Tag Archives: loss

BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING!

BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING!

But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!” Romans 11:12.

Now there’s a thought!

If the door of God’s grace was opened to the Gentiles because the Jews refused it, and blessing came to the whole world instead of to only one small group, just imagine what would happen if the Jews as a people, and not just individuals here and there, were to receive Jesus as their Messiah. The entire Jewish nation, not only those in Israel but those who are scattered all over the globe, would be a blessing wherever they are! Isn’t that what God promised Abraham?

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2, 3.

However, that does not give the Gentile believers any cause to gloat. We who are not the natural descendants of Abraham, have no reason to think that, because the Jews refused their Messiah and we received Him, that we are any better than they.

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and so save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:13-16.

Paul was doing much more than expressing wishful thinking or inventing a reason for believing that the Jews will still play a big part in God’s plan for the world. His reasoning was based on a solid Biblical principle which applies anywhere and everywhere. It’s called terumah or the firstfuits offering.

From the beginning of time, God required the first portion of the increase of the harvest, and the firstborn of the flocks and herds to be given to Him. Hence Abel’s offering of the firstborn of his flock was acceptable while Cain’s sacrifice of “some of the harvest” was unacceptable because he did not honour God first. The terumah, offered to God and given to the high priest to support him and his family, guaranteed God’s blessing on the rest of the harvest.

“Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfuits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9, 10.

Israel was God’s “firstborn” son, set apart and belonging to Him. Every firstborn son belonged to God and had to be redeemed by the payment of a sum of money to the high priest. God redeemed Israel through the blood of a lamb – symbolising the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He took the Levites to be His special tribe in place of all the firstborn of the nation. 

“I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine.” Numbers 3:11-13.

Therefore, according to Paul, if the Israelites were holy, set apart for God, then the rest of the harvest (the world) is holy. Since the door of grace has already been opened to the Gentiles because the Jews, God’s firstborn, refused Him, in order for the blessing which has come to the world through Abraham’s descendants to be authentic, the firstfruits of the harvest must be given to God – that’s the Jews.

Paul, basing his case on sound Biblical truth and in a kind of reverse reasoning, argued that, since the rest of the harvest is already being blessed i.e., the Gentiles, the full harvest of His people, the Jews, must be blessed and gathered in as well since the firstfuits, the Jews, were gathered in at Pentecost.

That puts paid to the teaching that God is finished with the Jews. He cannot be because He is always true to His word and His nature. The firstfruits and the full harvest are inextricably tied together. Since the blessing of Abraham has already come to the Gentiles, it must still come on the Jews because they are his natural offspring. By faith in their Messiah, they will also become his spiritual children and the full harvest, which began with the first believers who were Jews, will be gathered in.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Beauty For Ashes

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

Remember our talk about travelling light?

Many of us carry the baggage of grief and loss. Loved ones top the list, but there are other kinds of losses we sustain that cause us as much pain as the loss of a beloved family member or friend.

We live in a time when children are the victims of great loss. Ruthless predators violently rob them of their innocence and childhood. You may be one of them, carrying the wounds of guilt and shame deep into you adult years because you were violated in your childhood..

There are those of you who have suffered the devastating loss of your home and the security of a roof over your head through the unexpected crash of the great institutions that support our economy on unsteady legs. Your job was terminated, the money you earned which undergirded your security was suddenly gone. You have a family to support and, though you walk the streets day after day, there is no employment available because many others are out there, snapping up any possible job to earn enough money to keep food on the table.

There are many predators around who will rob you of whatever they can without a conscience. Unscrupulous thieves take your money, your possessions, invade your space, violate your homes and think nothing of the devastation they leave behind, not only because of physical loss but also through the psychological damage they inflict.

What about the loss of a good conscience because, in a moment of temptation you gave way to the demands of your flesh? A baby conceived out of wedlock will not go away. You can kill it in the womb, but it will ever remain in your heart, accusing you night and day of a terrible deed which made your loss worse than the loss of your integrity.

You may have lost a spouse to another – your husband left you for another woman; your wife betrayed you, robbing you not only of a life partner but also of your children. Your life has been thrown into turmoil and all you have left is anger, frustration, bitterness and…memories.

Your losses may be co-incidental, the outcome of living in a sinful world or the self-inflicted loss of a good conscience. How you wish you could turn the clock back and make your failures disappear! However, whatever form your losses take, you have been left with the hopelessness and helplessness of grief and mourning.

I have good news for you. God never asks why? He has a better solution to offer than a meaningless question to which you have no answer. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the pain of your loss and transform it into something much better than grief and mourning.

…To provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes , the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isa. 61:3)

“Beauty instead of ashes…” what does that mean? There is nothing beautiful about wearing ashes. It was part of the grieving process in Hebrew culture. Wearing a garment made of rough material and sprinkling ashes on one’s head told everyone that they had suffered great loss. It was a sign of hopeless and deep emotional pain.

What is beauty? Our eyes have the capacity to register pictures by the light that they allow in which is sent as signals to the brain. Our brains have the marvellous ability to turn the light signals into pictures which we “see” and interpret as beautiful. A friend gave me a moth orchid which is perfect in its beauty. I cannot get enough of its exquisite perfection and I stop and gaze for a few moments every time I go in and out of my front door.

However, there is another kind of “beauty” which is not visible to the naked eye but is equally captivating. Peter, writing to believers in his first letter, encouraged wives who were married to unbelieving husbands to win their husbands, not by adorning their bodies but by living lives of purity and reverence.

You beauty should not come from outer adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)

Whatever the cause of your grief, Jesus invites you to give it to Him. He will take your turbulent emotions with their heaviness and despair and replace them with the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, with joy and praise because He is the source of hope. Whatever your loss, it is never the end. If you trust Him, He will bring good out of your suffering and strengthen your confidence in His perfect love.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.

Blessed To Be A Blessing!

BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING! 

“But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!” Romans 11:12.

Now there’s a thought!

If the door of God’s grace was opened to the Gentiles because the Jews refused it, and blessing came to the whole world instead of to only one small group, just imagine what would happen if the Jews as a people, and not just individuals here and there, were to receive Jesus as their Messiah. The entire Jewish nation, not only those in Israel but those who are scattered all over the globe, would be a blessing wherever they are! Isn’t that what God promised Abraham?

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2, 3.

But that does not give the Gentile believers any cause to gloat. We who are not the natural descendants of Abraham, have no reason to think that, because the Jews refused their Messiah and we received Him, that we are any better than they.

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and so save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:13-16.

Paul was doing much more than expressing wishful thinking or inventing a reason for believing that the Jews will still play a big part in God’s plan for the world. His reasoning was based on a solid Biblical principle which applies anywhere and everywhere. It’s called terumah or the firstfuits offering.

From the beginning of time, God required the first portion of the increase of the harvest, and the firstborn of the flocks and herds to be given to Him. Hence Abel’s offering of the firstborn of his flock was acceptable while Cain’s sacrifice of “some of the harvest” was unacceptable because he did not honour God first. The terumah, offered to God and given to the high priest to support him and his family, guaranteed God’s blessing on the rest of the harvest.

“Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfuits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9, 10.

Israel was God’s “firstborn” son, set apart and belonging to Him. Every firstborn son belonged to God and had to be redeemed by the payment of a sum of money to the high priest. God redeemed Israel through the blood of a lamb – symbolising the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He took the Levites to be His special tribe in place of all the firstborn of the nation.

“I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine.” Numbers 3:11-13.

Therefore, according to Paul, if the Israelites were holy, set apart for God, then the rest of the harvest (the world) is holy. Since the door of grace has already been opened to the Gentiles because the Jews, God’s firstborn, refused Him, in order for the blessing which has come to the world through Abraham’s descendants to be authentic, the firstfruits of the harvest must be given to God – that’s the Jews.

 

Paul, basing his case on sound Biblical truth and in a kind of reverse reasoning, argued that, since the rest of the harvest is already being blessed i.e., the Gentiles, the full harvest of His people, the Jews, must be blessed and gathered in as well since the firstfuits, the Jews, was gathered in at Pentecost.

That puts paid to the teaching that God is finished with the Jews. He cannot be because He is always true to His word and His nature. The firstfruits and the full harvest are inextricably tied together. Since the blessing of Abraham has already come to the Gentiles, it must still come on the Jews because they are his natural offspring. By faith in their Messiah, they will also become his spiritual children and the full harvest, which began with the first believers who were Jews, will be gathered in.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

 

Are You Crazy?

ARE YOU CRAZY?

 Then He spoke: ‘You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.

“You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.

“You’re blessed when the tears flow freely, Joy comes with the morning.

“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — skip like a lamb, if you like — for even though they don’t like it, I do…and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like that.'” Luke 6:20-23 (The Message).

What is He talking about? He almost sounds like some sort of killjoy; only happy when everything goes wrong; glad to be miserable!

This would sound crazy if it came from anyone’s lips but Jesus’. What is He getting at? You cannot go very far into the gospels before you realise that Jesus lived in the environment of God’s kingdom. Don’t get me wrong — He was a very down-to-earth person, in touch with reality, especially the need of the people around Him, aware of their suffering and full of compassion for them.

But He also knew that there was no permanent solution for them in the present world system. He could heal them now but they would be sick again. He could raise the dead but they were destined to die again. As long as the world system they were in prevailed, there would always be sorrow, sickness and suffering, because it is an imperfect fallen world and will remain that way unless God intervened.

The good news is that the present world system, with all its sin and imperfection, is temporary. He had come from the Father to get rid of the obstacle to restoration and reconciliation, the huge debt of man’s sin. God had set the course for restoring everything that was broken, distorted and out of joint and it culminated in Him. What God started in Genesis 1 and 2, He would complete according to Revelation 21 and 22.

Through Jesus, God provided the forgiveness that restored the broken relationship between Him and His estranged sons and daughters, but there was also the matter of choice. Would they want to come back to the Father’s house? How did the lost son in the far country come to his senses? He looked at his circumstances, starving and looking after pigs, and realised that he had been much better off at home.

Jesus said that it is very difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Is it because they have money? No. It’s because they use their money to satisfy their own need. Money is a good servant but a bad master. Wealth is good if it is used to serve others but bad if it feeds greed and selfishness.

Therefore, according to Jesus, loss and hunger and persecution are not blessings in themselves but they are if they create an awareness that life is much more than what we eat, what we drink and what we wear. Life is transient, like mist that is here in the morning but gone by midday. It is foolishness to place our faith in and live for what is passing away.

God allows these kinds of circumstances into our lives to draw our attention to a kingdom that is permanent and eternal; a way of life that echoes the eternal character and values of the Father. Greed and selfishness belong to this transient, imperfect world and will eventually go out with the trash. We might be ridiculed and side-lined if we side with Jesus now. His way may seem puny to those who believe in control and force and power, but in the end, He won then and He will win again.

If you open up to Him, He will change your heart and set you on a course of generosity and unselfish service that will bring you joy and the realisation of who you really are, a son or daughter of God, created in His image to be like Him.

A Glorious Welcome

A GLORIOUS WELCOME

“‘It will seem like all hell has broken loose — sun, moon, stars, earth, sea in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.

“And then — then! — they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style — a glorious welcome. When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!'” Luke 21:25-28 (The Message).

What a glorious, terrifying moment! It will be glorious for those who have taken Jesus’ words seriously and terrifying for cynics, sceptics, agnostics, atheists and everyone who chose to believe and follow the counterfeit rather than the truth. So cataclysmic will Jesus’ return be that even the natural world will reel with the enormity of it.

Earth’s population, past and present, will be split right down the middle; those who love Him will welcome Him with overwhelming joy and relief; those who rejected Him will cringe in horror when they discover to their loss that He was telling the truth all the time.

The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonian believers who were suffering at the hands of the Roman emperor (probably Nero) because they refused to acknowledge that Caesar was Lord.

“God is just. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10a (NIV).

Jesus made enormous predictions. How do we know they are true? Many people have prophesied over the centuries. What are the credentials for believing what they say? In order to verify their trustworthiness, we have to examine their authority, their character and their accuracy.

On what authority did Jesus say these things? He claimed that His authority came from the Father. “‘For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.'” John 5:26-27 (NIV).

When we examine the character of Jesus, we must find that He was a liar, a lunatic or flawless. He asked His opponents a question that they could not answer: “‘Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?'” John 8:46 (NIV).

As for the accuracy of His predictions, if He foretold His death and resurrection in uncanny detail and then fulfilled every detail to the letter, is there any reason to doubt any of His other words, prophecies and promises?

In every way Jesus fulfilled the qualifications of an authentic prophet. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and it happened. He even told Peter that he would suffer a violent death and Peter died by crucifixion. Accurate fulfilment of His prophetic words gives us reason to take everything else He said seriously, including what He had to say about his return and the consequences of rejecting Him and disregarding His words.

For those who believe in Him, it will be a moment of celebration and vindication, delirious joy for our union with our Master and release from the obstacles and hindrances of our sinful nature, and vindication that our faith in Him and perseverance in spite of opposition was not in vain.