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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pentecost 17: Beware Who/What You Reject



 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

As soon as Jesus started telling this parable, His listeners,"the chief priests and the elders of the people", would have recognised that He was talking about them and the nation of Israel.
He says: Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit."

They would also immediately have been reminded of  Is 5:1-7

Listen while I sing you this song,
    a song of my friend and his vineyard:
My friend had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
 He dug the soil and cleared it of stones;
    he planted the finest vines.
He built a tower to guard them,
    dug a pit for treading the grapes.
He waited for the grapes to ripen,
    but every grape was sour.
So now my friend says, “You people who live in Jerusalem and Judah, judge between my vineyard and me. Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected?
“Here is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge around it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not trim the vines or hoe the ground; instead, I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall on it.”
Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Almighty;
    the people of Judah are the vines he planted.
He expected them to do what was good,
    but instead they committed murder.
He expected them to do what was right,
    but their victims cried out for justice.

The people listening would have realised that Jesus, in His parable, was speaking a word of warning and judgement to them which God had spoken to them before through the prophet Isaiah.  Which is why by the end of the parable they wanted to arrest Jesus.
They realised He was speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people.....which was fine, until it dawned on them He was not speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people but to a stubborn and rebellious people.

And before we point fingers at these “terrible people”, let us remember that everything God spoke to the nation Israel, He now speaks to the Church, to you and to me, who are now descendents of Abraham.

  He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour......

How do you feel as you hear that? Is God's Kingdom ripening in you....is the fruit of the Spirit, which is very beautiful in taste, growing in you? On this confirmation Sunday as we, who were confirmed (long ago, or a year ago), welcome the one's to be confirmed this day, have we grown, ripened, matured into the likeness of Jesus...perhaps I should rather ask: Are we " " " "....because it is a lifelong process, isn't it? (Hydrangeas)

Back to Isaiah's poem, which Jesus is playing on:

 He expected them to do what was good,....  He expected them to do what was right.  

How do you feel as you hear those words… … is God speaking to someone else or to you?  These are God’s expectations of a Christian nation, of a Christian Church, by most important of all, its His expectation of Christian people, of you and of me.

Isaiah's poem speaks to us today, as much as it did to the people who first heard it and it conveys some important truths about God and the way He deals with His people:

Firstly:  It tells of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well-equipped with everything the tenants need.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants.  God likewise equips us and trusts us enough to give us freedom to run our lives as we choose……
Do you hear that: God equips you for that to which He calls you. He calls us to righteousness and He equips us for righteousness; and
                             God trusts you......in the world we have to earn trust, but in the Kingdom we are entrusted with the treasures of the Kingdom (fruit of Spirit) when we say Yes to Jesus.

I thought I should end the sermon there, because that’s such incredibly good news.  God equips you, God trusts you.  He’s given you things, talents, abilities, possessions, family……and He trusts you, in the words of Isaiah, to do what is right.  And He gives us the freedom to choose what we will do with what He has entrusted to us.....that's grace, isn't it.

He hopes and longs for a sweet return, but in Israel’s case, the fruit was sour.  In their freedom they chose to do what was sour....and I would suggest, they still do. But, what about you and me?
What are you doing with your freedom?

So, firstly, Isaiah's poem speaks to us of God's generosity and trust.

Secondly: this parable tells us of God’s patience and this is Good News as well.  Not once, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts, their trespasses, but they continue to take advantage of His patience – and He forgives…and He sends new messengers…and they take advantage....and He forgives,...and He sends new messengers..... and they take advantage of them and of God's grace....and He forgives....

I don’t know if that sounds familiar.

Praise God for His patience, but don’t use your freedom to stretch His patience even further.  We dare not do this as individuals, as churches, as nations……history is full of individuals, churches and nations who have eventually had to come under the wrath of our gracious, loving, long-suffering God....in this life. Beware of who and what you reject because sometimes you may well be rejecting Christ, His way and His Kingdom.....and you or I don't want to be guilty of that, because...

You see, this parable teaches us thirdly: God and His judgement and His justice will prevail. His will,will be done on earth as in Heaven....ask American slaves, ask communist Russia, ask apartheid South Africa...and ask countless millions who have cried out for justice in this life....but now we come full circle back to where we were earlier, pray for and bare the fruit of peace, patience, love etc., while you wait for the Lord to act.
   
Proud and arrogant Israel was brought down by the agent of God’s judgement, the wicked Nebuchadnezzar that God raised up for that purpose, when His patience ran out.

The proud and arrogant religious establishment of Jesus’ day was brought down and their Temple destroyed by God’s agent of judgement, the wicked Roman Empire.  And through the ages, God has continued to bring His judgement, often using wicked agents from the east, to destroy pride and arrogance and disobedience to the way of Christ.  He expects good fruit from people and nations that claim to be Christian.  He expects good fruit in you and me who have confirmed before others, our faith in God.  

The Lord blesses His people today with the gift of His Kingdom and He promises we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him (John 15:1-11.)  He entrusts His gifts and grace to each of us and He gives us work to do in His vineyard – the body of Christ.  He promises that our labour will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (Chantelle focused on this beautifully last week when she looked at 1 Corinthians 15:58.)  

We can expect trials and even persecution.  But in the end, we will see triumph.  Go out into the vineyard, your home, workplace, school, nation and using your God-given freedom, labour for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in His victory.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pentecost 16: Does the Word and His word have authority in my life?

The Gospel text before us today is about authority and it includes a parable about changing your mind. Jesus is confronted in the Temple by "the chief priests and the elders of the people" and their question/challenge/accusation to Jesus is "What authority do you have to speak to us the way you do?"
With their words they challenge, question, accuse.....the Word made flesh as He stands before them...the irony is dreadful...and sad. Ultimately of course, they reject the Word and His word, because they refuse to come under His authority and the authority of His word...but the question I place before us today is this: Are we any different to them, but to make it personal, because our faith is personal and our relationship with our Saviour is personal, the question on your lips and mine has to be this: Am I any different to them...does the Word and His word have authority in my life?  

Regarding the word of God, the texts that Judaism cherished, the Scriptures: Jesus lived the text, preached the text, taught the text, prayed the text, died the text.....He was passionate about the Scriptures and the mark of His disciples was, and still is, a deep passion for the word of God, a passion that plays out in us because we see this word as The Authoritative Word in our lives, the word before which every other word in our lives must submit.

Perhaps today, you have to change your mind regarding who or what is ultimately The Authoritative Word in your life. And so, Jesus, when His authority is questioned, doesn't answer (He will not cast his pearls before swine, to use His own words), but He does tell a parable, in the context of authority, about changing your mind. This is a parable about people who say one thing, but do another....who pretend obedience, but live disobedience, who sing praise but live lives that curse the one they praise....in other words it's a parable about you and me and the need for us to change the way we think about things.

This is a parable about changing your mind.  The one son says, “I won’t go and work in the vineyard.”  But later – he changes his mind and does go work in the vineyard.
The other son says “I will go and work in the vineyard”  but changes his mind and doesn’t go.

Then Jesus says to the chief priests and elders in the Temple – John the Baptist came and showed you the right path towards God, but you would not believe him and at the end of verse 32 Jesus says, “You would not change your minds.”  You see they had their own ideas about the way to God.  So this parable is all about “changing your mind.”

The idea of changing your mind is central to the New Testament.  The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for changing your mind is metanoia.  When they translate it into English they often use the word repent (for a very good article on how this word has been mistranslated in our Bibles, read here)

Essentially, repent’s meaning is to change your mind.....i.e.  "I used to think this was acceptable, but I’ve changed  my mind and I realise now that it is unacceptable.....perhaps it’s even a sin" That is repentance.
One of the reasons that you and I often struggle with ongoing sin in our lives is because we haven’t changed our minds, changed our way of thinking about that particular behaviour.

So metanoia, repentance, changing your mind, changing your way of thinking, is central to our belief. 
Do you need to change your mind?  I want to ask you that question in three specific areas of your life.

First:  Do you need to change the way you think about God and His Son, King Jesus and the salvation and kingdom He invites you to be a part of?  If Jesus is anything other to you than Lord (King), Saviour and inaugurator  of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth now, then I want to plead with you, please change the way you think, change your mind about Jesus and His kingdom.

Secondly:  Do you need to change your mind, the way you think, about others?  The truth is that when we change the way we think about Jesus and make up our minds that He is King (Lord) and Saviour, He then wants us to change the way we think about others:
– the way we think about the poor
- the  way we think about the outcast 
- the way we think about our boss or our workers
- the way we think about our enemy

Do you need to repent, to change the way you think about others?

Finally, thirdly:  Do you need to change the way you think in some area of your life?  I’m not talking about calling a spade a spade so much as I'm talking about calling a sin a sin.  What the world sees as acceptable, God often sees as unacceptable. What the world might see as a sharp business practice, or as a bad habit, or as a weakness, maybe it’s time to change your mind and call it a sin, seeing it as God sees it, and dealing with it as God deals with sin.

Is it time to change your way of thinking, bringing it into line with God’s way of thinking, to change your mind and start calling sin, sin.

So this Sunday we’ve looked at authority and at a parable about changing your mind, particularly about changing your mind regarding who and what has ultimate authority in your life.

May the Word and His word be the authority in our lives and may the Word and His word be our strength as we seek to do what we say and serve Him who we claim to serve.

May God give us grace and strength to be honest with ourselves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pentecost 16:The Scandal of the Gospel


Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.


The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Pentecost 15: Gracious or Grumbleguts

In this parable, we see two tendencies:
God’s tendency towards grace.........and people’s tendency towards grumbling.
Grace or grumbling – which describes you better?

Those close to us in our families and here in the Church and in the workplace – what have they seen this week in you and me – grace or grumbling?
Those who don’t know us, what have they seen in us – the shop worker, the beggar, the taxi that has squashed in front of us, what do all these see in us, in we who have the Spirit of the Living God within us, in we who are born again, in we who have come to salvation in Christ, what do they see in us: grace or grumbling?

Remember....you are the only Bible that many have studied this week.

The owner of the vineyard hired workers at the start of the day and said I will pay you the normal wage, one silver coin/denarius.....R150 is the going rate for the guys who stand on our street corners here in Alberton.  And through the day, he goes out and hires more people, even at 5 pm he got workers who work for 1 hour.  Then he pays them.  The Biblical principle is that workers are paid daily...Leviticus 19:13 Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight and Deuteronomy 24:14-15 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.  That’s not the company code today, but it remains God’s code – it is unethical and against the teaching of Scripture to withhold money owing to a worker if he/she wants it.

So the owner pays the chaps who came for 1 hour R150.....................and he pays the chaps who’ve worked all day, R150, the amount they agreed to work for.

And, When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner ..... they grumble

The owner is showing great kindness, mercy, grace and they grumble – they think it’s unfair.  

They are angry because he has been kind, merciful, gracious
 But they grumble



















How about you?  We always need to find ourselves in a parable. So, how do you feel?........
Is this unfair or is this just wonderful?
Our answer is a measure of whether we tend towards grumbling or towards grace.

Our answer is a measure of the place that is really home to us, is this world and its ways our home...... or is God’s Kingdom and His Ways the place we feel more at home?  And it is so easy to live and be comfortable in the world and its ways and to pay lip service to the Kingdom of God and His ways......but that’s a dangerous game to play and it has dreadful consequences in this life and the next. 

This parable helps to show us which world it is that we prefer because we often manage to fool even ourselves regarding where our allegiance really lies. In Romans 12:2, Paul exhorts us: Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world.  Do you hear that …… Do you really hear that?  
Whenever Jesus begins a parable with the words, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like....” we need to be warned that some cherished worldly principles (in this parable it’s the principle that governs fairness and perhaps also the issue of economic justice)......a cherished worldly principle is about to be turned on its head and the choice we are given and the challenge we are left with is to live Kingdom lives rather than worldly lives.

Jesus began His Ministry with the words:
The Kingdom of Heaven is near.
Then He taught us to pray:
Your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. 
Then, in a number of parables and in His life of good works, He shows us what the Kingdom is like and who is in it – all different kinds of people. In this parable, another principle established is that the people who have just come in, have exactly the same status and standing as those who've been in it for years.  There’s no coming in at the ground level and working your way up the corporate ladder in the Kingdom of God.
The deathbed conversion gets the same wage as the lifelong ministry which will have included many hardships and sufferings and blessings – the wage being Eternal life.
Ultimately Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if you say come in I will come in, bringing with Me my kingdom and my friends, so that through you and all my friends, my Kingdom will come on earth and in Alberton, and my will will be done on earth and in Alberton by my real friends, even as it is done in Heaven.”

I think the challenge before us today is to see the inherent beauty of grace, the absolute ugliness of grumbling and to make a conscious choice, towards grace, away from grumbling .......in other words, to repent, which means to change direction, from the way of the world to the way of the Kingdom, the way of Jesus.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pentecost 15: Kingdom of God Economics

Here are this week's Revised Common Lectionary Readings. I will once again be focusing on the Gospel reading which contains another outrageous agricultural parable.
cartoon image sourced from www.agnusday.org/
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”



In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 or Psalm 78.

Friday, September 12, 2014

From the Pastor's Desk

 News Events in South Africa in the past Week and our Christian Discipleship

11 September 2014


Dear JohnWesleyProject.com Family,

Three stories have found there way into our newspapers this week that I have felt the need to comment on because they speak into our journey of discipleship. The first two are worth considering in the context of our Gospel readings from the 7 September (Matthew 18:15-20) and 14 September (Matthew 18:21-35).

The first was a story in one of our leading Sunday papers under the heading:

Why Dale Steyn won't forgive Michael Clarke

"It's the mysterious sledge that enraged the world's best fast bowler and set the scene for a fiery start to the Australian summer. What did Michael Clarke say to Dale Steyn on the final day of the Cape Town Test, which so offended the South African pace great that he still holds a grudge months later?" 


The second was in a leading daily paper under the heading:

Hugs as police apologise to Khuli Chana

"Sanity has prevailed. We asked for a public apology and a settlement in October 2013... we had not incurred any expenses then," Chana's lawyer Cliff Alexander told reporters. “Now we're receiving what we asked for and are happy with the outcome."


Last Sunday we looked at Jesus teaching about going and telling a person when they sin against you in the hope of bringing them to repentance, because if they aren't going to apologise to you, they certainly aren't going to see the need to apologise to God. This week we look at Jesus teaching regarding how many times we must forgive someone who sins against us. Both the above stories speak into these important and non-negotiable elements of Christian Discipleship.


Of course the main story in the news this week has been the Oscar Pistorius judgement, and I turn to that now because, Yes, it too has much to teach us about discipleship.

Your and My Judgement Day

This is in no way meant to point fingers at Oscar Pistorius, I use this picture because I see in it a picture of myself and I see in it a reminder of the judgement that I, and each one of us, saved and lost, will face.

Today (11 September 2014) in South Africa is being called Judgement Day, with all eyes and ears on the Oscar Pistorius trial and the judge who will begin delivering her judgement, which we are being told could take up to two days.

This has me thinking, I wonder how long my judgement, as a disciple of Christ, will take, bearing in mind Jesus' words:

I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken Matthew 12:36.

and

On that day, he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left Matthew 25:31-46.

Of course, on that day it is not just my words that will be judged, but also my deeds, my actions, my good works. Remember,
  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do Ephesians 2:8-10.

Did you hear that?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

You and I are created (saved, redeemed, born-again) in Christ to do good works.
Have you done today's good works...the ones God uniquely prepared in advance for you to do today?
Did you do yesterday's good works?
Are you preparing for tomorrow's good works?
or........................do you not give a damn about whether you are doing the things God planned in advance for you to do?

So, Jesus tells us that we, disciples of Christ and saved by faith, will face judgement, based on our works.
Paul tells the readers of his letters the same thing: 
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares Romans 2:16

Unsurprisingly, Peter tells us the same thing: 
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18

Can you see why Scripture tells people who are saved by faith to:
...consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:24

You see, faith without deeds is dead, and you and I cannot be saved by a faith which is dead.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? ...... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds..... You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?.... You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone......As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead James 2:14-26.
So, what are good deeds? For a general description of what the LORD requires, Micah is a good place to start:
The Lord has shown you what is good.
    He has told you what he requires of you.
You must treat people fairly.
    You must love others faithfully.
And you must be very careful to live
    the way your God wants you to. Micah 6:8

For specifics, consider this: The great Jewish prophets, the forerunners of Jesus, coined a mantra which ran something like this: The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land and the quality of justice in the land will be judged by how "widows, orphans and strangers" (biblical code for the three most vulnerable groups in society) fared while you were alive.

Jesus wouldn't disagree. When he describes the last judgment at the end of Matthew's Gospel, he tells us that this judgment will not be, first of all, about right doctrine, good theology, church attendance, or even personal piety and sexual morality, but about how we treated the poor. Somebody far wiser than I has said: "Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor." Jesus and the great biblical prophets make that clear and in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus emphasizes by repetition that what we do and don't do for the least among us is going to form the basis of our case on Judgement day.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So, the news this week has been a wonderful reminder to us of the importance of living out our discipleship in the world around us. The world needs the witness of Christian disciples daily doing the good deeds that God has planned for them to do. Let us all “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” If these Scriptures convict us, let's be driven to our knees in repentance and then empowered by the Spirit for the life He calls us to. If these Scriptures affirm us, let us in gratitude thank God and pray for His Spirit to continue to fill us and empower us for the life of discipleship. 

Much love, 

  Cedric.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Your and My Judgement Day


Today in South Africa is being called Judgement Day, with all eyes and ears on the Oscar Pistorius trial and the judge who will begin delivering her judgement, which we are being told could take up to two days. This has me thinking, I wonder how long my judgement, as a disciple of Christ, will take, bearing in mind Jesus' words:
I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken Matthew 12:36
and
On that day, he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left Matthew 25:31-46.

Of course, on that day it is not just my words that will be judged, but also my deeds, my actions, my good works. Remember,
  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do Ephesians 2:8-10.

Did you hear that?
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do


You and I are created (saved, redeemed, born-again) in Christ to do good works.
Have you done today's good works...the ones God uniquely prepared in advance for you to do today?
Did you do yesterday's good works?
Are you preparing for tomorrow's good works?
or........................do you not give a damn about whether you are doing the things God planned in advance for you to do?

So, Jesus tells us that we, disciples of Christ and saved by faith, will face judgement, based on our works.
Paul tells the readers of his letters the same thing: 
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares Romans 2:16

Unsurprisingly, Peter tells us the same thing: 
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18

Can you see why Scripture tells people who are saved by faith to:
...consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:24

You see, faith without deeds is dead, and you and I cannot be saved by a faith which is dead.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? ...... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds..... You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?.... You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone......As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead James 2:14-26.

So, what are good deeds? For a general description of what the LORD requires, Micah is a good place to start:
The Lord has shown you what is good.
    He has told you what he requires of you.
You must treat people fairly.
    You must love others faithfully.
And you must be very careful to live
    the way your God wants you to. Micah 6:8

For specifics, consider this: The great Jewish prophets, the forerunners of Jesus, coined a mantra which ran something like this: The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land and the quality of justice in the land will be judged by how "widows, orphans and strangers" (biblical code for the three most vulnerable groups in society) fared while you were alive.

Jesus wouldn't disagree. When he describes the last judgment at the end of Matthew's Gospel, he tells us that this judgment will not be, first of all, about right doctrine, good theology, church attendance, or even personal piety and sexual morality, but about how we treated the poor. Somebody far wiser than I has said: "Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor." Jesus and the great biblical prophets make that clear and in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus emphasizes by repetition that what we do and don't do for the least among us is going to form the basis of our case on Judgement day.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What is the Feast of Tabernacles


(go to first page in this series)
What is the Feast of Tabernacles

 "All the men of your nation are to come to worship the LORD three times a year at
 the one place of worship: at Passover, Harvest Festival, and the Festival 
of Shelters."  Deuteronomy 16:16
Three Festivals
In this reading God gives to the people three festivals, three celebrations, three feasts
 that they are to celebrate every year in Jerusalem at the Temple. Now each of these 
festivals was an agricultural festival celebrating some stage in the harvest process, but, 
and far more importantly,each festival also had a religious significance.
Passover April 14-22 2014
 Passover(which for us now is the Easter celebration of the Lamb of Godwho was 
slain and raised to life in order to set us free from bondage to sin) was a reminder and 
celebration of the redemption from bondage in Egypt, but it also had an agricultural element.
Passover ends with the Festival of First Fruits, where the people bought the first
 part of their harvest as an offering to God in anticipation of a good harvest to come.
  Jesus was raised from the dead on the day of this festival which is why Paul says
(1Corinthians15:20) "Christ has been raised from the dead,
 the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep so that in Christ all will be made alive."
Pentecost: June 8, 2014
The next festival mentioned is the Harvest Festival, also called the Festival of Weeks,
as it took place seven weeks after Passover andFirst Fruits. At the time of Jesus this festival
 was known as Pentecost which is a Greek word which means "seven weeks".The Jews
 celebrated the harvest and that God had given them everything they
 had hoped for when they brought theirfirst fruits.They also remembered on this day 
the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.  Pentecost became of course the time when God 
poured out His Spirit and put His Law into our hearts.
Tabernacles: October 10-15, 2014
The final festival mentioned is the Festival of Tabernacles, and is celebrated at the
 end of the harvest season. Passover is in earlypring, Pentecost is in late spring and the 
Festival of Shelters or Tabernacles or Booths is in autumn.The Jews at this time remember 
that during the 40 years in the wilderness they lived in shelters or tabernacles, hence
 its name.  The prophet Zechariah says: "Then the survivors from all the nations 
that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King,
 the Lord Almighty,and to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles." (14:16)
  This feast seems to look forward to the time when the Kingdom of God will be 
established on earth in all its fullness at Christ's return.So while we as Christians can
 look back and see how God has used two of these festivals for His redemptive
 purposes and they have in a sense been 'fulfilled', this last one, the feast of 
Tabernacles,is one which we still look forward to being fulfilled.
What Tabernacles anticipates
It points to Christ's return when according to the New Testament there will be
 a new Jerusalem and God will tabernacle with people: "Behold the Tabernacle of God is
 with people and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall
 be with them, and be their God." (Rev 21:3)
The Times we are Living in
Can you see that we are now living between the fulfilment of the second and the
 third Festivals, between Pentecost, which has been fulfilled, and Tabernacles, which is yet
 to be fulfilled? Going back to the harvest calendar, the time between these two festivals 
was a time of gathering in the full harvest. No wonder Jesus said to his disciples
 and says to us:"You have a saying, 'Four more months and then the harvest.' 
But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now 
ripe and ready to be harvested!"
......and.....
"The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in.Pray to the owner
 of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest."
.......and.....
"For the saying is true, 'Someone plants, someone else reaps.' I have sent you to reap
 a harvest in a field where you did not work; others worked there, 
and you profit from their work."
For Chris and Cedric
This pilgrimage helped us to hear the Lord saying to us again:
 "Take a good look at the fields, pray and reap!"
For You
May you be blessed as you journey with us.
Jesus and Tabernacles
  After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee; he did not want to travel in Judea, because the 
Jewish authorities there were wanting to kill him. The time for the Festival of 
Tabernacles was near,.... After his brothers had gone to
 the festival, Jesus also went.....On the last and most important day of the festival 
Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice,"Whoever is thirsty should come to me, 
and whoever believes in me should drink.
As the Scripture says, 'Streams of life-giving water will pour out from his side.' "
  Jesus said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were going to receive.
                                                                                (selected verses from John 7).