Saturday, December 31, 2011

The water of purification

“The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean until evening.” Numbers 19:6-7
In Numbers 19 we read the instructions for preparing the water of purification. It involves the sacrifice of a red heifer, then its ashes are collected. The ashes are put into a jar which is then filled with water, and then used to purify people or things that have become unclean by coming into contact with dead bodies or carcasses.
This might all sound completely irrelevant to us today, but there is a picture here of Jesus, which we can learn from. In Lev. 1:10-12, God insists that the high priest must not deliberately make himself unclean. Yet here, the very act of preparing the ashes for the water of purification, renders the priest and those who help him, unclean (see Num. 19:8-10).
Think about what Jesus did for us: He came into this world, sinless, His blood uncorrupted by Adam’s sin (hence the need for the virgin birth). He lived a perfect life of obedience to the Law of God. He did not make Himself unclean by sin on account of anyone. But there was one time where He did become unclean, and the Father forsook Him (Matt. 27:46). That was when He was in the process of making a way for us to be purified and our uncleanness removed from us. He gave up His own perfect record, becoming sin – the very essence of what He hated – so that we could be redeemed. We should never underestimate this.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The voice of the mob

“But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that He be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.” Luke 23:23
We all know the story of how Pilate wanted to release Jesus, having found nothing in Him deserving the death penalty, but how he was pressured into crucifying Him by the mob rounded up by the Sanhedrin. The mob mentality was thriving back then, just as it is today. It would seem that every time there is a mob in the Scriptures, they are always clamouring for something that is not right (e.g. Gen. 19:4-5, Num. 11:4-6, Judg. 6:30, Luke 4:28-29, Acts 19:28, etc.).
Why did Pilate give in to the mob? Chuck Smith* teaches that Pilate was on his ‘last warning’ from Rome to keep the peace in Judea. He had already incited the Jews by marching into Jerusalem carrying standards bearing the bust of Caesar, and generally made little attempt to accommodate their religious rules. But the Jews threatened him that if he did not do what they wanted, they would start a riot and send reports to Rome (John 18:12).
We can criticise Pilate, and we can criticise the Sanhedrin. Certainly both were responsible for their sin in crucifying Jesus. But God’s will had to be done. He used the circumstances and personalities there to have Jesus crucified, even though He was innocent – the Scriptures had to be fulfilled.

* - c2227, 30:00 onwards

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Short memories

“The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. ‘You have killed the Lord’s people,’ they said.” Numbers 16:41
In Numbers 16 we read of yet another rebellion by the Israelites against Moses and Aaron. Korah, a Kohathite of the tribe of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, rebuked Moses for setting himself over the people. The truth is, Moses had not done this; God had appointed him to the position, and in fact Moses hadn’t wanted it in the first place (Ex. 4:13). As a result, God indicated whom He had chosen: Moses instructed Korah to come with his supporters (250 men) and offer incense to God, and fire came from the tabernacle and consumed them (Num. 16:35). Dathan and Abiram refused to come, and the Lord caused the ground to open up and swallow them alive (Num. 16:31-32).
Despite these miraculous occurrences, the very next day the people grumbled against Moses for the way God had destroyed them. They had been terrified that they too, would be destroyed (Num. 16:34), but when nothing came to pass, they had no qualms about grumbling again. I think it’s also quite ridiculous to blame Moses for killing the Lord’s people – he certainly wasn’t responsible for fire coming from the tabernacle and the earth swallowing people alive.
This whole incident shows us just how short people’s memories can be. We haven’t changed. How many times have we promised God we will serve Him forever, or to never do something ever again, if He will just get us out of our current mess, and then go right back to what we were doing before the trouble came? God allows trouble to come into our lives so that we will learn from it and grow. So let’s make sure that we do!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jesus' last healing

“But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And He touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Luke 22:51
Each of the gospels gives us a different side to the story of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was arrested (see Matt. 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:1-11). John tells us how when He spoke, they could not stand up but fell to the ground (John 18:4-8). John’s gospel also tells us that the disciple who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant was none other than Simon Peter (John 18:10). Mark does not mention the ear incident at all. Matthew and John mention it, and say that Jesus rebuked Peter. But only Luke tells us that after rebuking Peter, He touched the man’s ear and healed him.
This would be the last healing that Jesus performed before His crucifixion. It is interesting to note who it was: one who was there to arrest Him. But Jesus did not show partiality in giving grace to people. If they had a need, as this man did, He met it – He didn’t take note of who they were, so long as they were willing to receive it.
Would we have been so gracious, do you think, if you knew that you were only hours away from an agonising death? Probably not. But even though Jesus knew that His death was fast approaching, He also knew that it was not the end.
John tells us that the servant’s name was Malchus (John 18:10). Malchus isn’t mentioned again in the Bible, so we don’t know whether, like so many others, perhaps he came to faith after the event. But there was a chance that he would, and so I believe this is why Jesus did take the time to heal him – as well as showing us His compassionate nature, right to the end.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Christians are given a hard time

“They spread a net for my feet – I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it themselves.” Psalm 57:6
There are some people, it seems, who see their prime purpose in life is to give Christians a hard time. Some are famous, writing books, lecturing in universities and engaging in debates. Others are just people who we come across in everyday life, who may have been burned by a bad church experience or persuaded from a young age that religion is for losers. Whatever the case, we should not lose heart. Nor should we retaliate against them, because that will only add more fuel to their fire. The Bible tells us not to seek revenge on other people, but to leave that up to God (Rom. 12:19). He sees what is happening to us and will orchestrate things so that it comes back on them. This is exactly what happened in the Bible.
For example, Daniel was minding his own business, praying to God three times a day, and his enemies knew that the only way they could get rid of his was to pass a law forbidding his worship of God. As we know, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, but he was not harmed. The next day, when the king discovered he was still alive, he ordered Daniel to be taken out and his accusers thrown in instead (Dan. 6). Another example is Haman: he was so jealous of Mordecai that he built a gallows and went to seek the king’s permission to have him hanged (Est. 5:14). But his plan backfired, and ultimately he was hanged on the same gallows (Est. 7:9-10).
So when you are being persecuted by vocal opponents, trying to catch you out, keep your cool; don’t take their bait. Instead, pray about it. Tell God exactly what’s happening and how you’re feeling, and ask Him to give you the strength and patience to endure. Trust Him, and He will take care of things, one way or another.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Deliberate sin

“But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken His commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” Numbers 15:30-31
The Old Testament law makes it quite clear that there was no forgiveness for deliberate sin, when a person knew what the law of God said and then chose to disobey it. For sins which the person accidentally committed, either through not intending to (e.g. receipt of stolen goods or manslaughter), or through ignorance of the law, there were the sin and trespass offerings that could be made. But where someone knew the law of God, there was no offering that could be made.
It’s interesting to note that this deliberate disobedience is called blasphemy. Usually we think the word ‘blasphemy’ refers to using God’s name as a swear word. But the meaning is much, much broader than that. Blasphemy is bringing God’s name into disrepute, either by what you say or what you do. To say that you belong to Him and then consciously disobey His commands, brings His name into disrepute. To deliberately disobey means that you think your way is better than God’s. You are despising His commands by doing so.
This is a lesson for all of us, because we have all done this – known what the right thing to do is, and not done it; or known what the wrong thing to do is, and done it. Praise God that in this dispensation, even these deliberate sins can be covered by the blood of Christ, if we seek His forgiveness! But this is not a license to keep on sinning; we should strive to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but I’m finding that in society, Christmas is becoming less and less about remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ, and more and more about presents. Sure, we know that Jesus wasn’t born on 25 December, and that many of the Christmas traditions are taken from the festival of Saturnalia, but we can still celebrate the event of Jesus’ birth as a human (just as, at least in New Zealand, Queen’s Birthday holiday is not celebrated on the Queen’s actual birthday).
In some places, political correctness has taken over so that you’re made to feel guilty for even uttering the words ‘Merry Christmas’ for fear of offending someone. We’ve gone from ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ to ‘keep Christmas’!
I remember talking with my family once about which was more important, Christmas or Easter. Without Easter, we would still be lost in our sins. But without Christmas, there wouldn’t have been the events of Easter.
I hope you have a relaxing, joyful and very Merry Christmas this year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The times of the Gentiles

“They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:24
Here in Luke 21 we have a description by Jesus of some of the events that will take place after He is taken up into heaven. Note that it is a different teaching from that in Matt. 24 and Mark 13, which deal with events leading up to and through the Tribulation period. Both have the prophecy of nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines, and so forth. But then Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts go on to say ‘After these things’ while Luke says ‘But before all this’. Also the teaching recorded by Luke was given in the temple (Luke 21:5-8), while that recorded by Matthew was given on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:1-3).
‘The times of the Gentiles’ refers to the period in which Israel is subjugated by the Gentiles, beginning with the Babylonian captivity in 477 BC. It continues right up to the Tribulation period, which is its fulfilment (Rom. 11:25). Therefore we are still in this period today, and just as Jesus said, we do see Jerusalem trampled on by the Gentiles – the site of the Temple Mount being occupied by the Al Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, being a continual reminder of this. But Jerusalem will once again be a holy city (Joel 3:17, Zech. 8:3), with Jesus ruling and reigning from His throne there as King over the entire world. These times of oppression were prophesied, but they will not last forever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Walking in the light

“For You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” Psalm 56:13
Throughout the Bible, when we see God delivering someone, He doesn’t just deliver them from something, He also delivers them to something. The Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, and delivered to abundance and blessing in the Promised Land. We have been delivered from death, and delivered to life.
Being delivered from death is the first step in our salvation, also called justification. At this moment our status is radically changed before God – we are no longer condemned to an eternity of torment, but our sins are forgiven and we are made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
To have our feet kept from stumbling is the next step in our salvation, which is called sanctification. After we are converted, we still continue to stumble into sin. Sanctification is the purification process, and it is only completed when we go to be with the Lord.
Today’s verse gives us the purpose in justification and sanctification: “that I may walk before God in the light of life.” We have been delivered from sin, in order that we might serve God. The more we are walking in His light, the greater will be that desire to serve Him and not ourselves.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The bad report

“And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” Numbers 13:32-33
We all know this story: Moses sent twelve men to explore the land of Canaan, one from each of the tribes of Israel. They came back with a huge bunch of grapes and other fruit (Num. 13:23). But ten of them also came back with a bad report.
Here was this land that had been promised to them by God. It was a land of blessing and abundance, a land that God had chosen and prepared especially for them. Yes, there were other people living in it, but their expiry date was fast approaching (see Gen. 15:16). Just as the Israelites would not have to work hard to make the land produce fruit, neither would they have to work hard to defeat the people inhabiting the land, because God would go before them and give them victory.
But ten of the men brought a bad report, even saying that the land was evil, devouring those who dared to enter. They exaggerated everything: “All the people we saw there are of great size.” It was true that there were some giants, but not all of the people were enormous. Rahab, for instance, was not. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” I don’t get the impression that the spies actually went into any of the Nephilim cities and asked the people there what they thought of them. What this boiled down to was a lack of faith, and letting fear take control. They had completely left God out of the equation. He would give them the victory, if they would just trust Him. It’s the same for us. We shouldn’t trivialise the presence of giants that stand in our way; but neither should we fear that we will be destroyed by them. If God has promised us something, He will fulfil it. Don’t speak badly about what God is doing – otherwise, like these men, you might miss out on it altogether.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking back to Egypt

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.’” Numbers 11:4-5
Time and time again in the wilderness we see the people complaining about something. It’s interesting to note where the source of the complaint came from on this occasion (which led to God providing quail for the people). It was started by ‘the rabble’ travelling with the children of Israel. These were Gentiles who had joined them either from Egypt or along the way (see Ex. 12:37-38). But their attitude spread through the whole community.
They started looking back to Egypt as being ‘the good old days’, thinking back to the wonderful food that was available to them there. But we know that it was not wonderful at all. The Israelites were oppressed as slaves, forced to make bricks for building various cities for Pharaoh, then having their raw materials no longer supplied to them – it was a miserable existence. How quickly we forget the misery of the past.
Spiritually, the land of Egypt is a picture of the unregenerate world. “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived” (Col. 3:7). But now God has redeemed us from the rut of sin, and called us to journey with Him to the Promised Land. We will all go through some wilderness experience on our way to full Christian maturity and the abundant spiritual life led by the Holy Spirit. And in that time, it may sometimes be tempting to throw in the towel and go back to our old ways in Egypt. But we forget just how bad that life was – the emptiness of not knowing God, the futility of life. Don’t let other people, who aren’t part of the family of God, entice you back. Keep pressing on in the Lord.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

By what authority

“So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from.’ Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’” Luke 20:7-8
In Luke 20:1-8 we see the Pharisees challenging Jesus, saying, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things” (Luke 20:2). Here was this man, who hadn’t gone to their seminary, who was drawing crowds to hear His teaching and making them jealous. I love Jesus’ response here. Instead of giving them a direct answer, He poses them a question: “John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?” (Luke 20:4).
Now they were the ones in a tight spot. They wanted to say, ‘From men’, because they didn’t like John the Baptist either, but they knew that if they said this (and thus denying that his ministry was from God), this would go against the popular opinion of the people. If they said, ‘From heaven’, then Jesus would start questioning them as to why they had not welcomed him as a true prophet of God. So instead they decide to answer with something non-committal: “We don’t know.”
This wasn’t true. They did know; they just didn’t want to say. So, since they refused to say, then Jesus responds in kind and refuses to give them an answer, instead saying, “Neither will I tell you”. He knows that they know the answer, and He makes sure that they know that He knows that they know.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recognising the time

“They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:44
In Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry, we see this unique view of Jesus’ reaction upon seeing the city of Jerusalem and the hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees. This was the only time during Jesus’ earthly ministry that He allowed people to treat Him like a king. On other times He had expressly forbidden them, or removed Himself from that place (see John 6:15, also Matt. 12:15-16, 16:20, Mark 3:11-12, 7:36, 8:29-30, 9:9, Luke 8:56, 9:20-21).
The Triumphal Entry was the fulfilment of Dan. 9:25 – “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ [of years], and sixty-two ‘sevens’ [of years].” Thus, the prophecy says that from the decree to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem (note: not the Temple!), until the coming of Messiah the King, would be 69 x 7 = 483 years. This prophecy was fulfilled to the very day, culminating in the Triumphal Entry: Jesus, the Messiah, entering Jerusalem riding a donkey as per Zech. 9:9 [1]. But the Pharisees criticised Him – they didn’t recognise that this was the time of God’s coming. And as a result, Jerusalem was completely destroyed.
There’s a lesson here for us, too. While the Bible doesn’t give us a prophecy giving the exact day, it does tell us that Jesus is returning again, and it could be at any moment. Are we ready for Him?

[1] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Triune blessing

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Number 6:24-26
This passage in Numbers is a familiar one to many people. It is the blessing that God, through Moses, instructed Aaron to pronounce on the Israelites. An interesting thing to note is the three-fold repetition structure of this blessing: (1) The Lord bless you and keep you; (2) The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; (3) The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. It’s one of many allusions in Scripture, by this three-fold structure, to the Trinity. (Other passages include the ‘Holy, holy, holy’ of Isa. 6:3, the three-fold description in Gen. 48:15-16, 2 Sam. 23:2-3.)
The blessing is one that we can desire today. Some people think that the notion of God watching them all the time is disturbing. But it is a true blessing to have God always watching us, always aware of our situation, always ready to help and to hear us when we call to Him, always ready to shower us with His grace and peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good teacher

“A certain ruler asked Him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’” Luke 18:18-19
Some people misinterpret this verse to say that Jesus is denying the suggestion that He is God. That is not the case at all. He is, in fact, saying the opposite – picking up on what the man said, and pointing out that the ruler is in fact indirectly calling Him God.
The word ‘good’ here is the Greek agathos, which speaks of intrinsic goodness. There is another word also translated ‘good’, kalos, which speaks of outward beauty and moral goodness; in other words, good in appearance or for use. We see both words used in Matt. 7:18 – “A good (agathos) tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good (kalos) fruit.” The nature of the tree is what determines the kind of fruit it produces.
This is not a rebuke, but drawing attention to what he said. Jesus is the good teacher – just as He is the good shepherd (John 10:11). It was right that the man called Jesus ‘good’, and in so doing, Jesus notes that he is close to faith, because he recognised that Jesus was intrinsically good, because He is God.

Friday, December 16, 2011


“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 53:1
The Bible tells us that it is foolish to think that God does not exist. In fact, atheism is an illogical belief – to say categorically that there is no God, someone must have searched throughout the entire universe, to the macrocosm and the microcosm, through things material and immaterial, and found nothing. But no-one can claim to have done this. If an athiest is honest, they must admit that God could exist somewhere that they haven’t looked. In reality, they don’t know for sure, but they have made a conscious decision to not believe in Him. When confronted with the intricate design of creation – from the nervous system in our body, down to the cellular level – they still refuse to see God’s hand at work. The reason for this stubbornness is quite simple: people don’t want to be accountable to God. They know that if they acknowledged His existence, then they have to acknowledge that He created them, that they owe Him a debt and they have to obey His rules. But they want to be free to continue in their sinful ways. Let’s call atheism what it is: it’s not that people can’t believe, but that they won’t believe. They have made a choice, based on convenience – not logic.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The camp of Israel

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: ‘The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family.’” Numbers 2:1-2
The first part of the book of Numbers is a portion of Scripture that we may be tempted to gloss over, but even in these descriptions of the camp of Israel and the census taken of the Israelites, there are some special insights for those who would take the time to look.
The Israelites were to camp around the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle – the place where God had promised to reside among the people. As we know, they consisted of twelve tribes (the descendants of Joseph being split into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the Levites excluded from the count in order to be used in the service of the Tabernacle). These twelve tribes camped in four camps: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun under the standard of Judah; Reuben, Simeon and Gad under the standard of Reuben; Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin under the standard of Ephraim; and Dan, Asher and Naphtali under the standard of Dan.
Throughout history, the tribes of Israel have had tribal symbols, largely drawn from the blessings of Jacob (Gen. 49) and Moses (Deut. 33). We have all heard of ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’ – Judah’s symbol was indeed the lion. Reuben’s symbol was the man. Ephraim’s symbol was the ox. And one of the symbols of the tribe of Dan was the eagle.
Why is this of interest? Because of what we read elsewhere in the Scriptures about the cherubim surrounding the throne of God: they have four faces: a lion, a man, an ox and and eagle (Ezek. 1:10, Rev. 4:7). We know that the Tabernacle itself was a model of God’s throne room in heaven; here we see that it was not just the Tabernacle that was a model, but in fact the whole nation of Israel.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The rich man and Lazarus

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31
In Luke 16:19-31 we read what some people call the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. However, this is not a parable – in parables, none of the characters have names. Jesus gives us an insight into what really happens to people after they die.
The story is familiar to us: the beggar, Lazarus, went to Abraham’s side and was comforted, but the rich man went into Hades. The rich man called out to Abraham, asking him to send Lazarus with a drop of water to cool his tongue from the torment (Luke 16:24), but was told that this was impossible because of the great gulf between them. Then he asked for Lazarus to be sent to warn his brothers, to which Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). The rich man insists, saying, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). Abraham again replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
There are many people today who say, “If I see a miracle, then I’ll believe in God.” But the Bible tells us that things don’t work this way. The fact that we exist, is a miracle. We don’t need to see miracles in order to believe. We already have the witness of the Bible. If someone won’t believe it, they won’t believe any miracles either. And there was One who came to reach us, and He did rise again from the dead, yet there are many who don’t believe – showing Abraham’s words here to be true.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Jubilee year

“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.” Leviticus 25:10
The Jubilee year is something that we read about in Leviticus, but was never actually practised by the Israelites. It occurred every fifty years, taking place the year after the seventh ‘Sabbath year’ (which the Israelites also never practised; this neglect was the reason they went into captivity for seventy years, see 2 Chr. 36:21). The Sabbath year (Lev. 25:1-7) was to be a year of rest for the land, every seventh year, where the fields were left to lie fallow. God promised to bring an abundant harvest in the sixth year so that it would last for three years (Lev. 25:21). After seven Sabbaths was the Jubilee year, when three things were to happen: 1. All property was returned to the family of its original owner. 2. All Hebrew slaves and servants were to be set free. 3. All debts were to be forgiven.
The Jubilee is prophetic of a coming time when all things will be created new – the Millennium period, when Jesus is ruling and reigning on the earth, from Jerusalem. This is what Peter refers to as “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21, KJV). At that time, the world will again come under God’s control as its original owner. We will all be set free from our bondage to sin, as Christ rules over the whole world in righteousness, and our sins are forgiven – we receive our resurrection bodies that are no longer subject to the sinful impulses we currently have. Are you looking forward to that day?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our love for Jesus

“Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them He said, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be My disciple.’” Luke 14:25-26
Jesus said some pretty shocking things at times (e.g. John 6:52-66, and Matt. 5:29-30), and this is one of them. What does it mean to hate our father and mother? Doesn’t the Bible say we are to honour our father and mother? The word ‘hate’ here is the same used to describe how the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him. We read similar passages elsewhere: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
What Jesus is saying is this: our love for Him must be so prevalent in our lives, that the contrast to all our other loves (for our family etc.) are as if those were hatred. If we love our family and ‘like’ Jesus, then we need to re-examine ourselves. At the end of the day, we are defined by our relationship to Him. Our lifestyle and our priorities need to reflect this. In heaven, we won’t have husbands or wives, children or grandchildren, because we will all be seen as God’s children. Our love for the Lord must be above all else. It’s only then that we can endure the hard times – so that we don’t end up blaming God when tragedy strikes us or our family, but instead say, ‘It is well with my soul’ – not the tragedy itself, but knowing that God is in sovereign control over everything.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The ransom for our life

“the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” Psalm 49:8
When we hear the word ‘ransom’, we think of it as being a large sum of money demanded by a kidnapper in order to release their prisoner. What a fitting picture this is for us, in terms of being held captive by sin and a payment being required to release us. Under the Old Testament law, restitution could be made for certain types of sins. The theft of a sheep could be forgiven by making restitution four times over (Ex. 22:1). Certain things could be redeemed back by adding an extra 20% to their value (Lev. 27:13, 19, 27). But when a sin had been committed such that death was required, no restitution could be made (Lev. 27:28-29, c.f. Lev. 24:21). Such sins included adultery (Lev. 20:10), murder (Ex. 21:14, Num. 35:16-19), kidnapping (Ex. 21:16), cursing parents (Ex. 21:17, Lev. 20:9), blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), working on the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14-15, Ex. 35:2), child sacrifice (Lev. 20:2), homosexuality (Lev. 20:13), witchcraft (Lev. 20:27), etc. All sin separates us from God. This condemns us all, for we have all sinned, and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). We cannot redeem ourselves from this predicament. There is no ransom we can make, no bargaining that we can do with God to escape it. But there is a way out – provided by God Himself. “But God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself” (Ps. 49:15). The cost of our redemption was great – it took the death of God’s own Son. This payment was the only one that could ever be enough. Now all we have to do is accept this truth, and believe that it has been applied to us.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Responsibility to obey

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:47-48
Many people struggle with the question, ‘Is God going to judge people living in the jungle who have never heard of Him?’ It’s true: it’s hard to believe in something you haven’t heard of (Rom. 10:14). Today’s verse gives us an important understanding of how God treats us: those who have knowledge of Him, and those who don’t. If we know what God’s law says about what is right and wrong, then we have the responsibility to obey it. If we don’t know God or His law, the standards are lower – but there are still standards. Paul wrote to the Romans, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who heard the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Rom. 2:12-15). What Paul is saying is that if someone doesn’t have the written law of God, they still have the law of God instilled into their conscience.
What does that mean for us, who not only have the Old Testament law, but the whole canon of Scripture? We have a greater responsibility to respond to the gospel. We know the will of God, and we know that Jesus is returning. What are we doing with this knowledge? Are we ready for our master to return? Are we doing what He wants?

Friday, December 9, 2011


“Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” Luke 12:15
The context of this verse is that it is part of Jesus’ response when asked by someone in the crowd following Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). This man obviously felt as if he had been treated unfairly. But Jesus refused, and used the situation as an example to teach the people an important truth, that we would do well to take heed to.
The ‘winner’ in life is not the person who dies having the most money, or the most toys, or the biggest house, or the longest list of celebrity friends. If such a person does not know Jesus Christ as their Saviour, none of that will keep them from an eternity of torment, separated from God. If we allow it to, greed can take over our lives. It develops into envy, selfishness, and pride. We need to recognise these things in our lives.
So what should our attitude be? We should have a light touch on the things of this world. Paul wrote, “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31, emphasis added). In life, we need to keep the main thing, the main thing. That is, knowing Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. He will take care of the rest (Matt. 6:33).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Giving our best

“When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfil a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable.” Leviticus 22:21
There were many different types of offerings specified in the book of Leviticus. The sin offering and the guilt offering were required of the people, to cover unintentional sins against the Lord’s commands. But the burnt offering and the fellowship offering were both voluntary (Ezek. 46:12).
The burnt offering symbolised dedication to the Lord, and as such, the whole animal was to be burnt up and not eaten. Burnt offerings were presented every morning by the priests (Lev. 6:12, 1 Chr. 16:40), at the dedication of the tabernacle (Num. 7), by Samson’s parents (Judg. 13:16), by the people when the ark of the covenant was returned (1 Sam. 6:14), by David at the threshing floor of Araunah (1 Chr. 21:26), at the dedication of the temple (2 Chr. 7:1).
On the other hand, the fellowship offering was one that the person bringing the offering was allowed to eat from. Eating from the same meal as someone symbolised fellowship with them, becoming one with them. Part of the animal was burned as a sacrifice to God, part was eaten by the priests, and part was eaten by the person bringing the offering.
Both of these offerings were to be of animals that were without defect or blemish. These refer to physical faults: defects from birth, or blemishes being faults as a result of injury. The point is this: these two offerings were voluntary, but even so, God required them to be of the very highest quality. You couldn’t look at a lame sheep in your flock and say, “Well, we’ll just sacrifice that one to God to get rid of it.” The principle applies to us today – we must give God the best of what we have, not the leftovers. What time of the day are you most productive? Whether it is morning or night, give that time to God. If you have decided to give financially to some ministry, give it as the first priority, not whatever’s left over at the end of the month. If you’re bringing food to share for a pot-luck lunch at church, bring the best, not the leftovers. In serving other people in this way, we are serving God. After all, He has given us everything we have – our possessions, our food, our very breath. If we are going to give back to Him, doesn’t He deserve the best?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Titles and status

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” Luke 11:43
In Luke 11 and Matt. 23 Jesus pronounces several woes on the Pharisees. Here is one that unfortunately is still prevalent today, in our workplaces and even in our churches. People crave titles and status. How much more important would it make you feel to be introduced as ‘Doctor So-and-so’? Even the use of the word ‘Pastor’ as a title, can cause that person to see themselves as having a higher status than others. This is completely contrary to what Jesus tells us our attitude should be.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10).
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28).
The very word ‘minister’ means to serve. When did ‘the ministry’ become a thing of status?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One greater than Solomon and Jonah

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:31-32
Here we see Jesus giving two examples, to make a single point. The people were once again showing their unbelief by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven. Here was the Son of God, the Messiah, who the nation of Israel should have welcomed with open arms, yet they refuse to believe in Him. Jesus says that both of these examples – the Queen of Sheba, and the people of Nineveh (incidentally, both Gentiles!) would judge those people asking Him to show them a miraculous sign.
We read about the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kin. 10. She came to visit Solomon, to see if the glory of his kingdom and the extent of his wisdom was really as great as she had heard. The people in Jesus’ time had a much greater witness – here was the Son of God, the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and He had come right to them. They didn’t have to travel over land and sea to see Him.
The men of Nineveh responded in repentance to an eight-word message from the most reluctant prophet the world has ever seen: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jon. 3:4). In contrast, Jesus willingly and patiently taught for 3 ½ years, expounding God’s truth.
These people had been given the greatest light of all, and they chose to reject it. Therefore their judgement would be more severe than those who had been shown less light than them. The same is true for us. Have you responded to the light that you have been shown?

Monday, December 5, 2011


“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26
Demon-possession is not an old-fashioned term for mental illness or schizophrenia. It is a very real phenomenon, and it persists to the present day. Reading the Scriptures, we also realise that demons are different to fallen angels. Both are evil, but fallen angels are, like godly angels, able to manifest themselves in a physical body of their own – while demons crave embodiment. A person can be possessed by multiple demons at once – in Luke 8:30 we read of a man who was possessed by up to 6,000 demons. But they can be cast out, by the power of God and the authority of Jesus Christ.
These verses in Luke give us a unique insight into what happens in the heart of a person who is delivered from demon-possession. The demon, cast out of the person, “goes through arid places seeking rest”. But, if it cannot find another host, it will return. If the ‘house’ – the person’s heart – is not re-occupied by another spiritual force, namely, the Holy Spirit, they are at risk of being re-possessed by that demon, and possibly others also. If a person is delivered from demon possession, they need to come to faith in Jesus Christ as soon as possible.
This understanding of the Scriptures on this matter also shows us that a Christian cannot be possessed by a demon. The Holy Spirit won’t be room-mates with a demon. If we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we do not have to worry at all about becoming demon-possessed.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Be still, and know

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Our lives can get really busy and frantic at times, and we can feel like everything is spiralling out of control. It’s times like this that we need to remember this verse: to be still, stop panicking, and remind ourselves that God is God.
It’s not easy to be still sometimes. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to fall asleep, if you are anticipating a big day the following day? For instance, departing on a long trip, or sitting an exam, or starting a new job – our minds suddenly start racing with all kinds of thoughts. Have I remembered to pack everything? What to do if something isn’t in the right place? What outfit to wear? The constant stream of thoughts can make it hard to sleep, and it takes discipline to quiet them.
Psalm 46 depicts a time when the nations around Israel were engaging in warfare with each other, with Israel caught in the middle. I’ve never lived in or visited a war zone, but I imagine it must be pretty terrifying. But if we hold fast to God’s word, we can be sure that at the end of the day, God will be victorious. He is in control of all things, big and small, personal and international. Just be still, and focus on who He is.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Who is my neighbour?

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’” Luke 10:29
The parable of the good Samaritan is one of the best known of Jesus’ parables, yet it is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke. It came about following a discussion that Jesus had with a teacher of the law about what he had to do to inherit eternal life. It boiled down to two laws: the love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourself. But, we read, the man wanted to justify himself. He wanted to clarify just what Jesus thought the term ‘neighbour’ referred to.
The point about the parable of the good Samaritan is that the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the man who had been mugged, but the Samaritan did. Therefore the Samaritan was being a neighbour. This was almost unthinkable for a Jew at that time – Samaritans were considered to be unredeemable. But Jesus was teaching this man that ‘neighbour’ is a broad term, referring to our fellow man – not just those of our religion, race, nationality, etc. Similarly, we use the term quite narrowly today, to refer to the person living in the house next to us. We need to learn what this second commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, really entails.
Let’s finish today with some food for thought from Matt. 5:46-47. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Calling down fire

“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?’” Luke 9:54
This incident is only recorded in Luke’s gospel. Jesus and His disciples were travelling through the region of Samaria, but the Samaritans refused to welcome Him because He was going to Jerusalem (Luke 10:52-53). (The Samaritans did not believe that Jerusalem was the true place of worship, see John 4:20.)
James and John were quick to pass a final judgement, offering to call down fire from heaven as a punishment for the people not receiving Jesus. But Jesus rebuked them, saying “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55, NIV footnote). Then He and the disciples went to another village instead (Luke 9:56).
Jesus had compassion – the Samaritans were under no compulsion to help Him. Maybe later they would believe, but they could not if they were destroyed now. We can learn an important lesson here: if someone doesn’t want to receive Jesus, we shouldn’t pass them off as a lost cause. Go to another ‘village’, maybe later they will receive Him. While they are alive, never stop praying for them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


“As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.” Leviticus 13:46
Leviticus 13-14 gives us God’s rules, as dictated for the priests, concerning the diagnosis and handling of a person with leprosy, and the procedures for ceremonial cleansing in the event that he was healed.
Leprosy in those days was considered incurable. It is a disease that causes the nerves to become numb. The person is unable to feel pain when they injure themselves or touch something hot; it is these injuries that cause the extremities to eventually start falling off. Lepers were to live alone, outside the camp, wearing torn clothes and crying out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ whenever anybody approached. It was a miserable existence – and it paints a graphic picture for us.
In the Bible, leprosy is a picture of sin. Think about it: as we continue in sin, against the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we harden our hearts and our moral senses of what is right and wrong become numb. Sin separates us from God; we are outside the fellowship of the camp. Often lepers would band together in colonies to help each other. Isn’t this what happens among the people of this world? – we have the ‘prostitutes’ collective’ and the ‘gay community’, etc.
But all hope is not lost. In the event that a person was cleansed from leprosy, the priest was to go to him outside the camp to inspect him, and start the cleansing process that would enable him to come into the camp. Jesus is our high priest. He came into this fallen world to reach us, in our sinful state. He came outside the camp, so that we might come back into fellowship with God.