148. What then…how is it possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How then are we brought so low?

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

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

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

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

Our source is Jesus…

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

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

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

Confession brings instant relief.

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

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

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

 

 

We continue our discussion on fear in the next piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

146. The feasting table of faith in the storm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust our impulsive friend Peter to push matters along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

131. The prayer of prayers.

[John 17]

We have come to the end of the long summaries of Jesus’ conversations with His disciples. In this chapter He prays for them. It is remarkable that John records this prayer in so much detail. It is clear that Jesus’ words made a huge impression on him and it was part of the cherished words of Jesus he so lovingly preserved.

We also know that the Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and He quickened things in John to write about this Man he so loved. We trust God wholly for the Word. Holy Scripture is a revelation of who Jesus is and by Him we know the heart of the Almighty God as well as everything we need to know how to live a life of victory in Jesus here on earth.

[I refer again to the miracle of Scripture so extensively researched in Josh McDowell’s book: Evidence that demands a verdict.]

Back to John 17.

It is the prayer of all times, a prayer reaching over centuries to touch our hearts, encourage us, and inspire us. It is the man Jesus praying for us.

Could you pause for a moment and use your imagination to make this a reality? Think of Jesus praying for you. It is difficult to “make” a picture, but I am a visual person and need a “faith” picture. I think of Jesus as the lovely man I learnt to know in my children’s Bible from long ago. I often imagine Him sitting somewhere in my house. Right now I “see” Him looking up and saying to His father: Dad, I lift Ansophie up before your throne.Just writing it, is overwhelming.

Always KNOW that Jesus wants all men to be saved. He is praying for you!

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

The climax of the life of Jesus was the cross.

History shows that many great men found glory in death. How and when they died showed the people their inner convictions.

There at the cross the centurion cried out in a dramatic moment of conviction. Jesus was a magnet to men in life but also in His very public death.

The Cross was the completion of His work on earth. He showed that there is NO LIMIT to the love of God.

He walked in full obedience and through the Cross obeyed His father.

The Cross was not the end. The resurrection was the full glorification of the Father. Man could do their worst and still Jesus triumphs.

The Cross was the way back into the glory of the Father.

Jesus talks about eternal life.

The Greek is aionios meaning not so much duration but quality. Only God has eternal life and therefore for us it can only mean that God gives us HIS life, God-life, to live like Him.

Knowing God is a goal right through the Old Testament.  Knowledge of God is the highest life possible.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live; (Amos 5:4)

To know God through intellectual knowledge is to know what God is like. It will make all the difference to life. The most primitive people believe in a collection of gods in every tree, river, mountain and rock. All these gods are hostile and brings fear to the people. They must appease and live carefully not to offend. Missionaries tell of the immense relief when they surrender to One God. God is not stern and cruel, but loving and kind. Jesus is the ultimate example of this.

To know means intimate knowledge and is used in a sexual context (Genesis 4:1). Knowledge between the husband and wife is the most intimate. They become one flesh. One flesh implies an intimacy of heart, mind and soul in which true love reigns. To know God is to have an intimate relationship with Him, not mere intellectual knowledge. It is only possible in Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has shown forth the Father’s name. (17: 6-8)

  1. A name is very important in the Old Testament and Jewish culture in the time of Jesus. The name contains the whole character of the person. Psalms 9:10 states that those who know God’s name will put their trust in Him. By His name they will know what God is like in His character and nature. (Psalms 20:7; 22:22)

My people shall know my Name. (Isaiah 52:6)

Jesus says that whoever saw Him, saw the Father (John 14:9).

  1. Another aspect of the name of God is that is was so sacred it was never used. Only the high priest going into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, used the name of God – Yahweh. It was a name with no vowels in Hebrew and under it they wrote Adonai, so that the reader could talk about Adonai when he reads and not even say YHWH, which became Jehovah in English.

In the time of Jesus, God was so holy and so far away that ordinary people hardly talked about him. Jesus came and put the name of a sacred God on the lips of every person who could whisper a prayer to Him. He taught them to say our Father; actually it was even closer – calling God dad. It was unheard of. They never called God Father. To most people it was unthinkable, blasphemous and disrespectful.

But for those who accepted the teaching of Jesus, the unutterable became the beloved and powerful Father.

Jesus obeys God. Obedience is a natural consequence of following Jesus. Obedience is to be fully submitted to listening to His voice and following up in action.

The disciples were given to Jesus by God. He did not choose to call only those. He calls all, but only those who heed the call can enter into the special relationship.

Parents have dreams for their children and can do everything possible to enable them to have a wonderful life. In the end the child chooses. He can refuse and walk away. We can choose our destiny. We have free will. It is not forced upon us, but we all have the opportunity to choose God as a father for our lives.

In this prayer Jesus has confidence in the future. Nowhere is He gloomy or uncertain about the future. With the luxury of hindsight the church was off to a rocky start with severe persecution, and Jesus knew it.

Jesus had no doubt that the people He was praying for will carry His message no matter what.

He does not despise small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10) He had eleven men around Him after three years of ministry. Jesus knew His father and the fullness of His glory. He had no doubt that His mission was successful.

He puts His trust in men – it is almost unthinkable that a mission as great as the Christian church on earth was put in the hands of these fishermen.

What an encouragement!

Jesus was never daunted by human weakness and the evil of the world.

 

[This is a discussion of verses 1-8.]

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.

 

 

 

 

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.]

 

 

86. Homecoming discord.

The movies do it so well. It amazes me how film can express the awkward, emotional moments that portray the stress of discord in a relationship so vividly that I sit there with a knot in my stomach. A long lost brother coming home for a special occasion, either a funeral or a wedding, puts one on the edge of the seat, feeling the pain of uncertainty and wasted years.

We are children of God. Jesus is God’s son. He is our eldest brother through whom our world came into being. John writes of the grief of being made unwelcome in His great homecoming mission.

1:10-11 He was in the world, and, although the world came into being through him, the world did not recognize him. It was into his own home that he came, and his own people did not welcome him.

If men had only had the sense to see him, the Logos was always recognizable in the universe.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…   (Romans 1:20)

The world has been made to lead men to God. Creation and circumstances are so orchestrated to make men feel the void in their souls for the love that is calling out to them.

Theology has always made a distinction between natural theology and revealed theology. Revealed theology deals with the truth that comes directly from God through the prophets, the Bible, and through Jesus Christ. Natural theology deals with the truth that man could discover by the exercise of his own mind and intellect on the world in which he lives. How can we see God’s word, God’s reason, God’s mind (logos) in the world in which we live?

Revelation knowledge is the wonder of hearing our Saviour speaks through the written Word. It is the voice of conviction in our mind that directs our decisions and establishes our thoughts on the right path for our lives.

Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

For this, the greatest blessing on our earthly living, we study and pray.

We pray for insight into our world. We can only truly see when we see with Holy Spirit eyes. We look at the universe outwards. Basic Greek thought dictated that where there is order there must be a mind. The world has amazing order. The planets keep to their appointed courses. The tides observe their appointed times. Seed times and harvest, summer and winter, day and night come according to their appointed times (Genesis 11:22). Clearly there is order in nature, and, therefore, equally clearly there must be a mind behind it all. It is a superior mind, far beyond the mind of man.

We look at the universe upwards: Astronomers tell us that there are as many stars as there are grains of sand upon the seashore. Man can calculate precisely when and where an eclipse of the sun will happen hundreds of years from now, and to the second how long it will last. It has been said, “no astronomer can be an atheist.” When we look upwards we see God.

We look at our world inwards: Where did we get the power to think, to reason and to know? Where did we get our knowledge of right and of wrong? Where do remorse and regret and the sense of guilt come from? Why can we never do what we like and be at peace? No man can explain himself apart from God.

We look at our universe backwards: our whole of history is a demonstration of the moral law in action. Empires rise and collapse according to the pattern of moral degeneration.

Israel was specially God’s land and the Jews were specially God’s people. The Jewish nation is called God’s peculiar treasure (Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4). The door should have been wide open for Jesus, but he was rejected. The people were being prepared for a task over centuries and then they refused the task.

Today, so many people refuse the task God has for them. It is one of the reasons for discord in our lives.

What is God’s task for you now? Are you unhappy with your circumstances? Think carefully. God has a task for you. Are you refusing it?

The fact remains that God is preparing us by all the experiences of life for something; and many refuse the task when it comes and never even realize that they are refusing it.

1:12-13: To all those who did receive him, to those who believe in his   name, he gave the right to become the children of God. These were born not of blood, nor of any human impulse, nor of any man’s will, but their birth was of God.

A man is not naturally a child of God. He has to become a child of God. You could be in the classroom, even attending lectures, but it doesn’t make you a student. As one preacher said: sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car, sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian.

Man can only enter into friendship with God when God himself opens the way. We accept the life God offers through believing in the name of Jesus Christ.

Life is tough and we often do not feel full of faith, victoriously conquering evil and pushing back the power of darkness. We need to constantly surrender our feeling of weakness and defeat. In Jesus we can never be defeated. We will triumph over the most destructive circumstances imaginable, when we fully rely on the promised strength of Jesus.

We are promised so much in the powerful name of Jesus. Jewish thought named a person to portray his nature.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10).

We will put our trust in God because we know what he is like. We see in Jesus what God is like. We become children of God by what Jesus is and that opens up the possibility of becoming children of God. Maybe it is good that you feel weak and not able to do anything by yourself…go ahead – ask.

 

41. Everything is wrong!

Oh! It’s so easy. Pick up a newspaper and start reading … and read until a deep, dark mood decides nothing works out right. Unpleasant, angry feelings fill your inner being. You know that your standards for good living, good government, good decisions and good environment are down the drain with no apology, no compensation. Self-pity and anger, harsh words and abrasive comments burst from you exactly there where the fountains of living water should flow forth to a broken world. What exactly did Jesus say?

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

Jesus said it, so it is true and the consequences guaranteed. Trouble and tribulation will come. Would you like to choose your trouble? Lord, not this thank you. Oh no! I would like to surrender my life again and know that He will not allow anything to overwhelm me.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV)

This world is a challenge. Maybe we tend to divide our lives into spiritual and fleshly things. We feel justified to criticize world politics, our own politics and the decisions of authorities that we cannot change outside occasional elections until we fall into misery that bar the courage and strength of God’s word and work in our lives.

This is not a life of faith. Faith and the challenge to live fearless are the basis for our whole existence in imperfect and dangerous circumstances. The greater challenge is to look deeper and know that our God reigns over everything and in every possible condition. The purpose of our life is to be made perfect in Christ and respond to life in spiritual maturity. If worry and fear do not lead us into prayer, revelation and testimony of miracles, we live a tragedy.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:3-4, NKJV)

There is a place, Pebble pal, in the Garden of His presence with green pastures and still waters lacking NOTHING. It is all yours, now, this moment.

Paul also had trouble with the politics of the day, aimed against the new movement called Christianity and executed by his own people, causing “tears and trials”…

… serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials, which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; (Acts 20:19, NKJV)

Well, let us have a look at Nehemiah’s regional politics and the trouble it causes him. His response to devious plotting by his enemies was his characteristic quick prayers – resulting in constant communication with God. His narrative is meticulous, leaving the reader under no wrong impression. The wall is finished but the doors of the gates are not done. (Nehemiah 6.)

His enemies are active. Their activity is motivated by their own fear. Jerusalem in ruins with no defense and without organized residents suited them just fine. The picture is changed and they are afraid. Fearful people become bullies – we know that. They try to get to Nehemiah himself, knowing that if they can keep him busy or stir fear in him, the project will suffer. Four times they send messages to get him to talk to them. He refuses to get down from the place he is building. His response illustrates insight into their strategy.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave to come down to meet with you?” (6:3)

The fifth time Sanballat wrote a letter, which was not sealed. Did he want the people to see the content and spread the rumors, so that Nehemiah would be alarmed? Sanballat’s words in the letter were carefully chosen to spread rumours of rebellion against the Persian king, the very king who supported Nehemiah’s project. (6:6)

“It is reported among the neighboring nations, and Gashmu is saying that you and the Jews are planning to revolt, and that is the reason you are rebuilding the wall. And according to these reports, you are to be their king.”

Nehemiah answers short and sweet, not wasting time on lies, with a quick one-liner to God: (6:8,9)

I sent a message to him, saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done; you are inventing them in your own mind.”  For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

 Every temptation to draw us from duty should quicken us the more to duty.

Then the attack came from inside, fueled by betrayal. Not everyone is on the same page as Nehemiah, determined to finish a God-ordained project and tapping into the source of quick-prayers. He sustains his courage and inspiration by constant communication with God. Semaja entices him to take refuge in the Temple, since Nehemiah’s life is threatened by Sanballat and his cohorts. Nehemiah answers: (6:11)

And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!”

Semaja was bribed to help neutralize Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s insight into enemy strategy revealed empty threats and fear could not get a foothold.

Fear blooms in doubt and insecurity. Nehemiah’s steadfast dedication to the work, his unwavering trust in God’s protection and provision enables him to push for completion in record time. This is a precious principle of life.

The fear-strategy is so cunning; it is even launched among the prophets active inside Jerusalem. Nehemiah bemoans them all to God. (6:14):

My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.

The result is undeniable success. The wall is finished in record time – 52 days. The consequences of this achievement in the enemy camp are a joy to read. (6:16):

And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

When the enemy looses self-confidence is a day of triumph for me. God’s miracle is acknowledged through grit teeth!

What does it mean for us today?

If you are busy with a great work in the name of our Lord, you do not waste time on fear and intimidation.

You might say you have only an ordinary job to earn money. You are not serving in ministry or any such high and lofty calling-stuff. It does not matter. Everything you do, you do as unto God.

After these signs take place, do what must be done, for God is with you.

(1 Samuel 10:7, NLT)

Every job is a calling. Being a parent, a friend, a sibling or a child to your parents are the stuff a calling is made of. Live it as unto our Father. Do not give in to fear. God has great plans for your life and He promised to be with you always. In Jesus’ own words:

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NKJV)

The key to knowing our enemy’s fear strategy we find in Psalm 37 with the answer of trusting God. Read with me in The Message:

Don’t bother your head with braggarts

    or wish you could succeed like the wicked.

In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings

    and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.

Get insurance with God and do a good deed,

    settle down and stick to your last.

Keep company with God,

    get in on the best.

This is our life attitude, developed in the strength of the Holy Spirit in our inner being. We have not received a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) We have peace when the rest of the world withers in worry and dread. We cannot allow ourselves to listen to the fearful intimidation around us. We must respect the high calling of God in our life.

Our calling is our family and closest relationships in the first place. See what God has given you and build your wall. Further on in Psalm 37 is encouragement against the negative forces of life.

Less is more and more is less.

    One righteous will outclass fifty wicked,

For the wicked are moral weaklings

    but the righteous are God-strong.

 

God keeps track of the decent folk;

    what they do won’t soon be forgotten.

In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high;

    when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full.

 What is the last word on Nehemiah’s success?

A jolly feast with a live band! Do not forget the feast in God’s honour.

Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps. (12:27, NKJV)

Just read about the choirs and trumpet-playing priests, marching around the wall from gate to gate, giving thanks, feasting and singing at their handiwork.

Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away. (12:43, NLT)

Yes indeed, the enemy heard their rejoicing.

Nehemiah closes his narrative with a full report on sustainable management with focus and diligence. (12:44-47)

33. Order or chaos – the best way.

News images of the world bring the chaos of war, natural disasters and poverty to our lounges daily. In our own lives we struggle against chaos every day. We tidy up, clean, categorize, file and plan to ensure an orderly and effective existence. Chaos is like a monster always ready to devour and destroy. It is negative. It robs our confidence, causes depression and emotional confusion and feelings of powerlessness. Organized lives demand thought and planning.

Jerusalem was a heap of rubble, mostly deserted of permanent residents, when the exiles returned in the year 538 BC. Sixty years before, the Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, held Jerusalem in a deadly siege before he took the best of the nation into exile to Babylon. Only the weak, sick and old stayed behind. Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar and his successors although not all of them are mentioned in the Bible. Only Belshazzar in the incident with the writing on the wall is mentioned. He survived the Persian conquest of Babylon and served Darius the Mede and lived into the first year of the reign of Cyrus the Persian, which is a miracle in itself. Usually the conquering kings got rid of the administrative staff of the previous reign. Daniel knew the Scriptures; he knew the duration of the exile that has been prophesied by Jeremiah; he knew the 70 years have almost run out and prayed for God to intervene and take His people back to their home.

Under the miraculous good attitude of Cyrus, the first group of voluntary returning exiles was lavishly equipped with materials they would need to restore the Temple and city wall. Just imagine the situation in Jerusalem. The ruins have not been rebuilt; it probably served as hiding for robbers and vagabonds and the wall was a heap of rubble as a result of war. An ancient city without a wall was like man with no weapons, almost impossible to defend. Strong leadership is needed to command the process and motivate the people.

I am always amazed at the meticulous accounts of the rebuilding process in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which was one book in the Hebrew Bible. Ezra’s name means: the Lord has helped. Scholars accept that he has written the book bearing his name, as well as the book of Nehemiah and also the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. He was a learned man, known to study the law of God. He lived the Law and taught it; respected by the people and the king. Ezra 7:10-11:

For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.

Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even the scribe of the words of the commandments of Jehovah, and of his statutes to Israel:

In chapters 1 – 6 the return of the first group is described over a period of 23 years. They start the restoration of the Temple in eagerness and fervour, but lose heart because of resistance and hostility from the people that stayed behind and mixed with pagan groups. The enemy brings the work to a standstill. God is faithful. He calls the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to inspire the people to continue and encourage continuation of the building even though the Temple would not be as glorious and majestic as in the days of Solomon. The temple is dedicated in the year 515 BC.

Sixty years later a second group returns under the leadership of Ezra with even more money and valuables, including the Temple elements taken by Nebuchadnezzar at the beginning of the exile – amazing ancient administration! Ezra becomes spiritual reformer and leading priest, preaching a return to the spirit of the Law, even to the point of divorcing their pagan wives who caused their backsliding. He continually emphasizes God’s faithfulness and grace and man’s unfaithfulness.

God’s faithfulness and guidance in times of political turmoil are super important for our lives today and serve as a lighthouse in a very stormy and scary sea. We are constantly aware of the unrest and instability of political upheaval and decisions made far beyond our interests.

When everything looks so dark, I want to pray the prayer of the blind man: Lord that I can see! Cause me to see your mercy and outcome. God will shorten the exile; he softens the hearts of world leaders. He calls the prophets to exhort and inspire. He raises up the teachers to reveal His Word and Will for us to learn so that we are strong and confident.

We cannot allow hostility to stop the building of the Temple.

Hear the words of encouragement from Zechariah to the builders: [4:6,7]

Then he said to me, This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts.

For who are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain [a mere molehill]! And he shall bring forth the finishing gable stone [of the new temple] with loud shoutings of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it!

Let these ancient words of reinforcement, remove obstacles and the Spirit of the God of grace Who gives it, echo in our world today and establish us in truth.

Even after the completion of the Temple, the people are uncommitted and sinful. Ezra enters into earnest prayer for the purification of the people. He is so broken before God – Ezra 9:3:

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my robe, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down confounded.

He confesses the sin of the people and pronounces God’s mercy and provision over them. One can wonder about this. How can he confess on behalf of the people, when his own life is lived so pure and submitted to God? This is a miraculous and visionary principle in the Word of God. We can intercede for our family, our friends, our city and our country and confess their sins on their behalf so that God can be gracious and provide for them. Ezekiel 22:30:

And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.

A dark picture of the land is painted in Ezekiel 22. Just listen for a moment and realize what an accurate description this is of so many parts of the world today. [The Message]

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, tell her, ‘You’re a land that during the time I was angry with you got no rain, not so much as a spring shower. The leaders among you became desperate, like roaring, ravaging lions killing indiscriminately. They grabbed and looted, leaving widows in their wake.

26-29 “‘Your priests violated my law and desecrated my holy things. They can’t tell the difference between sacred and secular. They tell people there’s no difference between right and wrong. They’re contemptuous of my holy Sabbaths, profaning me by trying to pull me down to their level. Your politicians are like wolves prowling and killing and rapaciously taking whatever they want. Your preachers cover up for the politicians by pretending to have received visions and special revelations. They say, “This is what God, the Master, says . . .” when God hasn’t said so much as one word. Extortion is rife, robbery is epidemic, the poor and needy are abused, outsiders are kicked around at will, with no access to justice.’

This is chaos.

God seeks a righteous man to stand in the gap, to confess the sins, to repair the defenses, to war in prayer against chaos.

These words are the most profound reproach from God and sadden me deeply. I want to cry out: I will pray Lord. You have given me the tool to stand against chaos, to defend the city, to plead for Your mercy upon my family, my friends and my people. Here am I Lord. I do not want to hear the chilling words: …but I found none.

It does not matter that political decisions are made far from me, that presidents are chosen, leaders are deposed, terrorists in black scream death and destruction. I stand as a daughter/son of the Most High and the Commander of the Hosts of Heaven.

I rule. I CAN PRAY!

This is not a call to join in the whining and complaints of the general conversations. It is also not a call to ignore the practicalities of our situation and provide with our Spirit-ruled minds for the best solutions in our lives. It is a call not to worry and loose faith. It is call of war to pray and believe our God reigns.

Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Are we not the people of the Covenant? How could we ever rate politics higher than the terms of the Blood Covenant? Our prayer should be that God opens our eyes to see His grace and provision within the turmoil of world politics, to identify the true prophets, to listen to the teachers and priests and pray for the leaders.

We all are the learned priest Ezra. We build the Temple. We restore the house of prayer and worship. It has been proclaimed over us in 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

 We are the light. Our logo is the Cross and the complete salvation it brings.

Pebble pal, the command is clear. We are called out of darkness into light to proclaim the praises of our God. We have been promised the faithfulness of God, the money and materials, the attitude of the king, the prophets for encouragement, the priests for teaching. Our future shines bright and sure.

Therefore strengthen the hands, which hang down, and the feeble knees… [Hebrews 12:12]

In the words of that same prophet who inspired the exiles – Zechariah 8:9:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Let your hands be strong,

You who have been hearing in these days

These words by the mouth of the prophets,

Who spoke in the day the foundation was laid

For the house of the Lord of hosts,

That the temple might be built.

 

Next time: Set the altar in spite of fear

Ezra 3:3:

Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.

 

23. Check the cartridge.

How could we ever measure love? Is it an all or nothing, a little bit when things are rough and a lot when we feel accepted and valued?

We are studying the role of the Holy Spirit in our life and learning the immeasurable love of God by realizing the riches of His glory in our inner being. How then do we respond to such an abundance of source to our disposal with immediate availability at all times?

The chapter on the gifts of the Holy Spirit starts out with a discussion on the functioning of a body and its members, comparing the body of Christ to the functioning of a physical body. We all know exactly what the stringent requirements for unity of purpose and unquestioning support in our physical bodies are, since we live and move and function effectively when our bodies are healthy and body parts support each other unconditionally.

A sick and suffering member is immediately provided for and held up by other members. A left hand stretches its ability beyond anything previously though possible, when a right-handed person injures that dominant hand. An injured leg is allowed to rest and be cripple while the other leg work much harder. The brain does not question the new demands in times of fear and injury; rather, it makes split-second decisions to ensure survival.

What does the church of Jesus look like today? We should be the victorious church of Revelation, clothed in white, rich in golden testimonies with our eye on the prize which is Jesus in His fullness and functioning as the extended hand of our loving heavenly Father.

We are not talking denominational church here. We all belong to the universal church of Jesus Christ, His body here on earth. The local church, which might be of various denominations, is not the full picture. I have no doubt that born-again, Spirit-filled individuals can rise above the constraints of denominationalism and make the rational decision to walk in unity. Unity is not a feeling or dogmatic superiority. It is a decision to reach out and love beyond the confines of human arguments and stubbornness.

The church Jesus came to save and restore, was loveless, arrogant and exclusive. They did not recognize their Messiah, although everything in their history prepared them for His arrival. They tested Him with arguments, they questioned His ministry in every possible way – stunned by His numerous healing miracles and angry and aggressive when He forgave sins. They did not even realize how far off the mark they were, not aware of their own sin, but very aware of everybody else’s. It was a church feared for condemnation and punishment, without mercy and far from the haven of security it was supposed to be, clinging to ancient rituals to please a God from whom they were far removed by the hardness of their hearts.

Church of Jesus, what do we look like? Will we crucify Jesus if He comes today and reach out to our hurting and wounded members? It is easy to rest in the armchair of history and judge from afar with a smirk of satisfaction that we are not part of all those glaring mistakes.

We need the eye salve of the Holy Spirit [Revelation 3:18] to focus on the right things and above all, truly see the things in our lives that will cause us to miss our Messiah. Turn with me to a disturbing story in the Gospel of Matthew [25: 1-13].

Jesus tells a story of the wise and the unwise. I have an insatiable desire for wisdom – as it is defined:

the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise,

and especially the second part of the definition:

the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

I would like to know exactly what to do and how to do it at exactly the right time. It sounds like so much to ask, but it is what God promises, without reproach, in James 1.

Back to the story. Ten virgins with lamps are all expecting the bridegroom. Five virgins have oil for their lamps and five have nothing extra. The cry comes at midnight to meet the bridegroom and while all trim their lamps, the foolish virgins’ lamps fade and they have to leave to buy oil. In the time they are gone, the bridegroom comes and the five wise go in to the marriage feast. The foolish virgins come back to a shut door. They knock and get the shocking answer:

‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

This is not what we would like to hear from our bridegroom.

The story speaks of virgins – to me it implies holiness and commitment. To be holy is to be set apart for a specific purpose. They had lamps. I get the impression their lamps were all burning. They had reason to relax and think they are prepared. They were with other virgins in unity of purpose. They were all expecting the bridegroom. The facts are given in such a way that we are inclined to think that the ten were all the same. Still, in the very beginning they are called wise and foolish – a fundamental differentiation.

The key is the oil. Oil has always been symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The priests had to be anointed with oil to be marked as separate and special. The oil in the lamps of the Holy of Holies in the Temple is the Holy Spirit illumination on the Word [the Table of Showbreads – see Pebbles number 6]. It is only in the divine light of God’s spirit that we read the Word of God with insight and understanding to restore life and renew energy. It is our action for divine healing.

Mark 6:13:

They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

James 5:14,15:

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

What a promise of divine intervention when we pray and believe! This passage leads up to the wonderful words of James:

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I will always remind you that your righteousness is not your own doing or efforts. We are all made righteous in the sight of God by the blood of Jesus. To accept this and be made righteous, you need to make a conscious, rational decision to give your life to God and accept Jesus as your Saviour who died for your sin. Through His blood you are forgiven and made right with your loving Father. Your prayer will be powerful and effective.

 Faith is NOT a feeling. It is a decision to trust God and take His word as truth. Expect His divine intervention. Expect a miracle. Expect healing. Talk to God. Even if you have never talked to Him in ages or only in formal prayer. Talk to Him as you would to the dearest family member you can imagine. Surrender and break up before Him.

Psalm 51:17:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart

    you, God, will not despise.

Are the foolish virgins still worrying you? How could the bridegroom not know them? How could they be shut out? They were virgins with lamps expecting the bridegroom.

Keep in mind that God always finishes something He has started. Philippians 1:6:

…that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

This is a full guarantee of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginner and Finisher of your faith, the Author of Salvation in His almighty capacity upholding your life.

The foolish virgins had oil in their lamps, but only for immediate use, no reserves. When crisis came, they had to buy more. They are Christians, living a life in Christ but it is a hand -to -mouth -existence. We cannot only be disciples, we have to watchful and filled-up disciples – ready for attack and strong in the face of adversity, which comes, like the bridegroom, unexpected and unannounced.

This story is about being prepared and gifted [charismatic means operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit] Christians. The bridegroom that comes is the crises and problems of life. In each of them you will know your bridegroom better and meet God at a deeper level, than you ever thought possible in smooth times. When you walk into an exam with a fountain pen, you have at least one cartridge to spare. Life is full of spiritual exams. Check your cartridge-levels.

We are people living in the continual, miraculous supply of the Spirit within. Therefore we should take all possible steps to bring us to the knowledge of that fullness now.

Jesus is the source – the only Source. Talk to Him. He is the key. He baptizes in the Holy Spirit. He brought us the Promise of the Father – the Spirit in us.

Until next time – be greatly blessed.