Saturday, April 30, 2011

No peace

“They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14
No person in their right mind would think of putting a band-aid on a broken bone and expecting it to heal. Yet people try to deal with their feelings of guilt and loneliness by pampering themselves, reading self-help books, spending the night out with friends etc. These are all efforts to treat the symptoms, whereas what they reall need to do is deal with the root issue, the real problem – which is sin.
Sin affects us all. It separates us from God. Man was created with a desire to fellowship with God, but sin breaks this connection. Making people feel good about themselves (by saying ‘peace, peace’) is not the answer. There can be no peace between a person and God, if sin is reigning supreme in their heart. Sin is a serious issue and is needs to be dealt with at the root. This is why secular psychology can never give all the answers. The problem is deeper than the psyche, the soul. The problem is in the spirit. Only the Spirit of God, and the Word of God, can reach the spirit of man (Heb. 4:12). And He can, if you will allow Him to.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Your rights

“But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’” Acts 16:37
Several times in the book of Acts we see Paul exercising his secular rights as a Roman citizen. Under Roman law, citizens were entitled to a fair trial. It was illegal for a Roman citizen to be flogged or beaten without a trial (see Acts 22:25-28). If the person felt the trial was unfair, they could appeal to have their case heard by Caesar (a right which Paul exercised in Acts 25:11).
Yet in 1 Cor. 9:11-15 Paul talks about the rights that an apostle should receive (namely, receiving sustenance as payment for his ministry), but then declares that he did not use this right, lest it cause a stumbling-block to the Corinthians. At the time there were many itinerant preachers, bringing a message to the people and ripping them off, and Paul did not want to be associated with those kinds of people.
The difference is this: in the first case, Paul was dealing with secular people and using his secular rights. There was nothing to be gained from not using them. But in the second case, Paul was dealing with spiritual people and talking about spiritual rights. His not exercising these would make a significant impact upon the Corinthians, and that alone was worth it.
Similarly for us: in the secular world, it’s ok to insist on your rights. But in the church, it is better to forego them if it would cause division or cause someone to stumble.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Set apart

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
Here we read God’s calling of Jeremiah when he was still a young man, to be His prophet. Several times in the Bible we read of God calling young people to service – David, Joseph, Timothy, etc. God is not fussy about who He uses. Age makes no difference – it is the heart of the person; it is not age that imparts wisdom, but the Spirit of God (Job 32:7-8).
We too have been chosen before we were born – in fact, before the world was even created! (Eph. 1:4). God had a plan for us well in advance, and when the time is right and when we are in line with Him, He will bring it to pass. Like Jeremiah, we have been chosen to be set apart. This is the meaning of the word ‘holy’ – to be set apart, separated for a special purpose. We are no longer a cog in the machinery of a nation’s economy. We are a building block in the house of God. We are a part of the body of Christ. God knew where you would fit, before He formed you in your mother’s womb. Even if we don’t know the future – and we don’t – God knows. He knows, because He is the one who has created it for us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Paving the way

“Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps.” Psalm 85:13
If you want to know how to live so that God will move in your life, the key is right here. Righteousness precedes God moving; therefore, if we live in His righteousness, He will move in our life.
Righteousness doesn’t mean ‘holier-than-thou’. Rather, it means to live right by God’s standards. This means obeying Him and what He has written in His Word. If we are hanging onto some sin, then we are not living in His righteousness, and consequently He will not move in our life.
This is true for a person, but also for a church. Many churches today are crying out to God to do a mighty work in their midst, to empower them to witness to their communities. And yet nothing seems to happen. One reason could be because they are not walking in righteousness – perhaps there is some sin, or their motives are wrong in asking God to do this. God doesn’t look at the end result – He looks at our hearts. If our motivation is pride and wanting to be seen, then He won’t bless us. But if our motivation is to serve Him out of obedience and love, then He will.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Praying for Peter

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5
In Acts 12 we read of how Herod started to step up his persecution of the apostles, executing James (Acts 12:2), and putting Peter in prison to be tried at a later date (Acts 2:4). The church in Jerusalem was praying for him.
Now, we don’t know exactly what they were praying, but God answered their prayers by sending an angel to let Peter out of the prison. Even while it was happening, Peter thought it was a dream (Acts 12:9). Note that Peter was not praying - he was asleep! (Acts 12:6). After his release, he went to the house where the church was gathered, and the servant girl who answered the door was so excited she forgot to let him inside (Acts 12:14). But here’s the thing: the believers who were praying, didn’t believe her (Acts 12:15).
Perhaps they had been praying that Herod would be merciful to Peter and not execute him as he had James. But God had other ideas. And despite their lack of faith that He could actually send an angel and bring Peter out by miraculous means, that is exactly what God did. This is encouraging to us. We might only have a little faith. We might be completely unable to imagine how God will work in a situation, but if we pray, He is able to work in the way that He wants to.

Monday, April 25, 2011

They want to destroy Israel

“‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’” Psalm 83:4
Ever since the state of Israel was re-established in her rightful place in 1948, people have wanted to destroy her. It is no secret that this is the goal of the Muslim leadership in the Middle East. Somehow they have seemed to convince the western nations that it is a matter of land – by which it is thought the issue is confined to the West Bank and Gaza Strip – but even if these regions are ceded it will not bring peace. Nothing will satisfy Israel’s enemies unless she is completely wiped off the map.
It’s interesting to note the list of nations plotting together against Israel, given in Psalm 83. The Ishamalites are mentioned (Ps. 83:6) – the son of Abraham by Hagar, who became the ancestor of the Arabs. Philistia (Ps. 83:7), the region of the Gaza Strip today and from which the ‘Palestinians’ take their name (although not their lineage). Assyria (Ps. 83:8), to the north east – modern-day Iran.
It also disturbs me when well-known Christian speakers also decry Israel’s right to exist. This I do not understand. Although Israel has largely forsaken God, and in their history has been rejected by God, they are still His chosen people. He still has a plan for them. Israel will not be destroyed. We read in Ezek. 38-39 of a battle that is yet future, where God destroys the invading armies that would seek to attack Israel. You don’t want to be supporting the wrong side on that day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A risen Saviour

“In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!’” Luke 24:5-6
We can only imagine the waves of emotion that were sweeping over the disciples and the women who were following, on this morning. Three days after Jesus was crucified, and definitely dead, they had had time to dwell on what it meant for their future. The women decided to go to the tomb with spices so that they might properly embalm His body, since they had not had the time to before with it being Passover. They had resigned themselves to the fact that He was dead. But then, they were greeted by angels at the tomb, who appeared in human form, and told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. It must have sounded too good to be true – yet true it was, and the rest is history.
The words of the angels reach to us today: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ People are searching for meaning in life, and for someone to give them that spiritual guidance they are hungering for. The tombs of Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Joseph Smith and others have one thing in common: they are still occupied. There is only one person who has conquered death and can save us: Jesus Christ. Today, Easter Sunday, we remember His resurrection. The resurrection proves that He is who He said He is – the Son of God, the Saviour of all who would come to Him in faith.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


“The circumcised believers who has come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
“Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’” Acts 10:47

There is a lot of confusion in Christian circles about water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the necessity (or otherwise) of both of these for salvation. Here we have one example of how a group of people were baptised in the Holy Spirit – evidenced by the gifts of the Spirit in the form of speaking in tongues, being manifested – before they were baptised in water. This completely goes against the argument made by some that you must be baptised in water before you are saved. (The same is true in my own life – I was baptised in the Holy Spirit age 9, but not water baptised until age 19.) Peter declares that the Gentiles had “received the Holy Spirit just as we have”. That is, these people have had the same spiritual experience. Peter had no doubts that they were saved – because someone cannot be baptised with the Holy Spirit unless they are first born again.
So where does water baptism fit in? It is not essential for salvation. However, it is recommended. Its purpose is a witness to others that you belong to Christ, that the old man has died and that you are now a new creation. Nor is baptism in the Spirit essential to salvation. Baptism in the Spirit is the empowering for the work of the ministry. We can survive without both, but both are beneficial to us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Psalm 22:1
Good Friday is a time when we can reflect on the magnitude of what Jesus did for us at the cross. He endured rejection from man, which He could take; He also endured rejection from the Father, which caused Him to cry out these timeless words. It’s impossible for us to imagine what He went through. We can study all the medical, physical aspects of death by crucifixion – the joints being dislocated, the nails through the wrists, the difficulty and pain in breathing, the agony of death by asphyxiation. But the spiritual pain and torment that Jesus endured was far greater. For a few hours, He experienced what it was like to be rejected and separated from the Father – a fate that, had He not gone to the cross, would have been ours for all eternity.
At the cross, Jesus became what we are, so that we might become like Him. At the cross, we change places. He dies for our sin that He did not commit; we receive His righteousness that we don’t deserve. The cross shows us just how seriously God takes sin – that the only way to rectify things was through the death of His only Son. Let us not underestimate it, nor take it for granted.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

His thoughts and His ways

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Man was created in the image of God: as a trinity – spirit, soul, and body. In the beginning, Adam’s spirit was uppermost in his life, allowing him to commune with God. But at the Fall, this reversed, and the trinity became body, then soul, then spirit. Unregenerate man is little different from the animals (Eccl. 3:18). They are driven by their bodily instincts: the need for food, drink, shelter, warmth, and procreation. There are also the soulish desires: the desire to be accepted, noticed, and loved.
God’s ways are higher than all of these. His ways are according to the Spirit: desiring fellowship, communion, and love, but not as the soulish desires which are driven by ‘what’s in it for me’. Living according to the Spirit – which we can now do, if we are born again – is to live on a higher plane. We give and love without expecting anything in return – just as God blesses us and loves us. Unsaved people can’t understand this. But this is the way it is with God (1 Cor. 2:14). His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Persecuting Jesus

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’” Acts 9:4
Acts 9 gives us the story of one of the most influential men of the first century church – Paul. Beginning his life as Saul of Tarsus, he was born a Roman citizen and raised as a Pharisee. He took it upon himself to go out and purge the world of this new sect of Jesus-followers, obtaining letters from the high priest at Jerusalem that gave him the authority to take these believers as prisoners (Acts 9:1-2).
Saul honestly thought that he was doing the right thing. Like many other Pharisees, he completely discounted the possibility that Jesus could actually be the promised Messiah. It took a supernatural event for him to discover this.
But let’s also take note of what Jesus says to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Now Saul was probably thinking, I wasn’t persecuting a bright light and a booming voice from heaven. I was finding people who had gone off the rails of traditional Judaism so they might be punished and better educated in what they should be believing. But Jesus says, if you persecute those who believe in Him, you are persecuting Him.
The same is true today. Let’s not pretend that persecution is not a problem. We may not encounter the extremes that these disciples experienced – and indeed many Christians today throughout the world, particularly in Muslim countries, are experiencing. Persecution in Western society tends to take the form of name-calling (‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘homophobic’, ‘radical’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘those crazy born-agains’, etc.). We may be looked over for a job promotion, or even be declined a job because of our faith. Christianity is maligned by the media. Whatever form persecution takes, we can take heart in this: Jesus is feeling it too. When we are attacked, He takes it personally.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If you insist

“But My people would not listen to Me; Israel would not submit to Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:11-12
It’s a dangerous thing to be stubborn when what God is telling us to do is contrary to what we are telling Him we want to do. God is patient with us, yes, but eventually there will come a point where He will allow us to receive that thing we are stubbornly striving for, and face the consequences to our detriment. God respects our free will. If we refuse to listen to Him, He will leave us to our own devices.
The answer to avoiding a lot of pain in life is simple: be obedient to God. He has given us much more than the Old Testament saints in terms of the ways that He guides us. We have the complete Word of God, that gives both general and specific instructions on how we should conduct ourselves. And we also have the Holy Spirit indwelling us – something that the Old Testament saints did not have on a permanent basis. He will guide us through His peace.
Elsewhere we read in the Psalms, “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” (Ps. 32:9). We have a choice how we are led: by pain, through pursuing our stubbornness, or by the Spirit, through obedience to God.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Talking about Jesus

“The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:34-35
This passage is a neat story showing just how easy it can be to talk to someone about Jesus. Philip had been directed by the Holy Spirit to the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza, and then to a chariot travelling along the road, where a man from Ethiopia (who was most likely a member of the royal court) was reading the Old Testament – specifically, Isaiah 53. He doesn’t understand what he is reading, and asks Philip to explain it to him. So Philip explains that the passage is referring to Jesus, how He would be crucified and killed, not for His own sin, but for ours, and how salvation is now available to all who would believe.
We might look at Isa. 53 as an ‘easy’ passage from which to tell someone about Jesus, but in reality every passage speaks about Him in some way. Think of some of the famous Bible passages that even non-Christians are familiar with: Psalm 23, ‘the Lord is my shepherd’; 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’, John 3:16, etc. If we know how these fit into the big story of the Bible and why Jesus had to come and die on the cross for us, we can do as Philip did: start with that Scripture, and tell them the good news about Jesus.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Father knows best

“This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’” Isaiah 48:17
It’s a wonderful thing when we can grasp the truth of this verse: God knows what is best for us. He knows, even better than we ourselves know. And if we will let Him, He will direct us in the way that we should go. In many cases, it will probably not be the way that we would choose. When the Israelites left Egypt, God led them to what seemed like a dead end, by the Red Sea. As Pharaoh’s army was advancing, the people started to panic. But then God showed Himself real to them: the pillar of cloud moved behind the people, and the Red Sea parted, so that the people could walk through on dry ground. Once they had all crossed, the pillar of cloud lifted, and the Egyptians tried to follow but were all destroyed as the sea closed in over them. Think of how much better this was for the Israelites, than if they had all headed up the main road towards Canaan. God was building their character, building their faith, showing Himself real to them. In the process, He also destroyed the threat of Pharaoh’s army coming after them. This event became a cornerstone in the history of Israel, one they could look back to and say, ‘That day, we knew God was on our side.’
It’s the same for us. God will sometimes lead us through what seem to us to be disastrous situations. But in those times, that is when we learn to trust Him. That is when He builds our character.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ananias and Sapphira

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’” Acts 5:3-4
In Acts 5:1-11 we read the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. There was a movement going through the church where people were selling their properties and giving all the money to the church, living a communal lifestyle (Acts 4:32-37). So Ananias and Sapphira also sold a field that they had, and gave some of the money to the church.
Their sin was not keeping some of the money. As Peter said, the field was theirs, and the money was theirs to do what they liked with it. Their sin was acting to have given it all (see Acts 5:8). The only reason they would have done this was to be noticed by people, possibly competing with Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). The motivation for this was pride – about which Jesus says, they received their reward in full (Matt. 6:1-2).
Here’s the question: do we do the same thing? God doesn’t care what percentage of our income we give to Him. We are not under an obligation to give a tenth, as in the Old Testament. Rather, the condition is that we give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7), honestly, and without making a fanfare.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The proof of prophecy

“Who then is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before Me what has happened since I established My ancient people, and what is yet to come – yes, let him foretell what will come.” Isaiah 44:7
Several times in the Scriptures, God affirms who He is by stating that no-one can foretell the future except Him. Many try to, and many seek fortune-tellers, reading horoscopes, researching the writings of Nostradamus and so forth. But have you ever noticed how vague those so-called ‘prophecies’ are, compared with how specific God’s prophecies are? Of course it’s easy to think that your future has been foretold, when the message was, ‘You will meet someone today who will annoy you, and you will meet someone today who will make you smile.’ Unless you lock yourself in a closet all day, that kind of ‘prophecy’ will always be true.
In contrast, consider how specific God is about prophecy. Samuel prophesied to Saul of three very specific things that would happen, to affirm his selection as king (1 Sam. 10:2-6), even down to how many loaves of bread and goats the people he would meet would be carrying. Through Isaiah, God called Cyrus by name hundreds of years before he was born, and said that he would release the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon. Through Daniel, we have the prophecy of the 69 weeks of years, which was fulfilled to the very day. And there are many more examples.
In many cases, even the prophet did not know what it was referring to (see Dan. 8:27, 12:8). So next time you come across one of these super-specific prophecies in the Bible, don’t take it for granted. It’s easy to read it and say, ‘Of course, this was referring to such-and-such an event.’ Bible prophecy is proof that God is God.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blotting out transgressions

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
This is a great promise from God to us today. He is the one who can, and does, blot out our transgressions, and He remembers our sin no more – when we come to faith in Christ, in God’s eyes, it is as if we had never sinned. But there are four words that I want to pick up on: “for My own sake”. You see, it isn’t for our sake - although we would think that we are the primary beneficiaries of our sins being blotted out. Rather, God says, it is for His own sake. This gives us a hint of the magnitude of God’s desire for us to be with Him.
Many people have an incorrect view of God. They think He is reluctant to save us, forgive us, and that He doesn’t really forget anything, but that He is waiting for us to slip up so He can punish us. This is not the case at all. God does not rejoice in judging people. He has done everything in His power, that is consistent with His character, so that we are not lost forever. He has provided a way for salvation, but does not encroach upon our free will.
The problem is that nothing sinful can enter heaven. If God did not blot out our sins, we could not be with Him. Although God doesn’t need us, He wants us to be there. He wants to share His blessings and love with us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Passing through the waters

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
If there’s one promise to us that frequently gets overlooked, it’s the promise that we will face trouble and persecution while we are in this world (John 16:33, 2 Tim. 3:12). It’s inevitable – when we come to Christ, we switch sides of the spiritual battle, and we are now on enemy territory.
Isaiah paints three pictures for us, which may be likened to different events in Israel’s history. They passed through the waters of the Red Sea. They passed through the river of Jordan. Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego walked through the fire and were not harmed. In all cases it was because God preserved them. They still had to pass through these things, but God kept the elements from destroying them.
God will be with us through everything we face. Consider what Paul faced in his lifetime: imprisonment, whippings, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, constant danger, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, destitution (2 Cor. 11:23-29). Yet he never gave up on the Lord. He knew that God was with him (c.f. Acts 23:11, Acts 27:23-24). And God is with us, too. We just need to trust Him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do not fear

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Over and over in the Bible we are told not to fear. The reason? Because God is with us. We do not face trouble alone. David said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4). God will protect us; nothing can touch us that He hasn’t allowed. And when they do, He is still watching. He strengthens us and upholds us.
There are many things in life that we can fear. Fear usually comes because of some threat, or because the future looks uncertain. But God is bigger than both of these. If the threat does materialise, we can call to Him for help, and He will answer. If we are worried about what the future holds, we just need to stop and remember Who it is that holds the future. Like David, we can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). We can always run to God for protection, when we are afraid.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Showing their hypocrisy

“Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.” John 18:28
The Pharisees had been criticised by Jesus many times for their hypocrisy, but this one takes the cake. Here was the Sanhedrin (the Jewish leadership, which is what John means throughout his gospel when he refers to ‘the Jews’), who had failed to acknowledge their Messiah, held an illegal trial, and were now bringing Him to Pilate, the Roman governor, to have Him executed. Yet we read, they adamantly refused to enter the palace, being Gentile territory, lest they become ceremonially unclean and therefore unable to eat the Passover. Instead, they force Pilate to come in and out as he talks to them and then goes to talk to Jesus, who was being held inside. They even treat Pilate with contempt (see John 18:29-30).
It’s easy for us to point the finger. But do we do similar things? Have we missed a central truth in God’s Word, such as His command for us to love one another? Do we claim to belong to God, but harbour all kinds of evil in our hearts? Do we major on the minors, on the ceremonial things, how we appear to others – at the expense of the more important spiritual things in life?
There is hope. Many Pharisees came to salvation after the resurrection. If there was hope for them, then there is certainly hope for us. It’s not too late to change our attitude and return to God.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Protection, not removal

“My prayer is not that You take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one.” John 17:15
In John 17, after praying for His glorification, Jesus prays for His disciples, and all who would come to faith after them. That means He is praying for us! In verse 15, He points out that He does not want them to be removed from the world, but that they would be protected from Satan. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we become part of another kingdom, not of this world. We pass from being citizens of the world, to trespassers. We are in enemy territory.
Some will ask, ‘Why does God save people, and then allow them to face persecution and hardship – He’s risking that they might turn their backs on Him and go back to the world.’ But if everyone who believed in Christ were immediately raptured to be with the Lord, then how would anyone else be saved? There would be no-one who knew the truth, who could pass it on to others. We are called the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). We are the preserving influence in the world.
Instead of asking to take us out of the world, Jesus asks the Father to protect us. Sometimes it might not feel that way, when everything is falling down around us and things are going from bad to worse. But everything that does come against us, God has okayed. He will not let us be tested more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
So, we are in this for the long haul – until the rapture, or until the Lord takes us home individually. But we will be protected while we are here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bringing God glory

“I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.” John 17:4
There is much that we can learn about Jesus and His relationship with the Father, from reading the prayer He prayed in John 17. It shows intimacy, openness, and respect. In the first five verses, Jesus prays concerning the completion of His mission, and His glorification in heaven upon His return.
What Jesus says here is someting that we can aspire to also. He completed the work that He had been given to do, and by doing so He glorified the Father. Similarly for us, when we serve God faithfully in what He has called us to, we bring Him glory. Surely there is no greater honour in life!
The ultimate work that Jesus completed, was His work on the cross. Yes, He taught the people and raised up disciples; He healed the sick and fulfilled all kinds of prophecies, but His primary mission was to die on the cross for the sin of the world, and be raised to life. At this point in Jesus’ earthly life, everything is in place for that to be accomplished. How thankful we should be, that the work the Father gave Him to do was not just to teach and heal. If it had been, we would still be lost and dead in sin. But He has completed the work, so that we can be fully reconciled to God.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The true vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener.” John 15:1
Throughout Scripture, the grapevine is a symbol of national Israel (Ps. 80:8, Isa. 5:1-7, Jer. 2:21, Ezek. 15:1-8, Hos. 10:1). But here, Jesus says that He is the true vine. This implies that there is a false vine – see Mark 12:1-12. The religious leaders of Israel had failed in their responsibilities to bring forth fruit for God. Now Jesus is here as the true vine, and we who believe in Him are the branches (John 15:5).
A grapevine takes a lot of tending. As the fruit grows, the branches start to droop. It needs to be carefully tied up so that the fruit does not rot on the ground. Similarly, God watches over our lives in minute detail. When we start to bring forth fruit, He ensures that the fruit will not be trampled or become rotten. He lifts us up from the mud and mire, so that we can now live on a higher plane, for His glory. He trains us so that we will become even more fruitful.
Jesus is not a wild vine; He was completely obedient to the Father. He is the source of nourishment for the branches, and He is the one who anchors and unites us.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The way, the truth and the life

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
This, the sixth ‘I am’ statement of Jesus Christ, is one that divides people today. Those who say there are many ways to God, are proved wrong right here. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one and only one way to God, and that is through His Son Jesus Christ. If you have a problem with this, then take it up with Him. I’m only repeating what He said. Instead of getting upset at the so-called intolerance of Christians, who say (as the Bible does) that there is only one way, we should be thankful that there is a way at all.
But let’s have a look at what Jesus says here. Thomas has asked Him, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus says that He is the way. If He is the one who is guiding our steps, we can be sure that our path will take us to the Father. No wonder, then, that the early church movement was called ‘The Way’ (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, 24:22).
Next, Jesus says He is the truth. In Him is no falsehood. If we want to know the truth, we just need to look at Jesus. When we know the truth, the truth will set us free (John 8:32, 8:36).
Thirdly, Jesus says He is the life. This reiterates what we read yesterday about Jesus being the resurrection and the life.
With all these together, we see that our future with Jesus is bright. When you find that right road, the road that leads to the Father, the Way that is Jesus Himself, you’ll never want to leave it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The resurrection and the life

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:25-26
This ‘I am’ statement of Jesus Christ comes as He is speaking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, after her brother had died and been buried. Jesus would go on to raise Lazarus from the dead, but first He talks to Martha and encourages her, to reflect on the eternal life that He offers.
Jesus doesn’t just have resurrection life, but He is the resurrection and the life. Everything on this planet that is alive today, is alive because Jesus is sustaining it. Resurrection is the conquering of death. For Lazarus and other who were raised from the dead, this was a temporary thing. But when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was to His resurrection body – the same kind of body that we will enjoy upon our own resurrection.
How do we obtain this? By believing in Him. If we believe in Him, though we die physically, we will live spiritually, forever. The resurrection life is available to us today. Our walk with the Lord continues after death, without missing a beat.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The good shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15
Yesterday we saw how Jesus likened Himself to the gate for the sheep, which was a role that the shepherd would take at night as the sheep were herded into a pen. This speaks of protection, and also of leadership.
Here, Jesus calls Himself the good shepherd. It is a throwback not only to the well-known Ps. 23, but also to Ezek. 34. There, we read: “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after My sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness” (Ezek. 34:11-12).
Being a good shepherd, Jesus tells us, means having intimate knowledge of each sheep. The sheep trust the shepherd, because they know he cares for them. Jesus says that He knows us – and we know Him – just as intimately as He and the Father know each other. His knowledge of us is complete; our knowledge of Him is not yet complete, but will be one day (1 Cor. 13:12).
Jesus also tells us that He lays down His life for the sheep. No explanation of what this means is needed. He paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gate for the sheep

“I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
John 10 contains what is known as the ‘Good Shepherd’ discourse; tomorrow we will look at Jesus’ statement, ‘I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:14). Here, He says what sounds to us as something quite peculiar: “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7).
In those days, at night the sheep would be herded into a circular, stone-walled pen, which had a small gap in the wall at one point. After all the sheep were safely inside, the shepherd himself would lie down in the gap, thus effectively becoming a gate. In the light of this, we can understand the other aspects that Jesus tells us about in this chapter: how the legitimate servants of God enter through the gate, but anyone who climbs over the wall or attempts to enter by some other way is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).
The gate speaks of both protection and leadership. The sheep were safe inside when the shepherd was lying down as the gate. In the morning, the shepherd would rise and lead the sheep out (John 10:3-4). He leads them to pasture, where they find all the nourishment that they need. So it is with us. We can trust the Lord to watch over us at all times of the day and night, through every season of life. He will fight off the wolves and the thieves who come to attack us. He will lead us and guide us into places of abundance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Light of the world

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12
Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the absence of it. If you’ve ever been in a cave or some other place where there is no light, and turned off your torch, you’ll feel your eyes opening wide, and you’ll see specks that aren’t really there, but are a result of blood flowing through the tiny blood vessels in your eye.
Spiritually speaking, we can see the same specks and flecks that aren’t really there, where there is a complete absence of light. There may be spiritual activity, but it isn’t of God. It isn’t real, and it won’t help you find your way out of the cave and back to the light.
But with the light, you can see where you are going. Being able to see allows you to determine where to put your feet, so that you don’t stumble. It shows the way ahead, so you can know what direction you are travelling in. Spiritually, only the light of Jesus Christ gives us purpose in life. In His light we can see our path, and the ultimate destination: eternity with Him, in heaven. He is not ‘a light’, but ‘the light’. He is the only source of salvation for mankind.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bread of life

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35
The first of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus is that He is the bread of life. This is in contrast to the bread that He fed to the 5,000 by miraculous means (John 6:27), and also in contrast to the manna, the bread from heaven, that the Israelites ate while they were in the wilderness (John 6:49-50). In both cases, the people ate physical bread that satisfied them for a time, but later they became hungry again and needed more. However, Jesus is the spiritual bread, and once we have partaken of Him, we will never be spiritually hungry again.
Jesus provides all our spiritual needs. Our need of forgiveness, acceptance, of finding our purpose in life. He is Jehovah Jireh, God the provider. All that we need to do is come to Him, and believe in Him. When it comes to food, someone may give us some, but unless we put it in our mouth and eat it, we will still be hungry. Similarly with Jesus: we might know about Him, but unless we partake and join ourselves to Him, that spiritual hunger will still be there.
In John 6:51, Jesus says, “This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” It is placing our faith in the finished work of the cross, that is referred to here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jesus the 'I AM'

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was, I am!” John 8:58
In John’s gospel we encounter the seven so-called ‘I am’ statements of Christ. To readers familiar with the Old Testament, this resonates with Ex. 3:13-14, where Moses asks God His name, and God replies, “I AM Who I AM.” By those two little words, ‘I am’, Jesus is claiming to be God, who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. No wonder the Pharisees got so upset with Him, and tried to stone Him (John 8:59).
In John 8:24, Jesus expands upon this: “If you do not believe that I am... you will indeed die in your sins.” In many Bibles, after ‘I am’ there are additional words in brackets (for example, the NIV has ‘the one I claim to be’; other versions have ‘I am He’). These words are not in the original Greek text, but have been added by well-meaning people to make grammatical sense. What Jesus is saying is that if we do not believe that He is the I AM, we will die in our sins.
A similar instance is seen in John 18:5. The soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asks them who they are looking for, and they reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He responds, ‘I am He’, which caused them to fall backwards on the ground. Again, what Jesus actually said was ‘I am.’
As we look at the seven ‘I am’ statements of Christ over the next week, we will see that they all tie in to God’s nature. These two little words cannot be overlooked, because they are His identity. He is not the ‘I was’ only, but He lives, and today He is still ‘I am’.