Month: December 2017

Sleep well (John 10:27-29)

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0-7 deys baby. New born baby.
Sleeping is a vulnerable necessity. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is restorative and so essential both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. And yet sleep is a vulnerable state, one is unaware and unable to protect oneself.

Worry is one of the main enemies of good sleep and so the more one has to worry about the more allusive good sleep is.

People worry about all sorts of things. Some people worry about their salvation, they have believed in Jesus and although Romans 10:9-10 is clear that those who have believed in Jesus ‘will be saved.’ And yet they worry, which just reveals that their trust is focused in the wrong place and on the wrong person.

You and I were not good enough to be saved and we are not good enough to stay saved either! We are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

Yes, there are a number of hard to understand passages that definitely serve as warnings to us, warning us to ‘remain faithful’ to keep our hearts soft and open to God’s words to us, urging us to persevere to the end…

And yet, we need not worry!

Because if you have put your faith in Jesus, if you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin, you are justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are adopted as God’s child, you have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance to come…

In addition to this, you and I who have believed in Jesus have words like these from Jesus Himself;

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

I love this! Jesus gives eternal life, we don’t earn it through our good behaviour. We will not perish because Jesus has given us eternal life. No one can ever snatch us from Jesus’ hand because it is Jesus’ hand, the same hand that holds the universe in the span of His hand! More than that, you and I who have believed are God’s gift to Jesus and no one is greater than God and so no one is able to snatch us from God’s mighty hand!

Sleep well my friend if you have believed in Jesus.

Live your whole life as a passionate, grateful, worshipful response to God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), live a life that is worthy of the calling (the grace) you have received (Ephesians 4:1) but sleep well! Jesus has got you, the Father has got you! Sleep well.


Meaning Makers (John 9)

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Dallas Willard said that people are ‘meaning-makers’. We look for and or even assign meaning to things that happen in our lives. We want to know, ‘why?’ and when we don’t know why we create our own meaning.

This is what was happening in John 9. A man was born blind. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know; ‘why?’ What was the cause, did this man’s parents sin in some way and that is why this happened or did the man himself sin – why?

I had an accident – why?
I got sick – why?
I lost my job – why?
………… – why?

All too often our desire to know why, combined with our very limited knowledge, leads us towards unhelpful or inaccurate conclusions. We add 1 + 1 and end up with 22 not 2!

This man was born blind, but it wasn’t punishment or the result of some sin that he was blind, no his tough life-circumstance was simply that God’s work could be displayed in him according to Jesus (John 9:3). Something much greater than his own life/behaviour was in play here, something that he had no control over.

God was going to use this moment to reveal the divinity of Jesus to him (vs35-38) and cause him to believe in Jesus as a result. God was going to use this to show his authority, glory and power to those who would take note of what Jesus did and said.

Is there something in your life right now that you are grappling with?
Is there something that you are trying to work out, trying to find meaning in?

I urge you to put down your theories as to why this is happening or happened, and simply ask Jesus to reveal to you what He was doing, or is doing through this thing.

The man born blind, gets healed miraculously, encounters Jesus personally and believes in Jesus and worships Jesus as Lord and Saviour in this story. He must have spent his life up to this point resenting his ailment, but in this moment his ailment became the very thing that lead Him to Jesus, to forgiveness, healing & belief in Jesus and therefore salvation!

May you stop making your own meaning and may you rather ask the King of kings, Jesus to give you His meaning. And may you, trust Him when there is no answer yet, may you accept the mystery, may you trust Him that He is good, and that He loves you and that what you can’t see or know or understand – He does see, know & understand!

Behold Jesus.

Jesus Conman, Madman or God/man? (John 8:31-59)

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This whole section records a heated discussion with accusations and counter accusations regarding the question; ‘Who is Jesus?’ (John8:25)

This is the question that every person on the planet needs to answer at some stage in their life or on the day Jesus  Himself returns.  We really only have three options when it comes to answering that question;

  1. Jesus is a Conman
  2. Jesus is a Madman
  3. Jesus is God/man

The Jewish people argumentatively engaging with Jesus here in John 8 were leaning towards options 1-2:

  • They mocked Jesus defaming his identity & character pointing out that they believed He was a child born as a result of sexual sin (vs41)
  • They said He wasn’t of pure descent, was a Samaritan and not a Jewish person (vs48)
  • They claimed He was demon possessed (vs48)
  • They charged Him as arrogant and a madman thinking He was greater than the hero of the Jewish faith – Abraham (vs53)
  • They summarise their arguments with the question – ‘Who do you make yourself out to be?’ (vs53)

They considered Jesus as both a madman and a conman trying to trick people.  Jesus knows where this line of thinking comes from – it’s source is in fact from none other than the devil himself (vs44).  Jesus knew that the devil’s desire was to kill Him and deceive people.

All through John chapters 5-8 we have seen glimpses of Jesus’ divinity, His unique Father/Son relationship, His ability to give eternal life to whoever He wants to, His ability to perform miracles of power (walking on water, multiplying food, healing invalids, His teaching and understanding, His ability to forgive & His authority in the Temple courts…

All of these glimpses are in stark contrast to the challenge brought by these ones who were opposing Jesus who think Jesus is an evil conman or just a madman.  In John 8:58 Jesus in direct answer to their questions regarding who He is (vs25&53) Jesus says plainly;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” – John 8:58

Jesus categorically declares – I AM.  I am God, I am the ‘I AM’ who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 2:14)!

Also in this passage Jesus makes the statement we know so well; “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (vs36).  This is a clear claim by Jesus to his divinity too, only God can free people from sin, satan, sickness and death!  Jesus doesn’t offer to relieve or comfort but to set free entirely.  Jesus is God, Jesus has total authority over sin, satan, sickness & death.

Behold Jesus.

Thirst, drink, be filled (John 7:37-39)

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Jesus is at the Passover Feast and He stands up and cries out;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”

(John 7:37-38)

What is Jesus referring to?  

We don’t need to speculate because John tell’s us in vs39 that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit  those who believed were about to receive once Jesus had been glorified.  Jesus was speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit which we can read of again being promised in Luke 24:49 and then can read about being poured out in Acts 1-2.

But what is ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit, who then gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to witness effectively, to break with sin and to enable us for life and godliness.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is:

  • A promise to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49)
  • A gift (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Experiential (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:18, Acts 10:44)
  • Allowing yourself to be totally immersed in God (meaning of the word – baptised)
  • Power from on high for service to God (Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:8)
  • Enabling power for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  • Most often evidenced by the receiving of the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19)

The Need

Jesus told the disciples to wait until they had received power from on high (Luke 24)

Clearly Jesus thought that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was essential because in John 16:5-11 he told the disciples; ‘it is to your advantage that I go…because then the Helper will come”  And who doesn’t need help?

Different Groups of people with regard to the baptism in the Spirit

  • Those who are longing to be filled (Acts 2) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were receptive (Acts 8:14-19).  These were Christians who had a second experience unclear what happened but was ‘wow!’ enough for Simon to want to buy it
  • Those who are hostile – Saul (Romans 8:1-3, 9:1-2 & then was filled with the Holy Spirit 9:17-18)  2nd experience spoke in tongues as a result of this encounter
  • Those who were unlikely (it’s for all), Gentiles (Acts 10-11) spoke in tongues praising God
  • Those who were unaware previously but grew in faith by hearing (Acts 19:1-6)spoke in tongues and prophesied

How do I get baptised in the Holy Spirit?

  • Believe in Jesus (John 7:38)
  • Look to Jesus he is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)…
  • Thirst/desire the baptism of the Spirit (John 7:37)
  • Ask God for the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 11:9-13)
  • Receive/drink (John 7:37-38 see ESV footnote) have your thirst satisfied by the Holy Spirit

But is baptism in the Holy Spirit a second experience – do we not receive the Spirit at salvation? 

Well the answer is, ‘yes and yes’.  As PJ Smyth says;

“Just as it is biblically indefensible to underplay the receipt of the Spirit at conversion, so also is it to underplay the on-going receipt of the Spirit after conversion…Importantly, whether or not you claim a major ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience or not, you must remain in on-going pursuit of the Spirit, because scripture speaks of ‘fillings’ of the Spirit post both conversion, and, depending on your interpretation, post a major ‘baptism of the Spirit’ experience that followed conversion.”

Way too much time has been wasted haggling over when we get filled with the Holy Spirit, what is far more important is that we are continually filled with the Spirit so as to bear fruit as Jesus’ words ring in our ears; “apart from me you can do nothing”.

We need to be continually filled with the Spirit in order to live the Christian life, therefore we believe in and anticipate an infilling of the Spirit at conversion (which can’t happen without the work of the Spirit) and also anticipate subsequent in-fillings of the Spirit that are real and tangible as recorded in the book of Acts.

So, keep being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) so that you might be full of the life of God (John 7:37-38)!

Unreasonable? (John 6:1-21)

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There is a crowd large gathered, after all Jesus has been doing signs and wonders.  Jesus was seeking out some down-time but as the crowds gather Jesus chooses a grassy hilltop on which to teach them.

Seeing approximately 10 000 – 15 000 men, women and children gathering to hear Him Jesus leans over to Phillip and essentially says; ‘How are we going to feed all these people?’.  Philip is astounded.  I can imagine him thinking; ‘This is unreasonable, this is not our problem, we don’t have the resources for this, Lord what are you suggesting?’

Can you empathise with Philip? 

Have you ever felt like God was being unreasonable?  

John doesn’t record Philip ever recovering from his feeling limited by their apparent available resources – in South African currency Phillip estimated that it would have cost R20 000 to buy enough bread to go around.

What is going on here?

Why would God ask us to do what only He can do?  

John 6:6 contains the key to the answer to questions such as these.

He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. (John 6:6)

Jesus is not scatterbrained, hasn’t lost the plot, isn’t unaware of realities and constraints.  No Scripture pointedly reveals Jesus’ motive in the scenario; ‘He said this to test him’.  Jesus was not uncertain as to how He was going to deal with this dilemma of so many people and feeding them, John records; ‘for He Himself knew what He would do.’

There is a difference between what we think we believe, what we say we believe and what we do believe.  What we truly believe is revealed by our responses to situations and our actions.

I know this feeling.  It’s easy sitting in your room with your bible or sitting in church listening to preaching or in a small group discussion thinking or saying what you believe… And then it happens!  Something arises in real life and that belief is tested, is it real, do I really believe?

Philip no doubt has just been with Jesus, heard Jesus’ clear claims to being the divine Son of God, has seen Jesus do amazing miracles – but did Phillip truly believe?

Jesus sets up a scenario that will test him, will squeeze out of Philip and the other disciples whether they truly believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus has authority over all things.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers in such a way that it is clear that he can empathise with Phillip, Paul knew what it felt like to have God test his faith, test him to see what was really in his head and heart. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Likewise, James urges believers to consider it pure joy when we are tested, when our faith is put on trial because such tests from God give us the opportunity  to see steadfastness grow in us so that we might mature in our faith not. (James 1:3)

What’s happening in your life that might be God testing you?

Is there anything God’s asked you to do that you think is unreasonable?

Friend.  God’s not malicious, He’s not having fun with you.  No, your heavenly Father wants to test the genuineness of your faith, wants your faith to grow and to mature.

Andrew did better than Phillip in this moment.  Philiip doesn’t manage to lift his thoughts above the challenges and constraints and reasons why he can’t do what Jesus is suggesting he do.

Andrew at least thought about what they did have and believed Jesus could do a miracle.  He probably didn’t know what Jesus would do, didn’t know the magnitude of the miracle Jesus would do, but his actions do reveal that he did believe Jesus was able to, was going to do something astounding and miraculous.

What do you have in your situation?

Focus on what God had entrusted you with.

Give that to Him for His purposes mixed with faith.

And watch Jesus grow your faith and reveal His majestic power and purposes.

The Highlights Package! (John 5:18-30)

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In the gospels, there sections where its like you’ve switched to the highlights package!  Sections like this seem packed with revelations about who Jesus really is, how Jesus relates to the Father and the Father to the Son or Spirit – John 5:18-30 is a section just like that.  Having just healed the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, Jesus’ authority & His claimed identity and or relationship with God is being challenged by some Jewish people and then Jesus speaks in a way that is just packed with self-revelation.

So let’s survey this short section and marvel at all we can glean about the Godhead from what Jesus said in it:

  1. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you’ (vs19) – Jesus is often referred to as ‘Rabbi’ by people engaging with Him.  That is how they saw Jesus, as a teacher.  But Jesus was unlike all the other Rabbi’s!  They used to quote Scripture, quote one another.  Jesus, however, is recorded by John as saying; “Truly, truly I…” 25x in his gospel.  Jesus’ authority was remarked on by those who heard Him, Jesus didn’t come to interpret other’s teaching, He came as God the Omniscient One in human flesh bringing direct revelation understanding to those who listened.
  2. ‘the Son can do nothing of his own accord…’ (vs19) – In stark contrast to the first half of vs19 is this phrase.  Here we learn that although fully God, Jesus came to do the will of God the Father.  Despite Jesus having all authority as God, Jesus came to serve the will of God the Father.  Jesus’ will was to serve the will of the Father.
  3. ‘For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing’ (vs20) – there is a beautiful relationship between the Father and the Son described here.  God the Father loves the Son and so shares all that’s in His heart and mind with the Son.  The Father draws the Son into His plans and purposes as a Son not a servant!
  4. ‘the Son gives life to whom He will’ (vs21) – both the Father and the Son have the ability to suspend the normal progression of life and death.  In this the Father and Son are equal in their power to raise to life or give eternal life.
  5. ‘The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son.’ (vs22-23) – the Father wants the Son honoured by all!  For this reason there are roles assigned by the Father exclusively to Jesus so that Jesus may be honoured before all people.
  6. ‘Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him’ (vs23) – one cannot divide up the Godhead, one cannot choose to honour the Father but not Jesus.  This verse contains the revelation that all other religions like Judaism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses stumble over – to reject that Jesus is God is to reject God Himself.
  7. Believing in Jesus results in eternal life! (vs24) – again Jesus quotes no one, but exclaims with utter conviction and authority that anyone who believes what He says about Himself and salvation, that person has eternal life.  Such a person has passed from death into life that’s eternal.  Anyone who makes statements like this is either a terrible con-man, a certified nutcase or is really God Himself.
  8. ‘He has given authority to execute judgement’ (vs27) – The Father has assigned the role of Judge to Jesus.  Jesus is the One before every man, woman and child from every age and every culture will stand one day.  We all have an appointment with Jesus the Judge that we didn’t schedule, but we can’t avoid, or be late for, or re-schedule.  Our personal opinion about that appointment doesn’t change its reality one iota, but knowing Jesus is our Judge who will execute judgment encourages us to reach out to Him now while we can so that He becomes our Saviour and Friend in such a way that we will never have to fear that day again.
  9. ‘I can do nothing on my own…I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me’ (vs30) – what humility from the Judge of all the earth!  Jesus’ submission to the Father and His preoccupation with pleasing the Father is inspiring!  May I, may we be like Him.

Behold your God.  Behold, Jesus.

Satisfy (John 4:31-34)

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All through the gospel of John, Jesus uses physical everyday items people knew about to describe spiritual realities.  Up to this point in the gospel Jesus has used the following everyday items;

  • Light (to communicate the spiritual reality of Jesus’ purity in John 1:4-5)
  • Temple (where God & humankind meet, which is now Jesus Himself in John 2:19-22)
  • Physical Birth (the need to be born again, born spiritually in John 3:3-8)
  • Wind (relating to the move of the Spirit in John 3:8)
  • Water (the Holy Spirit within believers in John 4:7-15)
  • Food (that which truly satisfies John 4:31-34)

In this encounter with the woman at the well, there is a moment when the disciples return from their mission to find some food in the village.  They are astounded that Jesus is speaking with a woman, especially to a Samaritan woman (vs27) but don’t say anything to Jesus.

Maybe they were changing the subject onto something less controversial, maybe they did not wanting to risk delaying lunch with a new teaching from Jesus…?  Whatever it was they urge Jesus to eat something (vs31).

Jesus’ reply must have surprised them further.  “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (vs32).  I can imagine the disciples maybe even feeling agitated that Jesus had some secret stash of food that they hadn’t shared in or didn’t know about.  ‘Had someone in this foreign town brought food to Jesus they wonder?’

But Jesus was once again doing what he often did, using an everyday item to explain a spiritual reality.  Jesus goes on to say;

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” (vs34)

Jesus had told the woman that He had water that would sate her thirst forever (vs13-14), here Jesus explains to the disciples that there is something more satisfying to Him than even food!  They went into town, hungry, eager to find satisfaction for their hunger.  They urge Jesus to eat, in order that He can be satisfied too.  Jesus replies; I have something that satisfies me more than food!

Jesus lived with a longing, a desire, a motivation pulsing inside Him to do the will of His Father.  Jesus’ passion to fulfill the will of the Father, to please the Father, is a theme that will develop all through this gospel (see John 6:38 for example).

Jesus’ passion to do the will of God was so real, so tangible Jesus likened it to what the disciples were feeling, their hunger for food.  Jesus compares the satisfaction they felt after eating with the satisfaction He felt when He had done the will of the Father.

What a challenge!  What satisfies you?  What do you wake up longing for?

May I, may we be more and more like Jesus who was motivated to constantly do the will of the Father in all circumstances and was in turn satisfied, felt that happy full feeling when He knew He had done the will of the Father.