped. At His first coming, He came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, the time of God’s grace being made available to all who would simply come to Him in faith. This is not a time of God’s vengeance – but that time is coming. When Jesus comes again, it will be to judge the nations who rejected Him. So the first part of the prophecy has been fulfilled. But it was Jesus Himself who split it into two – something that the people were largely unaware of, that Messiah would come twice: as the suffering servant, and as the reigning king.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ongoing temptations

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13
We read about the temptations of Christ by Satan at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels (Mark 1:13 also mentions that He was tempted, but does not give the details). But this verse at the end of Luke’s account of the temptations gives us an additional insight: although Jesus withstood Satan and did not give in, these were not the last temptations that He faced.
I think the greatest temptations that Jesus had to deal with, were in the days and hours leading up to the cross. In Matt. 16:23, Jesus rebukes Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!’ when Peter suggested that Jesus need not go to the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus again indicates that He had a choice between submitting to being arrested, or calling legions of angels to come to His aid and get Him out of there (Matt. 26:53-54). While He was on the cross, He was taunted by people to come down, if He was the Son of God (Matt. 27:39-44) – words that Satan uttered in the first instance.
Satan knew that if he could dissuade Jesus from dying on the cross, then he would have control over the world and its inhabitants forever. He could thwart God’s plan to set people free from their sin. The death of Christ was not an accident. It was all planned, by Jesus Himself – and it was completely necessary for our salvation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fear vs. love

"For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendour I could not do such things." Job 31:23
In Job 31, Job lists a number of sins that he had not committed. He did not look lustfully at women, he did not take advantage of the poor, he treated everyone fairly. But here in v23, he gives the reason for living this way: for fear of God's judgement coming upon him.
Christians can obey God for one of two reasons. First, they may be like Job, obeying God because to disobey Him would bring judgement and discipline. They obey God out of fear. Now, we are to have a healthy fear of God, giving Him the respect He deserves but not being afraid of Him.
The second motivation a Christian may have from which they serve and obey God, is out of love and gratitude for Him. Now, the tables are turned: we don't obey God because of the pain that He might cause to us, but we obey Him because we don't want to cause Him pain. Of the two, love is the greater motivator.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jesus' childhood

“Why were you searching for Me?’ He asked, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:49
This passage in Luke 2 is the only record we are given of Jesus as a child. He was twelve years old, and his family had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. When they returned to Galilee, He remained behind without them knowing it. After a day’s journey, his family realised He was not with them. Then they returned to Jerusalem and found Him after three days – in the Temple, talking with the teachers of the law.
Even at the age of twelve, Jesus knew Who He was. His response to His mother Mary was respectful, but also containing a mild rebuke: “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?”
She had asked Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You” (Luke 2:48). The issue with this was, of course, that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. His Father knew exactly where He was.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Being upheld

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
It’s amazing to think how patient God is, that He continues to work with us and within us, despite the number of times that we fail and fall. While we are still in these mortal bodies, we will be subject to temptation and sin. But it’s as we seek to live on a higher plane, in the power of the Spirit, that this verse comes into play in our lives. God makes our steps firm. He leads us in the right way. If we do stumble – and we will – God will help us to avoid falling. He gives us the power to resist sin, and He has made provision for forgiveness when we do stumble.
It’s not the stumbling that is the problem for us. Like children learning to walk, we will trip over from time to time. The problem is when we fall down and fail to get back up again, when we sit and wallow in our sin. We have been called out of sin; we are not subject to it any more. Let God uphold you, and keep walking in the way in which He delights.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The desires of our heart

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
This verse has often been misquoted, to say that if we are happy about God, He will give us anything we want. The trouble with this interpretation is that it makes God out to be a Santa Claus. What if what we want is something God knows will destroy us? Is He still obliged to give it to us? In essence, this interpretation takes away God’s sovereignty and means that He is no longer in control.
A better interpretation is this: when we delight in the Lord, He doesn’t give us what our hearts desire, but He gives us desires within our hearts. He places His desires for our lives, inside us. Then when we pray according to those, He is able to answer our prayers in the affirmative. As we live in this way, our will becomes more and more aligned with His.
So the key to finding this, is to delight yourself in the Lord. That is, we live our lives in order to please Him. If living for God is a burden to you, then you are not delighting in the Lord. But if living to serve and please God is a joy, then you are on the right track.
God wants only the best for you, ultimately. However, we need to understand that in order for Him to bring out those godly qualities in you, the road can often be hard to get there. But He has promised He won’t abandon us, and He has promised that there is nothing that will overwhelm us (1 Cor. 10:13). He will be with you every step of the way: just trust Him and obey Him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nothing is impossible

“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’” Luke 1:18
“‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” Luke 1:34

At a first glance, it would appear that these questions, the first from Zechariah, and the second from Mary, are very similar. Yet the responses from the angel Gabriel were quite different. Zechariah was rebuked and made mute until the day that his son John was born. Mary was given an answer and a promise. So what is the difference?
In Gabriel’s rebuke to Zechariah, he says, “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time” (Luke 1:20). Zechariah doubted what the angel said, because he and his wife Elizabeth were old, and she had been barren her entire life. However, when it came to Mary, she was curious as to how she would conceive a child while still a virgin – and Gabriel explains how this would happen (Luke 1:35). He also gives her a promise – which Zechariah would also have received, if he had believed: “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
God is the same today, as He was back then. Nothing is impossible with Him. Do you believe it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Signs and wonders

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 16:20
There are many Christians today, unfortunately, who go running after bigger and better miraculous signs and wonders. If there’s an itinerant healer in town, they’ll go along. If there’s an ‘outpouring’ of tongues and reports of people rolling on the ground laughing hysterically or barking like dogs, they’ll be the first ones in the door. But the true miraculous signs and wonders being talked about here, are never seen in this light in Scripture. They are not theatrics to keep believers entertained. Having said that, they are legitimate – when they occur in the correct context, which is this: As the gospel is being preached, the signs confirm that message.
There are other Christians who don’t believe that signs and wonders operate today, saying that only occurred during the first century until the gospel had been preached in all the world. Now that that has been completed, there is no need for them (they say). But signs and wonders do still occur. In western societies, we tend to either not notice them or not be meeting the conditions which allows them to operate. In other parts of the world, signs and wonders occur regularly, as the gospel is being preached. We ought to seek out what the Scriptures teach on these things, before passing judgement one way or another.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Aha, aha!

“They gape at me and say, ‘Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.’
“O Lord, You have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.” Psalm 35:21-22

We’ve all heard it before: unbelievers who justify their unbelief by pointing at Christians who have fallen into sin (or people who profess to be Christians, who are still living in a sinful lifestyle), and say, ‘Why would I want to be a Christian? You’re all hypocrites!’ There are some people who will ignore your good works, and wait for you to slip up so they can point the finger. It’s these people Jesus was referring to when He said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6).
There are no perfect Christians. We are all still a work in progress, waiting for the day when our sinful nature is finally dealt with and we receive our resurrection bodies. When we do sin and people are criticising us, we need to call out to God. Ultimately it is Him whom we are sinning against. But don’t despair because unbelievers are taunting you. It’s really none of their business – you are to keep going, seek God’s forgiveness, and keep living a holy life.

Monday, January 17, 2011


“The Lord redeems His servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:22
This verse is reminiscent of Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” The promise of us having passed from death to life, of being freed from condemnation because of our sin, opens the door for all the other promises of God’s blessing, protection, and provision in our lives.
We may still condemn ourselves from time to time, but it’s at those times that we need reminders like this one (see also 1 John 3:19-20). God doesn’t condemn us anymore, if we are in Christ.
Nor will we inadvertently slip out of His hand. 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. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28-30). When we read this, we should think of two hands – one cupped on top of the other. We can’t be snatched out; and we can’t fall through the cracks. Again, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). We are secure in Him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Praising the Lord always

“I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1
Take a moment to think about the things you can praise God for. You may be in a place of blessing and prosperity – praise God for this. Or you may be facing difficult times – but even there, you can praise Him for the good that He has done, for His promises to protect you, for giving you the Holy Spirit to comfort you, for the salvation He has freely provided to you. We can also praise God for what He has restrained from happening, and our foolish prayers that He chose not to grant.
The subtitle to Psalm 34 reads, ‘Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.’ This was perhaps David’s most cowardly hour. You can read about it in 1 Sam. 21:10-15. He was fleeing from Saul, and sought refuge in the land of the Philistines. His reputation preceded him there, and he was afraid of what the king (which is what the title ‘Abimelech’ means) would do to him. So he pretended to be insane, drooling and twitching.
I believe God would have rescued David from that situation anyway, and would not have let the Philistine king hand him over to Saul – and spared him making a fool of himself. After all, God had promised David that he would be king of Israel. It wasn’t obvious at the time how He was going to do that. But through the whole thing, David remained a man of praise – and we can too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Redeemer lives

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” Job 19:25
Admittedly, there aren’t many verses in the book of Job that give us comfort and encouragement. But the few that there are, are ones we can cling to.
The book of Job is written in classical Hebrew poetry: the repetition, contrast, and expansion of ideas. Because of this, we can lose sight of the fact that Job was a real person, with very real problems. All of his ten sons and daughters were killed in a freak accident. All of his possessions were stolen from him. He lost his health, his wife got fed up with him (see Job 2:9-10), and last but not least, his best friends insinuated that all this came upon him for being a dirty rotten sinner. There was no end in sight for Job. But he was one of those looking forward to what he had been promised by God (Heb. 11:39).
We will all face times when it seems everything and everyone is against us. Maybe that’s where you are today. But if your hope is in Jesus Christ, and the salvation He gives, then you have a promise you can depend on. You can say, like Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives”. Jesus conquered the grave so that we can spend eternity with Him. And like Job, you can look forward to that day, when “in the end He will stand upon the earth.” One day, God will bring everything to justice. He will right all the wrongs that have been done to us. Trust Him in this, and don’t give up.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The illegalities of Christ's trial

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against Him, but their statements did not agree.” Mark 14:55-56
Here are just two of the many illegalities of the trial of Christ before the Sanhedrin. Firstly, the chief priests and the Sanhedrin had already made up their mind against Jesus, instead of presuming Him innocent until proven guilty (Deut. 25:1). Secondly, the Law stated that if anybody testified falsely against a person in court, then the case was to be dismissed and the person bringing the false accusation was to be punished in the way he intended to do to the person he was accusing (Deut. 19:16-20).
There are many more that can be listed (the following are obtained from a compilation by Chuck Missler, in 'The Agony of Love'):
- binding of a prisoner before he was accused, unless resistance was offered or expected
- involvement of the judge in the arrest
- conduction of legal transactions (including trials) at night
- arrested through an informer and traitor
- could not be pronounced guilty on the same day as the arrest
- prisoner convicted on his own evidence
- judge was meant to protect the accused
- Jewish legal system did not have preliminary hearings
- carrying weapons on a feast day
- use of violence unopposed in the trials
- false witnesses
- accused was meant to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by two or more witnesses
- prisoner should have been excused when two witnesses disagreed
- no witnesses to His defence
- trial should have been held in the council chamber, not at his home
- court lacked authority to condemn a man to death
- conducting a court session on a feast day
- guilty verdict given without evidence
- balloting should have been a roll ballot (starting at the youngest, not influenced by the seniors)
- sentence was meant to be passed in the temple
- priest was not allowed to tear the official robe. If he was not wearing the robe he could not have put Christ under oath.

Yet all of these happened, "so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." Christ was condemned and crucified on our behalf.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

God is watching over us

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” Psalm 33:18-19
Isn’t it great to know that God is watching us, all the time? To some people this would make them very uncomfortable, knowing that God sees everything they do and hears everything they say. But if we know Him, if we are one of those who have placed our hope in His unfailing love, this is a comforting thing. God isn’t watching us in order to strike us down at the moment that we slip up and sin. He’s watching us for protection, and because He delights in us.
What does it mean that our hope is in His unfailing love? It was God’s love for us that led to Jesus dying on the cross for our sin, providing salvation for anyone who would come to Him in repentance. We have hope – looking forward to a future certainty – in spending eternity with Him. As the saying goes, ‘God loves you so much, He can’t take His eyes off you.’ I’m glad that He is watching over me. After all, He is in control of all things. If He is looking out for me, it means that nothing can happen to me that He hasn’t allowed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God's plans

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11
It’s amazing to think that God has plans that involve us. You’d think He would be extremely busy keeping the planets in motion and holding atoms together, and other important things like that. But God not only has plans for us, but He has had them in mind since the beginning of creation.
God can see all things, at all times, from creation right through to the eternal kingdom. And because He can see how it all turns out – being outside of our ‘space-time’ – He doesn’t have to changes plans like we do. No, the plans He is working out in your life today are the same ones that He had in mind for you when Jesus was walking around the shores of Galilee, when Abraham was journeying to a new land, when Adam was created.
Our plans are very flimsy. They are usually dependent on things staying the same – we will buy this or that if we continue to have money coming in. But then something happens that is outside of our control – we lose our job, or there is a natural disaster, or a family member passes away. Then our plans need to change. But God’s plans do not. This is how He is able to keep all of His promises.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). All of God’s plans are good for us, in the long run. Do you believe it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32:8-9
In life, we never stop learning. And it is especially true when it comes to God’s instruction. There is always another rough edge that He wants to smooth, another godly character trait that He wants to develop in us, more of the fruit of the Spirit that He can grow in us, more ways that we can be conformed into the image of Christ.
There are also several ways that God can instruct us in these things. In these verses, we see two of them. We can be guided by His counsel, through reading the Word and drinking it in, and applying it to our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is the way that God would prefer we learn things. On the other hand, if we are stubborn and refuse to listen to His counsel, He sometimes leads us by the bit and bridle, as it were. These are devices put in the mouths of animals to turn the head through applying pain, and once the head is turned, the animal is turned. God doesn’t like seeing us in pain, but He will apply it if necessary, to achieve a greater good in our lives.
The choice is ours then – whether to seek Him, and to try to live by the Word, or to be led through trials and pain. Either way, we learn; but one is more desirable than the other.

Monday, January 10, 2011

God's forgiveness

“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
Forgiveness is something that’s hard to pin down just how it works. We need it, because we are inherently sinful, and nothing sinful or impure can enter God’s presence. But God cannot simply forgive us and wipe the slate of our sin clean, much as He loves us, because then He would violate His own just character. There must be a payment made – which Jesus has done on our behalf. But even though the payment has been made, we still need to accept it and appropriate it to our lives, and the most important thing of all – ask God to forgive us.
David writes in this psalm, it was as he decided to confess his sin to God, that God forgave him. God doesn’t forgive us reluctantly. He doesn’t weigh up our propensity to sin, versus the cost of His Son, and say, ‘You know what, you’re not really worth it.’ No, He loves us so much that He promises to forgive all our sin, if we will confess it to Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19).
God wants us to be restored to fellowship. He has made the way easy for that to happen. It’s up to us to humble ourselves and seek His forgiveness by confessing our sin to Him.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Killing the Son

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” Mark 12:6-8

The parable of the tenants features in all three synoptic gospels (Matt. 21, Mark 12, Luke 20). Understanding this parable is not hard. The man who planted the vineyard is God, the vineyard is the nation Israel (see Isa. 5:1-2). The tenants are the leaders of the nation Israel, given charge to tend the vineyard until the owner came to claim it. The servants who were sent to collect the fruit, but were beaten and killed, are the Old Testament prophets (see Matt. 23:34-35, Acts 7:52). The son is Jesus, the Messiah. He is the last person God sent to seek a harvest from the nation Israel. There have been no other prophets sent to warn the nation Israel, in the way that the prophets of the Old Testament were sent.
But here’s an interesting thing. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was talking about them being the tenants when He gave this parable (Mark 12:12). He says that the reason they would kill Him is so they could take His inheritance. What is that inheritance? We know that Jesus has been promised the world as His inheritance by the Father (Ps. 2:8), and He will share it with us, His bride, the church (Rom. 8:17). Were the Pharisees consciously thinking this? I don’t think so – else Jesus would not have said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). However, there is someone who was consciously thinking this – Satan. His desire is for world domination, forever. He therefore incited the Pharisees to have Jesus put to death. But God used this to achieve His purposes. The death of Christ was not the end – it is the beginning of our salvation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rejoicing in eternity

“For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
Have you ever noticed how when you’re going through a troublesome time, it seems to last forever? And how it gets harder and harder to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel? It’s times like these we need to seek the Lord, and seek to gain His perspective on things.
Eternity will not be like the life that we now have, full of ups and downs. In heaven, there will be eternal peace and rejoicing as we are in the unveiled presence of God. There will be no more strife, pain, trouble, or despair.
2 Corinthians 4:17 reads, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” I am sure Paul, writing this, was thinking of the troubles he faced – beatings, shipwrecks, stoning etc. (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28). He calls them all ‘light and momentary’, even though they became the pattern of his life as a missionary. He was looking forward to eternity. This was what enabled him to keep going, and it’s the same for us.
One day, God will make everything right. Sin will be finally dealt with and put away forever. His children will live with Him and He with them. I think God is looking forward to that time just as much as we are – perhaps even more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Satan does

“One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’
“Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’” Job 1:6-7

The book of Job makes no sense without the first two chapters, which show us what went on behind the scenes. We read the book and think, ‘Why did Job despair? God was in control. He placed restrictions on what Satan could and couldn’t do to him.’ But Job didn’t know this.
These first two chapters also give us some interesting insights into how Satan operates. Satan is a created being. He was the most powerful angel (Ezek. 28:14), but he fell through pride (Isa. 14:12-13). We also notice that at the present time, although he is fallen, he still has access to heaven. And he continues to do today, what he did to Job all those years ago: he accuses us before the Father. Of Job he said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?... But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11, see also Job 2:4-5).
Rev. 12:10 tells us that in the Tribulation, Satan will be cast out of heaven for good, and not allowed to enter it again. He will vent his fury against those who are still left on the earth. But for now, Satan accuses us before the Lord day and night. But Jesus stands before us as our advocate, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25, 1 John 2:1). He doesn’t beg and plead the Father not to listen to Satan. Rather, He simply stands in the gap and says, ‘This one’s with Me.’

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Prayer and fasting

“After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive [the demon] out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only be prayer {and fasting}.’” Mark 9:28-29
The words ‘and fasting’ only appear as a footnote in the NIV, but they are present in the original texts. Fasting is supposed to be part of the Christian walk – see for example Matt. 9:14-15. There, Jesus says His disciples will fast after He is taken from them; and in Matt. 6:16, He says ‘When you fast’, not ‘If you fast’.
We also notice that Jesus didn’t fast specifically for this boy – He didn’t have time. The disciples prayed for Him, with no result; Jesus prayed and the demon left him. The difference was that Jesus had a lifestyle of fasting. He fasted on a regular basis, and in so doing was more attuned to the Father than if He did not fast.
Fasting is more than simply going without food. Yet fasting is about food – you can’t set aside TV, for example, and call it ‘fasting’. Fasting is a form of discipline. We set aside one of our most basic bodily functions for a period of time – eating – in order to seek God more. Yes, you will get hungry, especially the first 24 hours. But it’s when you can put the hunger to one side and focus on spiritual things, that you have discovered what it means to fast.
God spoke against the Israelites in Isa. 58:3-9. They were fasting as a ritual of self-abasement, but their hearts were not in the right place. Our motivation in fasting is extremely important. If we get it right, we will be more in tune with God and our prayers will have power, because they will be more in line with His will.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For the sake of tradition

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Mark 7:13
Here is one of those instances where Jesus tells the Pharisees what He really thinks. Here they were, criticising the disciples for eating before they washed their hands in the ceremonial way – instead of realising that the God who created the food was standing in their midst. Jesus then goes on to give an example: the Bible says to honour our father and mother, but the Pharisees had a way of getting around this by saying that something was ‘Corban’ (devoted to God), and so they could not give it to their father or mother – thus dishonouring them, in order to appear to be more holy.
We can look at the Pharisees and say, ‘weren’t they bad.’ But this is only because in the gospel accounts, Jesus exposes their hearts. On the outside, they were living the most righteous life that was possible.
Are we guilty of taking up certain traditions – either those of others, or our own – and nullifying the word of God by them? Do we have certain unwritten rules that we keep, but fail to uphold God’s righteousness and show His love to others while keeping those rules? Jesus makes it clear here, which of the two needs to go.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


“When Haman entered, the king asked him, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’
“Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honour than me?’” Esther 6:6

The book of Esther is one that would be worth making into a movie. First, the girl who wins the beauty pageant (Esther) who is advised by her cousin (Mordecai) to keep her nationality secret. Then, the villain (Haman), who is favoured by the king but holds a grudge against Mordecai (not knowing he is related to Esther), because he won’t bow down. What Haman doesn’t know, is that Mordecai saved the king’s life on one occasion, by reporting an assassination plot by two of his officials.
At the same time Haman approaches the king to ask for permission to execute Mordecai, the king is reading the account of how Mordecai saved his life. Haman enters, and the king asks, ‘What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?’
Naturally, Haman thinks the king is talking about himself. So he thinks of all the things he would like to be done to him: wearing a royal robe and being paraded through the streets on a royal horse. He tells the king so, and the king thinks it is a great idea and instructs him to go and do it all for Mordecai.
The rest of the book is well worth reading, but here is the point from this part: Haman, in his self-centredness, sets himself up for humiliation. He is blinded to the fact that there are other people in the world whom the king might have wanted to honour. Even Mordecai, the man he hated, was in the king’s good books.
We all have self-centred tendencies. Let us be aware of them, and not be blinded by them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tell people

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with Him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:18-19
Becoming saved is only the first step in our journey as Christians. We celebrate when we see people respond to an altar call, but we forget that this is not the end of the matter. If it was, God would take us to be with Him immediately – and there would be no witness left on earth. No, God has work for us to do after we are saved. We are to be His light in the world.
Jesus tells the man here, the same thing we should do: tell people how much the Lord has done for us, and how He had mercy on us. We might not have been delivered from demons, as this man had, but we have been delivered from a life of bondage to sin and an eternity in hell. We didn’t deserve salvation, but God reached out His hand to us anyway.
In Mark 7:31 we read how Jesus returned to the region and people came to Him. This led to the feeding of the 4000. No doubt these people heard the testimony of the man who had been demon-possessed, and wanted to see Jesus for themselves. The man was obedient, and there was fruit.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Calming the storm

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:37-39
This event is recorded in three of the four gospels (Matt. 8:23-27, Mark 4:37-39, Luke 8:22-25). Although the Sea of Galilee is not that large, I’ve been told that it can experience some pretty violent storms if the wind comes from a certain direction. But this was no ordinary storm. How do we know? From the words Jesus uses.
First, He rebuked the wind. This is a strange thing to do, because the wind in itself is not evil and in need of rebuke (the wind is sometimes used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, c.f. John 3:8). Next, He says to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ The Greek words are ‘Be muzzled’ – and only occur in other places where Jesus is speaking to demons, telling them not to say Who He was.
This storm had a supernatural, Satanic source. This is why when He commanded it to stop, it did so. The question then arises: how many natural disasters today, might actually have a supernatural source? I would suggest that it is more than we think.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Getting out of the snare

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15
One of the first but most crucial steps that a person must take towards becoming born again, is to realise that they are unable to get themselves out of their sin. We need to acknowledge that we are trapped in sin’s snare, and that only God can rescue us from it. He alone is the one who can provide salvation.
Also, we need to lay down our pride and come to God as we are. It’s useless trying to clean up our lives first before we become a Christian, because in that state, we can’t do it. It is only after we become a child of God and have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, that He gives us the power to change our lives.
This is a good thing to remember when we are witnessing to people. We may be disturbed by their behaviour, their clothes, their language, etc., but if we major on this instead of the main issue - that they are sinners in need of a Saviour – we are in effect telling them that they need to clean themselves up first before they come to God, which is impossible. Once the Holy Spirit is working in someone’s life, He will clean them up from the inside out. It’s not our job to clean them from the outside in. It’s our job to be fishers of men and show them how they can be released from the snare.