151. Look… and see the mystery.

We live in a visual world these days. To children and adults alike, education and entertainment are visual, dramatic, dynamic and constantly improved.  In classrooms and boardrooms the new tech is used to make people understand and remember as well as stimulate creativity and initiative.  The days of dusty chalk on blackboards are long gone.

Long, long ago, the Greek philosopher, Socrates, was opposed to “the art of writing”.  He thought that writing everything down would spoil the ability to memorize facts.  People would be complacent when information is available in writing and not make the effort to engage the retaining faculties of the mind. [I include his reasoning at the end of this piece – interesting to think about it in terms of our modern day “wisdom”.]

Screens in all shapes and sizes are all around us, in the workplace and in our homes.  Just think for a moment what was available a half century ago. Going to the movies was a special night out.  The drive-in was the go-to place for the latest Hollywood productions.  Now all of those are available on the couch with the world of Holly- and Bollywood and so much more at the touch of the remote button. Students study online in virtual lecture halls at their own convenience.  Where are the days of small tape recorders in the front row of university classes?  (Not that I long for any of this – I enjoy the world of information at my fingertips.)

Time travel with me, not to the days of Socrates or even the beginnings of writing in Egypt – further back.  Take the big steps, like only our God-given imagination can, to the days of Noah – yes, so far back.  To Noah, God set up the screen of the universe and said: Look!  He displayed the heavenly splendour in a colour-arch to serve us to this day, as steady and beautiful as ever.

“Hear” the surround sound and “see” the biggest screen of the firmament to “read” God’s art of writing. He says:

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you,

 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 

 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9,12,13,16)

When God says: look, it is not a casual invitation to take a quick look.  When God says: look, your life depends on it.  Take a look, pause and calmly think about it, understand and invite the insight of the Holy Spirit into your mind for the quickening of your inner being and live – truly live!

To hear and see have never been so important.  To look with your mind and heart fully involved, is to receive the instruction of the biggest screen ever – the heavenly skies of unending majesty stretching further and wider than you could ever imagine over past and future in a moment of eternity.

Look at the rainbow!  Know what it means!

It is vital to know that the rainbow is always there, always visible.  We need the right optical elements to see it.  We need a prism to see God’s light “divided” into colours.  That is what a prism does.  It divides light. The rainbow gives us a taste, so to speak, of the manifold power of the covenant promises.   Just think how lovely it is to see the rainbow when the light shines through the shower door, or the kitchen window, or the water drops on the bricks.

Just the other day I stared in wonder in the bathroom when the chandelier caught the first sun of the morning and the bathroom was bathed in colour.  I rejoiced and asked God for a chandelier in my spirit to always see the full spectrum of his covenant.

What do I need to “see” the rainbow at all times?  I need a life-prism.  The life-prism is faith.  How do I get faith when my circumstances toss me in the stormy seas and I feel I am sinking?

I need the glasses, or contact lenses of the Word of God.  I need to hear the Word – it is the faith building bricks of a godly life.

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Romans 10:17)

The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.  (Romans 10:17, The Message)

We all experience fear very real and very physical.  We never have to fake fear.  It is there and it makes itself known in no uncertain terms.

As physical and real fear presents, as physical and real the rainbow is our sign of outcome and relief.  To see and be filled with the peace of God we need to grab hold of his Word, to know and understand what He has said.

Please read Genesis 9 to hear the beautiful words of God when He gave us the rainbow.

It the golden thread that guarantees the Covenant promises to the end of time.

And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.(Revelation 4:3)

I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.(Revelation 10:1)

 

 

 

 

 

Socrates:

In fact, it [the art of writing] will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing. And they will be difficult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.”

 

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62. Surely it will come.

We are in the first days of a new year. Something new is such a delight. There is deep satisfaction in the idea of new. A clean start, a new beginning, something different and fresh, redesigned, renewed, restored – an inspiring thought.

We have just relived the days of Christmas again. On that first Christmas night, very few people realized the revolutionary change that was imminent. The promise came at last. Over many centuries that moment was prophesied, expected, longed for and maybe even doubted in the delay. It could also be that all the expectation over the generations made the people tired of waiting; one could call it promise-fatigue – doubting the outcome, the promise and even the God promising.

Where do you stand Pebble pal? Do you hold fast, running the race with endurance and faith to press in to your miracle of intervention? Do not give up. Every Christmas and every Easter stand as witnesses of the reliability of God’s promises. Surely it will come. As certain as we are that the seasons will change and day and night will come – a rhythm that has never been interrupted according to the promise of Genesis 8:22.

“While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

Cold and heat,

Winter and summer,

And day and night

Shall not cease.”

How sure are you about day and night and summer and winter? Exactly that certainty underscores God’s promises. How can we raise our expectations? By faith. There is only one way we can boost our faith.

 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

We are living in a world where evil surrounds us exactly as we have seen in the previous chapter (17) of Revelation. Immorality, lies, cruelty, oppression, poverty and famine, war and suffering depress my spirit within a few minutes of watching the news. Half the people are thrilled with leaders while the other half cry in despair about seemingly irreconcilable differences in political opinions. I cry out to God to grant wisdom to our world leaders to make the decisions for real progress and upliftment of those who need it most. According to Miriam Webster uplift means to raise to a higher social, intellectual, or moral level or condition. We need that, the world needs that – Jesus is the only One to work a miracle of restoration within a person and his circumstances. He is the answer. What a privilege to know Him.

When we look at the world around us, we see the despair and destruction. When will it end and will it ever end are the questions flung towards the heavens. For any human being the scale of earth’s tragedy is just too big and overwhelming. We need God! We need a good God, an almighty God and a loving God to take care of this mess. This is Who we know, Pebble pal. Our loving Father is “abounding in goodness and truth”, the almighty One, the God of miracles, the Prince of Peace, the wonderful Counselor, the everlasting Father.

Chapter 18 of Revelation is a doom song, in other languages called a song of sorrow, which is common in prophetic literature. We read in Isaiah 13:19-22 a doom song about ancient Babylon and in Isaiah 34:11-15 about Edom. Jeremiah 50:39 and 51:37 is part of the doom songs about Babylon. God judges evil, but it is always with the sorrow of what could have been if they chose salvation. Zephaniah 2:13-15 contains a doom song about Nineveh, here quoted as an example.

And He will stretch out His hand against the north, Destroy Assyria,

And make Nineveh a desolation, As dry as the wilderness.

Here in Revelation 18 the angel comes with the light of God upon him. John might have been thinking about Ezekiel’s description.

He brought me to the gate, the gate facing east; and behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory.” (Ezekiel 43:1-2)

H.B. Swete writes of this angel: “So recently he has come from the Presence that in passing he brings a broad belt of light across the dark earth.”

Before the destruction, God is calling His people out (18:4), as always throughout history. We need to come out from among them just as:

  • Abraham – Genesis 12:1
  • Lot – Genesis 19:12-14
  • Moses – Numbers 16:23-26 – from the tents of wicked men of rebellion.
  • Isaiah – Isaiah 48:20
  • Jeremiah – Jeremiah 50:8, 51:6,45.
  • Paul asks believers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15:

 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?

… and 1 Timothy 5:22:

Do not participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.

How does one live this practically? One cannot leave this world altogether. In the words of one commentator:

[The words] imply a certain “aloofness of spirit maintained in the very heart of the world’s traffic.” They describe the essential apartness of the Christian from the world. The commonest word for the Christian in the New Testament is the Greek hagios whose basic meaning is different. The Christian is not conformed to the world but transformed from the world (Romans 12:2). It is not a question of retiring from the world; it is a question of living differently within the world.


The vengeance of God on the pride of Babylon (18: 6-8) speaks of punishment. The instruction is to an angel, not to the people. Vengeance always belongs to God. It will come according to His command and always just; more just than humanity could ever hope to be.

Man reaps that which he sows. Jesus said:

The measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7:2)

The concept of double punishment or double reward, or double payment for loss was often found in Jewish laws. (Exodus 22:4,7,9)

Pride will be humiliated. Rome’s sin is pride. Often sin can be “argued” back to the root of pride. (Isaiah 3:16 -17)

 Tyre is condemned because she has said: “I am perfect in beauty”. (Ezekiel 27:3)

 In Greek hubris means arrogance, which literally means: has no need of God. In the Strong’s definition it is explained further:

Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments

The whole rest of the chapter is a dirges [a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite] for Rome as a symbol of evil society in the same measure as Babylon and all aspects of her social order including the kings (18:9-10) merchants (18:11-16) and shipmasters and sailors (18:17-19). We hear about the greatness, wealth and luxury of evil society.

This part of the vision is almost an echo of Roman literature and the writings of historians on Roman society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, Satires of Juvenal, Lives of the Caesars and the works of Tacitus.

In comparison with these books nothing John wrote about Rome could be an exaggeration.

Even the Talmud (Jewish Bible) said ten measures of wealth went to Rome and the rest received only one. Scholars think we are babes in the matter of enjoyment and luxury compared to that of the ancient world. There existed almost a desperate competition in ostentation. Everything was done for show. To desire the impossible was deemed impressive. The first century world poured its riches into the Roman Empire from east to west. The money possessed and spent was colossal. Caligula and Nero were among the biggest spenders. It is said that they squandered the income from three provinces in one day.

One Roman historian writes of Caligula: “In reckless extravagance he outdid the prodigals of all times in ingenuity, inventing new sorts of baths and unnatural varieties of food and feasts; for he would bathe in hot or cold perfumed oils, drink pearls of great price dissolved in vinegar, and set before his guests loaves and meats of gold.” He even built galleys whose sterns were studded with pearls. Of Nero Suetonius tells us that he compelled people to set before him banquets costing more than 20,000 British pounds. “He never wore the same garment twice. He played at dice for 2,000 British pounds per point. He fished with a golden net drawn by cords woven of purple and scarlet threads. It is said that he never made a journey with less than a thousand carriages, with his mules shod with silver.”

Drinking pearls dissolved in vinegar was a common ostentation. Cleopatra is said to have dissolved and drunk a pearl worth 80,000 British pounds. Valerius Maximus at a feast set a pearl to drink before every guest, and he himself, Horace tells, swallowed the pearl from Metalla’s ear-ring dissolved in wine that he might be able to say that he had swallowed a million sesterces in a gulp.

In the time when John was writing a kind of insanity of wanton extravagance, to which it is very difficult to find any parallel in history, had invaded Rome.

When Rome fell, the merchants lamented all over the world, as they supplied her extravagance and were enriched in the process (18:11-16). It reminds of the lament of the kings and merchants over Tyre in Ezekiel 26:1-21, 27: 1-36.

The lament of the merchants is purely selfish. The markets and wealth of the merchants and kings stand afar off to watch Rome’s demise. There is, of course, no helping hand, no love since the only bond was luxury and trade.

Rome had a passion for silver. For many years they had as much as 40 000 slaves in silver mines. Pliny tells us that women would bathe only in silver baths, soldiers had swords with silver hilts and scabbards with silver chains. Even poor women had silver anklets and slaves had silver mirrors.

 Precious stones were brought to the West by Alexander the Great.

Of this Plinius said: the fascination of a gem was that the majestic might of nature presented itself in a limited space.

One of the strangest of ancient beliefs was that precious stones had medicinal qualities. Today in New Age tradition all sorts of crystal are sold with the promise of well being and healing.

Of all stones the Romans loved pearls more than any other. Linen came from Egypt. Purple came from Phoenicia. It is derived from phoinos, which means blood red. Ancient purple was redder than today. It was made from a shellfish vein and had to be extracted as the little creature dies. It dried up quickly and only one drop came from each fish. Silk came from China. It was far away and sold for a pound of gold. Scarlet was used for banqueting couches to supplement very ostentatious furnishings.

 Woods, used for the many furnishings in the palaces of the noble, came from North Africa. It was called thyine in Latin. It was a citrus wood, sweet smelling and beautifully grained. The tree was not very large and that made tabletops rare. Tables were made with marble legs. Nero had 300 of these tables in his palace.

 Ivory, from the elephants of Africa, was used decoratively in sculptures, statues and swords.

Bronze came from Corinth, iron from Spain. Rome had a special office to import the finest marble from wherever it was mined. Cinnamon was brought in from India and Zanzibar. All sorts of spices were used in the oils for dressing hair and preparing for funerals.

Incense was made of stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense, which are all perfumed gums or balsams (Exodus 30:34-38).

Myrrh was the gum resin of a shrub which grew mainly in Yemen and in North Africa. It was medically used as an astringent, a stimulant, and an antiseptic. It was also used as a perfume and for the embalming of bodies. Frankincense was the gum resin produced by a tree of the genus Boswellia. It was used for perfume for the body, for the sweetening and flavouring of wine, for oil for lamps and for sacrificial incense.

In the ancient world wine was universally drunk, but drunkenness was regarded as a grave disgrace. Wine was usually highly diluted, in the proportion of two parts of wine to five parts of water. Even slaves had abundant wine as part of their daily ration.

The chariots here mentioned was called rede. They were not racing or military chariots. They were four-wheeled private chariots, and the aristocrats of Rome often had them silver-plated.

Slaves and the souls of men mentioned here can be explained by the language of the ancient world. The word used for slave is soma, which literally means a body. The slave market was called the somatemporos, literally the place where bodies are sold. A slave is sold body and soul into the possession of his master.

Roman civilization was built on slavery and fully relied on it for its existence. Any given time there were around 60 000 000 slaves throughout the Empire. It was not unusual for one household to own 400 slaves. They used slaves like the limbs of the body – each for a task. Slaves were also for thinking. The nomenclatores (nobility of Rome) used slaves for comprehensive assistance to everything they did – eating, going to bed, even greeting friends on the owner’s behalf. Slaves learnt poetry, and were required to stand behind the master to provide suitable quotes. Beautiful slaves were used for decoration. Talented slaves had to perform for entertainment and sometimes even present obscene repartee. As entertainment pornographic plays were performed by slaves. Guests wiped their soiled hands on slaves’ hair. Freaky bodily disfigurement, like dwarfs, giants and others was used for entertainment. The angel paints the grim picture of a society that could only lead to doom and punishment. For this the merchants mourned.

Shipmasters were the businessmen of the ports important to transport the goods. They were wealthy because of the obscene extravagance of the caesars. They lament, not for Rome; only for themselves. There is a complete lack of friendship and love.

Friendship is a gift from God – don’t take it for granted. Just to have somebody who feels sorry for what you are going through and pray with you, is more valuable than any wealth or fame.

There is joy in the middle of everything (18:20). Joy in God’s vengeance and judgment, brings rest and peace. We do not have to judge or punish. Leave it all to God. (Deuteronomy 32:43 and Jeremiah 51:48)

 Final desolation is described in 18:21-24. Rome will be obliterated, illustrated by the symbolic action of throwing a millstone into the sea. The heavy rock will be impossible to haul out again. There will be no way that the final judgment of God could ever be reversed.

…then you shall say, ‘O Lord, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever.’ Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.’” (Jeremiah 51:62-64)

God said Tyre shall never be rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:13).

Let us rest in God’s judgment. He is just and faithful and wants everybody to be saved. He is a good God, always. This is His word. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His word will never pass away.

 

20. New and newer – a complete makeover.

In the northern hemisphere spring is in the air. It seems like a fresh green mist covers the trees and bulging bulbs promise beauty and colour in expectation of the warmer days to come. Renewal is clear in the seasonal change. The season blooms in assurance of the promise of Genesis 8:22:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.

I live in Canada and we have the privilege to live close to a natural forest. Late summer last year, in September, we had an unexpected snowstorm. Within a few hours everything was white and the trees heavy with quite a few inches of snow. Some branches bent and some broke. One branch, high up in a tree behind the house, snapped but stayed attached to the tree. The leaves turned brown but did not fall off. A whole long Canadian winter later, the brown leaves are still hanging on that snapped branch.

IMG_2142It is only a living branch that rids itself of its dead leaves and prepare for the renewal of spring. The brown leaves on the branch are proof of its lifelessness, although it might look as if it still belongs to the tree.

Could we be part of the church of Christ, clothed in dead works that contrasts sharply with the powerful renewal of life in the promises of the Word? It is only with a full understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit that we will be renewed and our minds transformed.

We are remembering the exciting days of expectation after the resurrection. So often Jesus prepared His disciples for the dark days of His death, but they could never fully understand the true meaning of His words until they saw Him face to face. It is still true today. A powerful encounter with the risen Christ rids us of our dead works and fruitless mindset. The words of the Word are living in us to give us a complete makeover.

But, the moment of departure came. The words spoken in those last hours are super important. Jesus knew that He would never see them in the same circumstances again and the leave-taking would have been so shattering, was it not for His amazing farewell gift.

Listen closely to His words in Luke 24.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Quite a few outstanding moments mark this short description of a remarkable occasion – probably the most memorable of that little group’s entire lives.

Jesus addresses their fear. He knows His glorified appearance is a supernatural and daunting experience. He emphasizes His words of before the crucifixion and brings them under the authority of the Scriptures. In His own words: This is what is written… You are witnesses of these things.

He does a miracle in their minds. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He performs the miracle because it is necessary for an intervention of Jesus Himself to understand the Word of God. He would not have done it if it were not necessary. Jesus only performs miracles in great need. A miracle is never unnecessary. To be a witness of these things they needed a touch of glory, an anointment, and special insight. He unlocks the power of Himself in them to understand, to interpret and to speak.

But it not all. Is this not enough, you might ask? If Jesus says it is not finished, who are we to disagree. His words:

…but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

These are the very last recorded words of Jesus. Sit up and pay attention. His Father promised Him the Holy Spirit so that He could dwell in His friends. God in them would empower them for the task that lay ahead to host His presence among the people. Why?

Jesus is not a paperdol-dress that we use as a front cover. We cannot cover our nakedness and shame, blindness and poverty with one-dimensional religious activities. He is the Source of all truth and goodness and only His presence can rid us of dead works. Legalism and prejudice will expose our shame and guilt like last season’s dead leaves, even if it appears attached to church. You are just like a snapped branch and have to be repropogated into the true Vine.

Romans 8:25-27:

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Henry Matthew Concise Commentary:

The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not

This explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding transformation and a new mindset to welcome the full blessing of Pentecost. The disciples were frightened of Jesus in His glorified body and Peter was humiliated and full of shame. After Pentecost that same Peter preached 3000 people into the Kingdom convincing them to think anew, without circumcision, without Jewish ethnical requirements, without the blood of animals.

Peter’s words in Acts 2:37,38 and 41:

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

I have never attended a service where 3000 people were baptized. What a powerful ministry moment!

In the next chapter of Acts Peter speaks godly power-words to the lame man. Acts 3:1-10:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Pebble pal, you belong to an Almighty God for Whom nothing is impossible. Sing the song of Moses in Exodus 15:11:

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Where are you at this moment? Are you comfortable in the knowledge of a miracle-working Father or hesitant and full of doubt, overwhelmed with need?

Pay close attention to Acts 2:39:

The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

It is you! Rejoice! The power that enabled Peter that day and all the days after, is available through the Holy Spirit to you and can change your life. Grab hold of this promise, free yourself of your prejudice and doctrines of man and incline your ear to the Word of God to truly hear. Ask for the full blessing with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. It is for everybody. Jesus promises that we will do greater works. [John 14:12]

I am certain everybody will agree that we need the full blessing of a wonderworking God in this day and age.

Be greatly blessed.

13. Look – I have something new!

There is a thrill to it – something brand new. All over the world the people celebrate a new calendar year, simply a day like all others that starts with the usual daybreak and sunrise and ends with sunset and darkness. Still, it is different and marked by the date with which we count it. New resolutions are made. Thoughts and actions are lined up to change for the better and the hope of success is the motivation for an effort towards greater goals and higher achievement.

For the child of God every day is a new year. It is a new beginning with the ultimate clean slate. Isaiah 1:18 – to be quoted again and again until it becomes our default setting:

Come now, let us settle the matter,

    says the Lord.

Though your sins are like scarlet,

    they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red as crimson,

    they shall be like wool.

In these days of new beginnings, sweep the old under the Blood so that no baggage of failure and disappointment clouds your new beginning. God is ready for you, with a good year ahead. He is a

good God who cannot act out of anything but the love that He is. He defines Himself as abounding in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6:

And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…

He is the source of all good things. Exodus 33:19:

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you…”

He loves you and wants to bless you exceedingly with His goodness, even in your wilderness and desert. Isaiah 43:19:

Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Sit still for a moment and think how you think. Thoughts are the key to new beginnings in every aspect of life. We all know how fruitless our new year’s resolutions can turn out to be. We need God and by the working of the Holy Spirit, renewed thinking. Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Make a list of all the characteristics of God that will carry you through 2015. His goodness, unconditional love, faithfulness, grace, unmerited favour and the promise of His presence will be the foundation on which everything else in your life stands and grows.

If you have God, nothing else matters, if you don’t, it doesn’t matter what you have.

We are caught up in our calendar – counting and marking our days with numbers. God set Israel in a rhythm of celebrations for worship throughout the year. These first days of a new year are the perfect time to mark you calendar with special occasions of personal celebration.

Feasts are anointed parties, consciously celebrating blessing. Build them into your year and if you have children or family with you, include them when you dish up something special, marked by the testimony of God’s grace. Blessed is he, who distinguishes between the holy and the ordinary. Make the ordinary holy. Holy means to set it apart for a specific purpose. It is not something falsely elevated to be boring or unreachable. Just go ahead and declare an ordinary meal a celebration of blessing. Say it with joy and praise God in the process. Psalm 90:12:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Celebrate blessing!

The Amplified Bible defines blessing as:

happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions…

with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace.

Now that is a mouth full of honey – eat it and be filled, just like Ezekiel in the presence of God so long ago. Ezekiel 3: 1-3:

He said to me, Son of man, eat what you find in this book; eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat the scroll.

And He said to me, Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

When we feast on the Word our eyes will be opened to see God’s goodness and direction in our lives. That is what makes life worth living. We are not the mindless victims of circumstances. We are princes and princesses of the Almighty and have access to supernatural intervention.

Please pray with me a New Year’s prayer:

My Father, thank you for Jesus your Son, who was born to die for my sins and to give me access to the throne room of the Most High.

I celebrate Your greatness and submit all fear and uncertainty to Your unconditional love for Your unmerited favour and me over all aspects of my life.

Open my eyes to see into the unseen of Your goodness and grace over my life.

Open my ears to hear Your voice, through You Word and in everything I do.

Lead me into Your presence to taste Your goodness and communicate through ceaseless prayer throughout the day.

Set a song of praise on my lips as I wake each morning, to thank You for blessing and submit my routine to Your direction.

I thank You that the content of this year will be determined by the promises in Your Word.

Praise the Father, praise the Son, Jesus and praise the Holy Spirit our comforter.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it).

[Romans 11:33,36]

Be greatly blessed in 2015.

Pebble 1: Note on Doubt

I will be away for a while and would like to have a short chat before I go. I will be back for our usual conversation by the end of the month.

I marvel at the Bible stories that sometimes give the most astonishing details and other times just gloss over decades of history. No doubt the details are important and God speaks through those particulars of people and events. It is like the telescope of history suddenly zooms in to a cameo or vignette to focus on a subject of learning. Let us learn and rejoice!

One of the followers of Jesus was crowned the king of doubt. Thomas made a statement that marked him through all ages as Doubting Thomas. It became so natural to associate his name with doubt. Today it is used as a joke and an insult. Let us change that forever – now.

Thomas is mentioned quite a few times in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark and John mention his calling, together with Phillip, Bartholomew, Andrew, James and others. In John 11:16 Thomas makes a bold and brave statement that reveals his dedication and love for Jesus:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

These are not the words with which we associate him and still, it is profound words of commitment to the teaching he has received and his love for the Teacher.

John 14 – 17 are chapters that reveal the heart of our Lord Jesus. Sometimes when life is rough or just too busy and rushed, I get this urge to hear the words of Jesus. I grab these chapters and truly “hear” His soothing and powerful words.

In any circumstances, John 14:1 will calm us down. [The Message]

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

I am convinced that Jesus was not talking about the end of time, although I believe that there are many levels of interpretation possible and necessary. He talked about the work of the Holy Spirit, the Promise of His Father to be with those He loved so much. The Holy Spirit is the diffusion of the Presence after the Ascension. The Holy Spirit enables us to be with Jesus all the days of life and for all time until the Second Coming.

In verse 5 Thomas asks Jesus about the road He mentioned.

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

Note that Jesus did not scold him for asking a dumb question. Jesus answers Thomas with words that became one of the most quoted, deeply reverenced scriptures of all time revealing Jesus as the One and Only. Verse 6:

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

The crucifixion of Jesus scattered the disciples. During the arrest in the Garden of Gesemane, some disciples fled. We find Peter and John in the courtyard during the trial, trying to follow proceedings. Peter’s betrayal takes place after he boldly followed the soldiers into the courtyard of the high priest’s dwellings. The cruelty of the Romans was a fact of life. Fear was understandable. Some historical accounts state that lots of alcohol was available to the soldiers who were charged with this horrible type of execution, to give them courage to go through with it.

Most of the disciples probably hid behind locked doors to escape the inevitable Roman backlash to kill off Jesus’ followers. This did not happen and is one of the mysteries of the trial.

Fearful and stunned they waited until Mary brought them the news of the resurrection. Peter and John cast fear aside and ran to the grave to inspect for themselves. That same evening they went back into hiding, behind locked doors [John 20:19] confused by the disappearance of the body. Jesus came and stood in their midst. His first words to them: Peace be with you.

Understandably His first words would be something to calm them down. They must have been out of their minds with panic and fear, as well as this “ghost” coming through the wall. He calms them and talks to them, breathes on them to receive the Holy Spirit and empowers them to go forth with His work, but [verse 24] Thomas was not there.

He hears the story from the others. What was he to do? Did they conspire to feel better? They could have made it all up. He was not going to fall for this story and be made a fool, so he did the rational thing and said:

Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

A week later, Jesus appears in spite of locked doors, just as they told Thomas He did the first time. [John 20:26] He addresses Thomas and responds directly to his own words to the disciples.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

What a wonderful encounter. Thomas cries out in awe and wonder:

My Lord and my God!

The Bible does not say if he really touched Jesus first, but the point is that he had the invitation to investigate.

I think the physical investigation that he previously demanded, was not necessary anymore in the Presence of Jesus. The sheer presence of the One Thomas obviously loved, was enough to convince him of the truth.

Jesus Himself confirmed every detail of the account his fellow disciples gave Thomas and invited him to investigate and believe. The desire to investigate is not wrong.

The invitation stands firm. Come and investigate Jesus, His word and His life. He will reveal Himself to you just like He did to Thomas. You will cry out in awe and wonder when you see Him face to face through the Holy Spirit.

Again Jesus answered him with words that echoed through the ages: [Verse 29]

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Come and investigate, search the Scriptures, discern the times and receive life in His name. Thomas needed a little more to be sure and Jesus gave it to him. If you seek, you will find. Ask the extra bit and He will meet you at the level of your expectation. That is the promise.

‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’

[Jeremiah 33:3. The Message]