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.

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102. Have yourself a miracle – it is time.

Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder. (Isaiah 29:14)

The festive days are now much closer. We need to do some things – pack to travel, prepare for guests, shop the fridge full, pick up the turkey or whatever your fare may comprise.

Christmas is special, that’s for sure. Christian or secular, these are days that interrupt the normal schedule. Days of relaxation, days of family, days of joyous reunions and also days of old wounds, buried anger and deep disappointment.

Where are you this week before Christmas? Are you in a frenzy of activity with a load of things to do and quietly panicky? Are you alone with nothing to look forward to? Is Christmas a mountain of pent up bitterness that has not moved for you? Is this the first Christmas after heartbreaking tragedy? Is it the first Christmas with a new baby in the family?

Wherever and in whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, take time to reflect and experience a miracle. Some or other time a tray full of niceties may be offered to you this Christmas. Even if you cannot look forward to something wonderful in the physical world, God has the miracle tray all ready. We may be very sure of it based on that baby’s birth so long ago in the calculation of earthly time. He is waiting for your call.

Will you be quiet with me for just a little while? Please join the true Feast to hold on to as an anchor for the days to come. The majesty of the miracle in a simple cave or barn in Bethlehem so long ago, echoes to this day.

In this moment of prayer, there is one aspect of the greater message that God calls attention to in my heart to write. Above all else, Christmas is the earthly telescope to see the Father’s heart. His heart is set on this broken world and His eyes are looking for a heart to respond to. His response is a miracle in your life.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

His eye is on you this Christmas. He is actively involved in your private feasting in His presence. He wants to be. Hear how the Psalmist expresses this desire of God (32:8):

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you. (NLT)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV)

We have talked about the rainbow in previous Pebble-pieces. Do you remember we said the rainbow is always there; it depends on how we look? We need a prism, some Godly eyeglasses, to see. Christmas is a miracle prism. If we look through the Christmas prism, we see the rainbow – the full content of the Covenant promise that was made to Noah. The Covenant is the heart of our great God promising to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts choose Him.

Choose Him in this quiet moment we have together and have yourself a miracle. How does it happen?

Let us go to our Bible study in the Gospel of John – not to the nativity story, but to the story of an active Jesus amongst the needs of the people. John 4:46 and further:

And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum…

The man who came is a courtier (basilikos), the word used for a royal official and somebody of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus was the village carpenter. Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, some twenty miles away. It took him some time to get home.

The scene is odd to say the least. An important man coming over to see a village carpenter was not very likely. Lots of pride is swallowed. It is obvious his need was deep. He gave no thought of what the people would say.

He refused to be discouraged. Jesus’ statement is not very encouraging:

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

Jesus was probably talking to the crowd that inevitably collected. He was making sure the man was serious just like He did with the Syro-Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28. If the man turned away in anger it would have been his loss. His faith proved to be real.

His faith transcended his feelings – it is super-important.

This is a nobleman, a high official displaying surprising faith. Was it easy to turn back and just believe the word of this simple carpenter? I think not. He was like a drowning man clutching to hope given to him.

This encounter illustrates the powerful impartation of peace in the words of Jesus. His hope fuelled his faith. Jesus’ promise of healing just had to be true.

He surrendered. He and his whole household believed. He didn’t receive healing and just forgot. It was a complete “revolution” in his house. It could not have been easy around Herod. The news of the healing was bound to get out. He would have had to withstand mockery and accusations of madness.

He faced and accepted the facts. He surrendered to the miracle. His need was met and he honoured the man through whom it came. This is the true Christian life.

We live in the days after the resurrection. We know the power of God. Will you trust Him and surrender to your miracle?

Go ahead and ask Him. 

His eye is already on you. Receive the peace in these words:

 For there is born to you this day in the city of David

a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

 

 

 

 

101. Are you ready for December?

I am writing this piece in the first days of December and somehow it is like it always is. The month is well on its way before I could realize and relish this month of festivities.

I have written on the traditions of Christmas in previous Pebbles pieces. Here is a quote from number 31; something I would like to repeat.

The unspoken, universal announcement has been made. The lights are up, the decoration-plans executed. Retail and wholesale are ready for the harvest and their advertising campaigns spell out the demands of the season. Headaches over gifts and travel plans are painful and real and emphasize the heavy, hurting burden of the so-called time of joy and celebration. Tills and credit card machines deafen the very familiar music in the shopping centres all over the world.

 I don’t have a plan or advice for the secular, empty and sometimes ridiculous celebration of Christmas. As a family we have distanced ourselves from Santa Claus and in stead placed the emphasis on God the Father and the great gift of His son. We do have a tree and other decorations to mark the celebrations, making sure that Jesus is central to everything we do. Gift giving was always limited and balanced – it took great effort to keep it creative and joyful. [Pebbles number 11]

This year, like so many in the past, the tree is up. To me it is the symbol of the stump of Jesse that blossomed and produced the Saviour of the world (Isaiah 11:1).

The Christmas cards will once again go out, proclaiming the events of so long ago. Many, many pageants worldwide will find their Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus, shepherds and angels among the ordinary and everyday to display the simple events of Bethlehem that forever changed the world, whether one believes or not. Within so many pagan societies the spirit of the season, even if it is for gain and greed, displayed in sparkling balls, lights and the giving of gifts, cannot be resisted. Somewhere there in spiritual darkness, a child will again ask… why? Our God reigns, says the prophet Isaiah. God will answer in His particular and spectacular way, in ways we cannot see.

But… we are not ignorant of the truth. We know why and we rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. We are the church of Jesus. Let us tune in to radio Christmas and hear the bells ringing over the kingdom harvest in the world where we celebrate.

What is on the menu this Christmas? I am sure we are thinking of something good to eat. Traditional fare or something simple – Christmas has developed an entire industry around the food and drink for this one day of the year.

While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples were going to find food. It was clear that all of them were hungry. When they came back they were worried about Jesus not eating. But He is not hungry anymore. He says: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work

Then He talks about the harvest. Let us eat His words. (John 4:35-38)

The harvest is one of the core themes of the words of Jesus on earth. Here He sees the work of His father in Samaria. He sees the fruit and anointing on His words. He introduces the harvest as symbolic of God’s field, God as a sower was already a theme in the Old Testament. As an example is Hosea’s son’s name – Jizreel, which means: God scatters and sows. The harvest is symbolic of blessing on your labour.

The Jews divided the agricultural year in six parts of two months each for seedtime, winter, spring, harvest, summer and the season of extreme heat. Jesus knew that Sychar was in the midst of a region famous for its corn. Arable land is scarce in Palestine. It takes o only four months from sowing to reaping. He looked over Samaria and talked about the harvest that is ready. Again he contrasts the spiritual to the physical. The harvest in Samaria was ready on all levels.

In the ordinary way of things, men waited for the harvest. In the divine nature of things, the spiritual harvest of Samaria was sudden. The people were hungry for the Word, the Promise and the spiritual food.

Harvest is a time of joy. The sower and the harvester rejoice together. How beautiful the Psalmist declares the promise:

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.    

He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalms 126:5-6)

Beneath the surface was the dream of a golden age for the Jews. The promised land was not a desert. It was a land “flowing with milk and honey”. The vineyards were to yield the harvest promised so long ago when the spies carried the bunch of grapes to big for one man to carry. The spies and their grapes are the icon of God’s overflowing abundance. The promised land became a desert because of sin and idol worship.

Jesus expanded His vision of the harvest.

The disciples would reap where they have not sown. Jesus’ word and work on the Cross would be the seed and the disciples would go and reap. We are still busy reaping the harvest.

The day will come when the disciples sow and others will reap. Christianity will be “scattered” and “sowed” and others would reap. Never be discouraged if you do not see the harvest. There will always be a harvest. Nothing is ever in vain, even when you do not see results.

Here we are in the month of December. We are reminded of opportunity. The harvest waits. We can never fail to reap the attraction of people to the Word of God.

We are reminded of the challenge for ministry over years with perseverance and commitment. We plant trees and watch them grow, but we cannot imagine how they will be when they are big, hundreds of years old.

John 4:39-42 are verses that express a core value of our ministry in the kingdom. It is one of the outstanding passages to illustrate that hearsay becomes revelation knowledge.

The Samaritans were introduced to the Truth by words that came to them from an unexpected source. Would they have chosen to hear of the Messiah through this woman? Probably not.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14,15)

Closer intimacy comes with growing knowledge. Once they were introduced they sought His company. They asked Him to stay. To experience Christ does not happen through somebody else. You have to invite Him in.

Discovery and surrender – what a wonderful Christmas combination.

John calls Jesus the Saviour of the world. He is the only one to do so. He is thinking about the Samaritans many years after this incident and is still in awe of the barriers broken down in such a short time.

The title comes from the Old Testament. He is the God of salvation. At the time John was writing, the Roman Emperor took this title for himself.

Jesus was not only a great example. If we have to live up to His example it could be frustrating and discouraging. He was an enabler. He was saviour. He rescued from evil and hopelessness. The Samaritan woman was the example of His saving power. She was labeled and despised. She probably agreed that a good life was beyond her hopes and dreams. Jesus broke the chains of her past and gave her a future. That is some saving power for you!

 

Pebble pals, do not shy away from the celebrations. It does not matter that the date is wrong and the onslaught of godlessness nauseates you. We are never victims. Use the opportunity. The feast is coming – whether you like the way it is done or not. Step into it, mindful and aware, and equip yourself with a word in season [Isaiah 50:4]. Bless everybody whose life you touch.

The harvest is ready. Let us feast with our feet shod in the loveliness of the Gospel of peace so that it is us who brings the good news. It is our party shoes for Christmas (Ephesians 6:15).

Put on your party shoes. Wear your white clothes, your garment of praise embroidered with your testimony of salvation. These are the decorations of our lives – truth and life, kindness and grace, insight and understanding, help in need and so much more of the fullness of the riches in Christ.

Bring them in. Just like the old hymn says:

Sowing in the morning,  sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

 

Please listen with me to this old favourite Christmas song so brilliantly performed. Just think how many times this has been sung all over the world.

[Youtube=https://youtu.be/v5mdybeyLVc]

 

56. A baby and a dragon – really?

We live in the age of fantasy stories. I sometimes get the impression the filmmakers are enjoying themselves even more than their audiences, who travel into magical and mysterious worlds with life-like characters appearing real. The discussions around the latest idiosyncrasies of authors and directors, sound bizarre and outlandish. It is a weird world created in the imagination and realized on film or in books.

Revelation, as a sequence of events in metaphor and symbols, could be classified into this genre of fabulous fantasies. No filmmaker, however, has even come close to endeavour a version of this ready-made script. The four horses of the apocalypse have found their way into some film adaptations, but not recently. Scary horses are part of so many stories – just think of the blood-sweating horses of the black riders in The Lord of the Rings. The four horses are only the first four seals of the seven seals mentioned in Revelation. What about the action of the trumpets and the bowls?

While reading on into the more intimidating and daunting code, we should once again keep our goal in mind. This study is an introduction into the “secret language”, if I may call it that, of the first century Christian message, delivered into a hostile and risky environment of the Roman Empire desperately clinging to the glory it once had, with all the inglorious means it could muster.

In this atmosphere of power play at the highest level, the first Christmas is celebrated. A baby is born to a very ordinary couple, caught in the administration of an Empire, much bigger than the parents themselves could ever care to think about. Whatever one believes about the century-old Christmas story and how many “mistakes” are made in our narrative and nativity scenes, including the date, circumstances or people involved, this event was noticed in the highest circles of government, eventually precipitating the worst trial in recorded Jewish history and the nastiest of execution-styles of the ancient world. Many Jewish scholars have written about the gross miscarriage of justice of the Sanhedrin that fateful night of the trial of Jesus and their sly scheming to bring on the execution by the Romans by whom the Jews were legally forbidden to perform a death penalty. We know the story. It is written in the Gospels. We hang the golden balls to celebrate the season – rightly so.

Let us look deeper as the Word of God always calls us to do.

Our Christmas story is what happened in the physical realm. A baby in a cave or manger – you can choose; an angel choir appearing to shepherds watching over the lambs being prepared for slaughter at the Passover, who rush to witness the arrival; wise men brought to the place by a miraculous star; wide-eyed parents who marvel at the wonder of the truth of prophecy and a mad king who slays babies to calm his own uncertainties – quite a story!

Walk with me into the miraculous scene of Revelation 12 as John uses all the signs of divinity and beauty to describe the spiritual images of the first Christmas.

The sun and moon are often used in divine descriptions. God’s garment is light as described in Psalm 104:2. In Malachi 4:2 Jesus is named the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. The Song of Solomon’s loved ones is fair as the moon and clear as the sun (Song 6:10). In this dramatic description of the woman of heaven, John also added something the pagans would understand – she is crowned with a garland of the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

We must always remember, whatever heavenly bodies of the universe paganism or false religions may use, the symbols and signs of the universe belongs to God. Nothing in this earthly realm, used in whatever distortion and deception, could be hijacked from us as the children of the Creator.

The woman is the Messianic community from whom the Messiah is born. She is in labour, symbolizing the pain of their oppression and the expectant lingering for the Promise to be fulfilled.

Women in the Old Testament were often the symbol of the bride of God.

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; (Isaiah 54:5)

Jeremiah talks about the harlot being unfaithful in Jeremiah 3:6-10 and Hosea with his unfaithful wife, is a life lived in the metaphor of God as the lover of Israel and the people’s betrayal of that love. God promises betrothal (Hosea 2:19-20) with all the joyful expectancy of a wedding feast with the protection and provision implied in such a union.

Revelation tells of the marriage of the Bride of the Lamb (19:7, 21:9) and Paul writes that we are betrothed (promised) to God as pure.

 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The church is now the community from whom the Messiah is proclaimed. The church is always referred to as female. Jerusalem is also female. The old Jerusalem has literally fallen and failed the purposes of God. The new Jerusalem is the church and carries the purposes of God spiritually. The forces of destruction – evil and human – are resolute to destroy this community, but it is under God’s protection and cannot be destroyed.

The great fiery red dragon is a well-known symbol of Babylonian mythology, which depicts a red-gleaming serpent. The image appears in the Old Testament as Rahab in Isaiah 51:9: Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent?

The dragon had seven heads and ten horns and seven royal diadems, which all depict mighty power over the kingdoms of the earth as opposed to the kingdom of God. There are two players in the struggle for mankind. Evil is trying to destroy all that God made good. The struggle culminates in the Cross.

The Child, who will rule with an iron rod, is Jesus. The Child is snatched up to heaven out of reach. This is the protection God guaranteed for the fulfillment of His purpose. Satan, in the shape of the dragon, may have a plan of destruction, but God will protect what is His. Heaven is not the far away place, somewhere in the vastness of the universe. It is the Presence of the Father. It is the secret place of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty. It is the ultimate place of safety.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;

My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1,2)

The word used for snatch is the same as used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 2 Corinthians 12:2 to describe the action to be caught up in heaven. John’s emphasis is on the heavenly Jesus, not His earthly life. It is all about the exalted Christ. In the greater time calculation of God, Jesus’ earthly life was just a flash. Even so, the event had eternal consequences.

They escape to the desert, which is a place of safety and nourishment. For Elijah, as for us, it was a place of divine provision. (1 Kings 17:1-7 and 19:1-8) Shortly after the birth Jesus and his parents had to flee (Matthew 2:13.)

During the evil times of Antiochus Epiphanes, the priests kept the law in secret in the wilderness. Again, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, they fled to the mountains, into wilderness-like paces to be safe.

The church today finds solitude and provision in the wilderness. It is there where the table is spread, right there in the shadow of the valley of death. It is a place of provision and communion. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart to sit down for the evening meal, the relaxed chat over good food, which restores our sick and weary souls. (Revelation 3:20)

Satan is the enemy of God. He is in war with God and the saints. It is symbolic of the war in heaven when a third of the angels went against God (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). Lucifer was the morning star, the leader of worship. The Pharaoh declared himself the morning and the evening star. Music is still infiltrated with evil and very much on the agenda of deception. At the same time there is an explosion of worship music all across the world, to sing the praises of God and draw people to God.

Lucifer fell because of pride. The saints are warned against pride (1Timothy 3:6).

Satan still has access to the Presence of God as illustrated in- Job 1:6-9 and 2:1-6, Zechariah 3:1,2. Satan means adversary. Balaam (Numbers 22) can be called a satan against the angel. He is always the accuser, for Job; also for Joshua in Zechariah 3.

Be aware of the raspy voice of the accuser in contrast to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit spoken in perfect love in you inner being.

In Greek Satan is diabolos, which means slanderer. In the New Testament satan is called the devil or the tempter. Matthew 4, Mark 1 and Luke 4 describe him where the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is recorded.

We find good examples of Satan’s work throughout the Bible. Remember, he is not creative. He cannot think of new strategies. He will always go back to age-old methods and invoke them craftily to snare the saints.

Since this is so, we find Satan engaged in certain nefarious purposes in the New Testament.

  • He seeks to seduce Jesus in his temptations.
  • He puts the terrible scheme of betrayal into Judas’ mind (John 13:2, 27, Luke 22:3).
  • He is out to make Peter fall Luke 22:31.
  • He persuades Ananias to keep back part of the price of the possession he had sold (Acts 5).
  • He is the cause of illness and pain (Luke 13:16, Acts 10:38, 2 Corinthians 12:7).
  • He hinders the work of the gospel by sowing the tares, which choke the good seed (Matthew 13:39), and by snatching away the seed of the word from the human heart before it can gain an entry
(Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12).
  • He uses every wile (Ephesians 6:11) and every device (2 Corinthians 2:11) to achieve his seducing

Jesus taught us to pray against him in the Lord’s prayer – deliver us from the Evil One – Matthew 6:13.

He is the ruler of this world.

I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of the world (Satan) is coming. And he has no claim on Me [no power over Me nor anything that he can use against Me]; (John 14:30) Also John 12:31,16:11.

Satan’s history is tragedy – once great, now fallen. His future is defeat.

His definition: “the malevolent critic of creation, the sleepless vigilance of evil against good.”

The victory of the saints will be his downfall. Our choice for the true life is his defeat. Our victory is the Blood of the Lamb. There is no condemnation for those in Christ; therefore the accuser has no power over us.

He will always try to injure Christ through the church. When Paul was cruelly determined to wipe out the followers of Jesus, he heard the voice on the road to Damascus. Jesus directly identified with His church and asked Paul:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting and oppressing Me? (Acts 9:4)

The woman escapes with eagles’ wings.

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. (Exodus 19:4)

The image of eagles’ wings has always been a spiritual pillar of support.

“As an eagle that protects its nest, that flutters over its young,

He spread out His wings and took them, He carried them on His pinions. (Deuteronomy 32: 11-12)

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power;

They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary,

They will walk and not grow tired. (Isaiah 40:31)

The wings of an eagle are symbolized in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the Cross. It is always inclusive and welcoming to all.

The serpent is enraged by the escape of the woman. He invokes the flood to destroy, but the waters will not destroy the woman. The earth opens to swallow the river. In God’s hands Nature is used to save, rather than destroy. Water in Asia Minor often went underground to reappear later.

The promise to the saints stands firm. God controls the flood. (Psalm 42:7, 124:4, 32:6.)

 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.

When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)

God promises that the flood will not prevail against you. You will be victorious.

 

Christmas Pebble – December 2015

Dear Pebble pals,

It is the time of year, which nobody can ignore, whether you find yourself in circumstances you wish for or in a place of struggle and heartache. God is mighty and has done great things. He will do it for you. That is the core message of Christmas. Sing the ancient song of Mary in Luke 1:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

May God be your silver and gold. He is the source of hope and peace. We do not need anything more besides the One who said: I am the Light of the World.

Let the Word of God speak to you as to Israel of old.

Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’

 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Haggai 2:4-9.

 May the peace of the Lord of Hosts be with you all this Christmas and throughout 2016.

 

 

31. It has begun… look up and take hold.

The unspoken, universal announcement has been made. The lights are up, the decoration-plans executed. Retail and wholesale are ready for the harvest and their advertising campaigns spell out the demands of the season. Headaches over gifts and travel plans are painful and real and emphasize the heavy, hurting burden of the so-called time of joy and celebration. Tills and credit card machines deafen the music in the shopping centres all over the world.

I don’t have a plan or advice for the secular, empty and sometimes ridiculous celebration of Christmas. As a family we have distanced ourselves from Santa Claus and in stead placed the emphasis on God the Father and the great gift of His son. We do have a tree and other decorations to mark the celebrations, making sure that Jesus is central to everything we do. Gift giving was always limited and balanced – it took great effort to keep it creative and joyful. [Pebbles number 11]

In this world the celebration of Christmas will once again come and go with all the flagrant perversion of the truth and distorted exploitation of the wonder. Just a superficial imagining of the desperation and destruction around us and the worldwide clamour of guns and bombs should smother the festivities. How many people are stunned by the bloodshed and injury of war, violence and abuse this Christmas season?

How do we respond? Pray with me:

Dear Father, we ask you in the precious, powerful Name of your Son, Jesus, whose coming we celebrate, to let your kingdom come into the chaos around us. Let your Word live in us through your Holy Spirit to enable us to heal and encourage. We crown you as the King of Christmas. Help us to forgive, protect us from evil and provide the fullness that comes only from you, to enable us to fill this season with the Truth that it needs.

Deep honor and bright glory to the King of All Time—

One God, Immortal, Invisible, ever and always. Oh, yes!

[1 Timothy 1:17 The Message]

This is our prayer, but it is not all.

Let us make a realistic survey of the wonder of Christmas, in which we as the chosen ones, the privileged earthlings to be called children of God, are called to give content to the season.

The very first principle is John 15:5:

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.

Jesus is the core, the cornerstone, the foundation and substance of Christmas. Without Him the feast is the creaking of rusty hinge, the clatter of an empty tin being kicked around by bored boys.

The purpose of Christmas is to show us the heart of God. He is the most magnificent Father, He is the Prince of Peace, He is the great Counselor.

He is enough reason and the ONLY reason for the Feast. Let us then celebrate in the fullness of the vine that speaks of provision and prosperity at a deep inner level.

Jesus is the Saviour of the world. It is the message that we know and proclaim. Rightly so.

It is within the empty, dissonance that we, the church of Jesus, determine the qualitative content of the Feast.

Pebble pals, do not shy away from the celebrations. It does not matter that the date is wrong and the onslaught of godlessness nauseates you. We are never victims. Use the opportunity. The feast is coming – whether you like the way it is done or not. Step into it, mindful and aware, and equip yourself with a word in season [Isaiah 50:4]. Bless everybody whose life you touch.

Jesus warned his disciples that they would be dragged in front of governors and other authorities. It could not have felt right to be violently apprehended and forced to defend yourself in front of mocking pagan officials who had no respect for God. Jesus said in Matthew 10:18: [The Message]

Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

Grab hold of the promise of Holy Spirit words for the occasion.

Ephesians 5:16:

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

Colossians 4:5:

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

 There is no higher authority on earth than the church of Jesus Christ.

Did you hear that? Take a Selah-moment and let it settle in your mind.

Nobody on this earth has higher spiritual authority than the born-again, blood bought, Word-strengthened child of God!

Authority is a well known, accepted part of life. Parents have authority over their children, managers over employees, governments over citizens, kings over subjects. In the spiritual realm there are layers of authority – angels, archangels, cherubs, seraphim’s and others, as also in the kingdom of darkness.

The evil spirits acknowledged Jesus’ authority over them.

Luke 4:35:

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.

Luke 8:29:

For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.

What about us? What authority do we have? Only what is given to us by Jesus Himself. We are children of God. We have been given the authority and live it from our privileged position through the Cross where we are sitting with Christ in heavenly places.

Luke 9:1:

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

By now everybody would know how I love the story of the prodigal son. It seems that every time I read it, read something about it or hear somebody speak, I learn something more. Many years ago, in a group of women, I was surprised and shocked to learn what mind picture they have of God the Father. Most said they think of a strict, old man ready to judge and wipe them out. We agreed that day to think of the Father as the gracious figure of love and forgiveness in this story. Just imagine the enthusiasm welcoming you home with a hug, a party of only the best, new clothes, a ring and new shoes. What a joy! [Luke 15: 11-32]

Sitting by the pigs the son prepares a speech to beg his dad to take him back a labourer. In the arms of his father he realizes that he had no right to ask for the position of a slave. He was a son, and nothing could change that. His father cut him short and did not allow the full declaration of guilt and shame to be pronounced over himself. His identity is restored so that there is no record of his humiliation and wrong decisions.

Just this past week, I heard the example of the record that is taken when a child learns to ride a bike. The photo’s and video are usually about the triumphant success of the first solo-ride. All the bloody knees and teary falls are not recorded.

Are you ready to clothe yourself in you best party gear and give some content to Christmas?

We all know that Christmas is also marked by drunkenness and debauchery.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul warns against it.

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.

To be drunk with wine brings about foolish wildness that leads to shame and humiliation. As Elliot’s commentary puts it:

It is the effect of a self-abandonment, by which the sensual or passionate elements of the nature are stimulated to frenzy, while the self-controlling judgment is drugged to sleep.

Why would Paul bring the infilling of the Holy Spirit into this context? A drunken person does not have control over any part of his thoughts. All his thoughts and actions are controlled by the drunkenness.

We as believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, but keep some thoughts under the control of fear and unbelief. Part of us is in agreement with demonic activity that is always trying to undermine our powerful faith-life. Fear and unbelief weakens us.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to fully control our thinking, rinsing out the fear and doubt just like wine controls drunken thinking.

Pebble pals, hold on to your pebbles, your river stones. Remember your anchorless fellow earthlings and make a difference this Season.

Joshua 4:23:

For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; so that all the peoples of the earth may know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is mighty and extraordinarily powerful, so that you will fear the Lord your God [and obey and worship Him with profound awe and reverence] forever.”

12. Let there be light!

Only One has ever said: I am the Light of the world.

PebblesLight

Out of timeless darkness and disorder came the voice of Almighty God – Elohim. A world emerged – bold and big and beautiful to the applause and admiration of heaven’s hosts. As the foundations of the earth arose to its mighty measurements angels praised the excellence of animals and plants. Sun and moon illuminated the most magnificent of creation as man and woman walked in perfect harmony with Creation and Creator.

O Lord, Our Lord, How excellent is Your Name in all the earth.  Psalm 148

Hallelujah!

Praise God from heaven,

    praise him from the mountaintops;

Praise him, all you his angels,

    praise him, all you his warriors,

Praise him, sun and moon,

    praise him, you morning stars;

Praise him, high heaven,

    praise him, heavenly rain clouds;

Praise, oh let them praise the name of God—

    he spoke the word, and there they were!

 He set them in place

    from all time to eternity;

He gave his orders,

    and that’s it!

This song praises the Creator-God in all His glory and splendour. In the very beginning God spoke Light and brought order to chaos and darkness.

But deep down in a fiery pit of fury, a dark and evil cloud of smoke

billowed around a murderous plan. The enemy of the Creator – in frenzy arose, to destroy, defile, disable and divorce. In a moment of overwhelming deception, he devoured the crown of creation in disgrace and disaster.

Everything changed – rhythm interrupted. Man and woman ran and hid. Animals paused as instinct warned of the cruelty and chaos to come.

O what have you done? came explosions of blame in their minds. Through the blur of pain and confusion, came the Voice they knew and now feared . Where are you? He visited in love and longing to reach out, to comfort and cover, never to condemn, ready to forgive and talk it over.

Again the Creator spoke – to declare the Promise of victory, hope and grace. He spoke of One Who will be the Light forever. The One that restores all that was lost – a Messiah of love and salvation to rise in exalted victory over the enemy of God and man.

It was then that the battlefield was chosen. Not a plain set up in horses and soldiers – no guns, swords or atom bombs, nor the roar of canon fire.

A scorned hill outside Jerusalem with a cross, a man, a few shocked soldiers, and those remarkable women, silent in unspeakable sorrow.

Our world today is awash with fantacies of wonderful creative writers in all walks of life – good and bad. Max Lucado is a crowned Christian author who published a collection of Christmas stories. It is truly recommended reading and one of my favourites is: An Angel’s Story – telling the nativity drama from Gabriel’s perspective. It is such a joy to include a reading of one of his stories as part of our Christmas celebration to put the focus on Christ, right where it belongs.

Allow me to give you a taste of Lucado’s story, in my own words with emphasis on the blessing I received from his writing.

As Gabriel entered the throne room of the Almighty God, he bowed deep in reverence and worship. Stepping into the shadowless presence of his King, joy flooded his being en worship flowed spontaneously as countless times before. As the chief messenger of heaven, Gabriel stood ready for the words to send him off. He felt the joy and peace of God’s presence rising in his innermost. He knew that what he felt was the life-force of his existence.

He listened in awe, as the magnitude of the message became clear. Together with the rest of heaven’s beings, he knew how impossible it was for sinful man to enter the very place where he now stood.

He often witnessed the rituals and rules of animal sacrifices and other sacred rites, where the shedding of innocent blood had to clear the way for the people of God to worship in a small, dull, earthly replica of heaven’s tabernacle. Once a year, after all conditions had been fulfilled, only the high priest entered into the holy of Holies to plead for his people. Instant death followed arrogance and pretence. Only a humble and contrite heart entered the most revered place on earth.

Now, the King of Glory spoke again, just as in the days of creation. It is time to bridge the gap, to fulfill the promise, to crush the enemy, to win the war, to draw near as never before. Gabriel received the message and trembled as the impact of the words settled in his mind.

God Himself? He bowed again. Yes, God confirmed, I will go.

The Plan and the Player were ready, already since the beginning. Gabriel prepared to depart. As he left the heavenly throne, the music and voices of praise rose to fill the gates of the universe.

The message was delivered, quietly and lovingly – received in shocked surprise. Gabriel’s messag was clear, even the name. Jesus, you have to call the son of God, Yeshua, he told Mary. In the name was the one-word fulfillment of all prophecy and God’s answer to all need on earth – He shall save!

As he spoke to the young girl with a willing heart, the seed of God himself settled in her womb. In the obedience of one, the victory of heaven was set in motion. In a full understanding of the life of Mary, one can never again think that one person can not make a difference. Her obedience and humble submission to Gabriel’s message changed history and the destiny of mankind for all eternity.

One particular nightwatch of a few shepherds outside Bethlehem turned out to be the most significant of their lives. Looking after the lambs raised to be sacrificed, they heard the glorious announcement. Heaven’s praise descended and announced the birth of a boy in a stable. They ran, noticing a special star over the place that held the human body of the God of the universe.

Most other people slept through the announcement of His visitation to earth, not even realizing that their timeline was cut, their old customs and struggles were to change forever.

God came to announce the new order, the ultimate victory for every man. Still creation’s first gift, the gift of choice, remained unchanged. God visits only by choice!

The boy grew and slowly made Himself known. He lived amongst us, walked the paths, suffered the sorrow, proclaiming the heart of God. He offered life full of favour, free of fear. He taught the willing and fed the hungry. He healed the desperate and pleading, He forgave the condemned and hated, He loved the lost and lifted the lowly.

Need drew Him, humility impressed Him, faith evoked His power, unbelief angered Him. His words established the kingdom of heaven on earth, and determined history of the next centuries.

Just as the splendour of the earthly kingdom revealed in creation drew the fury of Satan, the power of the heavenly kingdom established by Jesus on earth in the hearts of the willing, evoked a hellish plot!

MURDER clouded Satan’s vision. The arrogance and pride that made him what he is, gave him the courage to set out and ….. kill GOD! He screamed and schemed. He fed on the blindness of the church and confirmed his plan in unbelieving rulers.

Again the world was sleeping when, in the darkness of Gethsemane, the son of God struggled with his destiny …. and won. Was it Gabriel, the majestic messenger, that visited the garden to impart strength for the ultimate sacrifice?

On the cross His cry of anguish became the victory of the unshakable kingdom – creation reconciled. Satan roared in premature celebration as darkness descended for three hours on that bleak and black Friday outside Jerusalem. But the Deceiver deceived himself. Death could never be his victory.

Death only emphasized life.

Was Gabriel the powerful Angel of Revelation 5?: [The Message]

I also saw a powerful Angel, calling out in a voice like thunder, “Is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seals?”

Heaven went silent. In motionless anticipation they waited. Through the colossal pillars of the glorious throne room, Jesus entered and took the scroll. The 24 elders and the four living beings fell down and sang a new song, a song that has never been heard before:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!

Gabriel joined in the praises of the 24 elders and the living beings singing :

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God the Almighty – the one who always was, who is and who is still to come.

Praises flowed spontaneously from all the heavenlies. Victory was complete, the price was paid. Everything was new and perfect as in the days of creation. Man walked with God again. In the poverty and persecution of the first church, the miraculous power of the glorious throne room flowed through those Christian pioneers to encourage and enable.

Over more than two thousand years, God’s people carried a message of love and salvation. Outwardly, the church had many faces, many vices and many voices. Inwardly, looking with new eyes – anointed eyes – the message to the shepherds is echoing in the hearts of millions. That message is the true one, the life-changing one, the rock of truth that stood the test of time. Just as the Voice of the Almighty established the earth in its foundations, His Word still sets the foundation of His true church.

Tonight you have heard the angels singing, you have heard the announcement of His birth made, exactly as it has been done for two thousand years, every year, since the first one.

Have you for one moment thought that He has ceased calling His flock? Why would God suddenly be silent? Where are you? Out in the fields, looking after the sheep and thus awake? Or fast asleep, unaware that the God of the universe is calling out in song and celebration to all of mankind?

Do you have the ears to hear, the eyes to see? Can you see through the decorations and the too-well-known songs? Can you hear the Voice of Love?

Be greatly blessed this Christmas season.