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The Restoration of All Things

We reside in a world increasingly marked by despair and uncertainty. The evidence of people losing hope is heart-wrenching, with rising suicide rates, particularly among children. Unemployment and overpopulation strain our economy, while the looming threat of climate change adds to the pervasive sense of instability. Amidst this backdrop, two major wars further darken the global horizon, leaving many questioning the notion of a hopeful future. 

Recent statistics highlight concerning trends in mental health and suicide rates in South Africa. According to data from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the country has one of the highest suicide rates in Africa, with 13,774 suicides reported in 2019, translating to a rate of 23.5 per 100,000 people. Notably, men are significantly more affected, with a suicide rate of 37.6 per 100,000 compared to 9.8 per 100,000 for women​ (Africa Check)​​ (SAFMH)​.

Additionally, the demand for psychotropic medications for depression, anxiety, and mental trauma has surged, reflecting the increasing prevalence of mental health issues. The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) underscores the urgent need for enhanced suicide prevention measures and mental health support services, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness​ (SAFMH)​.

FOUNDATIONAL HOPE TO ANCHOR THE SOUL

THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS!! 

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”  And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.  “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. (Mat 19:28-30) 

A word study on the word “restoration”: 3824. παλιγγενεσία paliggenesía; gen. paliggenesías, fem. noun from pálin (G3825), again, and génesis (G1078), generation, regeneration, restoration, renovation, rebirth. In simple terms: GENESIS AGAIN! 

Let us embark on a journey to find THIS AUTHENTIC HOPE the Bible speaks of as beautifully illustrated by John Eldredge in his inspiring work, “All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything.” Our hearts often yearn for something beyond this world, a deep-seated desire that hints at a greater reality. As C.S. Lewis once penned:

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

This other world is none other than the New Heaven and New Earth promised by God, a realm where all things will be restored to their intended perfection.

Isaiah 65:17 – “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

Isaiah 66:22 – “For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.”

2 Peter 3:13 – “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21:1 – Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”

Revelation 21:5 – “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.'”

Revelation 22:1-5 – “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”

Acts 3:21 (NKJV) – “Whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”

Romans 8:19-21 (NKJV) – For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

1. Heaven is Hidden in Our Deepest Desires

Our deepest longings are not mere fantasies; they are echoes of Eden, whispers of a coming glory. Eldredge suggests that these desires are a glimpse of Heaven itself. Scripture affirms this: 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” 

Eccl.3:11

The very yearning we experience for beauty, justice, and love is Heaven beckoning us, inviting us to the fullness of life that God has prepared. 

People often use the word “heaven” to describe a range of delightful experiences and emotions whilst enjoying a sunset on the beach it feels like “a slice of heaven” or a day at the spa; being pampered and relaxed feels like “pure heaven”. Or, savoring a piece of rich, creamy chocolate cake is absolutely “heavenly”. Listening to your favorite music can “transport you to heaven”. Walking through a blooming garden feels like a heavenly experience. Curling up with a good book on a rainy day is my idea of heaven. A long, peaceful sleep feels like heaven after a busy day. Sharing a heartfelt conversation with a loved one is “truly heavenly”. Experiencing a moment of pure joy and laughter feels like being in heaven. Watching the stars on a clear night can feel like a glimpse of heaven.  

“I’ll let you in on a little secret: your heart is made for the kingdom of God. This might be the most important thing anyone will ever tell you about yourself: your heart only thrives in one habitat, and that safe place is called the kingdom of God.” 

John Eldredge: All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love

The scriptural accounts after Jesus’ resurrection and before His Ascension gives us the clearest proof of what heaven is like.  The story of Jesus meeting with His disciples on the shore of Galilee is one of the most revealing pieces of evidence ever! He did not act like an alien from space! He interacted “normally” like making a fire and inviting His disciples for a scrumptious beach breakfast with His friends! 

Jesus Defied Natural Law Restrictions:

Feasting & Big Mealtimes!

In Jesus’ resurrected body, He evidently ate with His disciples. Having food to eat means there is great value in intentionality and togetherness around nourishment: someone will have to produce food, and someone has to prepare it! For people to sit at the table, someone had to craft the table and the chairs! Someone had to build the buildings.  John 21:12Jeremiah 31:13Isaiah 25:6Revelation 19:9 See also Matthew 8:11

Feeling at Home: 

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”   

John 14:1-3

Heaven will feel like home! 

Isa 65: 17–1921Mat 19: 28–29Mat 25:31-36Joh 14:1-4

2. The New Heaven and Earth Restored Without Sin

Imagine a world unmarred by sin, where every molecule resonates with the holiness of God.

Revelation gives us this promise: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Rev. 21:1-4

In this restored creation, the curse of sin will be utterly abolished, and the earth will reflect God’s perfect will.  

Imagine the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, where every person is a “Mr & Mrs Dolittle” harmoniously connecting with all animals, living without degradation, pollution, waste, or rubbish.  

Remember the feeling of recovering from a long, bed-stricken illness?  We all know how to appreciate a limited-addition, old masterpiece vehicle restored to its former glory. Think of that moment when you achieve perfection after countless hours of practice on a musical instrument. Recollect that warm feeling of delight when seeing an old friend again after many years! Think about those moments when your team functioned without jealousy, competition, egotistical distractions, or divisive factions. 

This is the NEW EARTH—no sin. Picture a world where people aren’t weighed down by ego trips and selfishness, endless lusts, jealousy, anger or wrath, unhealthy desires, overindulgence, laziness, or self-absorption. This would enable everyone to thrive in a vibe of cooperation, mindfulness, genuine connections, and purpose-driven action.

3. Restored in Perfect Likeness of Jesus

We shall be transformed into the likeness of our risen Lord. Just as Jesus was resurrected with a glorified body, so too shall we be. Scripture tells us:

“He will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

Philippians 3:21


Just a couple of hours after Jesus’ most brutal suffering on a cross, His resurrected body only bore the scars of His crucifixion as a testament to His victory over sin and death. Likewise, our resurrected bodies will be free from all blemishes of sin, a testament to our redemption and new creation in Christ.  

We are most beautiful when we are most like Him

“When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2

1 John 3:2

Think of your mind functioning optimally, remembering everything, being sober-minded and focused, your body in perfect shape, and your unique talents reaching their full potential.  Sin’s gravity is constantly pulling you down, yet in your innermost being, you know you can do better! Imagine the gravitational pull of sin completely irradicated! Weightlessness! This is what heaven is like! Perfected into the image of Christ! 

4. Reunion with Lost Loved Ones in Perfect Harmony

Imagine the joy of being reunited with loved ones, all relationships restored in perfect harmony.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 provides this comforting assurance: “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 

In the New Heaven and Earth, every tear of separation will be wiped away, and we will enjoy eternal fellowship without the shadow of sin.

In the Old Testament, when a person died, the biblical writers said he was “gathered to his people” (cf. Gen. 25:835:2949:29Num. 20:24Judg. 2:10). In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23). David evidently expected to see his child again. 

While sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, Christ said, “Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17-18). Christ promised that He and His disciples would drink the fruit of the vine together again–in heaven.

This is why Paul writes: “lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” to comfort some of the Thessalonians who evidently thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” The comfort comes from the prospect of a glorious continual reunion.  

5. My Purpose and Work Restored in God’s Likeness

Our work and creativity will find their true purpose in the New Creation. We will fulfill God’s dream for the world, engaging in work that is both meaningful and joyous.

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” 

Rev. 22:3

Our service will be a pure expression of our redeemed nature, reflecting God’s glory in every endeavour.

When God created Adam, He “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Work was part of the original Eden. It was part of a perfect human life. God Himself is a worker. He didn’t create the world and then retire. Jesus said, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). Jesus worked physically for the greater part of His life. We will also have work to do, satisfying and enriching work that we can’t wait to get back to, work that’ll never be drudgery. God is the primary Worker, and as His image-bearers, we are made to work. We create, accomplish, set goals and fulfill them—to God’s glory.

Remember the EDEN Story! 

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  

Gen. 1:28

This purpose will be wonderfully fulfilled in and through us! 

6. All Right Deeds Vindicated and Rewarded

Every act of righteousness, often unnoticed in this world, will be openly rewarded in the Kingdom of God. Matthew 25:21 echoes this truth: 

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Matt. 25:21

The obscurity we endure in our righteous acts will be vindicated as we enter into the joy of our Lord with these rewards:

There is nothing more fulfilling than achieving your JUST reward—getting the right recognition from the one who values your work most! 

7. Evil and Wrong Punished and Abolished

Finally, all evil and wrong will be justly punished and eradicated. Scripture assures us of this victory:

“And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” 

Rev. 20:10

The final judgment will ensure that evil is permanently removed, and the new creation will be a place of everlasting peace and righteousness. 

Our moments of joy and pleasure are often short-lived because we know the imminent danger of evil, destruction, bad luck, mishaps, and mistakes lurking around the corner.  

Conclusion 

As we reflect on the vision of the New Heaven and Earth, let us anchor our hope in the promises of God. The deepest desires of our hearts are but shadows of the glorious reality to come. In the words of C.S. Lewis, let us live as “citizens of heaven,” anticipating with joy the restoration of all things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

https://allthingsnew.com

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Prayer That Gets Answered

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

But gives grace to the humble.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:1-10) 

Word Meaning: 

H6419. פָּלַל pālal: A verb meaning to pray, to intercede. This is the most common Hebrew word used to describe the general act of prayer (Jer. 29:7). It was often used to describe prayer offered in a time of distress, such as: Hannah’s prayer for a son (1 Sam. 1:10, 12); Elisha’s prayer for the dead boy (2 Kgs. 4:33); Heze-kiah’s prayer for protection and health (2 Kgs. 19:15; 20:2); and Jonah’s prayer from the fish (Jon. 2:1[2]).

In some contexts, this word described a specific intercession of one person praying to the Lord for another, such as Abraham for Abimelech (Gen. 20:7, 17); Moses and Samuel for Israel (Num. 11:2; 21:7; 1 Sam. 7:5); the man of God for the king (1 Kgs. 13:6); or Ezra and Daniel for Israel’s sins (Ezra 10:1; Dan. 9:4, 20). This prayer of intercession could also be made to a false god (Isa. 44:17; 45:14).

Jewish Perspective 

The Mishnah uses an unusual term, “mav’eh” (מבעה), to describe humans, defining them as ‘the creature that prays.‘ This concept stems from the Hebrew root “ניא” (nya), which means to pray, as elaborated in the Talmud (Bava Kamma 2a, 3b). It implies that prayer is an inherent aspect of human nature, integral to our essence. Even those who are not devout or believers engage in prayer-like reflections, expressing their core values and deepest desires. The Talmud illustrates this with the example of a burglar who prays for success while committing a crime (Berachos 63b in Ein Yaakov), highlighting the paradox of seeking divine aid to carry out sinful acts.

Prayer transcends simple requests; it is an introspective and refining process aimed at self-improvement and spiritual growth. The Torah portrays prayer as a “service of the heart” (Tanis 2a), emphasizing the transformative power of sincere self-reflection over mere spoken words.

Additionally, prayer is depicted as a judicial process of discernment and decision-making. The Hebrew root “בה” (bo) used in “tefillah” (תפילה) relates to judgment, suggesting that prayer involves separating trivial concerns from genuine priorities (Siddur Avodas HaLev). This reflective process helps clarify one’s life purpose, increasing one’s worthiness of divine blessings.

Prayer is distinctly human, merging intelligence, imagination, and the capacity for articulate speech. The creation story in Genesis 2:7 describes man becoming a “speaking spirit” (נשמת חיים מדברת), as translated by Onkelos, indicating that intelligent speech is crucial for praising God and articulating spiritual insights.

The role of communal prayer is exemplified by R’ Yishmael Kohen Gadol, who prayed for collective mercy, aiming for the sanctification of God’s name through the well-being of the community. Personal prayers, too, are viewed not merely as self-serving but as aligning with divine concern, as taught in Midrash Tanchuma (Acharei). This perspective sees individual prayers as pleas that also resonate with God’s empathy for human struggles.[1]

Inner Silent Prayer of the Heart 

Madame Jeanne Guyon’s “Short Method of Prayer” represents a distinctive approach to spirituality within the Christian tradition, particularly differing from the structured prayers of the Catholic Church. Her method emphasized an intimate, internalized form of prayer that focused on silent contemplation and the surrender of the soul to God, rather than on verbal recitations or the use of formal prayer books such as the rosary or Hail Marys.

Guyon’s approach was grounded in the concept of “quietism,” a form of mysticism that advocated for a passive and contemplative prayer experience aimed at achieving a spiritual union with God through the heart’s simple turn inward. This method encourages believers to move beyond the mechanical recitation of prayers and to enter a deeper, more personal engagement with the divine presence. Key to her method was the idea that prayer did not require extensive time or preparation but could be short and simple, accessible at any moment.

What set her method apart from traditional Catholic practices was its emphasis on the effortless ascent of the soul towards God, relying less on structured prayers and more on the silent, loving focus of the mind and heart on God. This was in contrast to the more active, vocal, and ritualized forms of prayer typical in Catholicism, which often involved specific words, phrases, and sequences.

Her teachings, however, were controversial and led to accusations of heresy, as her views diverged significantly from the orthodox practices and theological frameworks of the Catholic Church of her time. Her works suggest a spirituality that is personal and direct, an approach that prioritizes the internal experience of God’s presence over external forms and practices.[2]

Connected Hearts

Dr. Roy Grey’s approach to prayer, as outlined in his book “Power Prayer,” emphasizes a deep, personal, and direct connection with God that goes beyond traditional formalities. Here are the key elements of his essence on how to pray:

Personal Connection: Grey advocates for an understanding of prayer as a personal dialogue with God, where one expresses their deepest desires and concerns directly to Him, rather than through rote or ritualistic prayers.

Prayer as a Way of Life: He suggests that prayer should not be confined to specific times or formulas but integrated into daily life as a continuous dialogue with God. This includes recognizing prayer as a natural response to life’s challenges and opportunities, making it as natural as breathing.

Emotional Honesty: Grey emphasizes the importance of being honest and open in prayer, expressing true feelings, fears, and desires without holding back. This sincerity is crucial for a genuine relationship with God.

Spiritual Intimacy: His method promotes developing a closer, more intimate relationship with God, where prayer serves as a means to understand and align with God’s will more deeply.

Transformative Purpose: Prayer, according to Grey, is not just about requesting things from God but is a transformative process that changes the individual, aligning them more closely with God’s purposes and character.

Jesus’ Example 

JesusAPPROACH to prayer was distinct in several ways, emphasizing:

  • intimacy with God
  • sincerity
  • the alignment of personal desires with God’s will.

He both taught and modeled prayer, providing a profound example for His followers.

KEY ELEMENTS of Jesus’ way of prayer and the scriptures where he explained and modeled these principles:

Intimacy and Reverence: Jesus addressed God as “Father,” which shows a deep personal relationship while maintaining reverence. He taught this approach in the Lord’s Prayer.

  • The Lord’s Prayer starts with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9-13), emphasizing both closeness and reverence.
  • Similar instance of the Lord’s Prayer, highlighting the familial relationship with God. (Luke 11:2-4).

Persistence in Prayer: Jesus emphasized the importance of persistent, persevering prayer.

  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow teaches persistence in prayer. (Luke 18:1-8).
  • The Parable of the Friend at Midnight, which encourages persistence and boldness in prayer. (Luke 11:5-10).

Prayer for God’s Will: Jesus’ prayers often focused on the submission to God’s will, rather than personal desires.

  • Matthew 26:39: In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays, “not as I will, but as you will,” demonstrating submission to God’s will even in great distress.
  • Luke 22:42: Similar instance where Jesus submits to God’s will in prayer.

Solitude in Prayer: Jesus sought solitude for prayer, showing the importance of private, undistracted communication with God.

  • Mark 1:35: Jesus went to a solitary place early in the morning to pray.
  • Luke 5:16: Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Prayer Before Important Decisions: Jesus prayed before making significant decisions or before important events.

  • Luke 6:12-13: Before choosing the Twelve Apostles, Jesus spent the night praying to God.

Thankfulness in Prayer: Jesus often expressed gratitude in His prayers, setting an example of acknowledging God’s provision and sovereignty.

  • Matthew 11:25: Jesus thanks the Father for revealing truths to the humble and not to the wise and learned.
  • John 11:41-42: Before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus thanks God for hearing Him.

Teaching about Prayer’s Purpose: Jesus taught that prayer should not be for show but a private communion with God.

  • Matthew 6:5-6: Jesus instructs to pray in private, not for the approval of others.

Prayer as Proclamation 

We align our thoughts and words with God’s will and Word through prayer.  Moreover, we receive instructions on what to do.  Thoughts, words, and actions lines up and becomes one straight line of intend and purpose.  


[1] The Complete Artscroll Siddur. Rabbi Nosson Scherman & Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz 

[2] Guyon, Jean. (n.d.). A Short Method of Prayer. [Original work published 1685]

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Reasons For Confidence

Reasons WHY we can ALWAYS be confident.

1.   Confidence Must Have A PERMANENT Source

Confidence must have a permanent source if it is always going to be available. Self-confidence soon runs out, but there is a source of confidence that will never run dry: Gideon found that source and defeated the Midianites with 300 selected men; Joshua discovered it and caused the walls of Jericho to crumble! Saul of Tarsus found it and escaped death and incarceration; Peter tapped into it and made the cripples walk!

In the face of great odds these men realized they could tap into that eternal source of confidence and overcome their opponents. There is an unlimited source of confidence available to all who will believe in Jesus Christ!

CAN ONE ALWAYS BE CONFIDENT? Yes!

Most people gain confidence from achievement, wealth, position or the favour of man. You can gauge their source of confidence by what they say: ‘Success breeds success!’ or ‘Only associate with positive people!’ or ‘I am a winner!’ or ‘I am a positive faith person!’ or ‘Don’t spend time with losers!’. These slogans give them away.

Most people lack confidence because they have not achieved much in life and are not wealthy, do not have an important position and do not know influential people.

Most people resort to self-motivational seminars to boost their confidence. They listen to egoistical salesmen that hype them up with slogans and sales pitches such as ‘you cannot afford not to buy my books and CD’s!’ and hear how that course will ‘transform your life and make you super successful!’

Pyramid sales companies as well as many church growth schemes based on pyramid systems, use multi-level selling techniques to boost their sales and promote their products. Ignorant people are deceived and told that they will be just as rich as the guy at the top of the pyramid within six months and drive the same smart car, but what they are not told is that the pyramid widens out at the bottom and soon the bottom falls out and people are hurt and lose their investment.

In difficult financial times people cannot find loans at banks so they resort to loan sharks that demand high interest or they log on to multi-level selling schemes. They end up losing all they have.

Get rich quick schemes always have a catch. Sometimes Christians run these companies and tell ill-informed believers: ‘first pray about getting involved in this scheme. If the Lord tells you to get involved then get involved, but if the Lord does not tell you, do not get involved.’ It sounds so spiritual, but of course the people who are desperate will ‘hear’ the Lord telling them to get involved.

People are drawn by the seeming confidence of the presenter of the course or the director of the scheme and because they lack confidence, they latch onto the confidence of the one they follow. People who promote these deceptive products and courses normally tell everyone how they take their families to Disneyland and other expensive holidays, and they are very outspoken about their financial success. But when the plug is pulled on these schemes the confidence level drops to betrayal and many people are hurt and often end up bankrupt.

I Timothy 6:9, 10

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.’

I Timothy 1:19

‘Having faith and a good conscience which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.’ They shipwreck their faith!

2.    Place Your Trust in ONE THING At A Time

I have warned people everywhere not to place their confidence in money or in people, but in the Living God. (I Tim 6:17-19)

You cannot trust money and God at the same time. You cannot trust people and God at the same time. You can only put your trust in one thing at a time!

There is nothing wrong with making money, but when you put your trust in it, you no longer trust God. The first sentence in Napoleon Hill’s book, ‘How to think and grow rich!’ is, ‘if you want to make money you must love money!’ That is where it goes wrong: from the first sentence. Yet, many believers use that book like a Bible because they read that Mr. Hill also did some charitable works!

Only the blessing of God makes rich and adds no sorrow to it. (Prov 10:22)

(Deut 8:18)

Jeremiah 17:5

‘Cursed is the man who makes the arm of flesh his confidence. But blessed is the man who places His trust in the Lord his God.’

People do not realize that their source of confidence can change overnight! Banks can go bankrupt, and companies cease to exist and human beings pass away. When Wall Street crashes people commit suicide, because their trust was in their wealth.

Self Confidence has a limited life span: beauty passes away, skills cease, ability fades. You have to learn how to put your confidence in God.

Isaiah 30:15 – In quietness and confidence shall be your strength

Hebrews 3:6 – whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of hope firm to the end

3.   JESUS Christ’s Amazing Confidence

Jesus Christ’s amazing confidence had no limits because He was hooked up to the eternal source of confidence: He trusted His heavenly Father and did what He showed Him to do.

Even in the worst moments Jesus was confident that He was doing the will of His Father. When Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, Jesus remained confident. When He died on the cross, He was confident and forgave His detractors. His confidence lay in knowing His Father’s will for His life.

When you know what you are about to face you can face it boldly. God gave Jesus grace to face denial, betrayal, persecution, execution and crucifixion!

Hebrews 12:2 – 4

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our salvation, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and having sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin.’

4.   The SECRET of DIVINE Confidence

The secret of divine confidence is laid up in II Corinthians 5:6 – 9:

‘Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Therefore we are always confident knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Therefore we make it our aim whether present or absent to be well pleasing to Him.’

God prepares you for something before it happens. So our confidence does not lie in our own effort or ability, or in the support of other people, nor is it a hyped up self-motivational which is false confidence. It is a source of confidence that will never run dry based on the sure knowledge that He who prepared us for this very thing is God!

So when an opportunity arrives, you know already that God prepared you for it, otherwise He will not allow it to come your way:

  • When a trial comes, you know that you have been prepared to face it.
  • When you are honored, you can handle it with humility.
  • When you are rejected by people you know you are well accepted in the Beloved, in Christ and you can face the rejection with confidence.
  • Whatever you have to face, the knowledge that God first prepares you for it, gives you confidence that you can trust in God for whatever He allows in your life!

This kind of confidence has no pride or arrogance attached to it, because it is a humble dependence on Someone greater than you!

5.   Confidence is God Will COMPLETE the Good Work in You

Philippians 1:6

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ

Reasons why we can be confident all the time is because we can have confidence in Christ who:

  • tasted death for everyone and became the author of eternal salvation to all who put their trust in Him.
  • sanctifies them completely because He has destroyed the devil’s power to overcome them, and He releases them from bondage of sin and fear of death.
  • is merciful and faithful to complete the good work He begun in those who believe in Him.

The Hebrew words for confidence:

  • Batach – run for refuge and be secure because you are sure in whom you put your trust
  • Mibtach – assurance

The Greek words for confidence:

  • Parrhesia – outspoken, frank, blunt
  • Peitho – convince by argument
  • Theriheo – exercise courage and be of good cheer
  • Tolmaho – to dare to act and to venture out

Now we can understand that the Book of Acts describes Paul’s witness in Rome and ends with:preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.’

Despite all his hardship, suffering, rejection from the Jews, shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, losses and betrayals, Paul remained confident throughout his life, because he opened up the divine source of confidence, knowing that God Himself prepared him for what he was about to face. Therefore, his epistles are still read today, 2 000 years later and we gain confidence from them! We have discovered the same source of confidence as Paul, as Gideon, as Moses, as Joshua, as Peter and as Jesus Christ our Lord!

(First preached by revelation in 1997, contained in the manual: ‘Building the Church’, by Andre Pelser)

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Work Through Your Pain 

How to Redeem Your Pain through the Living Word. 

None of us are exempt from pain: we all endure the agony of losing a loved one, the sudden onset of illness and disease, or economic hardships due to someone else’s corruption or lies. At times, each of us may experience more pain than others, leaving us feeling fragile and broken inside.

We’re a culture that can’t sit with pain, so we numb it. But the problem is pain doesn’t vanish until we face and feel it. If we don’t, it always comes back amplified.

The.Trauma.Educator

In my own case, I try to numb the pain by just working harder, forgetting that it exists. Others use pain-killers, and all kinds of chemical substances. Some act out by isolating themselves, retracting into timidity and fear. The truth is: You have to WORK through your pain! You have to face the pain with God until He works Christlikeness in your heart.

Joseph’s journey from innocent (but a bit spoiled young man) to slave and from manager to humiliated prisoner teaches us an invaluable lesson.  He learned to rise time and again, eventually becoming the head of Potiphar’s household, the chief of the prison. Finally, becoming the second-in-command of the mighty, pagan Egyptian empire.

How To Redeem Pain?

Pain is inevitable, but like Joseph, the capacity for resilience and redemption lies within us. Joseph’s story is not just a tale of suffering but a testament to the power of faith and perseverance in the face of adversity. It reminds us that our most challenging moments can lead to our greatest achievements when we trust in a purpose greater than our circumstances.

Assert the Word Not Circumstances

He sent a man before them—

Joseph—who was sold as a slave.

They hurt his feet with fetters,

He was laid in irons. (Literally: His soul came into iron)

Until the time that his word came to pass,

The word of the LORD tested him. (Ps 105:18-19)

In difficult circumstances, we all feel the weight of doubts filling our souls with inner self-talk: “Did God really say? Why me? I’m better dead; why am I alive?” Our biggest battle is, therefore, not the circumstances we face, but knowing what we believe.  What do we believe about God? What do we believe about ourselves? What do we believe about others?

This is where our soul must become “hard as IRON”! Instead of self-doubt, self-pity, condemnation, and shame, we believe what God is saying about us.  In the same way iron, silver and gold is formed in the furnace, so our hearts are purified in the presence of God. Only in His presence, can we see ourselves rightly, and allow Him to remove all the impurities.

“The Word of the Lord tested him” This sentence is so interesting. We think it is the devil testing us, but it is God testing us whether we remain trusting His Word.  

When he was a boy, he received dreams and a word from the Lord: states: Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” (Genesis 37:5-7) (NIV)

I imagine Joseph lying on the dusty stone floor o fa prison, thinking about these dreams. Maybe even getting angry at God, asking: “Why have you given me these dreams?”; “This is your fault that my brothers hate me, and now here I am…”  

Can you see that he first had to come to terms with either believing or denying this Word of the Lord?  Healing comes when the lies and deceptions of our heart is revealed against the light of His word.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
(Jer 17:9)

Work Through Offence

If doubt is our first enemy, taking offence is our second biggest enemy. Joseph had to forgive many protagonists in his life: his brothers, Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:14-16), and the Cupbearer (Gen 40:23).  

When Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, he said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive…” (Genesis 50:20). 

Remaining bitter and resentful at the ones who caused you harm holds you as their prisoner.  You drink the poison meant for them.  Most people are unaware that they have hurt you unless you confront them (Luk 17:1-5). Most will never rebuke those who transgressed against them. Hence, the enemy gains a foothold of secret resentment. Unresolved anger builds up in the heart, disproportionate to the initial event of wrongdoing, and escalates to become a stronghold holding you prisoner. The case of transgression is mostly never challenged, and therefore, the offender never gets to change. He or she doesn’t get to state their side of the story, possibly even providing reasons or intents of the heart. And so, it becomes like weights or rocks bound to the feet dragging us down.

You have only two options: Forgive or Confront.

Remain In God’s presence and His Favor 

Joseph had some innate blessings and privileges. “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.”(Gen 39:6b). He surely came from privilege and hence had some nobility in his character, voice, posture, mannerisms, and possibly some advanced skills.  But these things mean nothing when you’re a slave or in prison. There, they work against you.  

The key to his rising out of the dust was not his appearance, fame, or privilege.  “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.” (Psalm 113:7-8, ESV) Remaining full of the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, is what gives you favor! Like roses trampled under people’s feet, they release their captivating fragrance, so our righteous fruits in Christ give off a scent of life.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, ESV) 

Dwelling in the past, contemplating regrets, indulging in self-pity, and embalming your hurts and scars give off a smell of death.  Your interactions with all people are to try to make them feel guilty for your bad circumstances.  Your sentences have a bite of bitterness and the pepper of entitlement.  You say you “seek justice”, but it is the revenge you are after.  Your attention is on people, not God. Secretly, you are hoping someone will feel sorry for you and come and carry you away, making everything better.  The wrongdoers should be punished! Surely, scripture says all will be judged by their works, motives and intentions of their hearts.  (Matthew 12:36-37, Matthew 16:27, Romans 2:6-8, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 20:12, Revelation 22:12, Proverbs 21:2, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Jeremiah 17:10) But that means you also will be judged!  

People who have forgiven their trespassers have an air of freedom and liberty about them. They have a pleasant and lively spirit, joy in the Spirit, and real peace, not false peace.  

Recently, my wife, Chantál, had to go through one of the most difficult trials of her faith when both her parents, whom she deeply and affectionately loved, were slowly deteriorating before our eyes with much pain and difficulty.  When they finally passed away within three months from each other, we rejoiced that their liberty arrived, but there was the mourning their absence brought.  This was a long and arduous time of feeling joy and deep sadness at the same time. Sorrowful, yet rejoicing.

As she journeyed with the Lord through this most painful period, the Lord spoke to her affectionately, yet sternly.  “Stop looking for life-giving things amongst the dead of the past!” 

His presence only knows LIFE; there is no death in His presence! One cannot take the corpses of the past into his presence! When in His presence, there is also no more pain or tears!! “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)40 ]

This in no way to ignore pain.  Pain is real.  Like Sam Mc Cabe sings, “You cannot praise away the mourning” [1]

Can’t praise away the mourning

You gotta let it have its way

You’re never gonna grow if you don’t stand out in the rain

And that wound is gonna fester

If you try to hide it with a smile Your prayer might make it better

But it’s gonna take a while

And how you gonna rest if you don’t ever stop?

What becomes your refuge is what becomes your god

You could tow the line of looking fine And you’ll fine yourself unknown

You’ve gotta let your weakness show

You can’t live the resurrection if you avoid the grave

A faith that don’t reach down and a faith that can save

But there’s freedom in surrender when you give up the ghost

You’ll never sit at the table while you’re tryna be the host

And when you’re wrestling with the angel

You better wait for the sun

And you don’t walk with a limp yet

Then the Father isn’t done

There’s still time till morning light For you to lay your burdens down 

And see your weakness as your crown

I am not saying ignore the pain; I’m asking that we work with Him through it. Eventually, He will use the pain to become the jewels of His glory! 

God’s Presence Regarded Joseph

“And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.  (Acts 7:9-10) 

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.” (Genesis 39:2-4, ESV)

“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.” (Genesis 39:21-22, ESV)

“The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.'” (Genesis 41:37-41, ESV)


[1] https://music.apple.com/za/album/cant-praise-away-the-mourning/1585884545?i=1585884786

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What Happened During the 3 Days Jesus Was in the Grave?

Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:46)

We all know that Jesus died. “‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). But what happened after he died? We know that his body was laid in Joseph’s tomb, but what about his human soul? 

Reflecting on this question not only sheds light on the Bible’s teaching about death and the afterlife, but it also is a great encouragement to us, who must face death and seek to do so without fear.

What Is Death?

First of all, what exactly is death? Death is separation, a dividing of things that ought to be united. Fundamentally, it is separation from God. Paul suggests as much in Ephesians 2:1–2, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” To walk in sin is to be dead, to be enslaved to dark powers, to be separated from God, to be children of his wrath. This type of separation is an estrangement, a hostility, an alienation from the life and hope of the living God. In this sense, all of us, by nature, are born dead, and it is this death that Jesus endured in his suffering on the cross. 

But of course, death is more than just separation from God. Death also marks the separation of the soul from the body. God made human beings to be embodied souls and ensouled bodies, and death rips this union asunder. But what happens to these two parts after they’re separated? Psalm 16:10 gives us a window into the biblical teaching. You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

“God made human beings to be embodied souls and ensouled bodies. Death rips this union asunder.”

This passage directs us to the normal account of what happened when a human being died prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The soul was abandoned “to Sheol,” and the body saw corruption or decayed. 

In Acts 2:29–31, Peter tells us that David, in writing this psalm, foresaw the resurrection of Christ, “that he was not abandoned to Hades [that is, his soul wasn’t], nor did his flesh see corruption” (notice that Peter reads the second line as a reference to Jesus’s body or flesh). Thus, prior to Jesus, at death, souls normally went to Sheol (or Hades), and bodies (flesh) decayed. We’re all familiar with the latter, but the former is more opaque. A quick Bible study will show us why Peter thinks that David’s prophecy in Psalm 16 is such good news.

What Is Sheol?

In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the souls of the dead, both the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17). In the New Testament, the Hebrew word Sheol is translated as Hades, and the description of Sheol in the Old and New Testaments bears some resemblance to the Hades of Greek mythology. It is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), and it is like a city with gates (Isaiah 38:10) and bars (Job 17:16). It is a land of darkness — a place where shades, the shadowy souls of men, dwell (Isaiah 14:926:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:588:10–11115:17Isaiah 38:18).

In the New Testament, the most extended depiction of the afterlife is found in Luke 16:19–31. There we learn that, like the Hades of Greek mythology, the biblical Sheol has two compartments: Hades proper (where the rich man is sent, Luke 16:23) and “Abraham’s bosom” (where the angels carry Lazarus, Luke 16:22). Hades proper is a place of torment, where fire causes anguish to the souls imprisoned there. Abraham’s bosom, on the other hand, while within shouting distance of Hades, is separated from it by “a great chasm” (Luke 16:26) and is, like the Greek Elysium, a place of comfort and rest. 

While much mystery remains, the picture begins to take shape. All dead souls go down to Sheol/Hades, but Sheol is divided into two distinct sides, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. The righteous who died prior to Christ dwelt in Sheol with Abraham, and though they were cut off from the land of the living (and therefore from the worship of Yahweh on earth), they were not tormented as the wicked were. 

Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?

“Following His death for sin, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges.”

What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on during the 3 days in the grave? Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after His death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.” 

Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:1586:1389:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–4012:23). 

After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him. Now paradise is no longer the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4). 

Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23).

The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).

To Whom Did Jesus Preach the Gospel? 

Did you know the answer to that question may be found in the story of the flood in Genesis 6? There is this strange verse tucked into the Flood story in Genesis 6:4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” The verses that follow talk about God seeing the wickedness of mankind and his decision to send a flood to get a fresh start with humanity. For thousands of years people have debated who these “sons of God” were and what their nature was.

One source we have that tries to clear some of this up is the book of Enoch. We normally wouldn’t take much stock in a book that is written under a fictitious pseudonym but there are reasons to think it is valid on this issue (more on that in a minute). The book of Enoch, written around 300 B.C. is written as if by someone of the past (namely Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch). The book of Enoch says these were angels who came down and had relations with women on the earth and who were a bad influence on mankind, trying to lead them astray. The author of 1 Enoch says that God took these rebellious angels and locked them up in prison for their wickedness and rebellion.

“And the Lord said unto Michael: ‘Go, bind Semjâzâ and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers (angels), because they have wronged mankind…” (1 Enoch 10:11-16).

What does this have to do with Jesus in the grave? Peter references 1 Enoch in 1 Peter 3:18-20 when he wrote about what happened after Jesus died,

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Many have interpreted these verses to say some people got a second chance to obey the Gospel after they died. What else would Jesus preach than the Gospel? There are a few faulty assumptions that take place when we read 1 Peter with no knowledge of the book of Enoch (which Peter certainly had based on this text and 2 Peter 2:4 which specifically references angels put into prison by God).

The first faulty assumption is that these spirits are the spirits of men. Enoch makes it clear that the spirits put in prison in the days of Noah were disobedient angels (as does Peter in the verses just referenced).

The second faulty assumption people have brought to this text is that the message Jesus would preach would be the gospel, thus giving these spirits a second chance. Enoch tells us these spirits are awaiting judgment. So Jesus preached to these fallen angels a message of triumph and judgment. We would assume Jesus let them know that although they tried to lead mankind astray, God had the final word through what Jesus came to do and is now accomplishing in the world. Jesus preached to these disobedient spirits a message of victory and the finality of their own defeat. This, according to Peter, is what Jesus did while in the grave.

So, while we would normally not give Enoch much thought or weight, Peter deemed it fit in this instance through inspiration and so in this instance we can gain insight from Enoch and Peter on these matters.

Why does this matter? It should encourage us as Christians to know that:

  • Christ has paved the way for death to not be the final say.
  • It should encourage us to know that he is putting all things under his feet and subduing those powers that seek to harm us.
  • It should embolden us to know that our God has the power to put under lock and key those who seek our destruction and give us courage to move forward and accomplish God’s purposes for our lives without fear. I get the same feeling from knowing these verses in context that I do when I read 1 Cor 15:54-58,

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Good News for Us

What implications does this have us today? Christ’s journey to Hades demonstrates that He was indeed made like us in every way. Not only did He bear the wrath of God on our behalf; He endured death, the separation of His soul from His body. His body was in Joseph’s tomb (Luke 23:50–53), and his soul was three days in Sheol, “in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

“When we die, we join with the angelic choir and the saints of old to sing praises to the Lamb.”

But as Psalm 16 makes clear, Jesus is not only like us, but different.

  • Jesus’s body was buried, like ours, but it did not decay.
  • Jesus’s soul went to Hades, like the Old Testament saints’, but wasn’t abandoned there.
  • God raised Him from the dead, reunited His soul with a now-glorified body, so that He is the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest. 

And this is good news for us, because those in Christ now bypass the land of forgetfulness, where no one praises God. Instead, when we die, we join with the angelic choir and the saints of old to sing praises to the Lamb who was slain for us and our salvation.

The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell

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The Crucifixion of Jesus

When archaeologists search for ancient Christian sites, they always look for a cross drawn on a wall, cut into stone, or even designed into the layout of a place.   From the earliest chapters of Christian history, the cross, the instrument of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, has emerged as the quintessential emblem of the faith. It stands not merely as a symbol carved in wood or eternally inscribed upon the believer’s heart but as the cornerstone and defining essence of what it means to follow Christ.  The cross, in its profound simplicity and depth, encapsulates the central narrative of Christianity, bridging heaven and earth and inviting a reflection on sacrifice, redemption, and the transformative power of love.   

” For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2).   

The cross is certainly the Symbol of Salvation for Christians who believe in His death and resurrection, but to the Jews, the Cross is a stumbling block.  

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  ( 1 Cor 1:18-24) 

From a Jewish perspective, Jesus did not fit the Messiah 

Restoration of Israel and Rebuilding the Temple

“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy when my sanctuary is among them forever.” Ezekiel 37:24-28.

This scripture outlines a vision of a united Israel under a Davidic ruler, emphasizing peace, holiness, and the rebuilding of the Temple and, ultimately, the purist Jewish Spiritual Order.  The Pharisees, like many Jews of the time, expected a messianic figure who would be a political and military leader, liberating Israel from Roman occupation and restoring it to glory.  

Gathering of the Exiles

Isaiah 43:5-6 (NIV) speaks to the gathering of the Jewish people from all over the world, a task associated with the messianic age: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” 

Worldwide Peace

Isaiah 2:4 (NIV) describes an era of peace, a hallmark of the messianic age, where nations will no longer engage in warfare:  “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

A Human Leader

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NIV) portrays the Messiah as a righteous descendant of David, emphasizing justice and righteousness in the land, not a divine being or a savior who dies for sins: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Jeremiah 23:5-6. 

A critical point of contention was Jesus’ claim to divinity or His close association with God, which the Pharisees considered blasphemy. An example is Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” which led to accusations of blasphemy (John 10:33). The charge of blasphemy is rooted in the Jewish understanding of God’s uniqueness and indivisibility, based on scriptures like Deuteronomy 6:4.  

The Suffering Messiah 

Isaiah 53, frequently referred to as the “Forbidden Chapter,” stands at the heart of considerable debate. This controversy exists not only between Judaism and Christianity but also within the Jewish community itself. Before the arrival of Christ, Jewish scholars and teachers uniformly interpreted Isaiah 53 as a messianic prophecy. However, the emergence and spread of the Christian Gospel introduced a contentious element to this chapter’s interpretation within Judaism, due to its striking parallels to the life and mission of Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. Eitan Bar, a scholar from Israel with a Jewish background, notes:

The 17th-century Jewish historian, Raphael Levi, admitted that long ago the rabbis used to read Isaiah 53 in synagogues, but after the chapter caused “arguments and great confusion” the rabbis decided that the simplest thing would be to just take that prophecy out of the Haftarah1 readings in synagogues. That’s why today when we read Isaiah 52, we stop in the middle of the chapter, and the week after, we jump straight to Isaiah 54.2 [1]

—Eitan Bar

The Jewish worldview did not permit any notion that God could be seen as a suffering King serving humanity. For Instance, Hugh Fogelman’s book Christianity Uncovered: Viewed Through Open Eyes tries to argue 12 points on why Isaiah 53 refers to Israel, not Jesus.  He accuses Christians of being guilty of Jewish Identity Theft.  R. L. Solberg brilliantly refutes these arguments in a lengthy exegesis of Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 53 is the most descriptive and clear prophecy and vision of Jesus’ Human Incarnation, Innocent Crucifixion, Resurrection and Eternal Judgement.  John Mc Arthur calls this chapter the 5th good news gospel testimony of the atonement Jesus completed for us on the cross![2]

The Day of Atonement 

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. (Lev 16:29-34). Sin is a disconnection from God.  As human beings, we tend to quickly become disconnected from knowing ourselves, our bodies or the loved ones we adore.  

To use an example we can all relate to, our bodies communicate with us constantly through hunger, fatigue, pain, and pleasure, signalling our needs, limits, and capacities. To be connected with our body is to understand this language and respond to its needs promptly and appropriately.  

In the same way, we become disconnected from God; we do not hear His voice, care for His will, or understand His statutes and instructions.  We do this all the time with the people we say we love: Husbands and wives become blind to each other’s needs and call for intimacy.  Children disobey their parents.  Parents do not understand their children.  SIN is a GREAT DISCONNECT! 

In the OT the day of atonement was the means by which man could reconnect to God.  Laundry soap wasn’t developed until the Industrial Age, and bleach wasn’t invented until the late 18th century. For most of human history, clothing was “washed” but wasn’t really “cleaned.” That meant stains and smudges on garments never really went away. This image serves as a true picture of the permanence of sin’s stain and how it’s almost impossible to remove.  

Guilt and shame are the most difficult inner stains of the heart, most difficult to remove.  Many religions offer their methods to try to solve this deeply rooted problem, particularly trying to redeem our tendency to make the same mistakes repeatedly, leading to an even greater disconnect of feeling lost.   

Jesus the Lamb

John was one of the first disciples to recognise Jesus as the Lamb of God. Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (1 John 1:35) 

Like A Lamb He Did Not Resist His Lot  

“But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:63)

“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.” (Matthew 27:12)

“But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” (Matthew 27:14)

“But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61)

“But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” (Mark 15:5)

“He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Luke 23:9)

“and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (John 19:9)

Jesus REDEEMED us of our SINS

How difficult this must have been for Jesus, not to justify, or defend His innocence!! 

knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet 1:18-19) 

The Repulsiveness of the Crucifixion 

Firstly, humans tend to forget easily, and secondly, only a profoundly harsh act can underscore the gravity of sins humans are capable of. Many progressives question the crucifixion, asking, “How could a supremely loving God allow His own Son to suffer and die?” If you ask any loving parent if they know that the only way to save their child’s life is to suffer great loss, the answer would come immediately: we will do, give, and sacrifice anything if it could save our child.  This is what moved the Father to pay the ultimate price – His own life to save His child.  “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) 

The severity of the cross speaks of the gravity and cruelty of our sinful condition.  For instance, what can be more cruel than to betray the one whose heart you hold in your hand in holy matrimony by starting an affair and committing adultery? Think of the brutality of committing murder! The devastation of theft and corruption.  The pain of finding out your best friend lied to you or has not covered your vulnerability. SIN DESTROYS LIVES!!  Oh the hellish darkness of selfish, greed, self-indulgence, narcissistic, egotistical self-righteousness! Even whole nations are sometimes captured under the spell of the unrighteous, unjust dictatorship of pure malevolence! 

The curse of sin 

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  (Gal 3:13-14). Not only does sin have severe consequences for the people around us, but also for ourselves. 

Sin is CURSED by GOD  

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.  (Deut 11:26-28) 

Falling Short 

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  (Rom 3:22-26).

We all love perfection. The perfect kick of the rugby ball in the final of a game made our team win, as happened in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  The perfections of a symphonic musical, ballet or opera! The perfect cake! The Perfect house! 

The reality is that we all fall short! Even those who get perfect right more times than others, becoming Nobel prize winners or Olympic gold medallists, miss the mark of perfection in other areas! 

The Power of the Cross

The CROSS is a symbol of God’s power released to us who believe in receiving His right standard of living. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”  (Rom 1:16) 

Through our faith in His PERFECT Sacrifice for our sins, we receive His power to no longer remain slaves of sin but receive a whole new consciousness and identity.  

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12) 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17)

The CROSS is not only an emblem of His sacrifice, but also an emblem of my victory over sin!  

Life Is In The Blood

Blood plays a critical role in the human body, serving as the primary medium for transportation, regulation, and protection. It delivers oxygen from the lungs to tissues, removes carbon dioxide for exhalation, and transports nutrients from the digestive system to cells throughout the body. Blood also carries waste products to the kidneys for elimination, regulates body temperature and pH levels, and supports the immune system by transporting white blood cells to combat pathogens. Furthermore, it facilitates wound healing through clotting mechanisms and platelets, highlighting its essential role in maintaining health and homeostasis.

The Significance of Blood in the Old Testament: Leviticus 17:11 states, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

The Prophecy of the Messiah’s Sacrifice: Isaiah 53:5 prophesies the suffering of Christ and its purpose: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”

The Fulfillment through Jesus’ Sacrifice: Hebrews 9:22 reiterates the necessity of blood for forgiveness, stating, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

The Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus: Hebrews 10:10-12 explains the sufficiency and finality of Christ’s sacrifice: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”

The Power of Jesus’ Blood for Believers: 1 Peter 1:18-19 highlights the preciousness of Christ’s sacrifice: “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Bear Your Cross

In conclusion, the cross also speaks to the greatest of all questions of life: the meaning of life.  Bearing our cross… is the key to finding your life and one of significance! “Deny self, take up your cross, and follow me”Mat 16:24. 

“The purpose of life is to find the largest burden you can bear, and bearing it” Jordan B Peterson.  

Jordan B. Peterson champions the transformative power of assuming responsibility, articulating a compelling vision where personal growth begins with confronting one’s own challenges. He posits that by “bearing your cross” and focusing first on self-improvement, individuals can ripple positive changes outward—from their immediate environment to broader societal levels.

Jesus Christ’s entire existence is centred around redemption—not just through His death and resurrection but also through His teachings and life. He took on the challenge of rectifying a problem He didn’t cause. This mirrors the story of Nehemiah, who, although he had a secure job as the king’s cupbearer, chose to leave his comfort zone to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls using his own resources (Nehemiah 2:4-5).

Similarly, Joseph turned his brothers’ betrayal into a redemption story. Despite being sold into slavery by his own siblings, he rose to become Egypt’s prime minister, eventually saving his family and the entire nation of Israel from famine. This act of saving Israel prefigures the salvation Jesus offers all humanity (Genesis 45:4-8).

Throughout the Bible, we see many instances where individuals stepped into roles of redemption, pointing us toward the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ. His life, death, and resurrection offer the most profound example of redemption—He repaired the broken relationship between humanity and God, something only He could do (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Each of these stories underscores the powerful theme of redemption woven throughout Scripture. They remind us that God often uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways to bring about His redemptive plans.


[1] The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. Typically, the haftarah is thematically linked to the parasha (Torah Portion) that precedes it. The haftarah is sung in a chant (known as “trope” in Yiddish or “Cantillation” in English). 

[2] John C. Arthur. The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament 

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Sermons

His EMPOWERING Grace

Today, we gather not just as a congregation but as a fellowship of believers navigating through the violent seas of life. Many among us are wrestling with the Goliaths of economic hardship and health challenges, battles that test our faith, endurance, and existence.

In most cases, these calamities were not our fault, and we have not brought these hardships upon ourselves! Sometimes, we are at fault and also need mercy and grace. Nevertheless, knowing what caused the hardship does not always get us out of trouble. Sometimes, bad habits must be acknowledged and replaced by healthy ones. To get out of trouble, one needs a solution, a means of deliverance; we all need HIS ABILITY to empower us to change and move from victim to victor!  

Definition: “His grace enables us to accomplish what is right.” 

Jan Oosthuizen

Our recent sermon series delved into the central theme of nurturing a strong mental attitude amidst adversity and challenges. At this time, the entirety of creation faces judgment due to a collective departure from God’s path, characterized by a willful rebellion against His directives and power. This rebellion has led to widespread consequences across economic, social, environmental, mental, and physical spheres, often leaving the innocent to bear the brunt of these calamities.

The Fate of The INNOCENTS

Reflecting on historical instances of divine judgment recorded in the Bible—such as the great flood, and the subjugation and exile of God’s people to empires like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome—we see a pattern: the further society moves away from God’s way and power the more they eventually self-destruct.  These nations were once used by God as agents of judgment against God’s people, but as His people repent and return, these godless societies ceased to exist eventually.  God’s people remain.  

The sad reality, however, is that during these times of judgement, the faithful and innocent endured hardship, loss, and suffering, too.  The question is, how does one not only survive in times like these but flourish? 

Today, we find parallels in our own context in South Africa, where societal challenges are compounded by arrogance and pride, unsustainable living above one’s means, a diminished moral compass, and a culture of entitlement. This is further exacerbated by overestimating our capabilities, leading to unfulfilled promises and commitments.

Look to the ROCK

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.” (Isa 51:1 

We have all received some grace in terms of our mental and physical abilities and personalities. The grace extends to our age, race, gender, culture, location, and specific family. This list of attributes can be seen as powerful enablers but also restraints on what we can or cannot do.  One should have a sober estimation of these abilities, accepting what we cannot change and then developing the ones that we can improve through trial and error.

Moreover, note that most Bible heroes were born in not-so-ideal circumstances. After they decided to do God’s will and follow Him, they accomplished great exploits that gave glory to God in spite of their precarious origins.  

Moses, born a Jewish slave was released down an Egyptian river, King David started as a young shepherd boy, Daniel was made a eunuch in Babylon, and Joseph was sold by his brothers into the slave trade.  Despite these hazardous origin stories, God used them powerfully! What was meant for their shame became their ministry to His Glory! 

Look to the Rock that you have been hewn from, also means “look to the way I have saved you”, or in other words, “from what I have saved you”. Let’s say God saved you from alcoholism, it is then most likely that He will use you to get others delivered from substance abuse too.

SUFFICIENT Grace in Weakness

The Apostle Paul shares a revelation that speaks directly to our condition. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord declares to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response to this divine assurance is not one of resignation but of triumphant hope. He says, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

See also: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5; Prov 3:34). It is a well known fact, that sometimes people have to “hit rock bottom”, before they receive the grace to change a destructive habit.

Beloved, this is the paradox of grace. It is in our weakest moments, our most desperate hours, that God’s grace shines brightest. This grace is not a mere pat on the back or a sympathetic nod from heaven. No, it is the divine ability to do what is right, to stand when all you want to do is lie down, to believe when doubt surrounds you, to hope when despair seems logical.

The Gift of His SAVING Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10). This reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith, a gift from God. But this grace is not stagnant; it propels us forward. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Even in economic hardship, even in health challenges, we are called to live out these good works, prepared for us by God Himself. This grace empowers us to be agents of hope and bearers of light in a world that desperately needs Jesus.

His Grace is Towards GODLINESS

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-12).

This teaches us that the grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all people. It instructs us to say, “No!” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age. Grace educates us in the art of divine living, enabling us to navigate our trials with godliness and dignity.

Empowered to DO RIGHT 

Philippians 2:13 declares: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure”.  This is the engine of grace at work within us, not just to survive our trials but to thrive within them. He transforms our challenges into testimonies of God’s faithfulness and power.

And let us not forget Hebrews 4:16, where we are invited to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  This throne is not a place of judgment but a wellspring of help, a sanctuary where the weary can find rest, the broken can find healing, and the hopeless can find renewed vision.

Wells of Grace

Each one of us have received a personal calling in life. Whom He calls, He also empowers. Focus on the task that only you can do and try to delegate the rest to others.

There is also a corporate grace upon a company of believers. Saul could prophecy, because he was among the prophets. So be aware of the grace in the house, of the church you belong too. There is a grace that empowers you.

It is therefore also a good thing, to from time to time be exposed to other companies of believers, so as to learn and receive from another. Remember: Visit friends, belong to a family.

In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters, let us embrace the grace of God in our lives. Let it be the strength in our weakness, the hope in our despair. May we, like Paul, boast all the more gladly in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us. For when we are weak, then we are strong. Strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

May this grace be your anchor and your compass as you navigate through the storms of life. Remember, you are not alone. You are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, a family of believers, and above all, you are held in the everlasting arms of a God whose grace is sufficient for every need.

Amen.

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Learning Critical Thinking from the MASTER

In the unfolding journey of life, the way we harness our thoughts not only carves our path to success but also aligns us with the discerning gaze of the Lord. He examines the depths of our minds and hearts. Who better to guide us in mastering this art than the Master Himself—Jesus Christ? 

Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever. (1 Sam 2:25) 

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. (1 Chron 28:9) 

I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. (Jer 17:10) 

In the modern world and the current information revolution of increasing social media echo chambers, misinformation and fake news, political polarisation and group identities, consumer choices and environmental impact, health and wellness misconceptions, the shortcomings of educational systems, poor financial decisions and investment scams it has become of paramount importance that we learn to THINK!! 

Sometimes I hear people who are blessed with an inquiring mind say, that they find the Church “narrow-minded”, “short-sighted”, and “too judgmental”. They want to engage in open intellectual debate about the questions of life, as new evidence continually is coming to light. This may be so in some cases, but in this sermon, I want to show that God invites and welcomes inquiring minds!!

Like all good things, our minds need to be harnessed, disciplined, “domesticated” and restrained to have any true value. A mind that is uncontrolled, is good for nothing because it cannot produce anything of substance and value!

Hence the call for “critical thinking” from all corners of society we now see on social media platforms.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking, as defined by Rod Benson[1], involves the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. It’s a disciplined, self-directed, and corrective thinking process that necessitates humility and a willingness to follow where evidence and reason lead. 

Understanding vs Knowledge:

“Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV)  

Understanding establishes you, you can only DO what you understand.  This is why knowledge by itself is eventually deemed futile and empty, if not balanced with understanding.  Jesus pursued wisdom and understanding from a young age: Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers(Luke 2 :46-47) 

Critical thinkers have the ability to evaluate their own thinking using standards of good reasoning. These include what we collectively call the values of inquiry such as precision, clarity, depth and breadth of treatment, coherence, significance and relevance. [2]

The so-called critical thinkers also have to learn to become critical of their own thinking, particularly when one’s thinking leads to the conclusion that “there is no God”.  This is a great foolishness. 

Spiritual vs Carnal Thinking: 

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “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.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:6-16)

Jesus discerned the wisdom of the world, of man, of death and carnality. “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mat 16:23) 

Thinking is a spiritual process, because one is linking and connecting various lines of thought together to form a coherent idea. Some ideas are from God, and others are from man, some originate in the pit of hell. Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:1-5)

Obedience to the Spirit Dissolves Cognitive Dissonance: 

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom. 7:24) This verse summarizes many people’s spiritual dilemma! We have become “clever sinners”! We know one thing in our mind but act differently according to our fleshly habits. The ANSWER broadly explained in Rom. 8 is summed up in verse 14: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  (Rom. 8:14). Instead of being led by our fleshly impulses, we are now led by the Spirit!! 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

True wisdom and critical thinking are about acquiring knowledge and applying it in our lives. This verse challenges us to put our understanding into practice, embodying the principles we have critically considered.

Analysis:

The word “critical” comes from the Greek word kritikos, meaning “to question, to make sense of, to be able to analyze.”  “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11). The Bereans exemplify the analytical aspect of critical thinking, not taking information at face value but examining and analyzing it against the truth of Scripture.  

When approached by the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, Jesus is confronted with a hypothetical question meant to ridicule the concept of resurrection: He brilliantly exposed the fault in their thinking.  

Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:24-27)

Synthesis:

“I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness.” (Ecclesiastes 7:25) 

The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
(Eccl 12:11-13)

This pursuit of understanding the ‘reason of things’ reflects the synthesis element of critical thinking, where one seeks to comprehend and integrate diverse pieces of information into a coherent whole.  Jesus exposed the incoherence, hypocrisy, double standards of the Pharisees in a very direct confrontation.  

Woe to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-36). Jesus accused them of hypocrisy, legalism, and obstructing the path to the kingdom of heaven for others. He criticises them for tithing minutely while neglecting the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).  There is even a deeper lesson here: One sometimes has to offend the head to get to the heart.  

Evaluation:

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (Thessalonians 5:21) Some people prove and test all things and hold on to the bad and the negative, resulting in conspiracy theories.  One can be sceptical in one’s thinking to question things, but beware of becoming sceptical, negative, or critical without faith! Being critical of people is not what changes them, is it FAITH in God that brings change! 

Critical thinking involves evaluating information to discern its value. This Scripture encourages us to test everything, retaining only what is true and good, mirroring the evaluative component of critical thinking.  

In answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which criticizes the Pharisees’ narrow interpretation of neighbourly love. By portraying a Samaritan—an individual considered a social and religious outsider—as the true neighbour for showing mercy, Jesus dismantles the Pharisees’ exclusionary practices and highlights their hypocrisy in claiming to uphold the law while failing to practice its foundational ethic of love and compassion.  

Jesus was a master to use simple stories people could relate with to dissolve the manmade religious sentiments and traditions.  

Humility and Openness:

“The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)

A critical thinker is always learning, displaying humility and openness to new information. This verse highlights the attitude of always seeking and acquiring knowledge, which is essential for a critical thinker.  

Eventually continuing in studies, makes you an authority:  Jesus did not speak on His own authority: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. (John 5:31-32) Academics acquire degrees and seek that their work be cited in other pursuits of knowledge.

Having studied something does not make you an expert! Unless what you have learned is tested by the fruits of righteousness in your own life.  Moreover, all has to be tested and weighed by God! Without His validation and confirmation, knowledge is empty and without substance.  

though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. (Heb 5:8-9) This verse spells out the process of the end-goal of critical thinking – to influence and direct people’s actions and activities for the Good. Jesus did not leave us with large volumes of words and ideas. Yet His words are tested, ageless, relevant directives on how to live a life that please God and man! Keep Jesus in view, as you set your course in the maze of knowledge.

Evidence and Reason:

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'” (Isaiah 1:18)

God invites us to reason, to engage in a logical dialogue, emphasizing the value He places on evidence and rational thought as a basis for understanding and belief. Reason and debate all things if you can, but you will not advance in life until you have reasoned with God about the condition of your heart! The greatest folly of some people is to become wise in your own opinions and have sin still firmly rooted and hidden in the heart!

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38) 

The Importance of a Multitude of Counselors

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)

Seek diverse perspectives and advice when making decisions. Listening to a range of viewpoints can provide a more comprehensive understanding and safeguard against errors.

In weaving these Scriptures into the fabric of our understanding of critical thinking, it becomes evident that the Bible not only supports but also encourages a disciplined, analytical, and reflective approach to information and life’s challenges. It guides us toward a path of wisdom, grounded in humility, diligent in application, and steadfast in the pursuit of truth. Through this lens, we see that critical thinking is not just a modern intellectual endeavour but a timeless, Biblically endorsed quest for understanding and wisdom.


[1] https://rodbenson.com/2020/09/03/what-is-critical-thinking/

[2] https://crev.info/2020/03/not-all-critical-thinking-is-equal/

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Maintaining the MIND of Christ in All Circumstances

In the intricate dance of life, where circumstances swirl around us like leaves in the wind, the quest to maintain the mind of Christ is both our challenge and our calling. This quest is not merely about adopting a set of beliefs but about embodying a way of being that mirrors Christ in thought, word, and deed. The New Testament provides us with a roadmap for this journey, offering profound insights into how we can cultivate a mindset that reflects our divine-made God-image-perspective, irrespective of the trials we face.  

The Foundation: Proverbs 23:7

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he: this ancient proverb underscores the transformative power of our thoughts. Our inner life, the silent conversations we have with ourselves, shapes our identity and our actions more than we might realize.

To maintain the mind of Christ, we must begin with the “garden” of our thoughts: tending it with care, ensuring that what we plant is in alignment with the righteousness and holiness of God.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).  Like a gardener, we need to protect the garden of our minds from all kinds of parasitic ideas and weeds that pollute and disrupt the beauty of the mind of Christ.  “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16). Parasites like: unforgiveness; resentment; bitterness; entitlement; envy; fear and pride can destroy any good garden! 

The Process: Ephesians 4:23-24

This scripture offers insight into the process: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”  This passage speaks to the continual renewal required to maintain the mind of Christ. It’s a call to shed our old selves, our pre-conversion patterns of thinking and being, and to clothe ourselves in a new identity that reflects God’s nature. This is not a one-time event but a daily, even momentary, discipline of consciously choosing thoughts and attitudes congruent with our new nature in Christ.  

This means that we continually “reckon ourselves dead” (Rom 6:11) and choose to forget about ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mat 16:24). This is our reasonable service and daily religion.  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:1-2).

Salvation is a journey of being saved daily from a corrupt mind until we begin to think and act like God.  

The Examination: 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

Paul urges us to “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” This examination is a crucial aspect of maintaining the mind of Christ. It involves a rigorous self-assessment to ensure that Christ indeed lives within us, guiding our thoughts and actions. This introspection allows us to identify and root out any discordant elements in our hearts, ensuring our alignment with Christ’s spirit.  Like someone has to be awake, to appreciate sleep. He who is asleep knows not the enjoyment of sleep.  So, one knows that the mind has gone corrupted.  

The Holy Spirit, The Word, and the Body of Christ are constant reminders and witnesses to make us aware of our folly! The moment you recognise the fleshly, carnal thought for what it is, that moment, one is delivered.  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. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God  (Rom 8:5-6). 

The Meditation: Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” is a template for meditation. This exhortation to focus our thoughts on the noble, the pure, and the praiseworthy acts as a bulwark against the negativity and despair that can so easily entangle us. It’s a reminder that the content of our thoughts directly influences our ability to maintain the mind of Christ.  

The Mind is like our muscles; it can become weak and lazy because of lack of exercise! The more one begins to think RIGHT, according to the WISDOM of God, the Spirit of Christ, the more agile the mind becomes to harness itself against parasitic thoughts.    For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholdscasting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled  (2 Cor 10:3-6). This verse explains the battlefield of the mind! 

First, there is a thought; second, it is raised against the knowledge of God. If one does not know God’s heart and divine will, these thoughts are believed to become arguments and strongholds! 

One does not simply vanquish a negative thought with a counterthought; the most effective method to dispel a harmful notion is to engage in action that embodies the contrary spirit. When besieged by feelings of self-pity, the path to transcendence lies in performing a meaningful act of kindness for another.

The Perspective: Colossians 3:1-2

Finally, Colossians 3:1-2 invites us to adopt a heavenly perspective: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” This perspective is the lens through which we view our circumstances, choosing to focus not on the transient troubles of this world but on the eternal realities of the kingdom of God. It’s a call to live as citizens of heaven, letting that identity shape our responses to the challenges of earthly life.  This verse offers us the reality of living, abiding, sitting with God in heavenly places. (Eph 2:6).

Jesus understood this principle well throughout His existence here on earth.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Joh 8:58) This is why He could sleep in a storm.  (Mark 4:37-38).  By being closely joined in the Spirit with Christ, in the consciousness of Christ within me, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), we experience a spiritual connection that transcends this carnal, temporary world with the Eternal.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:18). It is in this intentional holy union that He gives us an eternal perspective on life!  

In conclusion, maintaining the mind of Christ is a spiritual endeavor that encompasses our:

  • thoughts
  • spiritual renewal
  • self-examination
  • meditative focus
  • perspective.

It’s a journey of transformation that requires vigilance, dedication, and grace.

As we navigate the complexities of life, let us cling to these scriptural principles, allowing them to guide us in embodying the mind of Christ in all circumstances. This is not merely a lofty ideal but a practical pathway to living out our faith with integrity, resilience, and joy.

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Sermons

Practising Empathy through Gifts of the Holy Spirit 

Now, let us be real: Empathy takes work. You need to investigate and take the time to study a person to walk in their shoes.  This is the most significant reason society has become harsh, vengeful, disconnected and lethargic.  We do not have the time. We’re struggling with our own burdens and challenges and miss the opportunity to observe and see someone’s pain.  

A Prognosis Without Proper Diagnosis is Malpractice  

The most simple and practical step to become more emphatic is to ask more questions first.  Be direct.  But ensure your tone is without judgement and criticism.  Take a sincere interest in people.   Getting feedback is an industry-standard best practice to ensure our connection is on track and keeps people happy.  You will never know if you do not ask.  

The Holy Spirit Power Tools To Reach the Heart  

  1. The Word of Wisdom – The ability to speak wisdom into complex and challenging situations, guided by the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Word of Knowledge – The ability to have an in-depth, detailed, specific understanding of situations given by the Holy Spirit. 
  3. Faith – A special gift of faith that goes beyond everyday belief, enabling individuals to trust God in extraordinarily challenging circumstances.
  4. Gifts of Healing – The ability to act as a conduit for God’s healing power, affecting physical, emotional, or spiritual healing.
  5. Working of Miracles – The capacity to be used by God to perform acts that are beyond natural explanation.
  6. Prophecy – The ability to receive and proclaim messages from God, often concerning the future or the edification of the church.
  7. Discerning of Spirits – The insight to distinguish between spirits that are from God and those that are not, to identify the true source of a spiritual manifestation.
  8. Different Kinds of Tongues – The ability to speak in languages the speaker has not learned, often understood as a sign for unbelievers or as a prayer language.
  9. Interpretation of Tongues – The ability to interpret the tongues spoken by others, making the message understandable.  

Paul extends this list of spiritual gifts in Rom 12:6-8 to Prophecy; Serving/Ministering; Teaching; Encouragement; Giving; Leadership; Mercy. 

Biblical Examples

1. Spiritual Insight and Empathy in Recognizing Nathanael’s Heart – John 1:47-50.

Jesus’s interaction with Nathanael is a testament to the spiritual gift of insight, revealing not just foreknowledge but an understanding of Nathanael’s character. Jesus’s empathetic approach leads to Nathanael’s acknowledgement of Christ’s divinity.

2. Empathetic Encounter with the Samaritan Woman – John 4:16-19.

Jesus uses His divine insight to speak into the Samaritan woman’s life in a way that shows deep empathy for her situation. This conversation at the well illustrates how knowledge and empathy can lead to transformation and revelation.

3. Foreknowledge and Care for Peter – Luke 22:31-34.

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial with foreknowledge, but this revelation is also imbued with empathy. Jesus’s warning is a preparation, not a condemnation, showing care for Peter’s spiritual journey and restoration.

4. Ananias’s Reluctant Mission to Saul – Acts 9:10-12.

The Lord’s revelation about Saul (Paul) to Ananias is a powerful example of spiritual insight. Ananias’s obedience, despite his fears, shows empathy towards Saul’s blindness and confusion, facilitating Saul’s pivotal transformation.

5. Calling Zacchaeus by Name – Luke 19:1-10.

Jesus’s call to Zacchaeus showcases both supernatural knowledge and empathy. Recognizing his desire for change, Jesus invites Himself into Zacchaeus’s home and life, leading to Zacchaeus’s repentance and generosity.

6. Peter’s Vision and the Inclusion of Gentiles – Acts 10:9-20.

The revelation given to Peter about clean and unclean animals, coupled with the instruction to meet Cornelius’s messengers, reflects both divine insight and a push towards empathetic action, breaking down longstanding barriers.

7. Paul’s Assurance of Safety Amid Shipwreck – Acts 27:21-26.

Paul’s confident prediction of the ship’s fate and the safety of all aboard is a testament to spiritual insight. His reassurance to the crew and passengers shows empathy and care in a moment of fear and uncertainty.