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More than Conquerors

If you ever wanted proof and physical evidence of the truth, examine the outcome of people living the truth in most trying times throughout history.  “Those of the way”, the first followers of Christ lived a certain kind of life, valued certain things, abstained from the things of the world, and organized themselves in a way that sustained them through the darkest of times of human history. 

Like the Jews, Christians is the most persecuted religion in the world, at various times close to extinction, [1] yet the true church remnant survived. The Hebrew writer speaks about a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Now this phrase “once and for all” clearly indicates the final removal of things that are shaking, that is, the old order, so only what is unshakeable will remain. Since we are receiving our rights to an unshakeable kingdom we should be extremely thankful and offer God the purest worship that delights his heart as we lay down our lives in absolute surrender, filled with awe. For our God is a holy, devouring fire! (Heb 12:27-29). COVID 19, and the threat of even more severe viruses to come has magnified the unsustainable weak spots of materialistic humanistic naturalistic modernity, providing an excellent opportunity for the church to REBUILD the WASTE places. (Isa 58:12) Constructing a benevolent EDEN-Like society, with living stones of the Kingly nobility of the righteous! 

Consider for a moment that the first believers of the NT church were mainly a persecuted church, first by the Jewish religious establishment and then also the secular humanistic Roman government. Martyrdom was part of daily life during the first decades of the early Christ-following community. Persecution is part of being a follower of Christ. (Mat 10:24; Luk 21:12-16; John 16:1-4; 15:20) Paul was witness himself of Stephen’s martyrdom, and later we read of Herod beheading James, John’s brother.  (Acts 12:2) Later the converted apostle Paul vividly describes his own suffering.  poorly clothed, beaten, and homeless… imprisonments often… five times I received forty stripes minus one…Three times I was beaten with rods… once I was stoned… three times I was shipwrecked.  (Rom 8:35; 1 Cor 4:10-13a; 2 Cor 4:8-9; 6:4b-5, 8-10; 11:23b-29; 12:10; Phil 4:12). Most of the jewish believers, were disowned from their inheritance, family and means of income as they liberalised themselves from the yoke of Jewish laws and prescriptions.

To maintain one’s course, and purpose of preaching and living the message of the Kingdom under such violent threat with no personal gain, substantiate the meaningfulness of the content of the message.  

The core ideals of the message of the Kingdom are to practice the ‘gospel of love and charity’ which included almsgiving and care for widows, orphans, slaves, travellers, the sick, the imprisoned and the poor under the threat of persecution, and even towards their persecutors!  “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:29); do not resist an evil person (Matt. 5:39); blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Matt. 5:10); if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).” Paul and the other New Testament authors sustained and developed the theme that followers of Christ were to suffer, not fight, for their Lord. A believer’s weapons are spiritual, not composed of iron or bronze. (Eph. 6:13).

It should however be noted than in a relatively short period of 50-60 years covered in the NT, the church did not only survive, but thrived during these difficult times.  Pro-Christian historians emphasized the random persecution of some of the Roman emperors, but the fact is: decades often passed between assaults on Christian groups and, while it’s true that several emperors did, in fact, go after Christians per se, most weren’t persecuting them for their religion but their wealth. 

Paul himself was certainly not a poor beggar-type preacher: Travel by ship, with companions, moving offerings by cart over long distances to the various churches, and personal scribes cost a lot of money in those days. Paul must have come from a wealthy family being offered the privilege to be trained under the prestigious teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Paul a recipient of legal roman citizenship, and appointed Pharisaical privileges made him used to power and status.  Paul also owned a tent-making enterprise, a lucrative specialized industry in biblical times. Because inns were filthy or nonexistent, tents were luxury items for wealthy travelers and, more importantly, they were standard equipment for Roman legions, especially during the winter. Paul was held in special custody by Felix and Festus in Caesarea for a lengthy period of time (Acts 24:27). It seems unlikely that these governors would have accommodated Paul as a “house- guest” for such a long time, even if under house arrest, if he had not been a man of great influence and social stature.[2]  Felix “had hopes of a bribe from Paul; and for this reason sent for him often and talked with him” (Acts 24:26). 

The immanent new JESUS counter-culture movement held high moral values, and ethics, particularly when it came to money. The Didache, or “The Teaching of the Twelve,” dates back to the second century revealing a practical hard-hitting ethical code of protocol regarding money.  

Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving. If your labor has brought you earnings, pay a ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give and do not give with a bad grace, for you will discover who He is that pays you back a reward with a good grace. Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient!… Now about the apostles and prophets: Act in line with the gospel precept. Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.…[3]

Give this Jesus-culture room and time to mature over 40 years and you will see immanent economic wealth of family-centered enterprises, self-sustainable communities, their intrinsic philanthropic benevolent actions towards the most marginalized making them the most-loved and revered businesses in society.  

Like the creation story the genesis of the church started with divine provision to sustain it.  

  • The first Church in Jerusalem “No one Lacked” (Acts 4:34) 
  • Bearing the fruits of righteousness and the fruit of the spirit, are the most basic attributes for any business enterprise and improved employment.  Wesley noted that in the old days of Methodism, the people were poor. But, he observed, in the 20, 30, or 40 years since they joined the society, many Methodists had become 20, 30, or even 100 times richer than they were at first. With this increase in wealth had come a decrease in godliness. It seemed to him the more money the Methodists had, the less they loved the Lord.[4]
  • Speaking to the rich (1 Tim 6:17; James 5:1-6) means there were wealthy people too, who came to the faith.
    • Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:110)
    • Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10:1-48)
    • Roman centurion who believed. (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:5)
    • Erastus, a major benefactor of public works in Corinth (Romans 16:23) 
    • The Ethiopian Treasurer (Acts 8:26-40) 
    • Lydia (Acts 16:13-15, 40)
    • Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)
    • Joseph, called Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)

It is henceforth evident that living the message of the Kingdom and following the Kingdom-eternal pursuits and lifestyle does eventually benefit the user “all these things shall be added to you” as promised by Jesus when we seek first His righteousness and Kingdom.  It is thus the purpose of this study to rediscover the unshakable Kingdom practices for the best way to do live.  

Preach this kingdom message to the Poor

Jesus pertinent answer to John’s disciples to validate His ministry has special significance because of this one line: “the poor hear the gospel of the Kingdom preached to them.” (Mat 11:4) It is also at the core of His messianic mandate: “anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luk 4:18) Jesus did feed the multitude, but he did not start a feeding program, a housing project, or a school or ECD centre. His gift to the poor was a message! Everyone who adheres to this message and follow Him and His instructions get to all take care of the poor, the poor too!  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need  (Eph 4:28) 

What makes this message so special, that it would really help the poor? Poverty alleviation is a very complicated pursuit, with no easy solutions. 

First, let us discover what is poverty from a biblical perspective? 

Former Zimbabwean Farmer Boet Pretorius, explained that one-sides human-aid from the rich amplifies god complexes and strengthens inferiority complexes if not done from a Biblical world-view perspective. “Who are the poor?” 

  • Poor relationship with God –Poverty of Intimacy
  • Poor relationship with myself- Poverty of Being
  • Poor relationship with family – Poverty of Trust
  • Poor relationship with community- Poverty of Security
  • Poor relationship with Creation- Poverty of Stewardship 

From the biblical perspective all mankind is considered poor, and in need of healthy relationships. Therefor the gospel is for all of mankind. The economically rich may default on all 5 these relationships measured against a biblical definition of poverty. 

One of Jordan Peterson’s “Rules for Life as an antidote to Chaos” see society as a fundamentally hierarchical structure. 

The top 1% have as much loot as the bottom 50% — and where the richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion. That same brutal principle of unequal distribution applies outside the financial domain—indeed, anywhere that creative production is required. The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. A million and a half separately titled books. 

This phenomenon is well summarized by Jesus in the parable of the talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. (Mat 25:29) Life is thus a lifelong struggle to assemble enough skills, knowledge, resources, victories, accomplishments, appearance, wealth, status to secure a safe and peaceful future for you and your offspring. Many unfortunately desperately fail! 

Lobsters, one of the oldest species to survive, have a similar battle to secure themselves the best safe location, food, and mating partners. The lobster who achieve a victory gets a good dose of serotonin that makes them change their posture, they become confident, and begin to make bigger bolder movements, a bit cocky, which off course helps them to win the next victory.  The ones who have lost, withdraw, becomes timid, scrunched up, inhibited, drooping, skulking sort of lobster. We see the same reaction in human beings.  Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.  But it is not only the economically poor who are inhibited: Divorce, unemployment, business venture failure, terminal sickness, and many other life’s struggles makes one feel hopelessly discouraged and depressed.  Life in reality is complicated, hard and increasingly difficult.  

So, what is the message of the Kingdom, and how is it going to help all of us who suffer from the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, financial, vocational, intellectual poverty??? 

The Good news of the Message of the Kingdom is: 

God gives no-bodies, average people, the least, the fools, the poor, the fisherman Royal Status to become God’s own children! “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luk 7:28) Sinners, lepers, tax-collectors, feeble and sick people get invited and translated from an earthly temporary existence to an eternal, immortal, holy habitation! 

The whole NT is full of the language of royalty discribing God’s people: the Elect, chosen, 

Chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (1 Pet 2:9) 

Reign in life (Rom 5:17) 

Saints (Rom 1:7) 

Seated with Christ (Eph 2:6) 

His workmanship (Eph 2:10) 

All Authority (Eph 1:22-23) 

By the GREAT ATONEMENT of Christ He has provided for us an eternal, perfect, position, and status – THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of CHRIST! (Mat 6:33; Rom 14:17; Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21) It is to this really that Paul prays “may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” to the calling, inheritance and power we collectively have in Christ!! So very few people in Christ, really see this spiritual reality.  

This royal inheritance and status is not to be achieved, or earned. It is given by birth, being born-again by the Spirit. (John 3:5; 1Pet 1:23) Like born royals we have to learn to act accordingly, the law being our tutor. (Gal 3:24)

To have this wonderful new identity, status, position, inheritance, power, and glory one must off-course DIE, surrender, abandon, all SELF. (Mat 16:14; Rom 6:11; Gal 2:20) So that the CONFIDENCE He gives be not in any of OUR own fleshly performances and accomplishments! This new life in Christ is a GIFT, a GRACE, a divine enablement of which we became partakers! (John 1:12; 2Pet 1:3-4)

Now this is all great to write on paper; but remember the saints of the New Testament had no wealth, power, knowledge, prestige to boast about. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor 1:26) that no flesh should glory in His presence.(v29). But most importantly, the followers of the way received a new sound mind (1 Cor 2.16; 2 Tim 1:7) A completely new way of seeing oneself. 

It is with this new IMAGE in mind that Paul writes: 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

According to Henry Cloud, Daniel Siegel professor at UCLA a leading Neurobiologist summarise the triangle of well-being as Physical makeupMental health and Relational well-being. [5] Most people will certainly agree that feeling fit and healthy, having a sound productive mind, and some wholesome friends whom are authentic, stimulating us to be the best version of ourselves is a good summery of ‘that-is-life’. Off-course one needs to develop and find a meaningful vocation that earns not only a pay-check but enables us to make a meaningful contribution to mankind. We are emotional beings that needs to express our emotions in a healthy way to energize us to be the best we can be. Knowing oneself, (identity) and making peace with ‘being’ grounds you, but also positions you to take responsibility for your own life, and face life’s obstacles. Finally we all live somewhere in a location, where using all the available natural resources responsibly as good stewards to improve the spacial environment makes one feel good, and others too! 

HOWEVER!!! What to do when like Job, you lose all your possessions, wealth, health, status and family in one moment?   

This is the CORE of the Kingdom Message: Without a spiritual connection of oneness with God our Creator made possible in a personal intimate relationship with Jesus His only begotten Son who gives us inner peace and joy one’s life is empty, and one remains poor!! 

The gift of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, is the pearl of great price, (Mat 13:46) the hidden treasure in a field (Mat 13:44) as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Cor 6:9-10) Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13) When one spends time with economically poor mature believers, these verses come alive in faces and stories of people living a supernatural, simple existence of being rich in their knowledge of God, selfless ego, interdependent family and community life without any of the modernities the western world hold dear.   Even in the midst of severe persecution, these believers act with noble royal resolve and inward dignity. 

From this new MIND, awakened to the inner reality of Christ within, God gives us a list of Kingdom activities and actions to do, that incarnate Christ in the flesh through His body of believers! These activities makes the invisible unshakable kingdom and reign of God visible, in specific locations all over the earth. Here is a short list, of kingdom practice and realities.   

Strengthened in the Inner man (Eph 3:16) 

Rooted and grounded in His love (Eph 3:17) 

Receive the power to change and be transformed from our sinful, evil nature. (Rom 1:16)

Continuously being filled with the Spirit Eph 5:18; Col 3:16 and resulting spontaneous expressions of worship.

The gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12-14) 

The Fruit of the Spirit and righteousness in Christ (Gal 5:21-22)

According to the natural hierarchal pecking order of man sharing and giving is reserved for the rich and powerful, now the POOR become the givers, sharing their all, and loving the unloved and underserving! (Acts 4:34-35) 

Servanthood is no longer a curse, but the Dignity of a king, who helps and support his fellow-human-being on their way.  

The power to overcome the battles of people’s destructive hierarchal pecking order gymnastics with the opposite spirit! (1 Pet 2:15)  

The most amazing revelation is to understand how all these activities, releases a natural doses of serotonin to the practitioner. Makes you feel good! These activities becomes like wins under the belt, like the lobster who has been victorious. Triumphs in life makes one feel good, and help you gain confidence, but it is not lasting. Even the best winners, may feel very insecure and threatened by the upcoming competitors.  Our confidence is never based on our achievements, it is the humble knowing that it was Christ who strengthened me to give, to love, to believe, to heal, to go, to speak.  We are dead, and have been crucified with Christ, the life we now live is received by faith on a daily basis, so that no flesh can boast. It is this holy divine presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit that keeps us, and sustains us.  

Followers of the new and living WAY of Christ, thus have an eternal unchangeable reason to pull our shoulders back, stand up straight and confidently do what He commands us to do, in the midst of trials, tribulations, troubles, tribulation, and temptations! Now, is this not good news to the poor? 


[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/christianity-most-persecuted-religion_b_2402644

[2] Chapter 21: How Rich Was Paul? John W. Welch

[3] “The Gallery—Church Fathers and Their Thoughts on Wealth,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 14: Money in Christian History: Part I (1987)

[4] Charles Edward White, “Four Lessons on Money,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 19: Money in Christian History: Part II (1988)

[5] Pocket guide to interpersonal Neurobiology, an integrative handbook of the mind as quoted by Dr Henry Cloud, The power of other. 

Peterson, J., Ingendaay, M. and Müller, M., n.d. 12 Rules For Life.

Cloud, D., 2016. Power Of The Other. Harpercollins.

Categories
Sermons

The Governmental Church in the Locality

The Ephesus Model

Background: 

Paul planted the Church in Ephesus during a stop-over leaving Corinth to travel to Jerusalem in 53 AD.  He visited the synagogue in the city, and left Priscilla and Aquila, dedicated elders and custodians to the truth.  (Acts 18:18-22) 

On his return from Jerusalem, Paul travels to Ephesus and establishes there his longest ministry in any one location. Paul’s first works was to relay apostolic foundation re-baptise twelve disciples in the name of Jesus, and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19:8–10) Then he established the first NT Bible Training Centre first in Jewish Synagogue“arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” then for 2 years daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” with both Jews and Gentiles. (Acts 19:8–10) From the scriptures in Acts, Ephesians and finally in revelation captures almost 44 years of local church history in Ephesus. 52 AD – 96AD sadly by 200AD the church died out. The point is that although there is no longer a city of Ephesus, the church in Ephesus used to be the strongest church in Asia Minor, and now there are hardly even any Christians to be found in all of Asia Minor, let alone a church of any strength or size. Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, leaving only .2% as Christian. And even this .2% is in rapid decline. Turkey, although it used to be a fortification of Christianity, is now the largest unreached nation in the world and one of the strongest propagator’s of Islam. Most of the nation’s 55 million Muslim’s have never even heard the gospel. [1]

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” 

A deeper study of these two key words in the Great Commission is: 

“Teach/Disciple” Mathēteúō means not only to learn, but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life. 

Nations: éthnos; A multitude, people, race, belonging and living together. We have a mandate to disciple the local Ethos! Because of globalisation, the separate boundaries of nations, and ethnic groups has become vague, schools, the work place, shopping centres and public spaces do not belong to a specific nationality anymore. Ethos : Sociology. the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs thebeliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period:

We are not only leaders of the church, but also of the city. 

The Book is written to: “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus” [2] not to an individual, and possibly the most well taught church that ever existed.  The letter/thesis was thus written to all the people of the way, believers in Jesus Christ in the Locality/city of Ephesus.  I believe God is calling us to be shepherds to whole communities of people in a location. 

Restoring the reign of God like Eden in every Location. 

In the Genesis Story we find a description of Eden as a lush garden with four rivers (Gen 2:10–14). Eden was also a mountain (Ezek 28:13–14), the administrative “seat of the gods” (Ezek 28:2), situated in “the heart of the seas” (Ezek 28:2), a description that reiterated the well-watered imagery of the divine council headquarters. [3]  What makes God’s earthly home/kingdom different from ancient comparative narratives, the biblical version of the divine council at the divine abode includes a human presence.[4]

God wants humanity to share His rule and governance over the earth.  

Not all the world was Eden.[5] And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Gen 2:8) The garden was perfect in balance harmony and order, yet the rest of the earth was waiting to be subdued. 

The distinction helps us see that the original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden.[6] Eden is where the idea of the kingdom of God begins. And it’s no coincidence that the Bible ends with the vision of a new Edenic Earth (Rev 21–22).[7] The Bible begins in a garden, ends in a garden city, and the in-between is full of stories of God’s encounter with humans in vineyards, orchards, gardens, mountains, fields, and forests. Take out the gardens (Eden, Gethsemane) and the mounts (Sinai, Hermon, Ararat, Nebo, Carmel, Olives, Zion), and you’ve cut the heart out of the Scriptures.[8]  

And for the purpose of the study: Ephesus was an example of precisely just that: To him who overcomes I will give ito eat from jthe tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’[9]

How do we exercise authority? 

The first work man ever did was naming the animals. (Gen 2:19-20) God made Adam to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. (Gen 1:28) How did he subdue it? By shouting at the animals? How did he rule over it? By giving them names. You control that what you can give a name. If you give time a name you will rule over it. If you give money a name, you will rule over it.  

Good governance begins with good administration.  You rule over that what you control or administrate. The measure of your administration equals the measure of your authority.  God is order. When we get saved, He brings order in our lives. When God’s spirit hovered over the earth, the earth was without form (order) and void. When God created all living things, He created order. His order. There are always two orders: The order of man and the Order of the Spirit. 

When the order of the Spirit was followed anointing flowed.  Temple in order – Shekinah. Lev 1:7,8,12 Bringing order in your life, creates flow and currency to your anointing. It flows easier, less obstructions and distractions.  It focusses the anointing on one thing.  They had to pack the wood in a certain order to receive the fire. Order in Levites, Priests, Offerings Num 10:28 Do (divine) measurements really matter?

  1. Noah Obtained God’s Grace when he Applied God’s Measurements, Gen. 6:8.
  2. Israel Obtained God’s Presence by Building Tabernacle as Directed, Exo. 25:8; 29:44-46; 40:34-35.
  3. Israel’s Sacrifices Were Acceptable to God from Solomon’s Temple,  2 Chron 7:12, 16.
  4. The Holiness of God’s People is Accomplished/Protected/Maintained When His Measurements are Applied, Ezek. 42:20; 43:10-12.

A New Order

Christ is our perfect pattern, measure, topos, logos, blueprint, design. 

“the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4:13) 

1922. ἐπίγνωσις epígnōsis; gen. epignṓseōs, fem. noun from epiginṓskō (G1921), to recognize. It is more intens. than gnṓsis (G1108), knowledge, because it expresses a more thorough participation in the acquiring of knowledge on the part of the learner. 

IN other words: The ultimate goal of discipleship is to get people to internalize the truth of Jesus Christ, so that they naturally have an inner ear or modulator to remain focussed on Him. (Heb 12:1) We can fulfil the social gospel, building needed schools and creches, but if we do not teach people to become followers of Christ we have failed our mission.  We are in this mess, because of people’s ignorance of Jesus, and the church in a big way misrepresenting Jesus.  

Ekklesia by its original definition a governmental assembly to implement the pattern, logos, measurement, doctrine, values, structures, and practises of the reigning kingdom into the old nation. The OT temple was located in one place Jerusalem, enclosed garden, temple city. This model get’s replicated to everywhere where believers dwell.  

God’s purpose for Creation 

Ephesians 1:9-10: “making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him” (ASV)

God’s purpose for Church

 “so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”(3:10, NKJV) Governmental position to declare the reigning Kingdom’s values to the captive state.  A new form of community. Whether one talks about economics, public safety, healthcare, or personal achievement one study after the other proofs the best way to do life is through healthy community.  Community policing, community micro-finance banking, home-base-care, and the community that supported and help someone to achieve their olympian dream. There is also the dark side; cults, gangs, dead religion, structural sin where a culture embrace for instance a sinful belief system that devaluate, dehumanise people like racism, feminism, slavery, entitlement. 

The Ruling Kingdom has already taken its position

Chapter 1:1-23 – 2:10 deals with the Victory that has been won in Christ: 

He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:22-23)

even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Eph 2:5-6) 

we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10) 

Jesus told the disciples: And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Mat 10:7) 

The sad truth is how few believers and followers of the way of Christ, walk in this victory, as ambassadors, statesman, a holy priesthood, mediators, reconcilers, peace-makers, miracle workers, disciple-makers, of the most high God!! We are officials of the reigning Kingdom!

Demonstration of our Proclamation

Spiritual play-off 

Evident Supernatural, healing, signs and wonders (Acts 19:11-12) Jesus’ ministry can be summarized with two words: Preaching & Demonstrating. Mat 4:23-25; Mar 1:35-39; Luk 4:40-44  Scriptures on the preaching, teaching focus: (Matt 4:17, 23; 9:35; 11:5; Mark 6:34; Luk 4:43; 8:1; 9:11) Healing, driving out Demons, sign &wonders. (Matt 4:23) Miracles are part of the gospel proclamation, demonstrating that the kingdom of God has come. (Mt 9:35; Lk 9:6; 11:20) In fact, Jesus used His authority over demons as a sign that He had brought the kingdom of God near (see Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20). Furthermore, He gave to His followers authority over evil spirits. See Luke 10:19; 2 Cor. 10:3; Eph. 6:12. His discipled was send to go do the same. Mat 10:7-8. The NT church is commanded to follow the same example: 1Co 2:4-5; Ro 15:18-19; 1Th 1:5; Heb 2:3-4.

“Miracles Glorify Christ” interweaved with everyday life – Two Greek words gives us the answer.

– Soudarion – Handkerchief used for wiping of sweat

– Simikinthion – A narrow apron or linen covering worn by workmen and servants

Real Spiritual power tested: Sons of Sceva (Counterfeit) (Acts 19:13-20) This story reverts to the vital importance of individual anointing. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.  (1 John 2:13) 

Sizable national display of tipping point towards new order.  (Acts 19:21-41) Like Jesus prophesied that the temple will be removed, and in 70 ad it did happen. To this day there can be no temple. The religious cult of Diana Worship ended and is no more. [10]

So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed Acts 19:20 (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 13:49.)

New Multicultural Jesus Culture. 
New equity in Christ. No more Jew or gentile, male or female, 

of a set of new values. (Eph 2:11-18)   so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10) The Jesus Culture is the only way how we can redeem each diverse culture back to its own unique redemptive purpose.  There is an oppressor and enslaver/pharaoh in every culture. We all need to be redeemed from our Egypt/enslaved cultures.  No nation has suffered so much persecution than the Jews. Several times at the brink of extinction, they rise again. One of the pillars of this theocentric society is the bedrock of the family. and the important role and function of the father. God is a family. The absolute primary way how Christianity rules and governs society like yeast, salt and light is through the restoration of Godly families.

New economy of Mutuality: 

The Roman economic gateway to Asia, became the gateway for the message of the Kingdom of God. Resulting in a Deculturalization of the economy and religious order. (Acts 23-40) On the great day of Pentecost, when the new covenant was sanctioned, a Spiritual Jubilee took place. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44) It is our testimony that when people truly turn to God and become full of the Holy Spirit, they relinquish ownership of their own bodies and possessions.   The Tri-Sabbatical Jubilee of restoration for Mankind and the Earth fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection. The tri-sabbatical rest: The seventh day, the seventh year, and after seven cycles, the 49th year Jubilee is a divine rhythm instituted by God for the benefit of man and nature. God knows humankind, how work and profit can consume us, how we do not know when to stop and rest. The end result is work gets a bad name and what is intended to be a blessing becomes a curse. The truth is; however, work is good for us. All mankind should work and earn a living through their skill and contribution to each other. [11]

New Leadership/governmental Spheres 

The Fivefold Ministry lays the foundational worldview, practises, patterns and structure of the Kingdom of God.  (Apostle – Government, Prophet – Law & Order, Evangelist – Economy, Pastoral – Health, Teacher – Education) Social structures are complex, but by reforming the mind of people working in government, business, lawmakers and enforcers, health practitioners, and educators back to their redemptive calling in Christ we will see a whole community follow the Way. 

Unity is not pursued, it is received as a fruit of right living. 

Unity is a gift: Eph 4:1-5 

Final Warning 

Warning to return to first love, and doing the first things. (Rev 2:1-7) 


[1] https://redeeminggod.com/sermons/ephesians/ephesians_6_21-24/

[2] The New King James Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 1:1.

[3] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 160.

[4] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 47.

[5] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 49.

[6] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[7] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[8]  “So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church” by Leonard Sweet.

i [Rev. 22:2, 14]

j [Gen. 2:9; 3:22]

[9] The New King James Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 2:7.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Artemis

[11] https://www.janenchantal.com/the-tri-sabbatical-jubilee-of-restoration-for-mankind-and-the-earth-fulfilled-in-christs-resurrection/

Live Sermon on “The Governmental Church In The Locality”

Categories
Sermons

Are there still spiritual Judges today?

https://youtu.be/qym9iuBbaWg

When we hear the word judge, we mostly think of judicial, legal verdicts and immanent penalty.  Although this is certainly the case, the Bible has a more general, broader estimation of judges. 

In life, we are all judges: we make regular judgments concerning the friends we choose; the right partners we marry or go in business with; the judicial process of appointing new staff; forming political opinions; the purchases or investments and the beliefs we base our life on. Life is a series of judgments, decisions and conclusions based either on facts or gut-feeling, group-pressure, impulse, emotion or research.  We all seek the truth! We all seek the right judgment of our life (Gen. 16:5; 18:25). Most of all, in relational conflict we deeply desire someone who could judge or arbitrate a feud or disagreement towards reconciliation.  

THE EVIDENCE PROVES – WE JUDGE POORLY 

Wrong Gut-feeling:

Story: Malcolm Gladwell – “how thin-slicing, gut-feel is trained.”[1]

Wrong Decisions

I also remember a most interesting TED talk we reviewed in Bible School class on “Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz. https://youtu.be/QleRgTBMX88 [2]

The Best Of Us Is Wrong Too 

Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 514, a Boeing 727 inbound from Columbus, Ohio, that was scheduled to land at Washington National Airport. The crew had flown a normally functioning Boeing 727 aircraft into a hill at an altitude of 1669 feet, just short of the hill’s peak of 1764 feet. The 85 passengers and seven crew members died in a horrific fiery crash 29 miles northwest of Dulles International Airport. Human error and Pilot’s misunderstanding each other was the cause of this accident.[3]

Wrong Self-Awareness 

“Unskilled and unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” Justin Kruger and David Dunning Cornell University

Elon Musk https://youtu.be/NU7W7qe2R0A “Constantly seek criticism” [4]

Everyone Does What Was Right In His Own Eyes

We live in an age when the following statement has never been more accurate and relevant; “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes”  Judges 21:25. We have more information available than ever yet people appear to be entirely ignorant of their lifestyle decisions, and it’s consequences. Our alienation from God and Truth could set us on a course of deep darkness. 

THE GRAVE DANGER IS: WHAT IF I WAS WRONG ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE??? 

Choose life!

All wrong decisions and judgments will cost you something, but not being ready for eternal life will cost you your eternal life! 

We use all kinds of measuring tools to help us sustain life: we have a unified musical note/frequency standard; we have standard time; standard measurements; standard temperature and atmospheric pressure standards; yet we fear a standard for how we should live life! We trust doctors to use all kinds of measurements to make a prognosis, but we rebel and are offended when the Word judges our sin and error. We use all kinds of smart measuring devices like smart-watches to measure heart rate, pace and speed to improve fitness, yet we feel so quickly condemned when corrected, admonished, rebuked or disciplined in character.  

Solomon sought wisdom, and discernment to make the right judgements, and His Kingdom flourished.  As we are drawing closer to the end, and the final judgement it has never been more important to become judges after God’s heart. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

The criteria for the appointment of the role of chief justice in the nation is determined by his or her influence and respected voice among the people and peers, their impartiality, administrative integrity and efficiency, their intellectual brilliance, long-levity of policies which stimulate inclusive equitable fair economic growth.  

WHAT IS GOD’S CRITERIA AND EXPECTATION OF HIS FAMILY OF JUDGES IN THE EARTH? 

God has a prescribed design, blueprint, form and frame for our lives! (We want accurate measurements (Bureau of Weights & Measures). God commanded Israel concerning measurements (Deut. 25:15).

God-given measurements can be seen in:

  1. Noah’s ark: Gen. 6:15.
  2. Tabernacle: Exo. 25:9, 40.
  3. Solomon’s Temple: 1 Chron 28:10-12, 19.
  4. Ezekiel’s Temple (vision of God’s kingdom): Ezek. 40:2-4; 43:6-12.
  5. The church: Isa. 2:2-3 (Eph. 2:19-22).

God has a standard measurement for your LIFE! 

Jesus is God’s Standard and measurement for attaining Eternal LIFE! 

DOES YOUR LIFE MEASURE UP TO JESUS??? 

Our Death in Christ and His resurrection in us is eternal life. 

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Rom 6:8; 2 Tim 2:11, 12; Rom 5:17, 21; Rom 5:17; Eph 2:5

  • Phil 3:16 – RULE (kanon) – Used of a measuring rod, a carpenter’s line or measuring tape; “any rule or standard” (Thayer, 324).
  • Rom. 6:17 – FORM (topos) – “an example…the pattern in conformity to which a thing must be made: Acts 7:44” (Thayer, 632).
  • 2 Tim. 1:13 – PATTERN (hupotuposis) – “the pattern placed before one to be held fast and copied, model” (Thayer, 645).

MAIN SCRIPTURE READING: 

Let this mind… (φρονέω phronéō: mind. To think, have a mindset, be minded. The activity represented by this word involves the will, affections, and conscience.) 

be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form (μορφή morphḗ: Form, shape, inward essence.) 

of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal (ἴσος ísos. Equal, alike in quantity, quality, dignity) 

…with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance (σχῆμα schḗma; Fashion, external form, appearance) 

…as a man, He humbled (ταπεινόω tapeinóō: humble. bring low) 

Himself and became obedient (ὑπήκοος hupḗkoos: to submit to, obey) 

to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-21) 

I believe the incarnation of Jesus holds the secret to right living and righteous judgement! 

For justice to be true, the judge has to model His standard! Without this example the judgement has no power.  “and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Cor 10:6) 

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Doing inward self-analysis is fruitless and futile. 

Paul says that he does not even judge himself. (1 Corinthians 4:3) 

Judgment has to be external and objective to be found balanced and true

You do not know what is in people’s hearts (Bill Johnson) Beware of presumptions

Our own hearts are very deceptive. (Jeremiah 17:9)

I believe the Spirit is working and accomplishing a JESUS CHRIST standard within us. (Col 1:27) As we continue to surrender and abandon all of self, He is awakening us to His righteousness, His right living! 

By removing the moral-ethical failure of the schemes of sin in us as we morph continually into His image! (2 Cor 4:18), as we are beholding HIM!!! As we are filled with Him! As we get our mind renewed according to the word, we receive His mind.  (Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 1:16) 

Jesus physically modeled this MIND – He MORPHED the secret to us in the open! 

A judge has two primary instruments to achieve sound justice: the written law and the spirit if the law.  

Jesus learned His judgments from the Father. Do not trust your own judgment, seek His judgment. 

  • I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
  • Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. (John 7:24)
  • You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. (John 8:15-16)
  • The more we Study the Word, the better we can judge. The Word is a discerner. (Hebrews 4:12) 
  • He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him. (Prov 18:13) 
  • Do not judge a matter by the first testimony, cross-examine and then make a conclusion. The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him.  (Proverbs 18:17)

The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.

He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom,

And before honor is humility. (Prov 15:31-32) 


[1] Gladwell, M., 2019. Blink. New York: Back Bay Books.

[2] Schulz, K., 2011. Being Wrong. London: Portobello.

[3] Helmreich Robert L. On error management: lessons from aviation  BMJ  2000. 

[4] Kruger, J. and Dunning, D., 1999. Unskilled And Unaware Of It. Estados Unidos: American Psychological Association.

Categories
Sermons

One Word Tells a Story

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A sermon by Dr Ruben Richards

Delivered 18 October 2020, Olifants River Valley (Citrusdal-Clanwilliam) Western Cape

ONE WORD TELLS A STORY

John Chapter 1 vv.43-50.

Nazareth. What good can come from there!

Dr Ruben Richards (PhD, University of Cape Town) Harvester Reformational Church, Olifants River Valley, Citrusdal-Clanwilliam, Western Cape

Sunday, 18 October 2020 at 10h00 and 18h00.

EXEGETICAL SUMMARY OF SERMON

  • The text
  • When good news is no news
  • Profile of Nazareth
  • Take home lesson from the story 

CONTEXTUAL SUMMARY Socialised into the negative

  • Paul and Galatians use one-word
  • Nazareth. Socio-political profile
  • Virgin birth 
  • Cause of genocide
  • Wise men (Magi) commit treason Resettling in Nazareth
  • Come and See

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

  • Nathanael encounters the messiah
  • The shift
  • The catch – the challenge

 Annexure 1 – Scriptural context – Gospel of John Chapter 1 (NIV translation.

NOTE TO THE READER

Dear Reader of this sermon.

First of all, thank you for your interest in reading this sermon manuscript. I hope this manuscript does justice to the live delivery of the message. For ease of reference I have amended (and consequently extended) this version of the manuscript by adding END notes and maps for more detailed references for further study. I have also added some personal information (see below Annexure 2 – CV and Profile – Ruben Richards).

I hope you find this sermon useful.

God bless you.
Ruben
www.rubenrichards.co.za andwww.rrf.org.za

THE SERMON

SALUTATION

It is my honour to greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Thank you to Pastor Jan for the kind invitation to share this worship service with you. My prayer is that God may open our hearts and minds to receive a message from God’s holy word this morning.

CULUTRAL ORIENTATION

I was born, raised and educated on the Cape Flats of the Western Cape, with a few years of postgraduate study in the USA, Switzerland and Germany. I was raised to speak and think in English although my parents spoke mostly Afrikaans to each other. My English language preference is strange given that the first language for the majority of people classified Coloured in Afrikaans. These days, living and working in the farmlands of the Olifants River Valley (Citrusdal- Clanwilliam), I am learning to engage in the dominant language here, namely Afrikaans.

INTRODUCTION

The title of my sermon today is “One word tells a story”. Sometimes, you only have to say one word and that singular word which is equivalent to a 100-Gigabyte or a Terrabyte of information. That one word can miraculously tell you everything you need to know about a place or a persons entire history and identity. For example, the word “Coloured”. Or the word, “Citrusdal”. “WuppertalPiketberg. Or the word that is on our lips these days, especially us in the farming community – the word “Senekal.

Importance of John’s gospel

My sermon today is taken from the New Testament, the Gospel of John. For some this gospel is important because a favourite old school chorus/song comes from this gospel. I am tempted to sing it to you but then I am going to reveal my bad voice and my age. (John 13:34) – A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another. Ek gee julle ‘n nuwe gebod: julle moet mekaar lief hê.

No doubt, for others the gospel of John is important because of the nature of the first miracle of Jesus as recorded in John chapter 2. Jesus and his mother are attending a wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, where the party runs out of wine. As a result of the prompting of his mother, Jesus turns the water into wine – and not just one bottle but 866 bottles of wine (using the 750ml standard wine bottle of today – about a total of 650 litres of water into wine – 6 stone jars each holding about 115 liters (30 gallons)John 2 verse 6ff).

For now, the only tongue-in-cheek point I want to make is this: When you go to a wedding feast you must take with you someone like Jesus and especially someone like his mother – she knows what a party needs … met Eish ja.

Focus and setting of my sermon today – Bethsaida

For my sermon today I want to focus on the first chapter of the Gospel of John and I want to specifically zoom into the end of that chapter – verses 43 to 50 – which describe the calling of the

The context and setting of our story are a fishing village along the shores of the Sea of Galilee – a village called Bethsaida in the northern part of Israel or Palestine. To give us orientation I thought I would share a slide with you to show you the map of Palestine in the time of Jesus [Show slide].

Key verse

The key verse for my sermon will be verse 46: Let me read it to you: It says in the NIV translation:

Nazareth: What good can come from there.

Let me summarise the story.

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fourth disciple by the name of Nathanael.

 

The text

The story goes as follows: John chapter 1 and vv.35 to 42, tells us that Jesus had just recruited three disciples, Andrew, Peter and Phillip – all three of them residents of Bethsaida. Phillip is so excited about being appointed as a disciple, that runs home to tell his friend, Nathanael. He tells his friend that he had just met the messiah – the one which Moses and the Prophets wrote about (v.45). That messiah, says Philip, comes from Nazareth (just down the road)he is the son of Joseph the carpenter – just in case you don’t know who I am talking about, Nathanael.

When good news is no news

I am sure you have experienced what I am about to describe to you. You receive fantastic and good news and you can’t wait to share it with friends and family. You rush home and you tell them your good news and their response is sometimes one word or sound: UUMM.. Ja. Ne. PhewNiceAnd if you have real friends then they use two words in their response to you. Is it? Nogal ne. Often the response of your friends is negative. And you are left with the feeling of: Why did I even bother to tell them.

Philip must have felt the same. Finally, the fulfillment of a prophecy in my life time – a prophecy of more than 1000 years ago is fulfilled in my lifetime – a prophecy recorded by the highest authority on scripture namely Moses and the prophets. The messiah is here and he has recruited me to be part of his team. Can you believe it. In fact, can you believe it that he comes from the next town – so close – Nazareth. Wow, what a thrill to be part of making history with a person from Nazareth.

And Nathanael says: Nazareth … What good can come from there (v.46). Profile of Nazareth

Now Nazareth was about 50 kilometers from Bethsaida (Citrusdal-Clanwillaim distance). And Nathanael’s response is: Nazareth!. Are you telling me this messiah comes from down the road – the next town? Then Nathanael gives the knockout punch – What good can come from there!! Nazareth.

Now, brothers and sisters, where does Nathanael’s prejudiceskepticism and negative energy come from? What did Nazareth do to Nathanael. Why does he have such a negative view of Nazareth? What was going on there that Nathanael did not like – that did not impress him. What is the history of that town and its people that causes Nathanael to have such a low view of that place? The story does not tell us why. We need to conjecture.

Take home lesson from the story

May I propose that one of the take home lessons for my sermon today is not Nathaniel’s response but Philips response to the negative feedback. Philip is facing a skeptical and negative friend, Nathaniel. Phillip does not argue with his friend, Nathaniel. He does not swear or curse or insult his friend. His simply says to Nathaniel: Come and See (v.47). In other words, he is saying: Come and see for yourself if I am lying or making up stories. Come and see (an invitation to experience something first hand) that this is in fact the messiah.

We know how the story ends: Nathaniel comes and sees and is overwhelmed by Jesus and says to Jesus (v.49): Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel. In others words, Im going to follow you. Phillip was right. This is the person that Moses and the prophets spoke about.

CONTEXTUAL SUMMARY

Socialized into the negative

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Allow me to contextualize the story even further. You see, we are socialized – we are raised up – educated and sometimes indoctrinated to believe things about people and places. We tend to nurture negative stereotypes of people and places, often reducing them to a one-word description. So, when someone says that specific word like – Nazareth – … just one word … we are able to tell a whole story … often, a negative story. In fact, Nathaniel is more explicit and honest and says

what we think but dare not say: Can anything good come from Nazareth. Nathaniel was not a politically correct person.

Strange how we remember the negative stories – the bad – the ugly stories about people. South Africa is a good example of the one-word story: Whites. Coloureds. Indians. Africans. Khoisan.

Paul and Galatians use one-word

The Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians summarizes what it means to be a Christian using the one-word technique. He plays with the one-word approach to explain what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

He says in Galatians 3 v 23 in Christ Jesus there is neither Male nor Female. Neither Jew nor Greek. Neither Slave or Free; For we are One is Christ Jesus, says the Apostle Paul. You see the dichotomies which Paul contrasts says that in Christ there is no gender prejudice (male or female); there is not cultural prejudice (Jews or Greeks); there no economic hierarchy (no slave no free). In Christ we are one; we are all equal in Christ.

But, Nathaniel did not read the book of Galatians. So we are still stuck with a negative and skeptical Nathaniel. Like Nathaniel, we don’t always first remember the positive.

Nazareth. Socio-political profile

VIRGIN BIRTH

CAUSE OF GENOCIDE

What makes the story all the more dramatic is that Nathaniel lived on Bethsaida barely 50 km kilometres from the hometown of Jesus – the next town Nazareth. Let’s look at our map again. Nathaniel, I am guessing, could have known the gossip of the town. I am almost sure that

everybody in the surrounding villages would have known that a woman by the name of Mary, whose boyfriend / later husband was Joseph the carpenter had a baby called Jesus. In fact, Jesus was the scandalous baby because Mary conceived Jesus out of wedlock. So that’s the negative narrative / story that everybody would have known. A virgin birth? Unbelievable!

In fact, more seriously, everybody would have known that this baby called Jesus, made history as he was the cause of the genocide of the first born of Jews at the hands of Herod at time that Jesus was born. You will remember the birth story of Jesus – The Christmas story as told in the gospel of Matthew chapter 2. In short, news had reached King Herod via the Wise Men (Magi) who were following the stars and they ended up in Jerusalem. They were looking for the “new king” – “new liberator”.

Can you imagine going to President Ramaphosa or President Trump of the USA and saying to him: I have come in search of the new President – I have come to worship that new President – King of The Jews.

Matthew Chapter 2

V.1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem V.2 and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the

Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

After all, Herod was the colonial King of the Jews.

WISE MEN (MAGI) COMMIT TREASON

The stars were their GPS (their guiding system – the coordinates guiding the Wise Men). But unfortunately, they were about 9 kilometres off the destination target/route. We know that the baby was born in Bethlehem, nine kilometres south of Jerusalem – under the nose of Herod.

We read in Matthews gospel that Herod tried to recruit the Wise men (Magi) as spies to confirm

that such a baby “king” was born (Matt 2 v7).  Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

When the wise men did not return, Herod become so paranoid that he ordered the killing of all male babies under two years old hoping to kill off Jesus (Matt 2 v 16). When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

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Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel and then fled to Egypt where they lived in exile with their baby Jesus, until the genocide was over and returned to Palestine after Herod died. We read

all this in the Gospel of Mathew chapter 2.

RESETTLING IN NAZARETH

COME AND SEE

In fact, when Mary and Joseph returned, they settled (not in Bethlehem) but in Nazareth, and this is where Jesus grows up as a child, in Nazareth.

I can hear Phillip saying to Nathaniel: Im talking about a guy from Nazareth … you must have heard of him. The prophets wrote about him. Moses wrote about him. King Herod wanted to kill him. And he survived the genocide by being in exile in Egypt.

Phillip must have felt so deflated by his friend. Nevertheless, he held his composure and simply said: You know what Nathaniel, I’m not going to argue with you. Just COME AND SEE for yourself. And then you can decide if I am crazy or real; if I am telling the truth or a lie. Come and See.

CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

Nathaniel encounters the Messiah

Surprisingly, the story ends on a very good note. The negative Nathaniel is given a positive appraisal by Jesus. We read this in Verse 47 – When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said of him;

“Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit / a person of integrity / an honest person.”7

Just imagine – you had doubts about this messiah and said negative things about his town. And then the first thing the messiah says to you is something positive about you. Of course, that is a topic for another sermon.

The shift

The catch – the challenge

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So, Phillip the disciple tells Nathaniel his friend: It is that Jesus of Nazareth who is the messiah… the son of Joseph the carpenter … the one who caused the genocide perpetrated by King Herod. That’s the Jesus.

No wonder Nathaniel said: What good can come from Nazareth.

The point of emphasis for this sermon is that Nathaniel experienced a shift – he went from a skeptic to a believer. From a negative person to a positive person because he was invited to experience the messiah, first hand.

And that is my sermon. Come and see for yourself that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah.

But there is a challenge – a sting in the tail for Believers. Jesus is no longer physically here on earth. In fact, Jesus says that those of us who believe in him will be his representatives on earth. So, when people meet us, they are meeting the next best thing to meeting Jesus in person. My question is: Are we worthy representatives of Jesus of Nazareth. If we say to people, Come and See, what is it that they will experience from us. Will they conclude that indeed Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, just like Nathaniel did? Will our lives and testimony cause unbelievers and skeptics

to make a shift, like Nathaniel made the shift?

FINAL BLESSING

I pray God’s blessing on us all, as we together strive to be worthy representatives of the messiah Jesus, the one Moses and the Prophets wrote about – the son of Joseph – the one from Nazareth.

 

 

 

Annexure 2 – Maps of Palestine

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SOURCE: https://godlyseed.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/easy_bible_map_jesus.gif

 
 

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SOURCE: https://www.bible-history.com/biblemaps/nazareth-and-the-sea-of-galilee/

Annexure 3 – CV and Profile of Dr Ruben Richards

Profile – RUBEN R. RICHARDS (PhD, University of Cape Town) Nation Builder, Peace Negotiator and Author

www.rrf.org.za www.rubenrichards.co.za

Cape Town-born Ruben Richards is a multi-skilled South African deeply involved in nation building and reconciliation.

Rubens work life started as a worker in a clothing factory; then as a fitter and turner
artisan followed by academic studies. Ruben is an ordained Christian clergyperson
and served congregations in Soweto and Cape Town and holds a doctorate in Old
Testament. Ruben
s professional career spans many disciplines including
engineering, academia and civil society. Professionally, Ruben has served, among
others, as the Executive Secretary of South Africa
s Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (Human Rights Committee), Deputy-Director-General of the Scorpions
(an investigative unit in the National Prosecuting Authority), and is founder of the
Ruben Richards Foundation, a South African non-profit organisation dedicated to
facilitating healing in traumatised communities. In 2015 the Foundation received the
prestigious National Reconciliation Award conferred by the Institute for Justice and
Reconciliation. The award was for the Foundations work in healing, restoration and confronting those things which exclude marginalised people from main stream society.

Ruben has consulted to various African countries on matters relative to transitional justice with particular reference to the setting up of a Truth Commission. These assignments have included being appointed by the Tunisia Truth Commission as an international observer of the first public hearings of that country and technical advisor to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission of Zimbabwe. Ruben has also delivered a keynote addresses in Kigali, Rwanda on lessons learned from Truth Commissions and also to the Law Society of Swaziland University on fighting corruption based on lessons from South Africas Scorpions.

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Ruben has facilitated intimate sessions with senior and executive staff within the justice sector in African countries.

Ruben holds degrees from Switzerland, USA and South Africa and is a published author. His most recent publication Bastaards or Humans (Volume 1 & 2) [ www.bastaardsorhumans.co.za ] has been endorsed by the Western Cape Education Department as an alternative history of South Africa to be integrated into the history curriculum of high school learners.

Ruben resides in Cape Town, married for 35 years and has two adult children (Mpilo 29 yrs and Nomsa 24 yrs).

Summary

  • Born: 28 June 1960, Cape Town

  • Current residence: Twee Riviere Farm, Clanwilliam, Cape Town

  • Current activity: Citrus farming; consulting to the UNDP on Transitional Justice; facilitating the work of the

    Ruben Richards Foundation

  • International: Lived and studied in Germany, Switzerland, USA, South Africa.

  • Qualifications: Ph.D. (1995)-University of Cape Town; M.Th. (1999)-Michigan, USA; B.D. (2001)-Zurich,

    Switzerland; B.Soc.Sc. (1998)-University of Cape Town; NTC5 (1983) [Mechanical Engineering]-Athlone

    Technical College, Cape Town).

  • Academic assignments: Adjunct Professor, Security Studies (Wits P&DM); Visiting Professor, Texas Christian

    University; Visiting Professor, Albion College, Michigan-USA.

    Career highlights

  • Citrus farmer (Current)

  • CEO – Globe Engineering (largest Marine and Heavy Engineering company in Southern Africa)

  • CEO- Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry

  • Deputy Director-General, National Prosecuting Authority (Scorpions Investigating Unit)

  • Executive Secretary- Truth Commission of South Africa

  • Visiting Professor – (P&DM School of Governance) Wits University

    Some Accolades

  • Negotiated the largest donation of citrus fruit (i.e. 7 million oranges-Project Orange) for the poor and vulnerable. This is the largest such donation in the history of the citrus industry, locally and internationally. www.rrf.org.za/projectorange.

  • Author: The recent two-volume history of South Africa has been accepted as an alternative history to be integrated into the high school curriculum of the Western Cape.

  • Creator of a unique and world first; A 3-day Global Leadership Program based on Indigenous Khoisan wisdom, and taught on Robben Island. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vack4EMkIqg&t=20s

  • Recipient of the National Reconciliation Award, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (2015)

  • Peace negotiator between rival gangs on Cape Flats resulting in longest cease fire in history of gang violence

    in South Africa. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-africa-20608890

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12

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Books by Ruben

A sermon by Dr Ruben Richards

Delivered 18 October 2020, Olifants River Valley (Citrusdal-Clanwilliam) Western Cape

BULLETS or BALLOTS:

The ultimate solution to crime and unemployment in South Africa (Mutloatsi Heritage Arts Trust, Johannesburg, 2010). ISBN 9-780986983320 www.rubenrichards.co.za

2 BILLION STRONG:

A regenerative solution to building sustainable African cities.

Editors: Gita Govan, Ruben Richards, Alistair Rendall (Reygan Publishers, Cape Town, 2012). http://2billion-strong.com

GANGSTERISM and ECONOMIC RECONCILIATION:

A case study in peace building through industrial consciousness.

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READING THE BIBLE IN CONTEXT:

Reconstructing South Africa.

Edited by Louise Kretzschmar and Ruben Richards

(Baptist Convention of South Africa, Johannesburg, 1996). ISBN 0-620-20735-3

BASTAARDS or HUMANS (Vol.1):

The unspoken heritage of coloured people [Origins, Identity, Culture and Challenges] (Indaba Publishing, California, USA, 2017). ISBN 9-781947599017

BASTAARDS or HUMANS (Vol.2):

500 years of intimacy between South Africa and Europe

(Indaba Publishing, California, USA, 2018). ISBN 9-781947599086

www.bastaardsorhumans.co.za

Contact: Cell: +27 82 498 0608; email:rubenrichards@mweb.co.za fax: +27 86 684 684 7

www.rrf.org.za

(IFN Media, November 2015) ISBN 9-780620689052 www.rrf.org.za

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END NOTES

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Interestingly this miracle is not mentioned in the other gospels. John Chapter 2 – Wedding feast at Cana

v5. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial

washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

9

They did so, into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned

Could possibly be the fifth disciple, if we take into consideration that two of John the Baptist disciples broke away to follow Jesus – Andrew and one other (possibly the one writing the narrative – John).

[Anna] began giving thanks to God and speaking about the child to all who were waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.” (Luke 2:36-38; Ex. 13:12).

MESSIANIC EXPECTATION IN ROMAN DOMINATED PALESTINE

Centuries of colonial domination

Let’s pause for a moment. Why was this news wonderful and exciting and indeed revolutionary? Who and what was this messiah that Moses wrote about in the law over a thousand years earlier? Why would Phillip describe Jesus as the long-awaited messiah?

Well, for centuries, the Jews had been subjected to the colonial rule of foreigners such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and now, at the time of Jesus, it was the Romans who ruled Palestine. And life was tough under the Roman (Italian) colonial government which was led by King Herod.

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Messianic Expectations: When Jesus was dedicated in the temple in Jerusalem as a baby, there was an 84-year old prophetess by the name of Anna, who prophesied that this baby, Jesus, is the messiah – the one everybody was waiting for who would liberate Jerusalem.

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Messianic expectations were extremely high among the first century Jews as they were suffering under the yoke of Roman colonial oppression. The Romans raised taxes, appointed the high priest and later erected statues of the Roman emperor in the temple itself – the ultimate sacrilege.

Roman rule at the time of Jesus

Let me remind you that Roman colonial rule was tough if not abominable. When the Romans occupied Palestine/Israel in 63 B.C.E. life for the Jews became increasingly difficult for three major reasons: taxes, Roman control over the High Priest and the general treatment of Jews by the Romans. Remember, it was the Romans who later fed the Christians the lions as a sport.

Taxes: No one likes being taxed, but under Roman rule, taxation became an even heavier burden. Roman governors were responsible for collecting tax revenue in Israel, but they corrupt and greedy. They over taxed the people and took the surplus for themselves. Now you can imagine what people thought of Jesus who appointed a tax collector as one of his disciples. A very problematic appointment, on the face of it.

Sacrilege/idolatry: Then one of the Roman Emperors (i.e. Caligula who came to power and in the year 39 C.E. ) declared himself a god and ordered that statues in his image be placed in every house of worship within his realmincluding the Temple.

The Jews were waiting for liberator to free them from this kind of colonial rule and abomination. They were waiting for a messiah. We notice this even at the dedication of Jesus. When Mary brought her firstborn son (Jesus) to Jerusalem in order to present him to God as the Mosaic Law required, the prophetess Anna “began giving thanks to God and speaking about the child to all who were waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.” (Luke 2:36-38; Ex. 13:12).

Matt 2 v 7: Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the

8

6Mark6:1-6 NewInternationalVersion

A Prophet Without Honour

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Religious interference: Another upsetting aspect of the Roman occupation was the way it

affected the High Priest, who served in the Temple. Under Roman rule the Romans decided who would be the high priests. In other words, the state/government appointed the high priest/pastor.

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And so, finally, the messiah was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth – just 50 kilometers from Nathanael’s home.

star had appeared.
child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

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Mat2v16:

He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

2

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.
Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. Word Study – Deceit

He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Strong’s Concordance https://biblehub.com/greek/1388.htm

dolos: a bait, fig. craft, deceit

Original Word: δόλος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: dolos

Phonetic Spelling: (dol’-os)

Definition: a bait, craft, deceit

Usage: deceit, guile, treachery.

HELPS Word-studies

1388 dólos – properly, bait; (figuratively) deceit (trickery) using bait to alure (“hook”) people, especially those already festering in excessiveemotional pain (brought on by themselves).

1388 /dólos (“deceit motivated by guile“) uses decoys to snare (deceive) people which implies treachery to exploit the naive (undiscerning) – baiting them through (with) their own greed.

[1388 (dólos) is the root of: 1386 (dólios), 1387 (dolióō) and 1389 (dolóō).]

John 1:47 N-NMS

GRK: ἐν ᾧ δόλος οὐκ ἔστιν

NAS: there is no deceit!

KJV: is no guile!

INT: in whom deceit not is

Categories
Sermons

Collective Spiritual Connectedness

When God said: “let there be light” (Gen 1:3) He connected the spectrum for all created things to connect. Light is formed by the connection between frequencies, the relationship between particles. The links give us the light that transforms our world. Darkness is in essence not to feel or be conscious of any connection.  Healthy connections, relationships, links is essential to social, economic, mental and spiritual well-being.  Jesus is the great connector! He reconnected us to God, our true selves, and the right people.  

When Jesus uses you in ‘You are the light of the world,’ (Mat 5:14-16) it is actually a plural form of the word, meaning ‘you all’ or ‘you, yourselves’ (or if you’re from the American South, ‘y’all’). The word light in the Greek is strikingly singular.” One Bible commentator goes on to say that “we are not a thousand points of light; we are a corporate city on a hill.”[1]

Made in the image of a communal God, we are most fulfilled when we find a community that makes us not only feel we belong but propels us to become more Christ-like in altruistic thought, habit, values, purpose, work and existence.  

Oneness, peace, shalom, wholeness, flourishing life; this is what the gospel has always been about; this is God’s dream for creation. In Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s “breviary of sin,” shalom is described as: The webbing together of God, humans, and all of creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. . . . We call it peace, but it means far more than the mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts are fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens doors and welcomes creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.[2]

This is beautiful imagery of what the NT ecclesia, the body of Christ, church, a holy priesthood, the bride is all about. It is interesting to note, how healthy new connection networks grow, because of the introduction or referral of a friend.  This is called the small world theory. [3] So by connecting with a friend, of a friend, of a friend, of a friend, of a friend, you can connect with anyone, anywhere.  Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. [4]

The Kingdom is also compared with yeast: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Mat 13:33) The living network of yeast is well researched to understand how fungi, who in essence desires to grow and multiply, transform the dough into bread. The following image shows the invisible process in circles (Proteins) and the network of links and connections.  

In the Pre-modern era, people lived in an enchanted world, where they have little control. The powers to be ruled over the masses without their political consent, leading to fatalism. People saw human agency controlled by either the spiritual forces or stronger tribal adversary’s will.  In the Modern era, people became more educated, realising their own will and desire.  Self is seen as a person, with rights, independence and self-rule.  At no time in history, one has more regular heard of people describing their husbands, or employers as narcissistic.[5] The post-modern person begins to question this self-ness obsession and seeks deeper meaningful relationships and pursuits of lasting purpose and meaning.  

The NT Church and God’s purpose for its divine glorious existence answer these desires. EDEN is about the meeting, connecting, engaging, interdependence, growing collectively into the fulness of Christ! There are many counterfeit communities who either limits or controls the potential of the one, at the cost of the whole. These communities are also one- dimensional based on conformity. The true church holds the key to a unity of diversity, where the individual’s potential is unlocked and celebrated for the sake of the whole. Where unity is achieved as a gift in Christ Jesus, not by compromise. We are all followers of Christ in the Jesus Movement, having the mind of Christ to love what He values, abandoning self-interest to obey his instructions, with His attitude and emotions (fruit).  

During COVID 19, we experience a great RESET: God restored the family altar. God restored individual commitment and solitude. God showed us what is truly essential. We felt common solidarity with the global village. NOW it is time for God to draw this NET of living NODES together into a web of influence, where His glory can cover (fermenting) the earth. We are SALT and we are LIGHT! 

THE CORPORATE MEETING is more than just one person preaching a sermon! It is more than just singing a few songs as spectators! It is God’s people meeting with their God!! It is a spiritual meeting, for God is a living SPIRIT who wish to dwell amongst His people! It is Christ in and among us the hope of Glory! It is a healing, restorative, regenerative, reconciliatory space of deliverance and freedom! It is a place where the HOLINESS of God prevails and fills all in all! It is a place of LIGHT! It is a place of togetherness, oneness and union! It is heaven on earth! 

Households of faith MEETINGS 

The English word, church, comes from the Latin word, meaning circle. Our word, circus, is a derivative of the word, circle. You know, “three-ring,” as in a “three-ring circus.” Perhaps, very early-on when meetings, or assemblies, convened, they sat in a circle like a “round table;” from that, the word, church was coined. This makes sense as the first church had no formal church buildings or temples, they met in houses. Acts 2:46 The bigger the meeting, it becomes impossible for everyone to speak and participate, but in house meetings, one person should not take over the discussion, only lead and facilitate it, in order that everyone gets an opportunity to participate. 

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.  (1 Cor 14:26) 

ψαλμός psalmós: A song: the song sung with musical accompaniment. This latest stage of its meaning was adopted in the Sept. In all probability the psalms of Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16.

διδαχή didachḗ: to teach. In an act. sense it means the act of teaching, instructing, tutoring (Mark 4:2; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2). Heb 5:11-6:2 Search and seek “sound doctrine” sound doctrine: 1 Ti 4:6; 2 Ti 4:3; Tit 1:9; 2:1 (cf. Pr 4:2; 1 Ti 6:3; 2 Ti 1:13) 

γλῶσσα glṓssa: qualitatively new, to speak languages not known to them before, means to speak in or with tongues other than their own native tongue (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12:30; 14:2, 4-6, 13, 18, 23, 27, 39). It is significant than speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues be listed as main ingredients to the NT gathering of believers. As to emphasize its importance.  If you thus want to participate, get filled in the Holy Spirit by speaking in Tongues. 1 Cor 14 

ἀποκάλυψις apokálupsis: to reveal. Revelation, uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. The revelation of the mysteries refers to divine purposes and doctrines which before were unknown and concealed (Rom. 16:25 [TR]; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26). Of revelations from God the Father or Christ (2 Cor. 12:1, 7; Gal. 1:12; 2:2; Eph. 3:3). In Eph. 1:17 “a spirit of . . . revelation” means a spirit which can fathom and unfold the deep things of God

ἑρμηνεία hermēneía: to interpret. Interpretation, explanation (1 Cor. 14:26), metonym for the ability to interpret, as a charisma (1 Cor. 12:10), gift.  Although the word interpretation in this reference refer specifically to the interpretation of tongues, I do propose that most of the activities is a form of interpretation. The word hermeneutic is used by theologians of the science of bible interpretation.  Having visions and dreams, and spiritual experiences has to be interpreted and judged. 1 Cor 14:29

All things are actually spiritual by definition, prayer to a God who is an invisible Spirit John 4:26, our unity and bond as believers 1 Cor 12:26, spiritual warfare Eph 6:12.  This is why a person operating from a point of religion, sets of rules and liturgy, cannot function in a NT Church meeting of spirit-filled believers.  It is two completely different operating systems.  

The most important point however one needs to remember is: “let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all” For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Mat 18:20 Paul actually says that he is spiritual present although absent in the flesh. 1 Cor 5:3-4 This reveals an unspoken thread, bond, connectedness, seamless robe, with the Spirit of Christ as revealed in His body, Him being the head, Eph 1:22 The simple way is, pick up the thread of the meeting, connect to the flow, listen to each other and resonate, harmonize. If the message you have prepared does not fit, discard it, it is not for now.  

Tune in to the Spirit of the meeting, from the first song the worship leader scans the spirit, the dance leaders resonate in body what is sung, then while we are corporately tuning in, we experience an open heaven of revelation, and spiritual insight. Then as we begin to declare and share what we have seen and experience the visions become clearer and it grows, so that we can fulfill God’s original plan to be among His people. Heb 12:18-23


[1] Duncan Watts, Small World: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

[2] “Thy Kingdom Connected (ēmersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith): What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks” by Dwight J. Friesen. https://www.scribd.com/book/234999681

[3] Duncan Watts, Small World: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism

Categories
Sermons

Communication is more than words.

Communication certainly is more than words: we communicate through music, art, food, clothing, house decoration, and acting. 

There are more than 100 types of digital communication.[1] Blogs, infographics, vlogs, podcasts, cartoons, animations, apps etc. Advertisers contend for your attention, to communicate their message to you in countless of ways. One of the number one requests and challenges in marriage is communication. In the workplace most problems arise due to poor communication.  Many parents complain: “I do not know how to communicate with my child anymore.” Let’s all concur: Communication is difficult! 

Most often arguments arise because of conflicting signals and wrongly pre-conceived misconceptions about a person. It’s important to realise that while actual words mainly include dictionary type meanings but add inference, intention, context, tone, facial expression, gesture, humour, irony and metaphor and the meaning and understanding of what is said are changed or enhanced completely. We basically communicate who we are.  What you are always speaks louder than what you say. 

Communication is Connection. 

Without connection there can be no communication.  Like a power chord needs to be plugged into the power source for the current of electricity to flow from one source to another. So also, we need to be plugged in to another person or people, for true communication and transfer of information to occur.  Artists, speakers, comedians, performers strive to connect with the audience, and then deliver their content. One cannot really transfer any form of information without connecting with your hearer/s.  Surely language and words are essential to communication, but connection is more than words. Connection involves reciprocal flow, dialogue, listening and reacting, finding resonance. 

Poor communication and lack of connection leads to misunderstandings, division, slander, gossip, anarchy, offense, war and chaos. Connections lead to life. When a husband and a wife come together, babies are born. When the spirit of a person and the Spirit of God come together, new birth takes place. (John 3:5) When brothers and sisters come together in unity, God commands his blessing (Psalm 133). When the disciples came together on the day of Pentecost, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)

God is the best communicator ever! He knows how to ensure that we get the message. From narratives retold from one generation to the other, written text, ritual, signs and wonders, visual stimulation in nature, but ultimately by incarnating the Word and becoming flesh! His Words remains for ever! We should accordingly get our communication ques from the Godhead, because we were made in His image. Examining the way He communicates reveals the best method and directive for our communication.  

We are more connected than we know 

Following the way trees communicate: There is now overwhelming evidence that trees of the same species are communal and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.[2]

This is revealing concerning the intend of creation, beginning in Eden – community, meeting, fellowship, family, heaven on earth, unified, collective oneness, divine purpose. Sin was the disconnect from this harmony.  Pride, lies, disobedience, strive, envy, laziness, wrath is the means of disconnection. Our battle in life as believers is continuing to stay connected. Contractionary, all life in God is connected in Christ. Sin is a form of blindness and ignorance, and disregard of this connection. Like children are connected biologically to their parent’s DNA, their rebellion ignores and violates this connection.  

In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All people are involved in a inevitable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Martin Luther King 

What did Jesus teach about connection? 

What kind of spirit are you off

Your spirit is important above all; “you do not know of what kind of spirit are you off?” (Luk 9:56) Jesus rebukes His young ambitious disciples. Your spirit determines the quality of connection. The Father is the mind and intend, Jesus is the Word, the Spirit is the incarnation and execution of the Word. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created (Ps 104:30) This is what made Jesus so effective: His thoughts, words and actions lined up perfectly.  Freely you have received, freely give. What are you full off? You can only give what you have on the inside.  Jesus was full of the Spirit. (Luk 4:1, 11) But being full of the Holy Spirit was required of all leaders in the church. (Acts 6:3; 5; 7:55; 11:24) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17-19) 

Connection begins in the Heart.

The creator is kindness, love, connection, and stability.  

Love will make a way. When people are convinced of your love and affection, communication flows like many rivers and streams in countless ways. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Mat 12:34) The heart determines the content of the flow.  Whatever has filled your heart whether heart, worries, fear, doubt, concern, frustration it will come out in words, actions, notions, habits, and actions. Having your heart filled with faith, the word of God, God’s will and love creates life! 

Compassion the source code of communication 

Robert SheltonI have found that until one has compassion for someone, communication, and consequent connection is difficult. Compassion acts as a tuner/adapter/catalyst to bring foreign objects together.  

Jesus was a man of compassion: (Mark 1:41; 6:34; Luk 7:13) 4697. σπλαγχνίζομαι splagchnízomai; fut., splagchnisthḗsomai, pass. deponent from splágchnon (G4698), bowel. To feel deeply or viscerally, to yearn, have compassion, pity. Used in an absolute sense (Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 10:33; 15:20). 

Pity, sympathy, empathy or compassion: Which is a godly virtue? 

When humans are suffering, they tend to make two demands that are impossible to fulfill simultaneously. On the one hand, they want people to notice the depth of their pain and sorrow — how deep they are in the pit, how unique and tragic their circumstances. At the same time, they don’t want to be made to feel that they really need the assistance of others. In one breath, they say, “Help me! Can’t you see I’m suffering?” and in the next they say, “How dare you act as though I needed you and your help?” The sufferer doesn’t want to be alone, and demands not to be pitied. This makes their emotional turmoil in suffering not only delicious to our taste, but also highly combustible and unpredictable. [3]

Currently some people are fighting on behalf of the poor, demanding an exchange of wealth. This may seem justified the great inequality between 10% – 3,5 million people in south Africa owning 85% of the wealth, and the 17.5 Million (50%) of the population that owns nothing. 

The economic fighters are usually very emotional, and violent in their pursuit. This is a great deception: Get involved with the poor, and becoming their friends is what is needed! More hand-outs are not helping! The poor became poor, because of a disconnectedness! I have found most materially poor people, are actually more connected with God, self, their neighbours and community than the rich! What is needed, is collaboration, connection and cohesion! It is impossible to get this harmony through threats, intimidation! Even getting something is short-lived and not sustainable. 

Jesus moved all the way from pity, sympathy, empathy towards an act of compassion!  

The most powerful virtue of believers in Christ Jesus is the love of God demonstrated through us in love, giving, generosity, kindness, goodness, mercy and compassion.  The enemy is defenceless against the power of God’s LOVE. Conversely, the enemy do what he always does, he perverts God’s provision.  One cannot help the broken, hurting, disenfranchised, poor without truth. Speaking the truth in love, and consequent change in actions and modus operandi, is the real deliverance.  Spiritually poor people have poor ways. Billions have been wasted feeling sorry, having pity, showing sympathy without coming alongside the victim or the vulnerable, building a discipling, mentorship-kind of reciprocal relationship that demands responsibility and a new upbringing. We need to adopt a humbler posture, a posture that says, “I am broken too on a journey to restoration, let we walk together so you can find healing too.”  

Jesus, did not immediately reacted to the urgent request of his close friends, Maria, Martha and Lazarus. (John 11) This family did not need His pity, sympathy, of empathy they need someone who could heal and later resurrect their brother.  And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sinby no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exo 34:6-7) A doctor that is too concerned with a patient’s feelings, is limited to administrate appropriate healing and rehabilitation.   Jesus loved the rich man: yet asked him to sell everything he had to follow him. Jesus wanted to free this good upright man, from the entanglement of riches without identity and purpose. 

Compassion is an act of LOVE: Forgiving someone’s debt. (Mat 18:27) Clothing, feeding, visiting in prison. (Mat 25:36) Taking a bruised man to hospital and paying for his recovery. (Luke 10:33-34) 

Know God through the scriptures 

Worldviews, beliefs and perceptions of truth governs our thinking and actions.  The spirit-filled believer must constantly be filled with the word, in order that our ways become in frequency with God’s heart.  By now, you will understand that all the wisdom revealed thus far is: SCRIPTURAL. We do not think our own thoughts, run after our own notions, inclinations and desires. We purpose our mind, to study the scriptures, meditate on it in order to begin to think and act like God. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13) 

Connect then speak and act.  

Solitude, contemplation, listening, silence is invaluable to ensure that one organise your thoughts coherently, originated in the heart of God.  

See my father do (Joh 5:19-20, 30)

only His Will (Joh 6:38)

father taught me (Joh 8:28)

father given commandment (Joh 12:49)

Father that dwells in me does the works (Joh 14:10, 24, 31)

whatever He hears He will speak (Joh 16:13)

not My will but thine (Mat 26:39)

May we all grow in depth of understanding of true deep meaningful communication that connects, build bridges and sustain long-standing relationships of trust, respect and reciprocal good-will.  

Grace and Peace! 


[1] https://www.zazzlemedia.co.uk/blog/digital-content-types/#gref

[2] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-enticing-sin-of-empathy

Categories
Sermons

EDEN – CHURCH

We are not here on earth as museum keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.

Pope John XXIII

As a church we are on a journey with Jesus. Along this journey we are slowly awaking to the presence and reality of the person of Jesus, learning His ways, what He values, How He thinks, how He acts, who He was and is, and is to come.  Along the journey, we began to notice metaphors and teaching aids to help us understand and remember, what is the best way to do life.  

Last year Pastor Morne Bailey and Nadia Smith opened our thinking to Eden – the walled, enclosed garden.  I believe there is much to learn from gardens, trees, and forests.  Let’s looks at a few examples.  

In the following video, you will learn the importance of the circle of life, and how all the diversity of species, plays an important role in the balance of sustainable life being preserved.  When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.[1]

Would we all not love to take a hike and experience the magic of old-growth Redwood forests, where giant Sequoias reach 115 meters into the sky for sunlight[2]

Now that I have your attention, let’s look at the Bible’s garden story! The brilliant guys at the Bible Project will get us on the same page first: Union of heaven and Earth under God’s rule is what the Bible is all about. [3] Mankind always seeks out a form of community: political parties, gangs, clubs, peer-pressure-groups, family trees, etc. According to Dr Henry Cloud we thrive on 3 basic things: Our brain/body (the physical), our relational connections, and our minds, which regulate the energy and information needed to live and perform. We are connected in such ways that the reality of how we function always involves these three elements: our physical make up, our relationships, and our minds.[4] But most importantly: A community that does not disciple and nurture you into becoming more like Christ fails your creation purpose.  Let’s, therefore, find our queues and direction from the Bible, and discover God’s true intention for community and life on earth. 

For the serious Bible students, here is the literal Hebrew meaning of the Garden of Eden

H1588. גַּן gan: A common noun meaning garden, enclosure. It is used to indicate the Garden of Eden (pleasure) where the first human pair was placed (Gen. 2:8-10, 15, 16; 3:1-3, 8, 10, 23, 24; Ezek. 36:35; Joel 2:3). Hence, it refers to a place of abundant trees, water, fruits, and vegetables—where conditions for life are maximized. It could be enclosed (Lam. 2:6). It is combined with Lord to designate the garden of the Lord (Gen. 13:10) and with God to refer to the garden of God (Ezek. 28:13). A garden, however, could feature many things: vegetables (Deut. 11:10; 1 Kgs. 21:2); spices, fruits, plants (Song 4:16; 5:1; 6:2). Assyria is referred to figuratively as a garden that surpassed even the garden of God (Ezek. 31:8, 9).

H5731. עֵדֶן ‘ēḏen: A proper noun designating Eden: The place where God placed Adam and Eve to live and where they rebelled against the Lord’s words. Satan was permitted in the garden and fostered the rebellion of the first human pair. They were subsequently driven from the garden by God (Gen. 3:21-24). Ezekiel takes the event seriously and notes the presence of an archetype of the King of Tyre in the Garden of Eden (Ezek. 28:11-15).

The precise location of the garden is not known, even though the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were part of it. It became a symbol of beauty and fertility (Ezek. 31:9; Joel 2:3).

In the Genesis story we find a description of Eden as a lush garden with four rivers (Gen 2:10–14). Eden was also a mountain (Ezek 28:13–14), the administrative “seat of the gods” (Ezek 28:2), situated in “the heart of the seas” (Ezek 28:2), a description that reiterated the well-watered imagery of the divine council headquarters. [5]  What makes God’s earthly home/kingdom different from ancient comparative narratives, the biblical version of the divine council at the divine abode includes a human presence.[6] God wants humanity to share His rule and governance over the earth.  

Not all the world was Eden.[7] And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Gen 2:8) The garden was perfect in balance harmony and order, yet the rest of the earth was waiting to be subdued. 

The distinction helps us see that the original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden.[8] Eden is where the idea of the kingdom of God begins. And it’s no coincidence that the Bible ends with the vision of a new Edenic Earth (Rev 21–22).[9] The Bible begins in a garden, ends in a garden city, and the in-between is full of stories of God’s encounter with humans in vineyards, orchards, gardens, mountains, fields, and forests. Take out the gardens (Eden, Gethsemane) and the mountains (Sinai, Hermon, Ararat, Nebo, Carmel, Olives, Zion), and you’ve cut the heart out of the Scriptures.[10]

It is also clear that Eden was a temple, or that the temple design was based on Eden. 

  1. In the later OT the Temple was the place of God’s special presence where He made Himself known and felt to Israel. That is exactly how His walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden is depicted. (Gen. 3:8)
  2. Adam is placed in the garden to “cultivate (abad)” and “keep (samar)” it (Gen 2:15). The same two words are translated elsewhere as “serve” and “guard”, and when they appear together, they are either referring to Israelites serving or obeying God’s word, or more usually, to the job of the priest in guarding and keeping the Temple. (Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 1 Chron. 23:32) Elsewhere Adam is portrayed dressed in the clothes of the high priest, functioning as a high priest. (Ezek 28:11-19) 
  3. The tree of life served as a model for the lampstand, which was clearly shaped as a tree, in the Temple.
  4. Israel’s later Temple was made with wood carvings of flowers, palm trees, etc. meant to recall Eden’s garden brilliance  (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 35); pomegranates were also placed at the bottom of the two stone pillars in the Temple. (7:18-20)
  5. The entrance to the Temple was to the east, on a mountain facing Zion (Ex. 15:17), just as the end-time temple prophesied in Ezekiel is (40:2, 6; 43:12). Well, turns out the entrance to Eden was from the East (Gen. 3:24)
  6. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the ark of the covenant both were accessed or touched only on pain of death. Also, both were sources of wisdom.
  7. Just as a river flowed out of Eden (Gen 2:10), so a river is supposed to flow out of the end-time temple (Ezek 47:1-12; Rev. 21:1-2)
  8. Ezekiel 28:13-14 refers the Eden as “the holy mountain of God” whereas everywhere else in the OT, it is Temple and Tabernacle language.[11]

What is IMPERATIVE to see however is!!! Eden was a place of MEETING.  The first tabernacle, was called “the tabernacle of meeting” Exo 33:7 

This fellowship, meeting, communion, community, the family was disrupted and annihilated by sin, disobedience and rebellion!! Jesus is the mediator of the new better covenant to reinstall that unity, bond, the union we once had with God.  But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:21-24) 

The spiritual nature of our “garden” is confirmed by Christ as the angel of the church in Ephesus: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise (Eden) of God” (Revelation 2:7). 

A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. Apparently, the trees synchronize their performance so that they are all equally successful. The rate of photosynthesis is the same for all the trees. The trees, it seems, are equalizing differences between the strong and the weak. Whether they are thick or thin, all members of the same species are using light to produce the same amount of sugar per leaf. This equalization is taking place underground through the roots. There’s obviously a lively exchange going on down there. Whoever has an abundance of sugar hands some over; whoever is running short gets help. This is because a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it. [12]

So what do these beautiful imageries mean for you and I today? The place of meeting is the EDEN where God reconnects us to all the provision, gold, rivers, nutrition, safety, and protection one needs to not merely survive, but thrive in this life! For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. This glorious opulence is found when we as church meet together! 

Beware of restricting the concept of meeting: Jesus met people in the streets and said: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand” This Kingdom is within us. (Luk 17:21) Thus the meeting is happening already in our hearts! Because of our glorious union with the Father though Christ being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in unity in our hearts with the church! This heart-union is expressed in various kinds of meetings happening constantly! 

This is why we need to be so careful to not be eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and build an offence against the other because of some partial knowledge we think we have about one another! The tree of life inside makes you eat with tax collectors, and sinners, (Mat 11:19) and is constantly creating a feast in this life. It is multiplying food, healing people, delivering people and eating and feasting with people! Jesus embodied the living temple, EDEN, God’s delight here on Earth as it is in heaven, calling us to do the same!! 

Our lives, homes, business, towns and cities should be temples, Eden’s, sacred enclosed gardens of delight, where God’s order and world is restored.  This is God’s ecclesia! This is His church in movement! 

In order to stay healthy like trees, we have to withstand climate change, wind and storms, fallen trees damaging each other, disease, parasites and infestations. As humans and the church, we have to withstand the storms and difficulties of life.

There is so much sinning going on! Sin brings separation, destruction, and death. It is a severe battle! God has provided for us an Eden habitat in the church, a heaven-on-earth reality, to draw from one another and flourish! 

Next week we will learn about my responsibility as a tree of righteousness: “That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isa 61:3)

Tree planted by living waters: (Ps 1:2-5; Jer 17:5-8, Eze 47:10-12)


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWi2bn40ma4

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy2AQlK6C5k

[4]  “The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it” by Henry Cloud.

[5] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 160.

[6] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 47.

[7] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 49.

[8] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[9] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[10]  “So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church” by Leonard Sweet.

[11] Beale, G., 2011. A New Testament Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, pp.pp. 617-621.

[12] Wohlleben, P., 2018. The Hidden Life Of Trees (Illustrated Edition). Melbourne: Black Inc., pg. 15, 25.

Categories
Sermons

How does God see finances?

Money, in and of itself, has no actual value; it can be a shell, a metal coin, or a piece of paper. Its value is symbolic; it conveys the importance that people place on it. Money derives its value by virtue of its functions: as a medium of exchange, a unit of measurement, and a storehouse for wealth. Before money was invented, people acquired and exchanged goods through a system of bartering, which involves the direct trade of goods and services.  Money doesn’t have a life. It cannot act on its own. It cannot do good deeds, and it cannot commit crimes. Basically, it’s neither good or bad. Money takes on the form of the one who controls it.  

  • 16 out of 38 of Jesus’ parables deal with money and possessions
  • Nearly 25% of Jesus’ words in the New Testament deal with biblical stewardship
  • 1 out of 10 verses in the Gospels deal with money
  • In the Bible, there are more than 2,000 scriptures on tithing, money, and possessions, which is twice as many as topics of faith and prayer combined.

The Bible is explicit to explain how not to make money! 

How does the secular world (unbelievers and ungodly) make money?: Toil (Prov 23:4); lies (Prov 21:6); interest (Exo 22:25; Deut 23:19); dishonest gain (Eze 22:13); ponzi and pyramid marketing schemes[1]; fraud; over-promise-under-delivery; slavery and oppression of the poor (Prov 22:16); unjust scales (Prov 11:1); quick-profit (Prov 13:11); default on payments (Ps 37:21; Rom 13:7); passive income (2 Thes 3:10); extortion and bribes (Luk 3:14); violence (Prov 1:19).

Beware of the love of money (1 Tim 6:10) 

God did not invent money, currency, or promissory notes. He does not bless us with money “raining from the sky”. We live from every word that proceeds out of His mouth (Mat 4:4). God is our source, not money or an income.  When we obey Him, He will provide. 

What is the currency of heaven? 

It is called FAITH, not beliefs, faith that is backed-up by works and actions.  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Heb 11:1,3,6). 

Calling ten of his [own] bond servants, he gave them ten minas [each equal to about one hundred days’ wages or nearly twenty dollars] and said to them, Buy and sell with these while I go and then return. (Luk 19:13 Amp).

The meaning of the word PRAGMATIC: 4231. πραγματεύομαι pragmateúomai; fut. pragmateúsomai, mid. deponent from prágma (G4229), matter, business. To be doing, to be busy, occupied, to do business, to trade or traffic (Luke 19:13). Deriv.: diapragmateúomai (G1281), to gain by doing business, to bargain; pragmateía (G4230), a transaction, affair.

Even our spiritual work is based on the principle of Pragma: distributing all manner of healing, deliverance, freedom, exorcism, salvation, exhortation in the name of Jesus, as a representative of His Kingdom. 

“Crucible work” (work refined by fire) births the core values of character. Work is the greatest remedy available for both mental and physical afflictions. BUT like physical exercise people can get addicted to work, and become too busy to make time for God. Daniel’s excellent work was based upon his prayer life (Dan 6:1-5).  Believers’ work is rooted in their faith, and dependence on God.  

We should not follow money; money should follow us!

For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10 

Money and prosperity follow and prevail where there is Justice, Fairness, Generosity, Order, Integrity, Faithfulness, Passion, Innovation and Hard work.

  • Consistency -– He becomes poor who works with a slack and idle hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. Proverbs 10:4 AMP
  • High Standardsexcel in your work, it will bring you before Kings. Prov 22:29
  • Convenience (contribute added value to your product or service) 
  • A person – e.g.: Solomon, David. Investors may have a very good portfolio, but people connect with a person first. The owner of an insurance firm told me once how important it is to keep his staff happy and so they are faithful and committed their whole lives. Thus when a client phones, they always ask to work with  the same employee.  
  • Growth and favor – Multiplication (Mat 25:29). The servants who multiplied the most were blessed: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
  • Productivity – The Japanese settlers have a social value called gambare, which roughly translates, “Try harder, don’t give up, never give up!” He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer and he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide.  
  • Proverbs 18:9 He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer. When it comes to our work and our responsibilities – whether it is for ourselves (our own business or family) or for a boss – we must be faithful, diligent and hard working. If we aren’t, then the Bible says that we have the same impact as a vandal, or a person who actively works to destroy rather than build. Now, few of us plan to mess things up deliberately, but we need to realize that if we are lazy, unfocused, unfaithful, neglectful, and/or procrastinators, then we are having an actively negative effect on the areas of responsibility that are ours! Proverbs 25:19 AMP says that, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint.” A lot of people like to just coast along, looking busy, looking like they are contributing, meanwhile they are allowing others to “pick up the slack” and carry an extra burden. People do this at work and at home. In a family, you might have either one spouse  picking up more than their fair-share of the family responsibilities because the other person neglects or refuses to do their part. This is never a successful strategy in the long-term. The family is going to be unbalanced and lacking. Eventually it will fall apart, one way or another. The destruction that is caused will manifest in either the marriage failing and/or the children growing up in dysfunction. Ecclesiastes 9:18b says, “One sinner destroys much good.” One person can make a big difference – positively or negatively. Don’t be the one who ends up destroying a lot of good because you are lazy and irresponsible. Ask the Lord to help you do what’s right every day in your work and in your family responsibilities. 
  • Uniqueness – 1 Peter 4:10-11: God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.
  • Specific purpose – Not living a life of purpose – he who follows worthless pursuits will have poverty in plenty (Prov. 28:19);

Work is Worship

Glorify God through your work: 1Cor 10:31. May your good works glorify your father in heaven. Mat 5:16. We join with fellow believers to be filled, armoured, strengthened, to go out and fight the war in the marketplace every day.  Some dualistic Christianity teachings sees the world, work as secular, foreign, and evil. Although the Bible is clear that we should have no part in the world, it speaks of worldly thinking.  Brother Lawrence taught us to practice God’s presence in everything we do. If we sweep the floor, let it be with thankfulness and joy, praising our Maker! If we build or create something, let it be with the inspiration and imagination of the Creator. 

Work to Give

Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Eph 4:28.  The innermost heart of humanity isn’t about ownership. Jesus Christ practiced a life of making many rich, yet He owned no land, and left behind no earthly possessions. A man’s true wealth is not determined by what he owns, but by what he gives away. The Christian Church grew most rapidly in the first 300 years. (Stark 1997:161–162; Hirsch, 2006:18-22; Viola & Barna 2008:246–250). The Christian Church became the State Religion because of its exemplary demonstration of intrinsic critical values: great acts of mercy and kindness • mutual support and love • self-control • respect for life. • To do good to each other. • Avoid evil such as theft, deceit and jealousy. • Show hospitality to strangers. • Take care of each other and share their food with each other. • Prove mercy toward all people. • Conduct care and nursing of the sick. • Households testify to dignity, personal responsibility, honesty and obedience. • Ethnic variety is accepted. • Women, children and slaves are treated with respect. • Respect for life prevents abortion and childhood murder. • Martyrdom and the willingness to ‘ take up your cross ‘ (see Mark. 8) [2]

This giving is directed to be caring for the poor: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27) 

The original meaning of economy:

Oikonos: “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Luke 12:42-48 

The worldview of individuality, selfies, self-centered-gain-for-my-pleasure has caused us to become alienated from local families. The internet has made the world smaller and has caused a wonderful convergence of resources and opportunities. But God’s economy is always centered around the family.  

Meaning of steward: οἰκονόμος oikonómos; gen. oikonómou, masc. noun from oíkos (G3624), house, and némō (n.f., see aponémō [G0632]), to deal out, distribute, apportion. An administrator, a person who manages the domestic affairs of a family, business, or minor, a treasurer, a chamberlain of a city, a house manager, overseer, steward. The concept of oikonomos (steward) refers to the  person responsible for the business affairs of a household. This Greek term later became the English word economy. Helmut Gollwitzer a concerned pastor, theologian and thinker known as a democratic socialist debated that regardless of our Christian political biases; we need to strive toward a social togetherness – “perfect togetherness without any conflict.” [3] This local community togetherness and economic justice cannot be achieved politically, culturally, economically or legislatively! #supportlocal #buylocal is becoming important new trends again. We need one another. We need our neighbours.  


[1] https://www.crown.org/blog/are-multi-level-marketing-companies-a-good-idea-for-christians/

[2] Dreyer, W., 2011. Praktiese Ekklesiologie En Bedieningspraktyk Met Verwysing Na Die Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk Van Afrika (Afrikaans).

[3] See Gollwitzer,  Protestant Theology  : 191 –  2. Gollwitzer draws very briefly here on the imagery found in Mi 4.3f, Zec 3.10, and Rom 14.17.

Categories
Sermons

How to discern and prevent deception

Podgooi

The problem with being deceived is that you are usually the last one to find out that you are deceived. Sometimes this awakening comes too late.

Jesus Christ is truth, there is nothing more beautiful yet sobering than an encounter with Him. Deception comes in many forms: self-deception/delusion; people deceive with hidden motives and agendas; one can be deceived regarding doctrinal beliefs and one can be deceived in business.

Ultimate Deception is: Not knowing the Truth that is Jesus Christ, not seeing nor acknowledging Him as Friend, Savior, Redeemer, God, Eternal Lord.

The difference between ignorance and deception: ignorance is not yet knowing the truth; deception is believing a false truth. For Example, Scott Peck’s: “Truth is relative”

Rebellion is not accepting the truth.

Procrastination is not confronting and dealing with the truth.

UNCOVER ANY FORM OF DECEPTION THAT EXISTS IN YOUR LIFE THROUGH THESE SCRIPTURES:

  1. Knowing the truth yet not applying or living it. Scripture says this is like a man who sees himself in the mirror, and when he turns away, he forgets what he has seen. (James 1:22)
  2. Judging your brother and not seeing and recognizing your own mistakes. (Mat 7:1)
  3. Pride: Overestimating yourself and under-estimating others. “…wise in your own opinion…”, thinking you stand when you already have fallen (Gal 6:3). The pride of your heart has deceived you (Oba 3).
  4. Isolating yourself thinking that you are spiritual. (Proverbs 18:1)
  5. Double-mindedness  (James 1:8).
  6. For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, beguiled and completely deceived me, and using it as a weapon killed me [separating me from God].” (Rom 7:11) “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators…”1 Cor 6:9). Continuing in secret sin is a great deception.
  7. Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Cor 15:33)
  8. “…giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). Truth is a Person not a Doctrine – the Spirit of the Word is the Fruit.
  9. Being deceived by signs and wonders and the outward appeal of things (Col. 2:823).
  10. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8).

THE OPERATING SYSTEM OF A DECEIVER:

Compromise: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Rev 3:14-19)

1 Kings 3 – Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter to further his diplomatic relations with Egypt. This led to spiritual decay, immorality and ungodliness.

The Holy Spirit taught me – Diplomacy is not a godly virtue.

Deceitful Tongue = Saying: “I do not want to be rude, yet…”

Flattery Prov. 24:24; Prov. 26:28; Prov. 28:23; Prov. 29:5; Rom. 16:18; 1 Thess. 2:5; Jude 16

Fraud and Dishonesty Prov. 11:26; Prov. 16:11; 1 Cor. 6:8; 1 Thess. 4:6; James 5:4

Hypocrisy Matt. 15:7-9; Matt. 16:5-12; Matt. 23:1-13, 15-35; Rom. 2:17-24; Gal. 2:13;

Lying and Falsity Prov. 10:18; Prov. 12:22; Prov. 17:4; Prov. 19:22; Acts 5:7-9; Eph. 4:25

How to Spot a Liar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_6vDLq64gE

ERADICATE DECEPTION THROUGH:

The Holies of holies knows no deception. A moment in His presence and all you own self-deception is exposed. Surround yourself with people who abides in His presence. I confess my own mistakes and deception came, because I did not consult the Lord, I went and followed the dictates of my own heart.

  1. Being part of a church based on the foundation of the Fivefold ministries – Eph 4:11-16
  2. Apostolic alignment – Gal 2:11-15; Acts 2:42
  3. The Word is a discerner – Heb 4:12
  4. Thankfulness – 1 Thes 5:18
  5. Humility and meekness – Mat 11:29
  6. A lifestyle of repentance – Mat 3:2 Repent (change) for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heb 6:1-2
Categories
Sermons

How to see in the Spirit?

Podgooi
https://youtu.be/iYiAGdjPIO0

How does one see in the Spirit?

Imagine Covid 19 social distancing without the internet? For many people their only connection to the world, their family and friends is through social media.  Once your mobile phone is connected to a reliable wi-fi network, it can update software, and apps. You can now also connect to the world with Whatsapp, e-mail, and social media. You can upload and download, and share memories, photos, documents, and valuable information.  The connection is the vital link. 

However, we are also spiritual beings. How does one connect in the Spirit? God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (Joh 4:24) Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:15-18) “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Cor 2:9-11

The reality is, in today’s modern world mankind is becoming more and more spiritually disconnected. The result is, that we’re not getting the new divine spiritual updates, and power apps/gifts to enable us cope with the complexity of daily living. God wants to give us divine spiritual direction and a kingdom roadmap to mitigate the obstacles of our times. We need a connection! 

JESUS IS THE CONNECTION

The Bible

For me to be spiritually ALIVE I need to busy my mind with spiritual things like regular bible study, prayer, praying in tongues. Also, engaging in spiritual deep discussions in fellowship and listening to an audio-bible. I also recommend attending bible-school, and weekly receiving my spiritual brother’s input in men’s group where we share kingdom perspectives, defend the faith and refer to and read spiritual books.

An important component of being spiritually alive is to regularly attend church where we build one another up, receive prophecy, teaching and testimonies. During such precious moments, we are sharing our faith, discipling others while being discipled. We engage in intercessory prayer for another, “laying on of hands”, and praying for the sick. We are also contemplating truths to meditate on from a sermon perspective. We discuss Kingdom blueprints for the economy, community, education, safety and health of our cities and towns.

From these meetings we aim apply Kingdom acts of kindness: serving the poor, being a “good Samaritan”, while defending the faith and making peace. We minister counseling, mediate healing in relationships, encourage someone with a scripture and testimony and care for someone in need like feeding the poor.

We make sure that we are doing this in a manner pleasing to God: with a heart of forgiveness and grace while listening to discern God’s voice and obeying His instructions!

What are you feeding on? 

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8:5-6)

Living With God

We are temple of the Holy Spirit. you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Cor. 3:16); the temple of God is holy. Which temple are you? (1 Cor. 3:17); Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19); we are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16).

Be God-inside minded. Christ within the hope of Glory. (Col 1:27) Live a seamless spiritual life, conscious that everything is spiritual. [1]

Talking To God

MATTHEW 6:5–13

Like any conversation there are many different ways, of communicating your thoughts and heart to someone. The same applies to prayer, thanksgiving, praise, confession, supplication, petition, intercession, travail etc.  But no prayer is one-directional. It is simple good manners, to not do all the talking, there should also be listening, reflecting and mirroring. 

Discovering God in the Bible

Studying the scriptures is like studying the mind of God. We get to know Him through the scripture by discovering His heart, motives and intention, and in obedience we discover His ways.

The Word is a light to our path. It teaches us to begin to think like God, so we can begin to act like God. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16) continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:12-14) 

Sensing God in Creation

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (Rom 1:20) See Ps 19! Nature has an ability to bring me peace in a way nothing else does. Sure I get annoyed by bugs or get tired from hiking. But seeing the beauty, creativity, and complexity of what God has made has had a profound effect on my spiritual life.

Recognizing God In People

When man decided to rather be filled with the instant gratification of a desirable beautiful experience than remain loyal to divine family; he alienated himself from the only way to acquire godly maturity and divine wisdom.  A team of researchers “factor analyzed” all of the different treatment outcomes in order to understand what it was that really produced change, growth, and healing in a person. The researchers looked at each technique’s style, interventions on thinking and feelings, dynamics, and the like. While all of that was important, a professor explained, there was something else, some other factor that had really produced the curative force across each of these modalities: it is relationship. Not just any relationship, but the kind of meaningful, constructive, discipling that produces maturity in Christ. [2]

Finding God In Circumstances

GENESIS 45:4–15; 50:19–20

He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave.

They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons.

Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. God used the famine, and in these circumstances delivered His people.  

Discovering God In Silence

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 KINGS 19:1–16). “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him” (Ps 62:5).

God Revealed In Visions & Dreams 

(ACTS 2:17, JOEL 2:28)

“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6) 

Sensing God’s Presence

Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road (Luk 24:31-32). Many times one read of one being in God’s presence and not being aware. Awareness and focus is thus the problem. We need to tune in. 

Encountering His Messengers

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Rom 10:14-15 Paul needed Ananias.

Wrestling With God

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Gen 32:25-28

Walking With God

Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. (Gen 6:9-22) Walking with God entails servanthood obedience.  [3]


[1] https://robbell.com/portfolio/everything-is-spiritual-2016-tour-film/

[2] Excerpt from: “The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it” by Henry Cloud. Read this book on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/308264926

[3] Connecting with God: A spiritual formation guide. (Renovare resource) by Renovare, Lynda L. Graybeal, Julia L. Roller, Richard J. Foster https://a.co/8jbUmf8