113. Woman, you are worthy.

We have talked about this. Old Judea by the turn of the first century was almost as bad as in some countries we read of today. Women had no rights and were mostly ignored as second rate citizens and wives to be used and abused. We in the Western World read about it in horror and wonder how it can be changed. The rabbi’s did not think it was worth it to teach a woman the law. Still, during this time an extra space was added to the original plan of the Temple – a court for the women, as they were not deemed worthy to worship with the men.

It is very important to know exactly how God views women. He created mankind – man and woman he created them (Genesis 1:27). Many false teachings and distorted perspectives have developed over the years to reduce women to a second rate place in this world. Still the Bible tells of strong women throughout, playing pivotal roles in worship (Miriam), leadership (Deborah), as ruler amongst kings (Esther) as well as evil influence in the lives of kings (Jezebel and Athaliah).

As the people of Israel drifted away from God, so their views on women were influenced by the idolatry of paganism, degrading women. God created men and women equal and never intended that a woman should be submissive, except to her own husband who loved her as his body (Ephesians 5:28,29) and as Christ loves the church for whom He has laid down His life.

Our story of the informal hearing of the woman caught in adultery, takes place in the Court of the Women. Women could not pass the altar except for sacrifice. Around the Court of the Women there was a porch with thirteen chests for the offering shaped like trumpets – narrow at the top and swelling towards the bottom.

Every chest was allocated for a specific offering. The first two were for the half shekel for the upkeep of the Temple. The third and fourth were for the money to buy a dove for sacrifice after childbirth. The fifth was for the wood for the altar, the sixth for the incense, the seventh for the upkeep of the golden vessels and in the remaining six for everything else a person felt the need to contribute.

The Temple treasury was a busy part of the Temple with a constant flow of people – a good place for teaching.

Jesus makes the statement: I am the Light of the World. (John 8:12) The background made it doubly vivid and impressive. The Festival of the Tabernacles had a ceremony on the first night. In the Court of the Women, four gigantic candelabra were lit as soon as darkness came. The dark night made the light travel to every courtyard in Jerusalem and for the whole night the men danced before the Lord in joy and praise.

Jesus is saying that He will light up their lives for more than just a night. His Light will bring joy everlasting. [See the link to a sermon on the discipline of joy at the end of the piece.]

He is the Light of Life: – the light source or the light that gives life. Jesus is both. Jesus is to life what the sun is to plants. He is the source of light as well as the light itself to give life.

The word follow was used for soldiers following the captain on long marches, a slave accompanying his master, in attendance, working. It was also used for accepting a wise counselor’s advice, the expert knowledge or obedience to the laws of the city or state. The same word indicated that one was following a teacher’s line of argument, taking the message into his heart and obeys.

To follow in all these ways is our safe passage through life into the glory of God.

Light was especially important in Jewish thought. To the Jews, the words of Jesus were a claim to be God Himself. (Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; Job 29:23; Micah 7:8)

The Jews argued that this statement of Jesus had insufficient witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; 17:6)

Jesus makes a statement about His own authority. (John 8:13-20) He was sure where He came from. Jesus was certain of His closeness to God, the highest authority. Therefore He had the witness of God Himself. God was to be known in the words of Jesus, the deeds and wonders of Jesus, His effect upon men and their reaction on Him. The overwhelming response to Jesus could only have been from the Holy Spirit.

Only God can enable men to see Jesus.

Jesus emphasized His right to judge in love and lastly told the leaders they had no knowledge of God (8:15-18). Their whole history and knowledge of their scriptures should have prepared them for Him. No theology can ever prepare you for recognition of the Son of God, only a humble decision to invite Him into your life. (Luke 24)

Jesus is speaking prophetically (8:21-30). There are opportunities for all men to meet Jesus and an opportunity to miss the opportunity. Time is limited. Because of opportunities there is judgment.

 God gives each man enough opportunity to meet Jesus.

Going away meant His return to His Father into the unseen realm.

We can follow in obedience. Only the disobedient cannot go. Pentecost brought the birth of the church and the spiritual dispensation. For the Jew, the depths of hell awaited those who killed themselves – they could not, nor wanted to follow there. Today we can freely discard the shame that accompanies suicide. We know that God in His perfect love, receives those whose desperate moment leads to such a drastic step.

Die for their sin means missing the mark, target. Refusing Jesus would rob you of real life, not entering into the higher life of God here on earth, staying separated from God, hidden from God like Adam. To die in Christ is to be a friend of God and therefore not afraid of death. Without Jesus you will be paying for your own sin in this world. It is your choice.

The word for world is kosmos (8:23). Jesus uses it in His own way.

The kosmos is the changing, transient life that we live; it is all that is human as opposed to all that is divine. [Barclay]

The kosmos is God’s creation, so Jesus bridges the gap. The kosmos is the object of His love and the recipient of His greatest gift. The creator came to the world and the world rejected Him. This rejection shows that something is wrong and that the people suffer blindness with no knowledge of the truth. (John 1:10; 14:17; 17:25; 15:18-19; 16:33)

Christ rights all the wrongs. He can be the answer to everything, but men can refuse His cure.

Jesus speaks the heart of the Father to the world.

We will see the real meaning of Jesus in the Cross, the Resurrection and the will of God when the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of words that didn’t make sense before the Cross. What Jesus said, was only the beginning of a whole new era. (8:28-30)

 

NEXT TIME: The last words of Chapter 8 (31-55).

 

 

A sermon by Bill Johnson of Bethel church: The discipline of JOY

https://youtu.be/Sy9Y8ScrWDM

 

112. Free to face the world.

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. (Psalms 3:3)

The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of my favourite illustrations of grace, mercy and judgment and how it all works together in our favour when the world turns against us in all its cruelty and prejudice. It is a remarkable story of probably the most dramatic street encounter in the history of mankind. There near the steps of the Temple matters of life and death are determined in the dust of Old Jerusalem.

The issue described in the first twelve verses of John 8, is a dilemma either way. The leaders thought they could trip Jesus up on this one. There was no way out. Adultery was a serious crime, punishable by death. There were differences in the way the death penalty had to be carried out.

In Leviticus 20:10 both the man and the woman should be put to death. No method is specified. Deuteronomy 22:13-24 lays down the penalty for a girl who is already betrothed. She and the man, who seduced her, should be stoned outside the city gates. The Mishna (commentary on the Talmud) prescribed strangulation, something the Old Testament never ever even mentioned. From a legal point of view, the woman caught in the act, should be stoned. The absence of the man in this instance is glaring and a sign of the times – the woman took all the blame.

The dilemma for Jesus was this:

If He said she should be stoned and upholds the law of Moses, His message of love and mercy would suffer greatly and He could never again be called the friend of sinners. He would also be in collision with the Roman law that prohibited any execution by the Jews. If He said she should be pardoned, He would be breaking the law of Moses and therefore condoning people committing adultery. It was a theological, moral and political trap.

He stooped to write with His finger in the ground. The various commentaries name as many reasons as they can think up. Here are a few:

He may have given the people and the accusers the chance to repeat the charges and hear the cruelty of their words.

It could have been that the desperate fear of the woman, the cruel lust in the faces of the accusers, the unsympathetic stares of the crowd all combined, filled Jesus with shame for these people who      were supposed to be the children of God and He hid His eyes from them.

There is another interesting suggestion. One commentary writes that Jesus wrote the sins of the accusers with the finger from heaven on the stones they were holding or in the sand as each one peered over His shoulder. The Greek word for write that is used here is not graphein, that means write, rather katagraphein, which means record against someone.

Nevertheless, they insisted on an answer and He gave it: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

The words without sin, was so emphasized that it also meant without sinful desire.

Jesus was left alone with the woman and asked here where her accusers were. Remember men did not speak to women in public.

Her first and only words in the trial of her life, was her answer to this question.

Jesus sends here away with His words of a fresh start. He did not send her into the local church to brush up on the law of Moses, or into community. How could He just send her into the world of chaos and sin without the modern tools that we would like to set up around people to help them with their sinful nature and desires?

Jesus knew that He would be dying on the cross for her sin, very soon.

He also knew and fully trusted His father to keep her safe and teach her His ways by the Holy Spirit. We should also trust the Holy Spirit fully. As soon as the church wants to build walls around people to “help” them please God, corruption and legalism set in.

The Pharisees and scribes were convinced that they were in a position to judge as the legal experts at the time. Their authority brought them to the place of condemnation, criticism and censorship and they were quite comfortable in that role. Sympathy and love to reclaim the sinner were long lost. They did not feel any obligation to “cure” sin, only to descend in judgment and punish. They never thought that they too might be in a position to be judged.

Think of the difficulty the world has to redeem sinners. Rehabilitation of criminals in prisons is a burning issue, with little success. If anything, punishment brings bitterness and often descent into worse crimes.

The woman, as a human being and a child of God, had no place in the application and teaching of the Pharisees and scribes. They used her as an instrument to get to Jesus, their own purpose.

She is a nothing without a name.

People are never just a thing to be used. God uses our names. There are pages and pages of names in the Bible. The Bible has people first and foremost in focus.

God said to Moses: I know you by name (Exodus 33:17). He says to Cyrus: I the God of Israel, call you by name (Isaiah 45:3).

When people are things – Christianity is dead.

Do you think the Pharisees in this instance knew her name? How did this woman feel? One is told so little about her. Has she heard of Jesus? Did she see Him as part of church leadership and was dragged into His presence with fear and desperation?

Only the perfect man can pass judgment onto others. The Pharisees lived so meticulously that they considered themselves perfect to judge. Jesus warns that we should not judge (Matthew 7:1). When we judge we see the speck of dust in somebody else’s eye and not the plank in our own. (7:3-5). We might condemn somebody’s faults while missing the glaring faults in our own lives. No man can judge another.

Our first emotion towards a mistake should be pity. We bring relief, consolation and healing. Revulsion disappears in the desire to help.

Jesus did not condone her sin. He postponed judgment for after the opportunity of redemption. He gave her a second chance to give her hope of a new life. He wished to forgive and therefore felt pity towards her, born of love.

He gave her a challenge. He said that she should go out and do not wrong anymore. It was probably not easy, but her life was saved and given to her to make new decisions.

He believed she could do it, because He knew His father and how much His father loved her. The Father’s love will keep us from the snares of sin and the world.

 

111. Come on – throw a party!

It is significant how the concept of a joyous get-together is part of ancient Jewish history and religious worship. In general, ancient societies were much more socially supportive, than the modern focus on privacy, personal preference and individual superiority afford a member of the social order today. Survival demanded group cooperation. Feasting found a firm place into national celebrations of momentous events on public holidays commemorating important occasions of a specific nation or cultural group.

We are used to celebrating birthdays and achievements like graduation and retirement, even welcoming and farewell parties. Christians have Christmas and Easter and celebrate Thanksgiving in unity with the continent of North America. I would like to make a case for the celebration of Pentecost, which we should celebrate with the same expectation of Acts 2 although it is a Christian feast that is very neglected these days. Other religions have their days of fasting and feasting.

Going through many trials in a demanding corporate job, my husband routinely fasted throughout a season of his life. Sunday was the only day that he was able to take his time and slow down to spend time in the Word and listen for Holy Spirit guidance. Many Sundays I made special plans for the children so that a Sunday will remain a family day and a day to look forward to, even though their dad disappeared for a few hours into his study.

One day he came out of his quiet time with amazement and joy written all over him. He told me that God talked to him about feasting and said that his time of fasting is over. We should feast more and adopt a life style of celebration. He decided to take us out for dinner there and then late afternoon on that Sunday and declared our meal a celebration of the goodness of God. Slowly this concept of feasting while we eat out and more and more around meals in our own home, became part of our vocabulary. It changed our table prayers. He guided us into conscious praying at every meal. No more little prayer rhymes to ramble through at the table. We had to look each other in the eye and declare God’s provision and our thanks. I rejoiced in my heart and thanked God for a father in the house who routinely celebrates God’s goodness and our testimony of outcome in faith. He also declared two private feasts on specific days that we as a family had to remember and party about; one in the first half and one in the second half of the year, to testify and joyfully remember answer to prayer.

In the last part of John 7 (7:37-53) the Feast of the Tabernacles is mentioned again. This Feast took place in October. It had important historical significance: they left their houses and lived in little booths made of branches to remind them of the time in the wilderness. It was not permanent structures. The booths had thatched roofs. They were able to see the stars. The instruction and material for the booths are found in Leviticus 23:40. According to Leviticus the length of the Feast is seven days. In the time of Jesus an eighth day was added.

The Feast had an agricultural significance also. It was a thanksgiving for the harvest (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). The Feast became very popular (1 Kings 8:2). It was celebrated with the bounty of nature, which made life possible and happy. The dream was that this feast should be celebrated everywhere by everybody – rich and poor, servant, slave and master.

There was a daily ceremony during the time of the Feast. People would take their palm and willow branches to the altar; the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam while the people recited Scripture: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

Water was poured out as an offering to God while the people were singing. They sang the Hallel – Psalms 113 -118 with flutes and a choir. On the last day they marched seven times around the altar in memory of Jericho.

The Feast served as a reminder to miracles.

What do we do to celebrate miracles in our lives? Could we throw a God-party to celebrate His goodness? Remember and remember well. Do not let the enemy rob you of your own testimony. Lest we forget, is the cry of Remembrance Day that celebrates the end of World War 1. Let us not forget God’s miraculous intervention in our lives.

then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:12)

The water that gushed out over the branches, reminded the people of the life-giving water that Jesus mentioned in His encounter with the woman at the well (John 4).

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your soul in drought,
and strengthen your bones;
you shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail
. (Isaiah 58:11)

Let us rejoice and feast since we have Jesus who came and fulfill all the feasts of Israel. In Him we find the ultimate reason for every feast.

 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. (1 John 5:6)

And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. (1 John 5:8)

Jesus was promising a cleansing – pure and revitalizing. With His purity comes peace and satisfaction.

The symbolism of water is found throughout the Old Testament. Psalms 105:41, Ezekiel 47:1; 47:12. Also Joel 3:18: A fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.

Jesus is the rock in the desert from which the waters flowed (Exodus 17:6). That is why it was so important for Moses to be obedient to the voice of God and not strike the rock a second time. Jesus has been struck once – on the Cross. From that moment the water of salvation flows freely. Moses should have spoken to the rock the second time and not assume that water will flow exactly the way it happened the first time. Paul confirms this.

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

There is no Spirit, no Pentecost without Calvary. Before the Cross, the Holy Spirit was a mystery. After the resurrection He was a person who lets the risen Christ live in us. Pentecost opened the floodgates of heaven.

Great miracles can end in religious aridity. Only by the pentecostal experience the miracle is alive. God’s action does not stop.

Does He do it again? NO, He does it all the time. My prayer is always and will always be: Lord open my eyes to see Your wonder.

Do not confine God to our calendar time. He works all the time.

The crowd was talking about Jesus. (7:40-44) Many believed He was the Promised One. They talked about His place of birth. Most people knew He was from Nazareth. Only a bit deeper investigation would have proved that He was indeed born in Bethlehem. They knew that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy.

Never shy away from investigation. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand in His wounds. (John 20:27) Jesus will never rebuke you for asking questions. He promised that you shall receive, when you ask. (Matthew 7:7)

The officers were amazed by the teachings of Jesus. They could not bring themselves so far to arrest Him. To hear Jesus speak will change your life.

The leaders reacted with contempt and insults towards the officers and towards Nicodemus. Their aristocratic attitude, intellectual snobbery and spiritual pride caused the Pharisees to look down on the ordinary man and on the region of Galilee. They did not even mix with them to bring them the Law that they held in such high esteem.

What they are saying: If you count for anything intellectually or academically, you would not be swayed by Jesus. Isn’t it exactly the argument today?

Is number any indication of truth or worth? The mob turned away, then welcomed Him into Jerusalem and then shouted for crucifixion.

We can never follow the mob. Not even in church. Do we follow the people or the Man, Jesus? Will you find Him in our churches?

Even Nicodemus defended Jesus timidly. He defended the right for the officers to listen and decide, but the fury of insult and snobbery against Galilee, shut him up.

How will we confess loyalty to Christ in the face of opposition? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit will we resist the drawing power of popular opinion and the foolish superficial conclusions of the mob. He will convict us of righteousness, sin and judgment. Scripture and our testimony are witnesses to the goodness of God.

Jesus went on teaching. Early in the morning he was back at the Temple teaching. The people came…

 

 

 

 

110. Know that you know – no doubt.

Many times when I read about Jesus’ walk on earth, I try to imagine how it might have been for the ordinary folk. Caught in the political strife of the day, they struggled to make sense of the Roman government and taxes, being hassled and mistreated as an outpost of a vast empire very impatient with the insubordinate nature of the one thing that distinguishes them from all other nations – their faith. Jesus challenges their faith in a big way, arguing with the church leaders, doing spectacular miracles and preaching a whole new approach.

Maybe some of them found in Him the answer to the deep longing in their hearts for something more, something real in contrast to the rituals and angry laws of the church leaders. They longed for the relationship of Moses, talking to God as a friend and gave up on the possibility that God would intervene again as in the days of Elijah or Nehemiah.

Do you long for something more? Have you been deeply disappointed by the church, church leaders, other Christians, people who pretend to serve God, maybe some who genuinely do and not even realize how hurt and frustrated you feel?

How could they know that this travelling preacher is sent from God? Was there anything then that could convince them and show them the truth? He did not tick the traditional boxes of training in the church, adhering to the strict stipulations of the extensive law-living of the Pharisees, walking importantly in the halls of church politics like the Sanhedrin and chief priests. In fact, He shunned all this and reached out to the very people who longed for change.

How did they know the truth? How could they respond properly to His teaching or to the gossip flying around about Him? They knew any response to Him would bring a clash with the establishment.

We are not very different today. Some churches, as power grabbing organizations, have in so many instances become restrictive and prescriptive. Cults and laws make people slaves of other people while liberty and love are cast aside, by church leaders with controlling and religious spirits tormenting congregations and followers. Those wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) cruelly use unsuspecting souls for their own sexual and prideful sins to a sickening degree.

How did they know the truth? How do we know the truth? There is only one way, then and now.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)

God gave us a fail-safe way to know the truth. When He walked the earth, the Holy Spirit was active to draw people with a hungry heart to Him, just the same way the Holy Spirit guide us to the truth.

Here in John 7:15-36 they accuse Him for His lack of education. How could He dare quote Moses to them? What did He know about Moses in any case? They thought they could test Him with their academic requirements.

Jesus told them His authority is God. God is the source of all wisdom. (12:49; 14:10)

All great productions of the human mind and spirit are given by God. If we glory in being self-taught, if we claim that any discovery we have made is our own unaided work, we are, in the last analysis, glorifying only our own reputation and our own selves. The greatest of men think not of the power of their own mind or hand; they think always of the God who told them what they know and taught them what they can do.  [William Barclay – Daily Study Bible]

Only the man who does the will of God can understand His teachings. It is not a theological truth. It is a universal truth. We learn by choosing and doing. If we want to understand everything before we start, we would never start.

In the debate between the leaders of the Jews and Jesus, He does not answer the accusations of the crowd. He recognizes their madness and persecution mania. He also does not answer the bystander interjections.

The Law says circumcision should take place on the eighth day – what if that is the Sabbath? If the leaders can “break” the law with circumcision, then why can’t He “break” the law with healing?

Jesus uses argument. He wants them to see deeper and not judge superficially with all their old “weapons” of the law. (Matthew 21:23-27)

The crowd is surprised to see Jesus go on preaching. They knew that the hostility of the church was not something to play around with. They realized His courage and therefore thought He might be the Messiah.

Where does He come from? Everybody knew He came from Nazareth. It was a popular belief that the Messiah would burst upon the scene and no one would know from where. They accepted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but otherwise His growing up should be a mystery. Jesus did not fit in with their mysterious teachings and superstitions.

They sought God in the abnormal. They could not see Him in the ordinary. Christianity teaches God in the everyday. If He were only in the abnormal and mysterious we would miss Him in most of our day. He is in the detail of the day, the ordinary day – He is never absent.

 Jesus answered by saying two things: They know where He comes from, but He also comes from God. They do not know God, but He did. It was a terrible insult to tell God’s people that they didn’t know God. Jesus made the claim to stand in a very unique relationship with God.

Now Jesus’ “transgression” was even greater. He was not just a human lawbreaker; He was a blasphemer. He was talking like no human had the right to speak.

Some of the crowd believed. They believed the wonders they saw and recognized His authority. That made the leaders mad. They sent soldiers to arrest Him. He said they would not find Him. Jesus was fully in control over the timing of His ministry and death. His death was marked on the calendar of heaven and would not take place a moment before the appointed time.

They looked with earthly eyes, when He talked about higher things like the resurrection and the ascension. They thought He might go to the Greeks and be part of the Diaspora. There were dispersed Jews all over the world.

Could there be a day when you would seek and NOT find? He promised to be found. He promised it to everyone who seeks with the deep desire of the heart. (Isaiah 55:6, Matthew 7:7)

At the grave the words: He is not here, was uttered by the angel. It was the only time in the entire history that those words could make sense. It was good news, for the human God has conquered death once and for all. God is everywhere and He is waiting for the call of your heart. Never believe the doubting thought that He is ignoring you or your prayer.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, they had to wait on the Holy Spirit for the power to take the mission forward. (Acts 1) The Holy Spirit divided to fill each of them, just like today.

By His Spirit, His very breath, He is in us and around us. He will lead us to the truth. That is how we know that we know.

 

 

 

 

By the way…words of life.

Dear Pebble pals,

I would like to share something very personal with you.

I would like you to think about the following. We will continue our study of the Gospel of John next week.

We are in the midst of the most important weekend of the Christian calendar. For years I have asked the Lord to teach me something new about the Cross every Easter. This year and the end of last year has not been smooth sailing and many things happened that I could never have foreseen.

For many reasons I have been more away than home since we celebrated the start of 2018.

I would like to share one event with you and the circumstances around it, as a testimony of the work of God in our lives and especially His perfect timing. I am deeply convinced that next to the Word of Scripture itself, the most powerful words in this world are those of a testimony of grace and outcome.

On February 11 this year my sister died. She is much older than I am, but we were very close. I am the youngest of four siblings. We had two brothers. My one brother died years ago in a freak accident at the age of 31. My eldest brother is closer to my sister in age and I know he misses her very much. We all serve God with conviction and commitment. Sometimes when we got together it was like a blessed church service as we shared the wonder of God’s work and grace in our lives.

My sister had several health challenges in her life, amongst others breast cancer at the age of 35 when her two boys were just seven and five years old. She fought bravely and with radical surgery that left her quite scarred, she has lived cancer free to the age of 75.

Throughout last year we noticed that she walks slower and becomes more and more inactive. It was worrying and I know she tried to walk more and move more to fight the tiredness and sluggishness that she was experiencing. She lost her husband in 2011 and was living alone in a cottage in a beautiful retirement village where she could take walks, close to shops where she could shop for herself.

One day towards the end of September last year she went to the Mall nearby to do grocery shopping. She said she decided to walk through the whole Mall for exercise and then do the shopping and drive home. She did it all and was approaching her car with a supermarket cart in the undercover parking garage when everything went black.

The next part of the story has to be told by the two testimonies that I am going to include for you. It is written by people who are called angels in our family, sent by God to be at the right time at the right place to do what it took to save my sister’s life for an extension of only four months, during which she could enjoy all her children and the rest of her family over Christmas and New Year.

The first account is the husband and the next one is that of the wife of the same event. He is writing the letter to my sister’s sons.

I am writing this letter to record something that can be passed on to your children and your children’s children.

 This is not a mystical story of fantasy but an account of how God works in our lives, and if you doubt there is a God then try and analyze the possibility of this account being coincidence. Your mother and my wife were players in God’s plan that you all would have the time over Xmas to get together as a family almost like there was unfinished things God wanted answered.

 I am a Scot and was brought up leaning slightly to the right as a “Presbyterian” with both my feet planted firmly on the ground and definitely not belonging to the group who analyze our daily living looking for miracles, and God’s signs, so it is only fitting that I should write this account.

 Starting at the beginning, and looking at the events leading up to my wife and your mother getting together, has to be looked at in detail to begin to understand the exquisite timing and finite detail that was in place.

I am not a lover of modern technology and my fancy I-phone was giving trouble. I had to revert to shouting as no one could hear me. My wife insisted I get it seen to, and as there was a I-phone shop in the Mall, off I went. The Mall is a real mess and the underground parking is badly lit and very, very confusing and I ended up parking miles away from the shops which did nothing to alleviate my already short fuse. I patiently stood in a queue like a lost sheep. When I eventually got to the front of the queue, I was told that I needed to make an appointment.

 Needless to say this did not end well and I stomped out telling everyone who was prepared to listen that I was moving my loyalty to Samsung.

 It took me over an hour to find my car and by that time I was a wreck.

Where are we going with this screed well have patience and all will be revealed.

 The next afternoon my wife insisted that I go back and get my phone repaired. I was not prepared to admit that to go back to that hell hole was bordering on me going insane and I asked her to please come with me. We have a mature relationship and I was told in no uncertain manner that she had better things to do than hold my hand in the underground car park.

 In the next few moments the power drops out at the house. My wife is interrupted in her work and I haven’t left. We stay in a fancy estate and seldom have power problems but on this occasion we had two in quick succession and after the second one it didn’t come back on.

 Once again I ask in a pleading voice for her to consider my plight and come with me to which she concedes providing I behave myself.

 Normally a trip to the Mall is solid traffic and takes up to 50 minutes, but on this day and at this time there was no traffic and we flew there. We had stuff to deliver to our daughter, which I wanted to deliver first but my wife insisted we go the Mall. To try and make her understand why I was gone the whole afternoon the day before I wanted to show her exactly where I went in to the underground car park and just how confusing it is.

 As I went down the ramp your mother was pushing her shopping trolley along in front of me and as I looked she fell. Of all the people in the Mall to be in the right place at the right time my wife is by far the person you want as she takes over and has a God given talent for knowing what to do in a stressful situation.

 Both of us were concerned about security as these circumstances lend themselves to unscrupulous criminals taking advantage. My wife had started CPR, which she is very proficient at, and I was trying to get help from the centre. After 10 minutes plus and no life signs I told my wife that I thought it was over and nothing could be done. Still she persevered and one of the highlights of my life was to see your mother come back to life, flicker her eyes and the colour come back into her cheeks.

 No words can express when you are in the presence of God and the crowd gasps at the miracle we were witnessing. Time stood still for me as I looked in wonder as my wife and your mum started to talk. When you read of the miracles that Jesus performed it doesn’t quite sink in but on this day it really sunk in and all of us felt the presence of God.

 To finish this account of one of the most beautiful things that I have been privy to see, I feel it was a privilege and honour. I know that whatever the reason for the extension of her life for a few months, it was God’s desire that she spend the time with you.

 She now is by God’s side.

 Finally try and work out the odds leading up to our meeting your mum at that exact time with all the background. You cannot rationalize it and let the doubting Thomas’s try and fathom it out.

 We thank you for inviting us to the funeral and I could not but help thinking that this was a joyous occasion and that she would have agreed whole heartedly with the gathering of the family with fond memories.

 What a pleasure it was to be a small part in God’s plan.

 

The following is his wife’s account of the same event.

God has a PLAN!

Sometimes God uses us in really amazing ways.  I was used by God just recently.  And trust me, I was worse than Jonah.  I ran and ran.  God won the battle with me and this is the story.

It was a Monday last year in late September.  My husband has an I-phone and every day I marvel that a person more unsuitable to this type of technology was persuaded to think he could master this device.  Shows how branding and advertising really pay off!

To get to the story.  His phone was giving him a really hard time.  I suspected a software upgrade was required.  Anyway the whole of the Monday he yelled into his phone.  I suffered this throughout the day.  Eventually, I said ” Sweetie, please go into town and get it fixed.” If you know anything about our nearest Mall, it is a nightmare. The road from our house to the mall is around 24 kilometers of which six kilometers were under construction for the past two years.

So off he went.  After about two hours I got a frantic phone call.  (He had used my car).  “What is your car registration number?”  I gave it to him.  “I have lost the car” he said.  “The parking is chaos and under construction and I have been walking around for the last hour and I can’t find it”

Now there are six brand new parking levels, none of which are marked or signposted and no entrances are yet marked.  It is still under construction.

“Call the security guards and they can help you,” I suggested.  Around 7 pm that night he arrived home. He was in a truly foul mood.  And, you guessed it, the phone was still not working.  That is a story for another day.

Tuesday he yelled into the phone.  Actually he couldn’t hear anyone and they could not hear him.  Wednesday was unbearable.  He yelled and yelled.

On Thursday morning I woke up to no electricity.  This is a very rare occurrence where we live.  I was not in the best of moods as I had listened to yelling for three days solidly and now I could not do my work.  This was really the last straw.  I did all the tasks that did not require any electricity.  (Walk the dogs, make breakfast on a gas stove, make beds, dust, mop etc.).

By 9am the electricity was back on and I could get onto my computer and work. I also had curtains to finish for my daughter who was expecting her first child.   So I worked solidly with my husband yelling around the house.

We have lived here for five years and we have never had two power failures in one day.   It just does not happen.  I had finished my work on my computer and I was just settling down to do my work on my sewing machine.  My husband appeared behind me.  “Please come with me to town”, he said.

“I need to sew and finish these curtains,” I said.  Just as I said it the power went out again.

“Well,” said my darling husband.  “Now, will you please go with me”.  “All right,” I reluctantly agreed.

We loaded washing into the car that I had done during the week for my other daughter whose husband had an accident and broke his neck a few years ago.  She and her husband are always so cheery that I love to help them in these small ways.

The ride to the Mall would always be around 50 minutes to one hour because of the road works.  We flew to the Mall in under 20 minutes.  As we turned into the road for the Mall, my husband asked;  “Shall we drop off the washing first”.  “No,” I said.  “Go straight to the Mall and we can drop off the washing afterwards”.

We turned into the Mall and he went to the same entrance where he had parked on the Monday. In the far distance, I saw a lady pushing a trolley.  She was walking extremely slowly.  I admired the beautiful way she held herself and she was beautifully dressed.  Then my attention was drawn back to assist in looking for a parking bay.

“The lady has fallen,”  yelled my husband.  I looked forward and she had indeed fallen straight backwards and was lying immobile on the road.  Two security guards rushed up, grabbed her by her arms and started dragging her along the road.  I jumped out of the car and raced up to them.  “Leave her,”  I yelled.  They put her back down on the road.  When I reached her, she was clearly dead.  Her eyes and mouth were open. Her pallor was dreadful.  She was a deathly grey colour.

My husband, who had pulled the car alongside got out and looked down as she lay there. “She is gone,” he said.

I knelt down and felt for a pulse. Nothing.  I put my ear on her face to feel for breath. Nothing.  I don’t know what made me do it.  I pulled her head back gently, pinched her nose and gave her a deep breath.  I then started pressing down on her chest doing compressions.  I was counting.  At about 20 compressions, I breathed again.  Still nothing.  I carried on. By this time a crowd had gathered around.  They were all watching.

I saw one man in the crowd filming me as I came up to give her another breath.  “Stop him,”  I asked my husband.  He walked over and spoke to the man.

Another man sidled in on his haunches.  “Give me her jewelry and I will look after it,”  he said.  “Sir,” I said.  “If you can’t help me, go away”.

I gave her CPR for about 15 minutes.  She was completely unresponsive.  My husband kept telling me that she had gone.  Suddenly a light came on in her eyes and she gave a very gentle little sigh.  “I have her back,”  I said.  I carried on the compressions as her heart was still very fluttery.  I was then asking about the paramedics.  Nothing.  I could hear sirens but they were a long way away.

A little lady came along to me and said: ” I am the hairdresser from the shop above, can I help.” I asked her to look for the lady’s cell phone in her handbag which was next to me.  “Take it up outside” as there was no signal in the parkade.  “Look for any number that she dials a lot and call it.”  Ask for her details.  My husband was nowhere to be seen and I presumed that he had gone out to get a signal to call the paramedics.

I continued with the compressions.  When I felt her heartbeat settle down, I turned her into the recovery position.  I had been talking to her all the time.  I continued talking to her but she was unresponsive for about another 10 minutes.  I remember saying things like “don’t worry sweetheart, you are going to be all right”.   I had kept talking.  Now with her eyes closed I saw the tears on her cheeks.  She whispered:

“Where am I, am I at the airport?”

” No” I replied,  “you are in a parking lot.”

“In Canada” she asked.

“No” I replied ” In the Mall.  What is your name?”  I asked her.

She gave me her name.  She opened her eyes and stared into mine.  I continued talking to her softly telling her the ambulance was on its way.  I could hear sirens blaring.

By this time my husband was back and I asked him to get me something out of the car to put under her head, which was at a very strange angle to the ground.  He got me some of my daughter’s washing.

Then finally the paramedics and ambulance arrived.  I immediately got up and told them that she had had no vital signs for approximately 15 minutes and that I had continued CPR for the entire time.  I told them that she had collapsed about 45 minutes before. They nodded and took over.  They put her on a defibrillator and oxygen.  My husband and I moved off and went to our car.  We waited and watched from a distance.

A young woman who had been watching the whole thing came over and grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. “I have never seen anything like that.  Are you professionally trained?” she asked.  “No,” I said and did not elaborate.  “You saved her life.  It is a miracle.” She stood there with her arms around me crying.  I really felt small.

God was the only way that she survived this.  Yes I knew what to do, but if God did not have a plan for her life, I could not have saved her.

The paramedics were busy with her for a long time.  In the meantime her cousin who had been called by the hairdresser arrived.  Such a really lovely person.  I asked her where they were going to take her.

My husband and I left and went upstairs and got a cup of coffee.  I was emotional, filthy from the parkade and I was doubtful that she would make it.  So very sad.  I phoned the hospital the next day and asked if she had survived.  Yes, was the answer.  I asked if I could visit her and they told me she was in ICU but that I was welcome.

I went to visit her in the hospital that day.  When I walked in she said to the doctors and nurses.  “This is my angel I was telling you about.  She saved my life.”

Now I really felt small.  ” No, I said, I am flesh and blood and worse than Jonah and the whale. I did not want to go to town, but God even put the lights out to make me go and be at your side.”

We both smiled.  “You are my angel” she insisted.

Tragically she passed away four months after the incident.  However, she did spend wonderful quality time with her family who all flew in and spent Christmas with her.

I visited her a number of times in hospital where she underwent major heart surgery.  She was a truly beautiful soul and I will always think of her with love in my heart.

 

 

My dearest readers,

Isn’t this story something wonderful and beautiful? From my side, God gave me the privilege to be with my sister often during this time of illness, even though I live overseas. We always buy our tickets on sale and plan far ahead. I was with her through her surgery and again in January this year for three weeks before she died. I was less than 12 hours home, when I received the news of her passing.

Through all the tears, I felt the grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Our God reigns.

 

In that day sing to her,

A vineyard of red wine!

I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.             (Isaiah 27:2,3)

 

 

 

 

 

109. And you? What do you have to say?

Talk is cheap, says the old saying. I know it refers to promises made in words and not kept in deeds. For me, it also implies the gossipy chatter about something or someone in the public domain; the safe talk of anonymity that could never commit any person to an opinion that might be quoted or published. Simply put, gossiping about someone famous.

Shakespeare was first to call a person a gossip, describing a person who delights in idle talk; also called a newsmonger or tattler. Very soon the word came to mean the talk about others as news in a small community almost always involved other people. Going so much further back than the times of Shakespeare, one can just imagine the talk in Judea. Maybe news travelled along the tell-a-woman-network, before the telegram or telephone and long before our cable news networks and smart phones with information overload today. The tell-a-woman-network was one of my dad’s favourite jokes.

Whatever we call the chatter, the babble, the prattle of people – it was alive and well in the first century and one of the most important news sources. No wonder Jesus was literally the “talk of the town”. There was just no escaping the lengthy conversations as well as the shorter “have you heard”-versions of any move He made.

People and their opinions were even more so during the times of Festivals. The Festival of the Tabernacles, mentioned here in John 7 took place at the end of September, beginning October, one of the three Fall festivals. Every adult male within a radius of 15 miles of Jerusalem was under obligation to go and all devout Jews from all over. The festival lasted eight days. Jesus’ brothers wanted to convince Him to go, but He was not doing anything He did not see fit for the moment.

He talks about “My time”. There are other places in John where he talks about time and uses the word ōra, which means God’s designated time. (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27). Such a time was not moveable or avoidable. Here He uses kairos, which means the opportune time, the best time, the fullness of time. He is saying this is not the time, which will give Him the best opportunity for what needs to be done.

So much of life is measured in time. It is luxury to have time off – literally. It gives us a few hours or days for relaxation. Our lives are truly “wound up” in time like old-fashioned clocks and “winding down” is what relax really means. We decide about time. Days are marked on the calendar for holiday, for birthdays, for weddings and other special occasions. That is our chronos time, countable time.

Jesus decides about His time on a much deeper level. His calling and ministry determines when He does something. He does not mark it on an earthly calendar. He lives according to God’s calendar – the best time (ōra). When God’s timing determines the outcome, it is in the fullness of time – kairos time.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem in His own time. He diligently attended the Festivals. He knew that everyone of them would be fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection and second coming. He went privately, avoiding public scrutiny by arriving late. By choosing His time and He will not be pressurized into anything He does not feel works the best for His mission.

This is important for our dedicated and full trusting relationship with our loving Father.

  • It is impossible to force the hand of Jesus. His disciples wanted Him to show what He can do in the greater Jerusalem. Jesus does not win people’s approval, but the people themselves. Jesus works God’s way.

 

  • It is impossible to treat Jesus with indifference. His brothers were in tune with the world and did not find it uncomfortable. Jesus’ life was a condemnation of the world and His presence would make a big difference in the ordinary ways of things.

In the next verses (7:10-13) various reactions and responses to Jesus are recorded.

  1. His brothers treat Him with tolerant contempt, almost mocking Him.

 

  1. The sheer hatred of the Pharisees and priests shows. Jesus eposes the rivalry between them. They are so desperate to unite against Jesus, they suddenly stand together. They loved their own systems and hated anything that could diminish their standing in society. The Sadducees were political. All the priests were Sadducees. They did not observe the Pharisaic rules. They collaborated with the Romans and lived very luxuriously. Their interests were much more important than God.

 

  1. The deep desire to eliminate Jesus (John 7:30,32) develops within the various groups. Every person can either submit or destroy. Christ is higher than anything else. Neutrality is not possible.

 

  1. An arrogant contempt for His teaching is expressed. Jesus had no right to lay down the law. He did not know the culture, no training in the rabbinic schools. They were academic snobs. We have to remember how many of the great poets, artists, writers and evangelists had no training at all. We never look down on training and studies, neither elevates it to superiority to save and redeem. It is not always the key.

 

  1. The reaction of the crowd is mixed. Some show interest (7:11) and some initiate discussion (7:12).

To argue the good and bad of a matter can shape your thoughts. Could a person progress from discussing to knowing? Religion can often be a matter of argument. There is an important difference between gossip and discussion.

What is gossip? Is it always negative? Maybe just that change of tone in the voice could make the tale your telling a lie. Do we always convey the words of others truthfully in the same spirit it was said? Difficult!

We should stay away from idle talk says Timothy (1:6) and Titus (1:10) and categorize the idle talkers with the deceivers.

Not everything we say about other people is necessarily bad. I have often complimented someone knowing that it will be repeated to that person. It was my way of showing appreciation for someone. Words could be so wonderful and encouraging, building up instead of breaking down. Please read James 3.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is on talking about the Lord and the magnificent consequences of “good gossip”. A wonderful action by the Scribe of Heaven when the Lord listened in to a “good gossip” – for sure not idle talk, which is defined as foolish and irrelevant talk.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name. (Malachi 3:16, also 17,18)

Let us go back to John 7 and look at the outcome of the discussion and the verdict. Some said:

  1. He is a good man (7:12). He was so much more than that.

 

  1. He is a prophet (7:40). A prophet says: God says. Jesus says: I say. Jesus was not acting in delegated authority. He was indeed God Himself.

 

  1. He is a deluded madman (7:20). He was either the only sane person or mad. He chose a cross over power. He was a suffering servant instead of a conquering king. He turned the world’s standards upside down. He brought supreme sanity into a mad world.

 

  1. He was a seducer. He was leading people away from true religion. He was accused of every crime against the religion of the day: Sabbath-breaker, glutton and drunkard, having disreputable friends and destroying orthodoxy.

 

  1. He was a man of courage (7:26). He defied convention and was different. He had the physical courage to bear pain. He had the courage to stay the course when people abandoned Him. When He entered Jerusalem triumphantly, He knew He was entering the lion’s den. He feared God so much; he never feared the face of any man.

 

  1. He had a most dynamic personality (7:46). He went into His arrest empty-handed. Power flowed from Him. His arresting contingent was more bewildered.

 

  1. He was Christ – the anointed One. It is a fact – plain and simple.

 

There were other reactions as well:

  1. The crowds reacted in fear (7:13). The word used for talking is literally “murmuring”. It was muttering, jumbled speech just like the grumbling of Israel in the desert. We should not be afraid to speak out.

 

  1. A certain number of the crowd believed (7:31). They could not deny the evidence. They overcame the prejudice and fear.

 

  1. Nicodemus defended Jesus (7:50). He was a lone voice. If we stand up for Jesus it is for our own strength, not for Him. God does not need us as His vindication. Our own testimonies as well as those of others strengthen us. When we talk about the Lord, our own spirit and soul benefit.

 

The words of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
For my mouth will speak truth;
Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;

Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.

 

Pray with me the words of the Psalmist (19:14):

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

 

 

 

 

 

108. Do you believe in fairytales?

We are inundated with fantasy these days. Books and movies created a new and vibrant wave of the genre in literature defined as:

the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.

There are so many titles to name. Older ones like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, newer ones like Harry Potter and all sorts of dragon stories are all prominent in the libraries of children and adults alike. Critics are rife. Do we so desperately need to escape reality that we need the impossible to relieve our minds of the struggle of life? We are, after all, the post-modern society, bathed in the actual, the factual, the authentic and the scientific validity of the real. We do not give ourselves over to the childish belief in some murky product of someone’s imagination.

Do we really need orcs to visualize the face and agenda of evil and destruction? Do we rely on an army of fawns to encourage in battle? Did you not breathe an audible sigh of relief when the eagles saved Frodo and Sam in the overwhelming hordes of Mordor?

I want to believe in the eagles that come when the battle looks grim. I want al the amazing characteristics of an eagle at my disposal. I want to BE an eagle. Yeah, I declare I AM an eagle. I can, because I believe absolutely every symbol and powerful promise of the words of THE Word.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles…
(Isaiah 40:31)

The author of Narnia said this:

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance, which has been hidden by “the veil of familiarity”. The child enjoys his gold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.

(CS Lewis – On stories) [My emphasis]

The crowd demands a sign. They want to see the impossible, the improbable. They know in their own effort to hold on to hope, that their Messiah should be able to do the unattainable.

Jesus claims He is the Messiah. (John 6:30-40)

Now He has to prove it.

The wonder of their experience in the feeding of the crowd, made them think of the manna in the desert, which was regarded as the bread of God. The Messiah would bring that again. They did not regard the bread of the feeding as heavenly. The manna that was hidden by Jeremiah, had to be produced. They wanted heavenly bread, not the miracle coming from earthly things.

Jesus reminded them that the manna was not from Moses, but from God. The manna was the symbol of the bread of God. He was the real bread of God that will satisfy their inner hunger. Physical hunger is superficial.

The bread of life sustains life. Jesus as the Bread of Life gives so much more than physical life. Real life is a relationship with God and it is only possible through Jesus. Without Jesus there is no life, even if you have bread to eat every day. He is the essential food – the Bread that gives true life.

Jesus invites us to see Him in the Scriptures, then come to Him, as He is accessible, then believe in Him and submit to Him, to share the life that He promises, so that we are liberated to find God. God begins the whole process to draw us through the Holy Spirit.

True life brings true satisfaction. Deep soul hunger is satisfied in this life. More than life on this earth we are safe in death. We have everlasting life, God-life.

Do we recognize God’s message in an envelope we do not like? (6:41-51)

We cling desperately to our own private arguments, our private prejudices and private goals for our private victory in life. Holding on to our own ideas is a sure path of defeat.

We listen without learning, in criticism and resentment, our superiority, indifference and self-importance blind us to truth.

God draws us. The word used is helkuein, which means to draw with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). The word implies resistance. The same word is used to draw a heavy-laden fish net at shore, the drawing of a sword (John 18:10), and Paul and Silas drawn before the magistrate (Acts 16:19).

If you cannot enter into the promised land you will wander in the wilderness. If you fear the giants and pagan nations of the promised land, you will have no part in the promise.

The people were hearing familiar things (6:51-59)

In the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice, part of the flesh was given to the priests and part to the worshipper for a feast. At the feast the god himself was invited as a guest. Even the pagans believed that the god entered the meat and they were literally eating the god. The meal left them god-filled to have the dynamic vitality of the god.

The mystery religions of the first century had the story of a god who suffered, died and rose again. It was often shown in a passion play and the believer had to learn from it so that the identity of the god could be taken on. He had to identify with life and death and rebirth. When he and the god became one, he was safe from death.

Ancient people dreamed of becoming one with a god. They were longing for it. Their eating and drinking in religious ritual symbolized true union. They understood the language. John is interpreting the words of Jesus with the deep inner results that the Holy Spirit intended.

The flesh of Jesus was the mind of God taking human shape. Accepting Jesus was to become one with God.

Blood is life. Without blood there is no life. The Jews believed the blood belonged to God. They could not eat the blood of an animal. (Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 15:23)

Jesus remains external until we make Him part of us. We must feed our hearts and minds and souls on Him until we are filled with the life of God.

Here is the true teaching of the Lord’s supper. Not only the bread and wine, but also every meal where we sit and enjoy the humblest of food, we become part of God who provides it. God is not limited to church-life. He is all life. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is expanded to include our entire being and existence, everywhere we go and with everyone we meet.

Some found it difficult to believe. It presented as an intellectual stumbling block. (6:59-65)

At the heart of a religion there must be mystery, for the simple reason that at that heart there is God. In the nature of things man cannot ever fully understand God. Any honest thinker will accept that there must be mystery. [William Barclay – Daily Study Bible]

There must be surrender to accept Him as final authority. It is the acceptance of a mystery revealed in Jesus.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Jesus Himself said:

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God… (Mark 4:11)

Paul revels in the mystery of Jesus. How beautiful he describes it in Ephesians (1:9 and most of the third chapter). In Colossians he continues to develop this theme. (Colossians 1:26,27; 4:3)

…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, (Colossians 2:2)

The proof for this mystery is the Resurrection and the Ascension.

The power to believe comes from the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit comes the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God. Human life is only worth it, if lived with a heavenly perspective. Think of eating, drinking, sport, work, business, even love. It is all trivial without the Source.

My WORDS, says Jesus are Spirit and life. (6:63)

Jesus was aware of the resistance and rejection.

Even here in this chapter of John we sense the beginning of the end (6:66-71). Jesus predicts the actions of Judas and the coming of the Cross.

The crowds are worked up; great things are happening; many are baptized (John 4:1-3). The tongues are active all over the land – Jerusalem, Samaria, Galilee.

Now, some are drifting away. They saw where this is heading. They knew He was on a collision course with the authorities. Better to stay out of trouble and not collide with the iron fist of the Romans.

They are the fair-weather followers. A cross is to be avoided at any cost. They are challenged.

They have come to get something, but did not reckon it could be the cross.

Years can be cruel, suffering lasts longer than expected. Dreams die, enthusiasm withers, loyalty suffers. We become small and bitter.

Only the love of Jesus can make us expand with honour as was originally intended.

Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;

(Isaiah 43:4)

 

107. Full and fed – what now?

What would happen if all our prayers were answered in one go, suddenly, just like that? We would be overwhelmed with gratitude with the One who made it possible and spontaneously worship Him. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a natural response to greatness and miraculous deeds, just like the crowds in John 6:14-15.

They wanted to crown Him king. He gave them what they needed. They could see the spectacular course of their lives, ending well with no worry or fear. If they could just keep this Jesus on hand to provide, to create, to heal and to bless, their lives could be lived in the most luxurious manner possible – a life without fear, a life of provision and protection, an abundant life, a life of excellence. How were they going to keep Him close?

Do you also think this would be a good life? Jesus with us always, answering prayer, providing, protecting, healing and being present in every detail of every struggle. Does this not sound familiar? Is it not the foundation of the ordinary Christian life?

Then you will agree with my statement.

All our prayers are answered, once and for all, for all time. The promise of provision, protection, healing, and blessing stands written in the blood of Calvary over every life that has chosen to submit to God, through His beloved Son. We have it all!

Just a few, by far not all, remarks to support my statement (all discussed in previous Pebbles).

All our prayers are answered – Revelation 5:8, Matthew 7:7,8.

A life of excellence guaranteed – Jude 24.

We are protected – Psalm 91 and 121.

Provision for all things – Hebrew 13:5-7 Amplified, Malachi 3:10-12.

We are healed – Isaiah 53:4,5, Psalm 103:3.

 

Now you will immediately ask why so many Christians do not live this outwardly superior life of distinction.

Let us dig deeper into John 6.

Jesus withdraws from the euphoria of the crowd. He will never mislead them to promise superficial, instant answers. He promised a LIFE of abundance. It implies a deep change in thinking, attitude and vision. He will always communicate the cost of following Him.

The nature of a mob in a situation like this can be summed up as: “a lively sense of favours still to come.”

Would they be willing to sacrifice, to get rid of their worldly baggage, to forgive and love unconditionally? Are you willing to live the full extent of the Christian life – or do you just want Jesus added to enable your idea of a good life? Do you want God for what you can get out of Him – to use Him for your own purposes, to reach your own goals?

Your Messiah may be so unrecognizable in your life as Jesus was to the Jews of the time. Do you only want to get rid of the Romans as rulers so that you can rule, or do you think of your generational legacy? Godly lives change our world through our children as well as our community, our territory, our “tent”.

THINK – where are you now? What brought you to this place? Make the declaration: This is my best life now!

WHY? You have never known so much about the Lord as right now. That is ALL that matters. Submit all circumstances to your knowledge of Jesus and His character.

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:18)

Where will you be with the gifts and no cross? What are the gifts without the cross?

Reading further (6:16-21) we have to see that this account is not just the story of a miracle. It is a peep into the character of Jesus.

The crowd wants to crown Jesus; He slips away and stays away to disperse the crowds. The disciples set sail for Capernaum to meet up with Him again. He sent them on (Mark 6:45).

The Sea of Galilee is a landlocked lake and the wind moves though a trough towards the lake. It was about six kilometers rowing and they were probably hugging the coast for shelter.

The beauty of the story is that Jesus was busy with the people and still He had not forgotten His disciples. He was very much aware of the storm. Life is lived with the loving eye of Jesus on us. He is there when our strength fails.

He always helps – we are never left alone to see how we cope.

He is in the midst of the fiercest storm – ready with a miracle.

Let us read on. (6:22-27)

The people lingered. They were in awe of the miracle and wanted more. They were surprised at His presence on the other side of the lake and could not work out how He crossed.

He does not explain Himself. To understand God and exactly how He does things, is not the key to faith and miracles. He acts without explaining. Dr Paul Tournier puts it this way: God works, God disciplines without stopping to explain…and the adventure continues.

He talks about their lives and the way they need to discern the more important things.

Do not think with your stomach?  You need to think with your soul. Think upon the Bread of Life.

It is the man with vision into the heavenly that is truly alive. Earthly perspective brings shortsighted living. (Isaiah 55:2)

The excesses of the Roman Empire were rife at this time. Meals cost thousands and sometimes millions of denarii. The people feasted for days, taking medicine to vomit to be able to eat more, eating pearls soaked in vinegar, nightingale tongues, and peacock brains. The clothes were embroidered with gemstones and spaces decorated with the best the Empire could offer. There was a deep hunger in society for satisfaction, which the best of the best could never satisfy.

Jesus alone can only satisfy the hunger for truth. He is the only One in the history of mankind who said: I am the TRUTH.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27)

A seal was more than a signature. It was authenticity. It made a document valid and guaranteed the contents of commercial goods.

The seal of God is written with three letters in Hebrew – aleph the first, min, the middle and tau the last. The truth of God is the beginning, middle and end of life.

God’s truth can truly satisfy the hunger of the soul, which he created.

For the Jews the work of God was synonymous with “good” works, to earn God’s favour. (6:28-29)  Jesus says: God’s work is to believe in Him, Jesus. Work for God can only be measured in faith. Jesus is the face of God. True fellowship is the work of God.

Our lives change in the Presence of the Father. No work on our part can change our inner beings. We respond to God’s holiness, love and wisdom.

The essence of God’s work is changed lives.

Can we close by coming back to answered prayer? All our prayers are answered. Can you trust God for the timing? As we count days in calendar time [chronos], He sees your life in the fullness of time [kairos].

 

The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd
I always have more than enough.

 (Psalm 23 in The Passion Translation)

106. Little is much…abundance.

We so love the success stories of this world – the rags to riches type of thing. Ordinary people becoming rich and famous, commoners marrying royalty to live the fairytale life so many yearn for. Dreams of big money, luxury lives and desirable possessions drive the mad rush towards achievement, life at the top and maybe some rest and peace after all.

Very soon in the ministry of Jesus He was famous and known throughout the land. People talked about Him. He was controversial and He fully recognized His divisive message. In His own words:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

People flocked around Him to admire and to judge. Is it not the same with earthly fame? I sometimes think people yearn for fame, as it is a sure sign of success when their name is on the lips of the masses, without having any idea of the sacrifice to their personal life. Famous people’s lives are in the public domain, unfortunately not just the good, also the mistakes, bad judgment and failures. It is outright cruel.

When life hits hard, it is no fun to read media interpretations of vicious envy and a good measure of “schadenfreude” (joy in the misfortune of others). The man in the street judges and throws the stones, all from the safety of anonymity. Media attention has challenged many people, their strength of person and above all their core values. Living a life of fame should be carefully approached with God’s wisdom for guidance through the volatile and brutal desert of public opinion.

And what about us? We are the man in the street with the stone in our hand. We feel free to gossip and dissect the scandals with no fear of personal sacrifice. If we want to live a life of excellence, gossip on all levels must be confessed and banned from our discussions. The very important principle of Luke 6:31 applies here.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

When we gossip, we will be the subjects of gossip. I believe there is a spirit of lying and deceit in every piece of tittle-tattle. My attitude and tone of voice in retelling a story can make it a lie. If we are not careful and fearful before God, we can wound and hurt with the violence of a swinging knife. (James 3). I picture some words in the image of a dagger to the heart, turning it now and then to inflict more pain.

Let us then step up and leave the judgment of famous people to God, lest we are judged by our own harsh words.

In the first verses of John 6 Jesus is found at the Sea of Galilee with a multitude following Him. He retreats to the mountain with His disciples. Jesus getting away from the people implied that He made time for His disciples for in-depth discussions. He made time for prayer. He deliberately avoided arguments with the authorities. Alone time is not defeatist. It is a vital part of living a public life, crucial for straight and God-centered thinking.

From Capernaum to other side of Galilee was about six kilometers. People followed Him. They were astonished about His teaching and yearned for more. They followed on land. The village Bethsaida was near the fords of the river on a plain where the grass was smooth. It became the setting for a miracle.

People made haste to find a good spot. There were bigger crowds as the feast of the Passover was near and everybody was travelling. Pilgrims on their ways to Jerusalem were also among the crowds, choosing a route to avoid Samaria.

The sight of the crowd stirred sympathy in Jesus’ heart. They were hungry and tired. Philip was the man to ask as he came from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Where could they get food? It would cost more than 200 denarii to feed the vast crowd. About four pence made one denarius and that was a day wage for a labourer. It would cost more than six month’s wages to feed the crowd.

Andrew came with the boy carrying five barley loaves and two little fishes. Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus. Barley was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt, regarded as the bread of the poor and animals.

The fishes were probably the size of sardines. Pickled fish was staple in Galilee. Fresh fish was a luxury unheard of. Fish could not last without preservation and therefore it was dried and salted.

The people had to sit down, Jesus blessed the food. He was acting as the father of the family and prayed a prayer of thanks for the food. He acknowledged God as the Source of food for the family.

Take a minute to think about your table prayers. When Jesus took the bread and the wine at the Last Supper with His disciples before the crucifixion, He said: remember Me. I believe we pray at the table to remember Jesus and what He has done for us. We should build a unique prayer of gratitude and remembrance for blessing at every meal and not mechanically repeat a senseless rhyme to get it over and done with.

The people received from the disciples. The disciples were an interesting bunch, from a variety of backgrounds. I am sure they distributed the bread in very individual ways, each one with a different approach. They represent the variety in the church of Jesus today. We minister culturally and individually as the situation demands.

The foremost consideration is that we minister the bread from Jesus’ hand.

 The people ate enough. They were filled. The word used for filled means to be filled to repletion, to be completely full after a meal.

 The fragments were gathered. At Jewish feasts it was regular practice to leave something for the servants. The people would have known. Twelve baskets, bottle-shaped baskets without which no Jew left his house were filled with leftovers. The food was more than enough.

There are interesting ways to look at the miracle:

Of course Jesus is the maker of the miracle and multiplied the loaves and fishes. It reminds us of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4 where she was set financially free by miraculous multiplication.

Pilgrims and labourers usually carried food with them for kosher requirements. It is very possible that every person had some food with him or her that day. The people were selfish and human. While travelling the food would have been carefully planned for a few days for personal use only. It would have been reckless to share and much safer to keep it for own use. Sharing of food would have been miracle in itself, with no regard to provision for the days to come. To share the food could have been a fearless abandon of the worry and planning where tomorrow’s provision is going to come from. A crowd of selfishness became a sharing feast. The change of heart and freedom from anxiety about provision made the miracle so much more intense.

The meal with divine provision became a sacramental meal with the words of Jesus. Later in the same chapter He speaks of drinking His blood and eating His body. The wonder of His presence made the food different. Ordinary food became spiritual food.

Let us consider the people instrumental in the miracle:

The contrast between Philip and Andrew is distinct. Philip spells out the impossibility of the situation. Andrew brings what he has.

This is SUPER important. What happens if we bring what we have to Jesus with our heart’s cry? Jesus would do what is necessary to provide what is lacking. We provide the material for a miracle.

The boy brought his ridiculously small contribution. Anybody looking at the crowds and his lunch would have laughed at the silly, absurd thought of feeding a multitude with a boy’s lunch.

Jesus only needs what we can give. Are you denying yourself a miracle because you think what you have is not worthy?

 Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

Are you problem orientated? Do you see the complete desperateness of the situation under the banner of realism? People, who do not like miracles, compliment themselves with realism.

Have you thought of the people you brought to Jesus? Do you think of your children and what they might become in the Kingdom?

 

[There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may some day become.” He was right – because one of them was Martin Luther.]

 

 

105. The One and Only, the One in All.

The package deal, is what we want. We have so many things pre-packaged. Somebody else thought long and hard and put things together to serve a combination of needs. Some may call it a hamper, some may call it the full meal deal, some may call it a wrap up – whatever the goodies inside may be, it is an effort to meet more than one need in one container tied together.

Here in John 5 we start with one of the first longer discourses of the Fourth Gospel. John writes his interpretation of what Jesus meant in all the words spoken to His disciples over the many months of His three-year ministry. John wrote to establish Jesus as the true Messiah, the Promised One, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World and every other title that could have been expected by Jews as well as Gentiles. His writing comes with a half a century of Holy Spirit insight in the life of Jesus, which he witnessed in person.

The passage (5:19-47) is packed with good things, explaining the superior and excellent good news, which is the answer to every query about life all contained in one man, Jesus. He is the only ONE you will ever need.

SON OF MAN

To the Jews who heard this passage it meant that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • Son of Man is a title we hear in Daniel (7:1-14). THE Son of Man – not a son of man.

The visions of Daniel were all about the cruel and ruling empires:

the lion with eagle’s wings was Babylon, the bear with ribs, devouring the nations was the Medes, the leopard with four wings and four heads was the Persians, and the fiercest of beasts with the ten horns and iron teeth was the Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. They will all will pass away. All this cruel and savage reign, that could only be described in terms of beasts, will be replaced with a gentle and peaceful human.

In the coming of Jesus humanity was brought back to its original created purpose.

Between the Testaments there arose a whole literature, which promised the golden age to come in which the Jews called the Messiah the son of man. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. It is a clear claim to be the Messiah.

  • Miracles of healing are associated with the Messiah. (Isaiah 35:6 and Jeremiah 31:8-9).
  • Raising the dead is something that God alone could do . Only God could kill and make alive. Death is in God’s hands. (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1:17, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:6)
  • Final judgment was also ascribed to the Messiah.

For Jesus to speak like this was an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage. He must have known well that to make claims like this would sound like blasphemy to the orthodox Jewish leaders and the consequence was death. Any man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives – he must either accept Jesus as the Son of God or hate him as a blasphemer.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is not based on equality or submission of power; it is based on love, as ours should be.

Jesus was confident in his identity – against all the forces of Jewish orthodoxy. He was completely fearless. He could be misunderstood; His words could inflame and endanger His life. He knew full well.

It is more important to fear God than men.

God through Jesus is the giver of life. Not possible to live fully without God. Jesus changes our lives on the deepest level possible, both in this world and the world to come. He is the ALL in one for ALL times.

JUDGMENT

He judges. Jesus’ life and words are judgment in itself. Through Him, judgment of personal sin is solved. To accept Him is life, the ultimate way to peace and happiness. True judgment, how Jesus judges, only happens in full harmony to the will of God. (5:30)

I used to fear judgment. I often wondered how I can relax in the Gospel message if it speaks of judgment. My own sinfulness, especially the realisation of my own unworthiness, made me worry about a judging God.

God comforted me in my fears and revealed to me how this world needs judgment. We cannot confront sin and evil without the clear direction of what is good and right. That is judgment. God’s judgment is the solution to our broken world. It makes it better, not worse.

For us it is difficult to judge fairly. We suffer pride, prejudice, jealousy, intolerance, contempt, ignorance and self-importance. Have you ever seen court procedures and the paperwork involved? It takes thousands upon thousands of pages to come to a conclusion.

God alone is perfect. He knows everything. He judges from perfect love, sitting on the mercy seat.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Unsupported evidence by only one person is unacceptable (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). A man cannot state his own case. It is his word against another. We are so privileged to have our case stated by Jesus. He is the Son of Man and have received the authority to judge from the Father (5:26)

SPIRITUAL DEATH

When Jesus was persecuted, He received honour in His suffering and opened up the path of honour through suffering to all of us. It does not matter what life throws at us – Jesus was there and promises hope and salvation from the worst. It is an unquenchable hope and an unconquerable certainty. Amid all the persecution of the early church they never doubted Christ’s ultimate victory.

Jesus is life and He is life now. Without Him death has already in this life, become a reality. We can live with dead works and dead thoughts. This is the core of the Gospel – spiritual death.

Life is promised by a new relationship with

  • God: fear becomes love, distance becomes intimacy;
  • fellow man: hatred becomes love, selfishness becomes service, and bitterness becomes forgiveness;
  • self: weakness becomes strength, frustration becomes achievement and stress becomes peace.

To be spiritually dead means to stop trying to be good. This life is a constant forward push. We can either slip back or move on. To have no courage means slipping back. Spiritual death is to stop feeling, become insensitive, comfortable with evil, with no compassion and a mind shut to truth. Nothing new can change the thinking or learning of such a man and that leads to a blunt conscience. (The best description of the spiritually dead while in this life is found in Ephesians 4:17-19)

This life determines eternity. The hour is now. Our new life in Jesus is for NOW. (5:24,25)

Jesus talks about another witness – meaning God. (5:31-40)

He cites John the Baptist who bore witness to Him.

He talks about a lamp that burns and shines. A lamp is lit, it does not light itself. It is “borrowed” light. The light comes from another source – fire or electricity. The message of John is warm; it was a guide to repentance. A light is temporary; it burns out. John decreased while pointing the way. A true witness burns itself out for God.

Another witness besides John is the witness of Jesus’ works. When John enquired from prison if He is truly the Messiah, Jesus answered that His works will testify as to His authenticity. His works also points to God. God is the supreme witness.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10)

The Jews were adamant that God is invisible and that no man has seen God, not even Moses (Deuteronomy 4:12). They believed God was only in the conviction of the mind and Jesus expresses that in this passage. It is God’s witness in our hearts regarding Jesus.

SCRIPTURE

To the Jews the Scriptures were everything. Jesus was evident in the Old Testament. They were the best Bible students in the world and they rejected Him – how come?

Here the word for Scriptures is graphe which means autobiography. The Bible is a document written by a divine author by the hands of humans. It is regarded as the eternal voice of God to communicate His character.

How do we read the Bible? With a closed mind, not to find God, but to support an argument? God is revealed throughout history as speaking through the Scripture, but also acting! The Bible is a record of God in action. It is not the words that are holy, it is the story it tells which is holy.

There is only one way to read the Bible and that is with Christ revealed in every chapter. He is the supreme revelation. The Jews were worshipping God’s words alone and not His actions. The words cannot give life; it is the One who speaks them that gives life.

The purpose of the words of Jesus is so that you might be saved. It is all for us, not His own glory that He speaks. He says: I love you and I want to save you.

Before and after Jesus there was a stream of impostors claiming to be the Messiah. Why did they even consider these impostors? Usually a false prophet speaks according to man’s desires. They promise empires, government and material prosperity. Jesus came with a Cross. Jesus died and lives on. The impostors all died and disappeared.

The scribes and the Pharisees desired the praise of men. Everyone recognized them by the way they dressed and behaved; they prayed a certain way; they loved the respectful greetings on the street. They were fully devout, but did not hear the voice of God and did not recognize Jesus. Why?

If a person measures himself by his fellow men, he will not hear God speak.

Jesus points out that Moses writes about Him (5:46). If you read the Scriptures you will find Jesus revealed. Moses himself would have condemned them all. They attached all this value to Moses and did not recognize the One of whom he spoke.

The greatest privilege of the Jews became their greatest condemnation. They had knowledge to no avail. When we have the knowledge, we have the responsibility of acting on it.

 

Dear Pebble pals,

I am travelling for the next month and will be back just after the middle of February. I know that a break brings new inspiration and perspective.

May God bless you richly for seeking Him in His Word. Remember He is always active where we read with a heart focused on Him.

Malachi 3:16-18.