148. What then…how is it possible?

What do you live for?  How do you live for it?  The answers to these questions are the mainstay of a life of excellence.  Yet, we do not spend enough time to contemplate, meditate and pray about the big picture. Often corporations do the exercise.  Strategy sessions they call it.  Management getting together to hammer out a plan, the bigger picture, goal setting as well as tactics for people and placements to reach the goal – the goal being profit and ever increasing profit growth. The people and placements would only be a means to reach the projected targets.

What about the people?  We, the people, need our own strategy sessions, personal growth seminars, goal-setting for a purposeful life and guidance on how to live the life we think we ought to.  Whether we are part of a big corporation or work as an entrepreneur in a much smaller environment, we need life-coaching – a very popular career these days.

How will we know we are on the right road? How then will we not succumb to the pressures and pains of normal life in our world?

There is only one way – THE Way.  We have talked about it often enough in our Pebble-discussions through the years.  There is only one man in the entire history of mankind who has ever said I AM the truth, the way and the life.  He is the same God who said to Moses, centuries ago at the site of a desert bush burning, his name is I AM.  He is the EVERYTHING – the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and everything in between.  He is the source of every possible enhancement for your life – all that is true, noble, right and pure plus all that is lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  Here you are – you have it all.

Good, you might say.  It probably sounds good on paper, but that is not how life is in reality.  We contend with the cruel, the vile, the lie, the ugly, the bloody and every horror in between. Added to that we live with frustration, disappointment, destruction, disgrace and a deeply rooted fear that everything might just go much worse than now.

I would be the first to agree that just reading the headlines might suck me into a deep pit of depression and fear. That is exactly the point. Where is my eye for hope? Where do I look for the elevated life, the higher life?  Which atmospheric vibes are my senses communicating to my brain for comfort and hope?

I don’t blame you if you feel quite despondent right now.  Yes, those lives of the rich and famous without worries or fears look so good in the glossy magazine or Google link to the gossip page that huffs and puffs about the glitz and glamour out there.  After all, the shutter of the camera captures a split second of a person usually when they are all dressed up and professionally prepared. That split second is then appropriately photo-shopped to portray the best possible image.   In all this, have you ever seen a heart or mind? Our cameras and even interviews do not reveal the true thoughts and deep inner life-guiding principles of a celebrity or admirable personality.

Every individual needs to establish these guidelines deep within.  It is personal and private.  It is usually driven by long established perceptions of upbringing and education, or a life-changing decision to choose a particular way of life.  When you choose Jesus, your life is elevated to the higher purpose of God.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways.  He says so himself:

I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.
God’s Decree.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think. 
(Isaiah 55:8,9, The Message)

How then are we brought so low?

One of the more successful strategies of our enemy is fear and doubt.  Fear is unbelief – the direct opposite of faith.  Fear is the disease of our time and from it springs a well of illness, mental and physical.  It is an inexhaustible source of trouble.

Fear is not practised – it is the natural, instinctive reaction to circumstances.

Fear in this sense is not that initial fright or panic in an alarming situation.  We all know the feeling of the adrenalin rush when our brains switch to panic mode and we make the swift decision to freeze, flee or fight. This reaction is survival and very necessary, but it is not a life style.  When this physical panic mode is prolonged and ultimately determine our decisions, it is a recipe for crippling stress and malady.

Fear is not shock or superficial fright. To be frightened is good. It propels you into action to get yourself out of a life-threatening situation.  Fear is the prolonged, nagging state of stress and anxiety that settles in your inner being and determines your decisions and life choices, like an inner badass to be placated and satisfied with constant trembling submission.  When fear is the source of plans for the future and not the promises of God as it should be, we succumb to dread and a bleak perspective marked by the negative expectation. This is not a victorious life.  The Holy Spirit is powerful and able to release your inner being and set you free to live boldly and courageously.

Our source is Jesus…

for in Him we live and move and have our being… (Acts 17:28)

For a child of God fear is stirred by the raspy, gruff voice of the enemy, planting thoughts of dread and alarm in the darkest hours of panic.  This literally happens mostly at nighttime when everything seems worse than daytime.  This state of crisis should put us on our knees with the Word open to allow the words of Jesus to heal our inner beings.

The best way to open up the channel for Holy Spirit ministry is confession.  It is a liberating and powerful act to defeat those thoughts of fear. Recognize thoughts of worry and stress for what they are.  It is the repetitive milling reflection on worst-case scenario and the source is hell.  Submit the thoughts to the authority of God and confess the sin of fear.

Confession brings instant relief.

Confession breaks the hotbed of that fortified hellish attack thrown at us, called fear.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4,5, AMPC)

 

 

We continue our discussion on fear in the next piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

147.  Oh the shame, the dreadful regret!

I know I shall be so disappointed, so full of reproach, blaming myself when I find out just how I could have lived. The day I see Jesus face to face and fully grasp his character will be the day I will realize what my life could have been if only I believed the words He spoke in Scripture.

I will be embarrassed over all my fear, I will hang my head in humiliation because of hours of worry and curl up in shame when I think how my thoughts circled in desperation for plan B to Z regarding dreams that might not work out and other twisted plans mulling over worldly solutions for my circumstances.  Regret and self-pity will overwhelm me when I “see” the life I could have lived.

It is utterly worth it to get my life in order right now to live a life of liberty and victory as promised.

On a few occasions in my life I experienced the Holy Spirit’s discipline.  I say this hesitantly.  God works in every person’s life individually and will guide you with his eye in his own way, that relate to your life in a very unique manner. (Psalm 32:8)  I write my experience as a testimony and not as a lesson.

My husband was a corporate executive and traveled often.  Company policy allowed me to accompany him once a year on a trip of our choice.  My three boys were getting a little more independent and with the support of a good friend who could help with the school run and my mother close to keep an eye on them, my friends and family encouraged me to take the opportunity to get away.  We spent a lovely week in Germany.

Back home the news hit me hard.  My youngest (five years old and in the last year of pre-school) became very ill, shortly after I had left.  The whole family rallied around him, the family doctor diagnosed and treated him and he was healthy and happy when I arrived.  They told me the whole event with my family’s usual animated drama.  I was livid.

I was angry that they kept his illness away from me in order to give me a holiday.  Sure, it is a good thing and they were being nice, but I was fuming.  Guilt made me respond in angry reproach.  How could I jet set around the world while my son needed me?  I felt that I utterly failed in my role as a mother and will never let that happen again.  I made a decision there and then not to go away again until my sons are big enough to look after themselves.

Three times the opportunity came to go again. I refused.  I made a decision and stuck with it.  This is my sacrifice for being a good mother. No debate necessary!

One day, three years later, my husband came with a special request.  It would have been a unique opportunity to visit an island.  Neither one of us had ever had an island experience. My first thought again was no, because of my “vow” to stay home with my kids.  One of my friends encouraged me to go and promised her support.  My mother was more vocal and even sharp about the matter.  She and I had a series of discussions on the subject of fear and she knew very well how deeply my fear was rooted.  She knew my fears around my children; she knew how upset I was about anything to do with my children.  One afternoon we discussed the whole thing again and she instructed me to read Revelation 21:8:

 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (NKJV)

But for the rest—the feckless and faithless, degenerates and murderers, sex peddlers and sorcerers, idolaters and all liars—for them it’s Lake Fire and Brimstone. Second death!(The Message)

I sat stunned for a while.  This is serious.  Am I a feckless unbelieving coward?  Is my destiny the lake of fire, second death?  It could not really be any worse! Fear cannot be so bad!  God, are you serious?  Is this how you see me?  Are you angry with me?  I am only being responsible.  Is that so wrong?

I announced that I shall seek the Lord on the matter.   In my heart I was upset and confused.  I needed to know what the Lord says.  On a previous occasion I realized that I did not take the instructions in the Word of God seriously enough.

I “saw” Jesus in my mind’s eye, standing in front of me asking: What is going on here? Do you trust Me?  Do you know that I love you and keep you in My embrace?

I got home and grabbed a Bible lying around.  I opened it and was stunned at what I read.

 The Lord has given me a strong warningnot to think like everyone else does. He said,

“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,

    and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.

    He is the one you should fear.

He is the one who should make you tremble.

    He will keep you safe.  (Isaiah 8:11-14, NLT)

I ran up to my bedroom, locked the door and fell flat on my face before God. I confessed my fear and surrendered my life, to Jesus AGAIN, every aspect of it.  I stayed there until I felt the burden of my sin lift and the Holy Spirit minister to me with release, peace and joy.

The end of the story, you might ask?

My husband and I enjoyed a lovely week in Bermuda IN hurricane season.  When we phoned to confirm the hotel late August, they were nailed up for a fierce tropical cyclone in the Atlantic.  We enjoyed perfect weather and explored the two islands on mopeds. The week after we came back, the winds of Hurricane Nate took the little beach where we sat in a restaurant with our feet in the sand and were served exquisite seafood.

We both felt God’s loving imprint on the holiday, keeping us safe, keeping our children safe.  How could I ever doubt Him?

 

146. The feasting table of faith in the storm.

Continuing from the previous Pebbles…the disciples are in a panic.  They are struggling against wind and wave, fighting for their lives. Real life.  Circumstances are out of control without a clear resolution.  All the good intentions of calm sessions in therapy are thrown overboard when reality overwhelms purposeful and wise life goals.  Where, you may ask, is God?  The clatter of confusion speaks louder than anything and foolish fear is right back on the governing seat of heart and mind.

The disciples were fighting a violent storm on the lake, when Jesus approached them on the water.  They could not see in the darkness and had no way of knowing who or what this ghostlike image is.

He speaks command-like certainty to them to calm them down. [Pebbles 145]  His voice is the means by which they recognize their Master.

Can you hear him speak to you this moment, even in the raging circumstances?  He brings calm and reason with his voice.

What is the next step?  We all know Jesus can calm a storm.  How wonderfully grand that story has been told in words and art!  I would expect nothing less in this case.  Speak to my waves, Jesus.  Speak to the wind, Jesus.  Bring me some calm so that I would know I am safe in the boat.

As if the storm in the dark is not enough to focus their attention on Jesus, He does not address the situation. Everything is still in crisis mode.  The boat can capsize, the people can drown – I mean, lives are at stake!  Get this miracle on my circumstances done now!

Actually, not yet.  It is time for faith living.  Could we experiment a bit in stormy, deadly waves?  Let’s do something counter-intuitive; something completely irresponsible.  Oh no, you might say, stay in the boat and continue praying.  Don’t push matters too far.

Trust our impulsive friend Peter to push matters along.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.

Key words to live by.  On the command of Jesus we will ride out the storm.  His voice says: Come!

I have no doubt that Peter would have walked with Jesus to the edge of the water, through the storm in the darkness, keeping his eyes fixed on the face of Jesus and his ears pitched to hear Jesus’ voice.  However, he looks down and sinks.

Jesus was always very truthful about the cost of discipleship.  He never allowed emotional commotion to rule over rational decisions and wise deliberation.  In spite of an emotional and impulsive decision to get out of the boat, Peter quickly sensed the daunting and terrifying scope of the storm.  This would not be a walk in the park!

Nevertheless, Jesus will never let him sink.  He reaches out and pulls Peter to safety.  Peter did not suffer defeat that night. Defeat would have been drowning. He took a mighty step of faith, and even when it looked too big and too frightening, he could stretch out his hand to his Saviour who was right there next to him.

He touched Jesus in faith.  Together they landed safely on the beach. He survived the storm, with many lessons learnt and sharpened life skills for the next one.

Defeat is a matter of perspective.  Peter walked on the water and in spite of his sudden panic and the demobilizing fear that sunk him, he walked out of the storm on the arm of his Master.  He did not die. He lived and completed the full purpose of his life.  We do not emerge from the storm with a shining certificate for good behaviour. Mostly we come out of it with a few scars, maybe even open wounds, but always holding the Hand that saved us from drowning.

Storms are fierce.  We may falter and fail, but hell will not prevail. Victory is to keep the faith, not to be offended with God for the storm and walk out on the beach on the arm of your God.

I am sure we are all familiar with modern teambuilding strategies. One of these is a very high narrow bridge over which all partakers must walk.  The walk is scary and each participant is fastened with a cable, held by supervisors on the ground.

It is not easy.  The height is chosen to make it creepy.  How will you know that the guy on the ground is strong enough to tighten the cable when you miss the step?  They look far away and much to relaxed.  Our brain gives us three options for a split second decision.  Fight, freeze of flee.

One of the participants was overcome with fear in the middle of the bridge and took a very logical decision: freeze.  He could not move forward and backward was even more terrifying.  On the other side, one of the participants who had just finished the walk, turned around and walked to the frozen figure.  He commanded him to look up into his eyes and take each step together. With his eyes away from the height and the narrow walkway, they walked in unison to complete the rest of the bridge.  Fear did not prevail. It was beaten, even though he needed help.  He completed the walkway, just in another way.

Where is your eye fixed? Are you looking at the waves and shy away from the wind?  Take the hand of Jesus; hear his voice.  You will walk in victory within the storm.  The stumbling block will become the certain step of victory. It is faith and trust that grow deeper roots, that shape the victory.

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’ Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. (Deuteronomy 33:26-28)

When Jesus got into the boat, the storm calmed down.  His presence is the solution.

He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. (Psalm 107:29)

And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:6)

The tabernacle is where the Ark of the Covenant is, the symbol of God’s presence.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing. (Psalm 23:5)

In closing – who is this Jesus? What is his name?

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved,
 for You are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)

The Hebrew for SAVE is yasha with a deeper meaning to loosen, or to open wide.  It is the word for God’s reaction to all our needs.  He gave his Son the name – Yeshua– He saves.

It says it all.  All you need is in his NAME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

145. Don’t worry… you are safe!

These are the most wonderful words to hear. In the panic, in the most difficult state of affairs, in the middle of the fight, within the helpless disappointment of things spiraling out of control, these words will bring calm and reason in your mind.

You are out of harm’s way. You are protected. Always and everywhere – without exception or interruption.  It is the truth.  It is guaranteed.

Have you truly heard the Word of God?

…for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!   (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

Permit the Holy Spirit to burn the Word of God into your heart and mind.

Most people who grew up in church would know about the stories in Matthew 14.  Maybe familiarity renders them powerless.  It is power-words from a miracle-working Saviour.  After the picnic-feast for roughly 10 000 people (5 000 men – John 6:15), the people are ready to crown Jesus King and Messiah and live the political solution they have been anticipating for centuries.

 Jesus sends his disciples away on a boat to the other side of the lake.  Were they part of the problem?  Perhaps.  They were very aware of the oppression of Roman rule and this wonderworking man was their ultimate weapon of guaranteed victory.  Jesus slips away to spend time alone in the mountains.  He had to focus on the grand plan of which earthly kingship had no part.

The lake of Galilee (sometimes called the Sea of Galilee) is the biggest freshwater lake in Israel.  The particular geological structure of Mount Arbel creates a wind tunnel through the Arbel Pass to blow up raging storms over the lake.

The disciples were in a fishing boat roughly eight meter long, two meter wide and one and a half meter deep.  The measurements were taken from a recent archaeological discovery of a fishing boat on the northwestern bank of the Sea of Galilee.  The boat could carry one-ton fish with a crew of five.  Instead of the catch, the boat could carry ten passengers with the crew.

The night was divided in watches of three hours each.  Jesus spent a few hours in the mountains and then walked around the lake to meet his men on the other side as agreed.  By the fourth watch, He sensed their panic and came to them on the water.

In the mayhem of the storm they struggled against wind and wave.  When they saw this figure approaching, they did not recognize Him.  That is exactly what a storm in your life does.  It blinds you to become aware of his presence.  Darkness and noise hold you captive to the situation.  Things are always worse in the night – true?

How will you recognize Jesus in your storm?

Precisely like the disciples recognized him! They heard his voice with these wonder-words of peace:

But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid! [AMPC]

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” [The Message]

Jesus speaks clearly and direct.  No niceties – straight to the point. He knows your fear and knows the way out.  This is what He says:

I AM!

He is the source of every possible miraculous solution for your circumstances.  He does NOT calm the storm.  He speaks first to you and your mind.  The point is not the storm.  The point is the recognition of his voice.  He is there!  He is present in the storm!

Hear the echo of 2 Kings 3:18:

And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord.

Faith in his words is the test.  Nature will obey him.  Faith is your choice.  Will you obey him?  The heart of the matter is your choice to believe him and obey his words not to fear.

The presence of Jesus elevates your situation from crisis-level to expectation-level.

What happens next?  Oh, very good, you might say.  Now that I recognize his presence, He will act on the situation.

Well, that is not how the story continues!

 

144. The command to live by.

We are talking about the brain-bug: fear. How can we live boldly and fully? How will our lives epitomize the elements of the Christmas Advent: joy, peace, love and hope when we are crushed by the issues and dangers of modern living. All that Jesus came for, lived to exemplify and died for are rendered meaningless when fear floods our system.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with youwherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

The SECOND fear defeating principle is the command in the Word that rings throughout: Do not fear!

The writers of the Psalms are all struggling with fear.  They pour out their hearts before the Lord.  He is to be trusted. (Psalms 62:8)

Jesus repeats this principle with extended examples, repetition and warnings against the meaninglessness of worry.

Jesus forbids worry – not responsible future planning.  (Matthew 6:25-34) He does not ask for a reckless denial of the demands of life.  He is talking about that fear-filled, windmill of repetitive thoughts that robs all inner joy and peace.  The word he uses is merrimna– anxious worry.

Jesus emphasizes that God is the source of life and therefore the maintainer of life.  He creates the body and provide for the body.  He illustrates with the birds of heaven and the lilies of the fields, things that humankind does not maintain or make grow.  He cares from an inexhaustible source.  His examples are significant as they illustrate abundance and beauty.

He underscores again and again the worthlessness of worry.  He makes it ridiculous; that one might think you can grow taller by worrying. Then He makes it an insult and compares a worry-sick person with a heathen, someone who does not know God. A heathen has no God or he might have an angry God who does not love him or cares what happens to him.

He contrasts God the Father with an angry and distant god, and calls him DAD.  God is a close, loving dad who cares and provides everything necessary. It should be easy to obey this command and eradicate all worry and fear from our lives – but HOW?

Here is the THIRD fear-defeating principle.   In Matthew 6:33 is the principle of fearless living.

Jesus says:

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

What will be given besides?  The abundance and beauty that Jesus mentioned in the previous verses will be yours because of God’s favour and not your own good works.

What is righteousness? It is the conformity to the revealed will of God in all respects; the surrendering of your life and desires to the One who died for you. The revealed will of God is the revelation of who Jesus is.  We find all this in the Word.

 It does not mean that every worry and experienced fearfulness are sins of disobedience.  Often worry prompts us to act and do something constructive. The worry that will make us sick and considered a sin is the whirlpool of anxiety about things we cannot change, things that can only be managed through prayer to the Almighty whose trademark is the supernatural.

God promises supernatural peace.  Here is the recipe for windmill and whirlpool thoughts.  Let us again enjoy the Amplified translation.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

 And God’s peace [shall be yours, thattranquil stateof a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothingfrom God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace], which transcends all understandingshall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 I am blown away by the faith knowledge that God is guarding my heart from anxiety.  This is not only fear-defeating.  It is so much more. It is the experience of peace that cannot be explained; peace and joy within the storms of life.

 The story of Mary and Martha in Luke (10:38-42) worries me a bit.  Well, I can honestly say, if one “worries” about the principles in a Bible story and how to apply it to one’s own life, worry is a good thing!

I am a homemaker.  I sort of identify with Martha, keeping things in order and especially feeding Jesus when he comes to visit.  I would have probably cooked up a storm and served a feast for him.  I know Martha loved him and served him with her talents.  In common language the “insult” to say you are a Martha, cuts deep for me. I might even say it of myself.

However, the story has a deeper line.  It is not about the daily, the superficial and the fleshly. It is all about conviction of the deeper principles to live by.  It is about life priorities.  Tending to the everyday cares of life can distract from the search for the deeper kingdom principles that the words of Jesus brought into their house. Mary sensed that and sat at his feet, not sidetracked by the ordinary.

There is no freedom from fear in the ordinary.  There is victory in the “eating” of the Bread of Life, the words of Jesus.  In the prayerful digestion of the words of the Bible, freedom from fear is guaranteed.

Just as a reminder we are promised to know what is important according to Philippians 1:9 (discussed in the very first Pebbles).  The Amplified translation defines the gift of discernment as follows: keen insight, greater depth of acquaintance, and more comprehensive discernment. So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.

This is a life-goal worth pursuing.  It is wise living.

How do you perceive God in your most anxious moments?  Is He close and accessible? Do you feel He hears your cry?

 I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. (Psalms 32:8)

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s loving eye on you to your imagination.

Let us live boldly into our future with the word of the priestly blessing in Number 6.

The Lord bless and keep you

The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Receive these words in the promise of Isaiah 26:3:

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon You, because he trusts in You.

Lastly, remember what Jesus said at the end of Matthew 6:

 

So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

 

 

[BK 23]

 

 

143. A most luxurious life.

It is the bug in every brain – fear. Somehow, somewhere and in some or other circumstances it will paralyze you, give you that hollow feeling inside, even sweaty hands and palpitations with an added dread of rumination, visualizing the scenarios over and over in your mind.  Who can say they are not familiar with every symptom of fear?

The next two shorter pieces are focused on some Biblical teaching on fear, but they are by no means exhaustive.  Every circumstance, every state of alarm or constant anxiety should be directed to our loving Dad in prayer for His Spirit-guidance in the Word for those miraculous “life” -words of “peace that surpasses all understanding”. (John 6:63; Philippians 4:7)

Somewhere I have heard that the phrase: do not fear, is repeated 366 times in the Bible; one for each day and en extra.  I don’t know exactly how I can confirm this, but it makes so much sense. One of the most important strategies of our enemy is fear.  It will rob you of a meaningful, joyous life. It will overwhelm your thoughts and limit your potential in so many ways.  It is a trap set in hell to trip you up and make you suffer in the cruel, sharp, iron claws of your own thoughts.

When we talk about a strategy from hell, we have to remember that the devil is not creative and cannot do anything new. We have all his plans and actions recorded in the Bible for our knowledge and equipping.  The Bible is truly our textbook for life.

The stories of the Old and New Testaments are the examples of men and women living on this earth with the same life issues that we have to contend with so many centuries later.

  • Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden had to live the consequences of disobedience to the directive of God.Eve has not heard from God directly, only second hand through Adam.  Satan approaches her to plant doubt in her mind as to the exact words of the command from God.  He will always sow doubt about what God said and promised and whether God will do what He has said He will do.

 

  • Abraham gets impatient with God’s timing in giving him the son he so desires. He takes action himself and Ishmael, Hagar’s son is born with all the complications that action brings.

 

  • David is tempted and weakened when he should have been on the battlefield with his men.

 

  • The kings of Israel are a study in pride and arrogance, succumbing to sin in the pursing of greatness and standing.

 

  • All his sneaky tactics to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4 where he quotes Scripture out of context to make it a lie of motivation and purpose.

 

If we can dissect his strategy and prepare ourselves to withstand the temptations of evil, we might be able to live more boldly.

One of his most successful traps is fear. So much of our modern illness and physical symptoms of discomfort is related to fear and anxiety.  Our toxic thoughts make us sick.

We can give it many names, label it in any which way and prescribe the pills and therapy to fight it – all of which is good and necessary as we fight on all fronts against the destruction of life, but in the end we know we cannot fake inner peace.  We know what that tight grip of cold fear feels like.

Let’s go back far, back to Abraham.  God promises him:

 Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward. (Genesis 15:1)

This is a covenant promise.  God said that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham.  In Romans  (4:13) Paul states that this promise is ours, not through our good works measured by the law, but through FAITH.

The promise covers our past and future. God’s shield is our protection for today; His reward is the guarantee for future success.  There is nothing that can happen in this life that God cannot turn around for good.  Nothing is too hard for Him.  This is the first principle for victory over fear.

You are safe in his hands.  In Exodus 34 God describes himself as abounding in goodness and truth.  Jeremiah 29 confirms his plans for our future.  The Psalms is full of promises of outcome and protection and so are the prophets and epistles.  Just think for a moment about the life of Jesus.  He healed and encouraged the lowliest of society.

However,our God turned the curse into a blessing. (Nehemiah 13:2)

And we know that all things work together for goodto those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.(Romans 8:28)

These are promises to remember and live by when things go “wrong”.  I deliberately write that in quotation marks, because things might look “wrong” in our eyes when God in his mysterious wisdom works them out for our benefit.

Could we live in the knowledge that when we have surrendered our ways to the Lord, our lives are governed by the principles of God and will never end in defeat. So many times I thought my life has taken a wild side road, when I realize that this is the way God has made as I recognize his loving guidance.

We have a guarantee:

Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present you unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation, with unspeakable, ecstatic delight —    (Jude 24)

The first fear defeating principle is: Rest in the arms of God and his plan for your life.

 

 

Next time: Do not fear – the command of God that should be the foundation of our life.

 

 

[BK 23]

 

 

 

142. Miracle tree of God in action

[New Year 2019]

The rhythm of nature and the certainty of the seasons are always a source of inspiration for me.  There is so much of what we experience on a daily basis that encourages us to believe the Word of God with deep assurance.  I have quoted Genesis 8:22 often.  I am sure all of you know it by heart by now.  The language echoes the rhythm of the words and the meaning.

“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”

Every person caught in the tight grip of winter knows that spring is coming. Relief is coming.  Many psychologists and counselors use the symbolism of the seasons to explain life.

Our life is not constant and mostly it is difficult to “see” the spring in the middle of winter.  However, it is ALWAYS there. It requires a closer look to see the promise of the bloom on every tree, waiting for the silent announcement of the turn of time.  In the beginning of spring the trees get a gleam of green – a light green, a new green.  Later it becomes clearer and deeper in colour.

Usually the turn of the calendar year finds the northern hemisphere in the fiercest grip of winter.  The south enjoys its warmest days.  The first day of the New Year is either very cold or very hot and it is hard to envisage the turn of the season.  That is exactly the utilization of imagination that we need to believe the promises of God for the future.  The things hoped for becomes firm and confident faith.  (Hebrews 11:1)

The visual and atmospheric experience of the season while the opposite is reality, is the challenge.  It is what God expects of us.

The golden thread of symbolic learn experiences in the Word of God, is true treasure.  We know there were three elements in the Ark of the Covenant that stood in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, representing the presence of the Most High God.  There was the golden bowl with manna that did not go bad, as nothing ever decays in the presence of God.  There were the stone tablets on which the law was written and lastly the staff of Aaron that bloomed, blossomed and bore fruit in one day.

This staff is the symbol of the supernatural, literally above and beyond the natural and expected process.

We have just mentioned the seasons. Usually the blooms are ready in winter already.  In early spring they swell out and grow into leaves and flowers.  Mostly on fruit trees, like the almond of which this staff was cut, the flowers become fruit – a most magnificent progression.  After some more time has passed, the fruit is ready for harvesting.

Aaron’s staff was a dry stick.  A staff was a common accessory for a man at the time. David writes about it in Psalm 23, visualizing God as a good shepherd using a staff as protection for the sheep.  Jesus depicted himself as a good shepherd, saying it in one of the seven I AM-sayings in John’s Gospel.

This dead piece of wood becomes the symbol of the supernatural when the normal process of nature is accelerated as a sign of God’s intervention and communication.

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.  (Numbers 17:8)

Many centuries later we read of the almond shoot in the first chapter of Jeremiah.  This particular passage was a lifeline in a dark time in my own life.  It was God’s encouragement to me that He will make his promise true.  Read with me in the Amplified translation.

Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see?

And I said, I see a branch or shoot of an almond tree [the emblem of alertness and activity, blossoming in late winter].

Then said the Lord to me, you have seen well, for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.

The Hebrew word for almond shoot is similar to the word for “alert and active”.

The almond blossoms very early, in late winter, before the first signs of spring.  God’s timing always resembles his grace and mercy, just like He shortened the exile in the time of Daniel.  The blossom of the almond is a symbol of God’s action upon his word and our circumstances.

How are you these first days of 2019? It is quite daunting to look at a year ahead and again realize how little control we have over our future. Our answer to the future is HOPE. Our hope in God fills our hearts and minds and our faith in God guarantees God’s action to our advantage and benefit, especially when things look dark and uncertain.

How do you know that God will act on your behalf?  It is his promise since the earliest days on earth.  Listen closely to the words of my dear friend, the ancient prophet Isaiah:

The Lord has made bare His holy arm. In the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.(Isaiah 52:10)

To bare your arm implies that you have rolled up your sleeves and are ready for work.  Isn’t this just such a magnificent picture of God in action? Let 2019 be the year of God’s grace in your life and expect a special revelation of his goodness.

Sing with the Psalmist the promise for 2019.

Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.

God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.

He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!   (
Psalm 98:1-3, The Message)

Just pause and think of God’s love and his salvation and then jump up and dance.  You have good reason to twirl and swirl in the beauty of his grace and love.

May God bless you with a firm conviction of his love for you in 2019!

141. Hear…the sound of abundance

[Christmas 2018]

I wonder whether we hear anything these days.  When I was growing up my father taught me that ignoring people is bad manners.  I had to look someone in the eye while that person was talking to me.  It was almost like rejection or at least grave insult when you did not greet properly on arrival and departure.   When we give our attention we give value and acceptance to the people around us.   Today people might easily continue on their phone or tablet without looking up, or concentrate on the TV while their kids and family are around. Where is our attention? What do we hear?

Jesus often talked about ears and hearing. His regular warning statement: let him who have ears, hear, is repeated in every message to the churches in Revelation, in other words the church today.  Jesus also quoted the prophet Isaiah (6:9,10) in Matthew (13:14,15).

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

These words of Jesus bug me.  He links healing to hearing.  Is this not a very good time to fine-tune our hearing?  In the humming and drumming, the clamour and confusion of Christmas shopping and songs, the true message – the healing of your life by the baby in the crib – gets lost.

Christmas is important.  It is “our” feast, we Christians, even within the secular hijacking of the elements of this birthday of all times. We are never victims of this world.  We give Christmas content and we are in control.  We celebrate with the voice of the Holy Spirit in our ears.

My excitement every Christmas and Easter is compounded by my decision some years ago to trust God to learn something brand new about Him and the Feast I am busy with.  I wait for a “new” word from His mouth.  We cannot be satisfied with what we know.  We press on for new things.

God is faithful.   He never disappoints!  I am writing the word that burns in my heart.

A few weeks ago I switched on the television on Daystar Canada, a spiritual channel.  Coincidentally I hit the beginning of a programme of somebody I knew from long ago.  He is not one of my favourites, but before I flipped the channel, I thought it would be interesting to see where his ministry is now.  It is always very encouraging for me to see ministries develop and grow over many years.  One day I will stand before the Throne with all of them and say the precious words of Paul:

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

So many of my friends have rejected the faith of their upbringing.  They have fallen into the trap of post-modernism and rejected the truth of the Gospel and everything of value.  It is such a privilege to say: I have kept the faith.

Back to my television programme.  The preacher opens his Bible and reads from one of my very favourite chapters about Elijah and the slaying of the Baal priests.  I often think on my unbelieving friends and the false gods they worship.  Priests of false gods spread the lies that keep people in bondage even today.

As he reads the chapter in 1 Kings, the words of the Word wash over me and I truly “hear” the Lord speak to me. It is indeed a spiritual tingling of the ears!  God’s word is mighty to penetrate between body and soul and joint and marrow. (Hebrews 4:12)

The story needs background to know the impact of the miraculous words of Elijah.  In a nutshell it goes like this:

Ahab is king in Israel, one of the two kingdoms, which is formed after the death of Solomon.  Judah in the south with the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin had twenty kings; only eight of them did good in the eyes of the Lord before they were taken in exile by the Babylonians in 598 BC.  Israel in the north had nineteen kings – all bad before they were taken in exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC.

Throughout the years of decline and backsliding, there were prophets active in both kingdoms.  God always made sure that the remnant of people who stayed true to Him and His precepts was cared for. The call of the prophets went out to the backslidden and sinful people to repent and turn back to God. (2 Kings 19:30,31)

Ahab is described as:  Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. (1 Kings 16:30)

Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, a Phoenician princess from the splendour of the palace built on the peninsula in Tyre, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  She was a Baal worshipper and to satisfy her needs, Ahab built a Baal temple in Samaria, much to the dismay of his people and the utter vexation of the prophet Elijah who was called to bring God’s word to the regressive religion of Israel.  Elijah was not quiet and therefore a most hated man in the palace.

As a result of the sinfulness of the people and their king, Elijah announced a drought over the land.  God provided for Elijah…

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17)

After the brook dried up, Elijah resided with a widow in Sidon in ancient Phoenicia, modern day Lebanon.   Her son died and Elijah prayed him back to life, blessing the whole household with enough through the dry years.

After three years, Elijah announced himself at Ahab’s palace, since God said that He would break the drought and send rain to the land.  Elijah invites the king and all the Baal priests to Mount Carmel for a showdown.   God’s power had to be demonstrated to the people in such a way that there would be no doubt about the superiority of God above all other gods.

Elijah conducts the events like a maestro. Two altars are built with the sacrificial animals upon each, but no fire is made.  Fire had to come from God and Baal.  The Baal priests go along with this whole show, which is amazing in itself, as they were not used to miracles.  Maybe they also wanted to find out about the supernatural power of their god.  They pray and beg and cut themselves as was the customs of worship.  They crawl in the dust and do everything that they ever practised in the worship of their god for most of the day. Elijah stands by and mocks them in the process.  Read it – it is an amazing account of that day in Israel.

When his turn comes he commands the altar to be soaked with water so that even the trough around it is drenched.  There could be no doubt as to a spark of fire somewhere.  Elijah kneels and asks God to light the altar.  Let us pray with him:

And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said,

Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this daythat You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”

 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 

Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”  (1 Kings 18:36-39)

Elijah and the people killed 450 Baal priests that day to rid the land of the lie they represented.

After the slaying of the priests, Elijah says to Ahab:

“Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

The words cut into my heart.

It is Christmas.  There are all sorts of sounds: the bells, the tills, the carols, the excitement of children, the shuffle and shoving in shops, the voices around us asking about plans and menus and gifts.

What do you hear?

In the aftermath of the miraculous events of that day, Elijah hears something nobody else hears.  He hears the unfolding of the Word of God, which he received in a prophetic word, of which there is NO proof or sign.

The king goes to eat and drink, but Elijah and his servant climb the mountain to pray.  There is NO sign of rain.  He prays seven times and sends his servant seven times up the mountain to see if there is anything remotely indicating the coming of rain.  Only the seventh time his servant reports a cloud as big as a man’s hand.  That is enough for Elijah.  He starts running. He acts because his faith senses are sharp and he knows rain is coming to Israel – big time!

Let us pray for God to anoint our ears. I want to hear what God is doing and I do not want to miss His word in this very special time of the year.

Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.(1 Samuel 3:11)

Are your ears tingling with the sound of abundance?  Abundance is immeasurable and uncountable.  Can you count the raindrops?  Can you count and measure the abundance of God’s creation?  That is exactly what our scientists are doing over centuries and centuries!

Think on God’s abundance.  Believe His abundance is for you.  Give away the abundance that He has already blessed you with.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8)

 

 

God’s abundance does not sound like anything you have heard before.

When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, [Uncle Andrew] had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion,” as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing—only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. “Of course it can’t really have been singing,” he thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia, awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, baying, and howlings.

 

FromThe Magician’s Nephew

Compiled in A Year with Aslan

 

The Magician’s Nephew. Copyright © 1955 by C. S. Lewis Pte., Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1983 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With Aslan: Daily Reflections from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © 2010 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Extracts taken from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1950-1956. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

140. Deeply and fully covered in love.

[John 21]

You had to know the fishermen of Galilee to write this account.  Nighttime was the best for fishing.  The catch described here is something that often happened on the lake.  The man with the net relied on the call or bell of someone who sat at a higher place to see where the shoals of fish were moving.  Jesus was acting as guide to the fishermen that day.

Jesus is only recognized when He reveals Himself to people.  Maybe the grey of dawn was still too dark for them to see Him clearly.  Again, love brought sight.  John saw and when Peter saw, he ran.  Peter was only in a loincloth like all fishermen when they worked.  He put on his tunic.  To greet somebody was holy (a religious act) and he clothed himself for it.

The chapter was obviously added to emphasize the reality of the resurrection.  Many would say that some of Jesus’ appearances were visions of the disciples, even hallucinations.  The Gospels all insisted that the risen Christ was a real person.  The tomb was empty and Christ had the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.

A vision was unlikely to point out the shoal of fish to the fishermen.  A vision was not likely to make a fire and fry fish on it for a meal to share.  John tells us in the previous chapter how Jesus showed His hands and side.  Jesus insisted that they touch Him to make His resurrection real and undisputed.

Jesus conquered death.  He made sure they had no doubt.

John names the number of fish for a reason.  A catch of 153 fishes had to be divided between the partners on the boat.  It was an exceptionally large catch but there is more.

According to the numbers and words of the ancient world hundred represented the fullness of the flock (Matthew 18:12).  The good seed in fertile ground was hundred-fold.  The number fifty represented the remnant of the Jews and the three is for the Trinity that does it all.

The net is the church, no exclusiveness or selectiveness.  It is big enough for all.  The church should embrace like Jesus did.

For the three times Peter denied the Lord, Jesus gave him three times to confirm his love for the Lord.  He most certainly knew Peter was full of guilt and shame about the denial, and He made sure to bring Peter to a place where love is the topic and not shameful failure.

With each declaration of love Peter received a task.  His declaration was to equip him for the task ahead.  Love is privilege but also responsibility.  In the end his love for Jesus had him die on a cross as well.  He was crucified upside down, because he did not feel worthy to die the same way Jesus did.  Incredibly the Romans obliged.  What courage Peter displayed that day, after the equipping of love on this day and the touch of fire to empower on the day of Pentecost.

Peter’s role in the early church was forever established.  He was a shepherd and he cared deeply for the flock of Jesus.

Jesus asked: Peter do you agapé Me?  Peter answered: Lord I phileo you.

Agapé is the amazing love of God for humankind.
It is defined like this: Unconditional love, love by choice and not by chance. Love by an act of the will. The word denotes unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill.  Agape will never seek anything but the highest good for fellow mankind.  Agapé (noun) is the word for God’s unconditional love.  It does not need an affinity, chemistry or feeling.  It is a word that exclusively belongs to the Christian community.  It is virtually unknown to writers outside the New Testament.  It is as if the word existed in Greek and waited for Jesus to give content to its full meaning.

God loves unconditionally.  Jesus on the cross was proving God’s love in the deepest and most glorious way possible.

Peter knew he was not capable to love that way.  His uncertainty is reflected in the word he uses for love – phileo, which means brotherly love.

The second time Jesus asks: Peter, do you agapé Me? Peter answers: Lord I phileo you.

The third time Jesus asks: Peter, do you phileo Me? Peter answers: Lord, You know all things. You know that I phileo You.

Peter acknowledges his deficient love, very real and very truthful.  He acknowledges that Jesus knows this and there is no point in pretending.

One can almost feel the raw heart to heart communication that cuts to the bone of the matter.  Peter is restored and forgiven.  His relationship with Jesus is cemented in the love he experiences in the words of Jesus.  Jesus puts the whole burden of love for the church that will be birthed on the day of Pentecost on Peter.  He knows Peter is forever changed.  He knows just how deeply this man loves Him.

In the next passage (20:20-24) John says something of words spoken about himself.  Peter was already concerned for his fellow disciples and John was young.  Some say John was only 15 or 16 when he met Jesus.  Jesus tells Peter not to worry about his brethren.  Jesus will look after His own.

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.(John 10:28)

John, while writing this Gospel, bears witness to all this.  He was the one to write in his old age in Ephesus.  He was also the one looking after Mary.

Christianity is sealed in experience.  Meeting Jesus is the foundation of the Christian life.

Jesus says here: Do not worry about the task given to someone else. Your job is to follow me and do what I have given you to do.  Jesus is the perfect shepherd over His church and us.  He will manage our ministry.  If we venture out to minister like others or try to be something else than he ordained us to be, we are set up for failure and disappointment.  We cannot manage the whole church, big trends or doctrine.  We must do what the Holy Spirit gives us to do.

Christ is limitless.   His resurrection is real.  His church is universal.  No one competes in the Kingdom.  Peter is the shepherd and John is the witness.

John thinks upon the splendour of Jesus and knows that he could write to us so that we could only grasp a fragment of who Jesus really is.  He will reveal Himself.  The world can never fully comprehend.

When you think you know, then know that He is much, much more.

Our mind and our books fail miserably when we have to describe the indescribable.

John ends with the innumerable triumphs, the inexhaustible power, and the limitless grace of Jesus Christ. [William Barclay]

 

This brings us to the end of the study of John.  I hope that the many months we studied Revelation and the Gospel of John will serve as an inspiration for more deep diving into  the powerful Word of God.

 

 

 

 

 

139. Go ahead…doubt and ask.

[John 20]

The disciples were together in fear (20:19-23).

They listened to the sounds of the street, also at night. When would the soldiers come?

It was in this state of fearful waiting that they heard Mary knock.  Her familiar female voice prompted them to open for her, hear her incredible news and race to the tomb to confirm what she said.  They went back to the house where they stayed behind locked doors to hang around for events to unfold.  What else could they do?

Suddenly Jesus in their midst without knocking with a normal greeting: Peace be with you. (Hebrew: Shalom).  This greeting meant so much more than the absence of trouble.  It meant that God would give you every good thing. It is the pronouncement of a blessing in every greeting.  As casual as if He said: Hi guys!

John tells of their joy to see Him and then on to serious future planning.  I can easily imagine that the moments of wonder and awe lasted a while. Every one of His disciples most probably looked Him in the eye with an uncontrolled mix of emotions experiencing heaven and earth in the same moment. In am convinced that all fear and uncertainty evaporated in the powerful presence of Jesus.

The sending forth meant that the church is the body of Christ.  Jesus showed us the Father, now He was going back and the body must do His work. (Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:12).  The church is sent with the message, the mouth of God, the foot soldier and His hands. Jesus works in and through His church.

The church needs Jesus. It is where we live in the power, authority and miraculous outcome of God himself.  As Jesus came from God, so the church comes from Jesus.  The church can only exist in perfect love and obedience.  It is the message of Jesus, nothing else. Nothing man-made is sustainable. It must be God-ordained to be eternal and powerful.

He breathed on them.  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God for life. God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7).  He breathed on the dead bones by the wind (Ezekiel 37:9).  In John 3 Jesus compared the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind – mostly unexplainable and invisible.  The Holy Spirit is His breath – Hebrew = ruach.  The Holy Spirit is the very life of God in us to fully equip the church for the task.  Jesus himself said we shall receive power (Acts 1:8).  Our testimony is worthless without the breath of God.

The Church must convey the message of forgiveness.  We interpret the message of God.  It will be true and powerful only in as much as we dwell in the presence of God.  When the church proclaims forgiveness when a person is penitent, it is the message of forgiveness, not the act of forgiving. Preaching is grace and mercy, but also warning and exhortation.

THOMAS

Thomas knew death was coming.  He said so in Bethany (John 11:16).  He has been labeled the doubting Thomasby men, NOT Jesus.  Thomas loved Jesus.  There is no doubt about that.  He knew what was coming in Jerusalem and when it played out, he was devastated like the others.  He might have wanted some time alone, and therefore withdrew from fellowship. He missed the first appearance.  We need to be in fellowship with our sorrow and disappointment.  There they will carry us to the face of God Himself.

He hears the news from the others.  It sounded too good to be true.  He speaks his doubt: he will believe when he sees.  He wants to touch the wounds and make sure it is not an impostor.  (There is no mention of nails in Jesus’ feet.  The feet were usually not nailed, only bound.)

Thomas is very anxious to establish the truth. He cannot base his whole life and the profound impact of Jesus on his life on a lie.  He has to make a hundred percent sure that the resurrection is the truth.  He is not different from all the millions that came after him in the history of Christianity.

Another week passes and this time Thomas is present.  There in community with his brothers, he experiences his deepest desire.  Jesus knows his heart and treats him special.  He appears exactly as previously.

Jesus invites him to investigate.  He will always invite to investigate. He is the answer to every possible question and He is not stingy with answers.  Don’t be afraid.

Think and imagine the detail of this meeting.  Thomas falls down and says:  My Lord and my God. Do you think he touched the wounds?  I think the answer was in Jesus’ voice and face.

It is the same today.  All our answers are in His presence, His voice and His eye on us. (Psalms 32:8)

Thomas refuses to be dragged into something he does not understand.  He is strong and wants to come to his own conclusion.  Jesus respects this and invites him to investigate.  Thomas is honest to the bone.  He had to be sure.  His faith is based on truth, not on stories of others and things that doesn’t make sense.

When he received his confirmation, he surrendered in victorious worship.  His faith is based on full revelation and worship flows spontaneously.

The words of Jesus to Thomas have inspired generations of believerswho could not see Him in the flesh.

 Jesus said to him,  “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:29)

We don’t know what happened to Thomas.  There are stories that the disciples divided to world to preach to all and India fell to Thomas.  There is a church in the south of India whose history traces back to him.

Faith came to him in a powerful and personal way.  Jesus revealed himself to him.  This is still true for today.  We can go to the ends of the earth in our spiritual journey when we have encountered Jesus face to face.

LAST WORDS (20:30-31)

It is clear that the Gospel concludes here.  John 21 was written as an appendix.

These words set out the aim of the Gospels as a whole.

It was never intended to be a full account of the life of Jesus.  It is not a day-by-day but a selective history to show what He was like and what He did.

The Gospels were not meant as biographies.  The aim of the words is not to give information, but to communicate life.  It is to give life to the image of Jesus so that the reader can meet Him personally to learn from Him directly and experience true life through Him.

We read to know God, not to learn history.